The last Irish born NFL player was a ‘Towers man! In 2005 the deadly Neil Rackers broke the Arizona Cardinals record for most points scored in a season with 140, the record he surpassed had stood for 21 years and was held by a man who spent the early days of his sports career plying his trade for Round Towers.
Corneilius O’Donoghue was born in Dublin in 1953 and grew up in Clondalkin. Described as one of the best Juvenile players Towers produced, he played U13 Football at eight years old and won an U13 League Final against St Pats Palmerstown in 1965in Croke Park in a team managed by current Towers Vice-President, Tommy Keogh. He played Minor Football for Dublin and was part of the panel that lost an All-Ireland final to Cork in 1970.
He was midfield on the Towers U21 Championship team that lost a tight semi-final v UCD and shortly after he received a scholarship to enrol in Saint Bernard College in Alabama to play soccer for the college – the first soccer scholarship to the States given to an Irish person. When the school’s soccer programme closed he transferred to Cam Newton’s Auburn University and became the teams starting place American Football kicker. In 1976 he received All-American honours with Auburn going 3-8 for the season. Corneilius, or ‘Cornie’ as he was known, would come home during the summer and tog out for the Towers Senior Footballers during the NFL off-season and thrived playing midfield in the Senior Football Championship.
His father was also the Secretary of Round Towers during the early 70’s. In 1977 O’Donoghue was a 5th round pick for the Buffalo Bills only to be cut after 5 games, scoring 2 from 6 attempts. After lengthy immigration problems, O’Donoghue was picked up by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 78. The Bucs had only joined the league in 1976 and had a disastrous 2-26 record in their first two years. O’Donoghue played for two years with the Buccs helping them to a 15-17 record with 55/64 PATs and 24/43 field goals. O’Donoghue signed for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1980 after being cut from the Bills. His 5 years in St. Louis is widely remembered for many incidents of misses and lacking clutch kicking skills. Cardinal fans may still recall O’Donoghue missing three field goals, including an attempt from 19 yards, in overtime against the New York Giants in 1983.
On the last day of the regular season in 1984 he missed a game winning field goal in the dying seconds, the win would have secured the playoffs for the Cardinals. Even with a host of missed attempts, O’Donoghue still managed to set the long-standing Cardinals record for most points in a season with 117. O’Donoghue was the last Irish-born NFL player.
He is currently living in Clearwater, Florida selling real estate.