Today we look at St. Mary’s Rasharkin’s ‘Best 15’ as seen by Liam Tunney, a former player and frequent contributor to the Saffron Gael. Liam’s team is a more recent 15 and therefore doesn’t include some of the great players of the past whom he didn’t have the pleasure to see in action. Liam’s team includes a first for this feature, father and son John and Eamonn McNeill. Remember it’s only a bit of fun and no 2 contributors are likely to name the same 15.
Club Team of my Lifetime
My conscious experience of being involved in the club and watching matches begins in the early 1990s, which rules out three greats in John McGarry, Frank Hasson and Christy Hardy, widely regarded as the best player ever to don the blue and yellow jersey.
The football side is backboned by a number of graduates from the 1999 minor championship-winning team, while there is a more modern feel to the hurling selection.
Hopefully, having a read through will have everyone itching for a sunny afternoon at Dreen, with a line of cars parked along the sideline and the pitch immaculate.
Here are the 15 I have opted for in both codes:
Goalkeeper – Sean Hardy
A tough call, with Sean just pipping Donal McLernon to the number 1 spot. For sheer longevity of service, the custodian was hard to look past, and indeed hard to get past. An excellent shot-stopper with the communication skills to organise his defence.
Right Corner Back – Alan McNeill
A tough competitor with plenty of pace, McNeill manned the corner at the beginning of the millennium when the club were regularly competitive at senior championship level. Tenacious and energetic in the tackle, forwards found him difficult to shake off.
Full Back – Michael Hardy
Living up to his father’s moniker of the ‘Gentle Giant’ Michael administered justice with a smile from full back. A solid defender, his leadership qualities lent themselves perfectly to the full back position.
Left Corner Back – Cathair O’Kane
‘Snout’ went about his defensive role with zealous application and relentlessly tortured many corner forwards throughout his career. Rarely shirked a tackle and was fully committed to the side.
Right Half Back – Michael Hasson
Currently exiled Down Under, ‘Mucksy’ was an underage star and provided the fulcrum of a dedicated ‘give it to Mucksy’ game plan. Settling into senior as a pacey defender with a self-driven licence to roam, he was part of the 2010 Antrim IFC success.
Centre Half Back – Thomas Doherty
Currently the club chairperson, ‘Bob’ is still lining out for the senior side. A member of the Antrim minor championship-winning side in 1999, his commitment in the tackle and ability to motivate those around him are key to his success.
Left Half Back – Paul Baird
Another member of that successful 1999 side, Paul was a tight defender who had the ability to pick out a pass with accuracy. He lined out in the forward line almost as often as the defence and knew where the posts were.
Midfield – Paul Doherty
Rasharkin’s own Rolls Royce, Paul had the size and skill to control any game from midfield. He represented Antrim at senior level and was included in the Ireland U17 compromised rules team that toured Australia in 2002.
Midfield – Brendan Hasson
Another towering midfielder, and a clubman who represented the county during the remarkable run to the Ulster Final in 2009, Brendan’s surging runs and physicality would often cause opposition defences to panic.
Right Half Forward – Declan McKay
A mainstay of the Rasharkin from a young age, Decky’s pace and cultured left foot had the ability to put notions of attack out of many half backs. Scored a memorable goal in the 2004 senior championship to knock out Portglenone in a pulsating replay.
Centre Half Forward – John McNeill
Playing around midfield and the half forward line, John mixed fitness, physique and guile to good effect and was often found driving St Mary’s forward. A classy footballer with a hard edge, he went on to represent Antrim and indeed Ireland in over 40s competitions.
Left Half Forward – Owen Quinn
Another Rasharkin man exiled in Australia, Owen could play almost anywhere on the pitch and switched between defence and attack with ease. His fitness and strong running could cause teams problems and he represented the county in the early 2000s.
Right Corner Forward – Johnny McAleese
One of the sharpest forwards to pull on the jersey, Johnny was yet another member of the 1999 minor team. Not only able to take a score from any number of angles, he could split the defence with an inch-perfect pass when required.
Full Forward – Jarlath Mooney
Although normally lining out in midfield or half-forward, making room for ‘Chisel’ was a must. His physicality often gave him an edge on his opponent and he had the vision to bring others into play effectively.
Right Corner Forward – Eamonn McNeill
If you are in need of a score, Eamonn can usually conjure one up. He has a single-mindedness for the posts that, although sometimes leaving team-mates bereft, usually ends with the umpire raising a white flag.
Brendan Etherson – Another midfielder known for aerial prowess, ‘Tiptoes’ was unlucky to miss out.
Donal McLernon – Claimed the number 1 jersey from Sean Hardy in the late 90s and retained it for over a decade.
Paul McFerran – A hugely versatile player whose passion and leadership continually drove the side forward.