CORK GOALKEEPER ALAN Quirke will be unavailable for the county’s senior football squad at the start of next season as he is to depart next Monday for the Lebanon as part of his job with the Defence Forces.
TheScore.ie has learned that the long-serving netminder will be based in the Middle Eastern country until next April.
But the 36 year-old will available for selection when he returns to Ireland as he is to continue an inter-county career which began in 1999 when he made his competitive debut against Donegal.
Quirke is to fly home for short trips in January and March but will not return to Ireland on a full-time basis until April. In recent years he has been based in the Collins Barracks in Cork City as an army officer. He previously went on a UN mission to Liberia in 2004 and was based there for six months.
Quirke, who was part of the Cork panel that reached the 1999 All-Ireland final, returned after that stint in the West African country to make his mark for the Cork junior team that won the All-Ireland title in 2005.
Following the retirement of Kevin O’Dwyer, Quirke then graduated to the Cork senior side in 2006 and was then selected between the posts by then manager Billy Morgan for that year’s championship opener against Limerick.
Since then the Valley Rovers clubman has been a mainstay in the Cork side under first Morgan and then when current boss Conor Counihan took over in 2008. Quirke has amassed six Munster senior football titles and four National Football League titles (three Division 1 and one Division 2) while in 2010 he enjoyed the highlight of his career to date when Cork claimed All-Ireland senior glory against Down in Croke Park.
Quirke’s absence at the start of next season leaves Ken O’Halloran, an All-Ireland U21 football medal winners with Cork in 2007, as the front-runner for the number one jersey in the Rebels senior side in their Division 1 league campaign.
Cork goalkeeper Ken O’Halloran. Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
The Bishopstown goalkeeper has gained experience in recent seasons and was between the posts when Cork won the Division 1 league title last year against Dublin. However Quirke returned to start in each of Cork’s five championship games in 2011.
This spring the Cork management opted to alternate between O’Halloran and Quirke during Cork’s league campaign with both players starting four games apiece. But Quirke was between the posts for the Division 1 decider success against Mayo and again got the nod from Counihan for their four championship ties this summer.
Cork’s third-choice goalkeeper this year was David Lordan from the Ballincollig club while Carrigaline’s Sean Mellet is another prospect after he wore the number one jersey on the Cork team that won the last two Munster U21 titles and the UCC side that reached last December’s Munster club final.
Interestingly last Sunday in Páirc Uí Chaoimh Paddy O’Shea, who won an All-Ireland medal with Cork in 2010 before opting out of the panel last year, helped guide his club St Vincent’s to the county premier intermediate football title and ensure they will be playing senior club football on Leeside next year.