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Great Individual Comebacks That Ended In All-Ireland Success

gaa individual comebacks

The GAA has been littered with some fascinating tales of comebacks down through the years.

Earlier this week, we drew up a list of Gaelic football’s five best team comebacks of the 21st century but today our attention turns to individual comebacks.

Each of these individuals were stars of their sport before their careers were seemingly cut short. However, each returned to the setup and played a pivotal role in their county’s All-Ireland success.

Here is our list.


Brian Corcoran

One of Cork’s finest ever athletes which says a lot for a county that has produced world-class talent from Roy Keane to Sonia O’Sullivan to Ronan O’Gara.

Corcoran was a dual-sport phenomenon who collected three Munster football titles and played in the 1993 All-Ireland football final a year after winning his first Texaco Hurler of the Year award. Corcoran retired from football in 1998 to prolong his hurling career before going on to collect his first All-Ireland title in 1999. The centre-back also won man of the match in the final and was named Hurler of the Year.

Corcoran sensationally retired in 2001 from both club and county hurling much to Cork’s distress, however, he would return to the setup two and a half years later transformed into a full-forward machine who helped drive Cork to three consecutive All-Ireland finals, two of which they came out victorious.


Noel McGrath

One of the stars of the modern game.

Noel McGrath broke onto the Tipperary senior hurling team in 2009 before going on to be named Young Hurler of the Year and was listed at right corner forward the following year as Tipp ended Kilkenny’s pursuit of five consecutive All-Ireland titles.

However, in 2015 it was revealed that McGrath was to undergo surgery for testicular cancer. McGrath took time away from hurling to recover from his illness. However, McGrath sensationally returned to championship action, receiving a standing ovation from a packed out Croke Park four months later in the All-Ireland semi-final.

Tipperary, unfortunately, lost that one to Galway, however, with McGrath back in the side, Tipperary managed to win another All-Ireland in 2016 before repeating the feat in 2019 where the Loughmore-Castleiney man was named Man of the Match.


Jimmy Keaveney

A throwback to the days of old.

Jimmy Keaveney is recognised as one of the greatest forwards in the history of Dublin GAA. A deadly accurate full-forward who could turn on a sixpence despite looking a little out of shape, so to speak. Keaveney retired from inter-county football in 1973 having amassed just a single Leinster championship title.

The St. Vincent’s man was coaxed back into the setup a year later midway through the Leinster championship by his coach and clubmate, Kevin Heffernan. The full-forward would prove inspirational as an unfancied Dublin side managed to win that season’s All-Ireland title.

It proved to be the beginning of a Dublin dynasty as Keaveney played a central role in further All-Ireland title wins in 1976 and 1977, scoring 2-6 in the latter final against Armagh.


Martin Furlong

In a county extremely rich in sporting history, Martin Furlong might just be Offaly’s greatest servant.

The goalkeeper is the only Offaly player in history win three All-Ireland senior titles, however, the story goes that the All-Star shot-stopper was dropped from the panel when Eugene McGee took over a few short years after the county won back-to-back championships.

Furlong was eventually called back into the setup after showing some good form for his club and would go on to play a vital role in Offaly’s second coming. He would win three further All-Star awards in a row and saved a penalty in the 1982 All-Ireland final as Offaly denied Kerry the five-in-a-row.

Furlong was later named Footballer of the Year, the last goalkeeper to do so until Stephen Cluxton. Furlong was a seven-time Leinster champion and played in five All-Ireland finals, winning three.


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