Colin Corkery is a legend of Cork football.
A throwback to the days of old, Corkery didn’t resemble the supremely tuned athletic machines we are used to watching in their skin-tight county jerseys today.
No, Corkery let his feet do the talking and boy, did they talk. One of the most gifted footballers of a generation, Corkery was a star at both club and county level winning four Munster titles and an All-Star with Cork while also leading Nemo Rangers to numerous All-Ireland club finals, winning two titles along the way.
It could have been very different though for Corkery who could very easily have been an AFL star had he chosen to remain with Carlton who offered the Cork youngster a contract extension way back in 1991.
Corkery reckons he would have made it in the professional code only for homesickness paving the way for his return home. Whilst pining for Cork played its part in Corkery’s decision to leave the AFL behind, it’s likely the training he found himself doing down under also lead to the bustling full-forward calling it quits.
Earlier this week, Corkery regaled a hilarious tale of the killer 10km runs Carlton used to make their squad do during the preseason and how the big lad from Cork would find a way of scamming the system every week.
“They used to do a run, 10km, they thought nothing of 10km,” Corkery said on Comhrá Le Tomás, a new podcast hosted by Tomas O’Se.
“They used to have trams in Melbourne and the trams used to come up to Princes Park where we were and I was always last, miles behind everyone, but I’d buy a weekly ticket for the tram and I’d catch up on the tram. True story. I got caught. What happened was they realised I was doing it and one of the coaches came onto the tram and he was waiting for me.
“I said, ‘Will I put in my tram expenses for next week?’ He couldn’t stop laughing.”
While Corkery would eventually return a carve out a distinguished career for himself playing Gaelic games, the full-forward was never short of making headlines, whether that was to do with retirement u-turn, his white boots or his heart condition.
“Colin Corkery on the 45 lets go with the right boot. Its over the bar. This man shouldn’t be playing football. He’s made an almost Lazarus-like recovery from a heart condition. Lazarus was a great man but he couldn’t kick points like Colin Corkery.”
That was the famous line uttered by legendary broadcaster Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh upon Corkery’s return to action in 2002.
The Nemo Rangers forward relayed how despite top-scoring in the 1999 Cork county final, he was suffering from light-headedness and shortness of breath before a few days later he found himself in intensive care and spending three weeks in hospital following an infection in the wall of his heart.
While the severity of the situation cannot be stressed enough, Corkery regaled another anecdote of waking up in the hospital and finding a local Bishop holding his hands and rating which lead Corkery to believe that he had in fact passed away.
“I went home one night, about a week after that, and I was driving into my driveway and it has a small little slope on it, and I drove in and I just went into blackout and the car rolled back and I was straight up to South Infirmary.
“I was in intensive care. I don’t remember going in, I remember waking up actually. It’s a funny story. I woke up after about 20 hours, my hand was being held by the Bishop, Bishop Buckley and he was praying away and I was there, ‘Jesus Christ, am I gone or what?’ He says, ‘Colin, I’m praying away, now go to sleep boy’. That’s all he said to me.
“But at the time it was scary because he had the full gear on. ‘You’re grand,’ he says, ‘you’re after getting the morphine, I’ll call the doctor’. Apparently he was after coming in a few times to me and the Bishop was a good friend so when he heard I was in there… he was doing his rounds and heard I was in there and he was there for ages praying with my hand up.
“I woke up and said, ‘Oh Jesus Christ, I’m gone I’d say, am I gone? Am I gone?’ I came out of intensive care about two days after. I spent about two or three weeks in hospital. It was an infection in the back of the wall in my heart.”
You can watch the full chat with Colin Corkery below: