Harry Bateson remembers the boys of ’54

Antrim Senior Football championship preview

Cargin v Creggan

Harry Bateson is a bit of a legend around Creggan, and for good reason. Eighty-two year old Harry is just one of the two remaining survivors of the Creggan team who won the championship back in 1954, and the only one still resident in the parish. He is still a keen follower of the game and is seen around the Creggan ground on a regular basis. Harry comes from good stock for his Uncle Pat McKeown was a member of the first Creggan team to win a senior title back in 1943 and was also a member of the Antrim hurling team who reached the All Ireland Senior Hurling final that same year.

On Tuesday evening Creggan had a bit of a get together down at the club where flags, hats and headbands were on sale and some of the women in the club made banners to hang around the parish in the build up to Sunday’s big game. Harry was there on the night so I took him into a quiet corner and had a chat about the glory days of ’54

Saffron Gael – What position did you play in ’54 Harry?

Harry Bateson – Right half back.

SG – Who did you play in the final that year and where was it played?

HB – Oh it was St John’s in Casement Park, only the second final to be played there. Casement only opened in 1953 so it was a big thrill to get playing there. We beat O’Connell’s in the semi-final there as well and St John’s beat Rossa in the second semi-final that was played after our game. I can mind watching their game and I thought to myself when we got home, we’ll have bother beating that St John’s team.  By Heavens I’ll tell you something, we come out that day and every man played their heart out and the St John’s men started to argue among themselves. What I mind most was a St John’s man got the ball out on the wing and sent it in across our square. They had a big fellow, Gerry Burns they called him, and he got the ball and I could see nothing only a goal. He hit a pile-driver and it hit our goalkeeper Brian McNally as fair on the side of the head as it could hit him, and the ball bounced away out the field, and we went up the to the other end and Joe scored a goal. As far as I mind it was a low scoring game that day, I think there was about two points in it so that goal was vital.

SG – Can you remember much about your team mates on the day Harry, who played well?

HB – Oh well…. There was Patsy Totten, Brian McAteer and Fr Malachy Murphy, but to be fair they all played well.

EA7I1587A photo of the Creggan team of 1954. The photo was not taken on the day and unfortuantely Harry could not be there the day it was taken

SG – Do you remember what the team was on the day Harry?

HB – Oh I do indeed. Brian McNally was the goalkeeper, Texas they called him for a nickname. Charlie Byrne was right back, Paddy Hughes was full-back and Henry Quinn was left back. I was right-half back, Kevin Kelly was centre back and Vincey Totten was left-half.

Brian McAteer and Patsy Totten were midfield and Joe Coogan, Fr Malachy Murphy and Patrick McLarnon, that had the shop, was the half forward line. Mickey Coogan, Dan McAteer and my brother Joe was the full-forward line. My uncle Patrick (Pat McKeown of 1943 fame) came on for Patrick McLarnon.

SG – Can you remember much about the build up to the final Harry?

HB – I was just saying to a fellow there, there was very little build up compared to now. The training that we done was just out there on the auld field kicking football every evening.

SG – What can you remember about the day of the final Harry? Did you go to Casement on a bus?

HB – We did aye, but we came home in cars. After we won Fr Gerry McAteer and Charlie Boyle took us to Hall’s Hotel in Antrim and bought us all a feed. There was no great celebrations when we got home to tell you the truth. I just come up the road here. I didn’t drink at the time but there might have been three of four men in the auld hut and a wheen more over in Marron’s but there was hardly anybody on the team that were drinkers back then. But you know them memories never leave you. I mind more about then that I do about what happened here two weeks ago.

SG – Harry do you have any memories of the 1943 championship win?

HB – I can just about mind it. The final was played out there on the auld field and I’m nearly sure it was O’Donnell’s they played. This is all hear-say but I think they drew the first game out here and O’Donnell’s thought the replay would be in the city, but the county chairman at the time, a Ballycastle man, ruled that it had to be played in the country that year and so they got the replay out there again, which they won.EA7I1181AEA7I1597Nobel copy 3

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