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Billy O'Neill Of Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork - Played For Cork & Played & Trained Galway
Born 1929 Died 2015
The choice of an army career by Carrigtwohill’s Billy O’Neill meant that he exchanged wearing a rebel Cork jersey of his native county and his foremost allegiance would then be to his adopted county, where he would proudly wear the maroon of Galway. When he was commissioned in the army and posted to Renmore Army Barracks, and An Céad Cáth in Galway, it brought the end of a blossoming association with Carrigtwohill and Cork, but a new sporting horizon opened up on the western seaboard.
Born in Killacloyne, Carrigtwohill in 1929, he began hurling with Carrigtwohill when he was 14, but it was in the North Monastary, on Cork's northside, that he first made his name. In 1947 he was picked on the Munster Colleges hurling and football teams that won the interprovincial championships and he was a member of the successful hurling team again a year later.
Billy was also Carrig‘s first dual Cork minor in 1947 although Willie played his football with Glanmire because there was no football in Carrig at that time. The Carrigtwohill player was only nineteen when he captained Carrigtwohill to a junior county championship in 1948 and just a year later he was centre back on the Imokilly divisional team that lost the senior county final to the Glen.
In the autumn of 1950 he was drafted onto the Cork senior panel for the league and the Oireachtas, but in May of 1951 he was commissioned in the army and posted to An Céad Cath in Galway. It brought the end of his association with Carrigtwohill and Cork hurling. He declared for his adopted county and that autumn Galway hurlers picked the Carrigtwohill man for the National League.
In 1952 the Galway county footballers gave him his call up papers also. Billy was an accomplished athlete and an army champion in the long jump. His initial success with Galway was in the Oireachtas final against Wexford in 1952. Galway lost to Cork in the All Ireland hurling semi-final of 1952.
However it would the controversial1953 All Ireland final that brought the former Carrigtwohill hurler in direct opposition to his own county. The final is remembered historically as the occasion when Christy Ring was hunted down by a group of Galway players the morning after the match. They were seeking justice for alleged offences on the field of play at Croke Park.
Billy lost two more hurlin,g finals to Wexford in 1955 and to Tipperary in 1958, but in between in 1956, the dual Galway player carved his own slice of history. As a Corkman he would be opposed by his native county in the All Ireland senior football final. Frank Stockwell scored 2 – 5 in that famous victory and Billy O’Neill had won a much deserved All Ireland medal. Billy also had the task of overseeing the physical training side of that 1956 Galway team that contained the terrible twins, Stockwell and Purcell. On a scoreline of 2 - 13 to 3 - 7 the Sam Maguire Cup went west.
Billy O’Neill is a legend in Galway gaelic games and a household name in the history books. By the end of his career, Willie had four Connacht football medals, a Railway Cup football medal and a National Football League medal, to add to his All Ireland senior football medal.
Despite his loyalty to his adopted county, his roots were always firmly entrenched in Carrigtwohill and monitoring the progress of his native club was always a constant matter. Billy and his lifelong friend and Carrigtwohill native, Willie John Daly, lived to witness their beloved Carrigtwohill lift the Cork 2011 county senior hurling title for the first time since 1918. That glorious occasion was a moment of sheer triumph for two legendary and iconic former G.A.A. players at Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork, in 2011.
Billy O'Neill of Carrigtwohill, Cork and Galway fame, passed away on Saturday 3rd January 2015 in Galway and left a rich sporting legacy for current and future generations of G.A.A. fans all around the globe.
Composed by Derry JF Doody