Retirement u-turns

Jack McCaffrey is back for Dublin, and we look at  players who have returned to the fold after announcing their retirement…

Brian Corcoran (Cork)

LIKELY the most prominent example of the genre, legendary Cork hurler Brian Corcoran shocked the GAA world when he retired at the age of 28.

Corcoran, who had won the Hurler of the Year award in his debut season in 1992, was left frustrated by injury and a series of early championship exits, informing his decision to call it quits at the end of 2001. However, he was coaxed back into the fold ahead of the 2004 championship, returning as a forward after spending the first part of his career in the backline. It turned out to be a prudent decision as he played a hugely significant part in Cork’s All-Ireland successes in 2004 and 2005.

Stephen O’Neill (Tyrone)

TYRONE fans will be ever-thankful that Stephen O’Neill returned from his early retirement. Following two years where he was blighted by recurring injuries, O’Neill announced his retirement from inter-county football at the young age of 27. One of the most gifted forwards of his generation, it looked like his day as a Tyrone footballer was over, but he made a hugely surprising return ahead of the All-Ireland final against Kerry in 2008. He was brought on as a sub and set up the only goal of the game seconds into the second half. O’Neill also earned a third All-Star in 2009 and captained the team in their run to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2013. He’s still going strong and has won All-Ireland medals at Masters level in 2021 and 2022.

DJ Carey (Kilkenny)

THERE was major surprise when DJ Carey announced his unavailability for Kilkenny selection in February 1998 at the age of 28, citing a loss of “appetite” for the game as his primary reason to do so. Over the following few weeks, Carey received 25,000 letters from all over Ireland encouraging him not to retire. On March 20, he announced that he was reversing his decision and he ended up lining out for Kilkenny for another seven years. In all, he won five All-Irelands, nine All-Stars and was named as Hurler of the Year on two occasions.

Mike McCarthy (Kerry)

A STYLISH yet tenacious defender, McCarthy retired with three All-Ireland medals to his name at the end of 2006. Clearly he decided to go out on a high in the wake of their resounding victory over Mayo on All-Ireland final day, but he was still in his prime years so it came as a considerable shock to fans of the Kingdom. His absence left a void, however, and when Kerry were struggling big-time in the 2009 season, he was called back in by Jack O’Connor. McCarthy hadn’t lost any of his old panache and was particularly impressive in his new centre-half back position against ‘startled earwigs’ Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final en route to pocketing another Celtic Cross.

Lar Corbett (Tipperary)

IT’S fair to say that Lar Corbett’s sudden retirement in 2012 came as a bolt out of the blue. While it wasn’t his best season, the man who derailed Kilkenny’s drive-for-five in 2010 with a hat-trick of goals was still in his prime years. Tipperary’s PRO at the time Ger Ryan described the news as ‘literally unmanageable. With Twitter and everything else, we just didn’t have time to get on top of it. It was the worst night of my five years [as PRO].”

Corbett, a headstrong fella at the best of times, subsequently withdrew his retirement notice and played on for another three years before hanging up the hurl in 2015.

Aidan Branagan (Kilcoo)

MORE of a club theme to this one. Aidan Branagan had decided to call
it a day with Kilcoo a few years
back – he was 35, had four children under five, and he’d soldiered for many, many years with the
Magpies. However, the decision to enlist Mickey Moran changed everything for Brannagan – he returned to the fold and won a first ever Ulster SFC the very same season for the first time in the club’s history.

He also joint-captained Kilcoo to a historic first ever All-Ireland title when they got the better of Kilmacud Crokes last season.

It’s fair to say he made the right decision, then.

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