GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Tyrone captain Ciaran Corr looks back of his days with the Red Hands

A chronic back injury forced Ciaran Corr to retire from football at the age of just 28
Neil Loughran

Age: 49

Club: Na Fianna, Coalisland

Position: Midfield

When did you play for Tyrone?

1987-1997. I had to finish at 28 because I had a prolapsed L1, L3 and L5 discs in my back and in 1997 I was told I had to stop. The L1 went first, for a long time they were treating it for a hamstring, but then I couldn’t get out of bed a couple of mornings, couldn’t put my socks on, so I went for a scan and I lost the feeling down the left hand side of my left leg, the nerves were trapped in between the discs.

They wouldn’t operate so I played on for a while but then the L3 and L5 went. The doctor told me to play away if I wanted, but in 18 months you’ll lose the power of your left leg. As Eugene McKenna says, I was cut down in my prime.

What do you do nowadays?

I’m a sales rep for MacBlair building merchants. I only started with them in the last month or so.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I was involved with the Edendork minors this year. My son is almost 17 and I’ve taken that team right through from U14, and we won the double this year. I was involved a wee bit with the seniors as well, just helping out alongside Gary Mallon.

What do you remember about your first game for Tyrone?

Not a big pile to be honest with you. I remember it being cold and mucky and wet. I know I didn’t play a Championship game until ’89, and that was against Armagh in Omagh. We went and won Ulster then in my first year. I kept telling Damian O’Hagan and Eugene McKenna that I won it for them, youse oul boys were slowing down!

I was told when I was brought in that they wanted to get me used to the surroundings. At that time, you’d the majority of the team beat by Kerry in the ’86 All-Ireland final still there, so they’d a strong enough panel.

For a young lad being brought into that panel, it was a big thing. I was happy just to be part of it but at that time Coalisland were going well and I was playing well, and Art [McRory] told me I was going to be playing a good bit before so I was able to get my head around it.

I was nervous, but it was more a nervous excitement because I knew I was fit, I was confident and I just wanted to go out and perform to my best.

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

Probably lifting the Anglo-Celt Cup as captain in 1995. That was a big day for me.

And the worst?

Losing the All-Ireland final later that year. I remember Eugene McKenna, who was joint manager with Art at that stage, saying you have to say focused or it’ll go right past you. The game would be over.

I remember a few players saying that when we came off, what the hell happened there? We didn’t perform in the second half, full stop. A few days after I was down in Dublin for some oul function along with a couple of Dublin players there and they genuinely, in their own heads, didn’t believe they were going to win that game.

But, you can’t rely on one player. Peter [Canavan] was sensational, but you can’t go to Croke Park and rely on one player to do all your scoring. A big thing for us I think was Adrian Cush not starting – he was always good for four or five points.

He’d have run at Dublin, he was a very skilful footballer and we just missed that type of player on the field that day. The room at Croke Park would’ve suited him down to the ground.

Biggest character you played with?

Probably Seamus McCallan and Paul Donnelly. They were good oul craic and you just needed to watch yourself at all times, whether you were in the changing rooms or in the shower, or your bed in the hotel. When Donnelly and Peter Canavan got together too, you just didn’t know what was going to happen.

Glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?

Most boys of my age would tell you they preferred the football then. It’s a lot faster now, but I just can’t stand the defensive set-up, I can’t watch it. Boys going laterally across the field, back and forward… it bores me to be honest with you.

Any regrets?

You’re in the game to win an All-Ireland medal, so that’s a regret. Another regret is having to quit so early.

When I quit football, I went to watch a Coalisland match and I stood behind the goals where there was nobody standing.

One of the ex-players, Martin Early, came down to me at half-time and said ‘would you go home – I’ve never heard you curse before and you’re going to get into a row here, roaring and shouting’. I didn’t even realise.

It was just frustration. I went home at half-time and never went to another game for two years.

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