Michael Davitt’s ‘Best 15’

Today we look at the ‘Best 15’ footballers of Michael Davitt’s through the eyes of the club chairman and lifelong member, Tommy Shaw. Tommy has looked to players who have served Davitt’s with distinction in the past and has come up with a formidable looking line-up.

Not everyone will agree with his selection. It’s just one man’s opinion.

Just a bit of fun!

Tommy Shaw’s ‘Best 15’ footballers

After much deliberation and confusion I have finally completed the arduous task of picking out my considered best 15 which will undoubtedly cause arguments but what the heck, that’s what the GAA is all about difference of opinions.

Just why did I accept the challenge of selecting the best 15 players that have proudly worn the green white and orange club colours of my beloved Michal Davitt GAA? Over  the past decades I have been blessed to be associated with such a great club, great players, great friends  and  camaraderie. In the club when in my youth I heard of truly amazing people who had been there for Davitt’s since the club was formed back in 1912. I recall listening to older members talk of two of Antrim’s finest footballers of the 1920s Terry Lyons (Davitt’s Captain) and Gerry Armstrong who helped bring our club it’s only senior football title in 1923. I’m confident that they would easily fit into the greatest ever Davitt’s team but not knowing the position they graced, I found it difficult to include both of them and I think that I honour them by this recollection. Indeed I’m confident that there were others including my late father Bobby who earned great reputations as players of that era but I will leave that part of our illustrious history in our glorious past.
No matter whom  I have  chosen  In my team there is sure to be murmurings from others in disagreement and perhaps discontent but then that is their prerogative and I’ve no doubt whatsoever that when I listen to their points of view, if they are put forward, then  I may well rethink and accept that my selection may well be challenged, but I won’t be influenced because I’m content that I have given it my best shot, difficult though it has been to omit some great players and friends from my final 15.

I have deliberately omitted today’s players as I wanted to devote the team selection to those who gave their time willingly to Davitt’s in the years gone by. I know that in the future today’s stars such  as Patrick Maguire, Sean Og O’Neill, Anthony Rowntree  and Padraig McParland  will surely figure on  some other’s  best 15 and I wish  that selector the best of luck in narrowing down the 15 for it has been a nightmare for me, so here I go:

1) GOALKEEPER: This position in my opinion is critical to how the team performs on the day and we have had some fine players in between the posts John Murphy a giant of a man who went through two leagues without conceding a goal, Eddie Connolly a great keeper along with Joe O‘Riordan an excellent custodian whose bravery was undeniable. However in making my decision I had to plumb for John Murphy whom I remember how well he guarded his goal and the fact that he did not concede a goal in two league years speaks volumes about his ability. Joe was a close runner up.

BACKLINE a number of excellent contenders for the full and half backs and it was a very difficult time trying to place whoever I considered to be a shade in front of the others and I confess that I could have picked any of them and still not remained confident of my selection. 

Names that came to mind included Jimmy Donnelly, Bobby Reilly, Seamus Reid,  Gerry Topping, Frank Brady, Sean McCormick,  Danny Toner, Davy Best, Paddy O’Neill, Pearse McCormick, Paul McGuigan, Jim Davis, Michael Brady and Eugene Gallagher. In the end I plumped for:

2) Right back went to Danso Toner who never ever stopped working hard to contain his opponent, a tireless team player who always gave his full commitment to the game and had an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time.

3) I put at full back Sean McCormick who in my humble opinion was the best full back we have ever had. Sean was capable of completely blotting out most full forwards by his reading of the attacks and denying possession to them.

4) I felt that left back should be Davy Best. As his name suggests he was one of the best, courageous in defence he always guarded his territory as if life depended upon it and he was capable of going forward when the opportunity was there.

5) My right half back choice was Frankie McAlorum, never ever said much but let his never say die attitude do the talking, not many guys ever got the better of Frankie. He was the complete gem of a defender.

6)centre half back is the mainstay of any defence and in Paddy O’Neill we had without doubt one of the best centre half backs I have ever seen and I’m including all other clubs here He was pure class! Made the game look easy.

7) Left half back suited Terry Park. Here was a footballing brain that was always in gear, great control when in possession and had the eye to utilise the perfect delivery when we had the ball. He would complement the link between backs and forwards admirably.

Midfield: Here again were many candidates in Jackie Goodman, Pappy O’Toole, Christy Donnelly, Sean O’Neill Sen. Liam Taylor, Joe McDonnell Gavin Shaw, and Stephen Toner.

In making my selections I have considered how well each player would gel with each other’s style of play to get the best team performances that would produce a style of play that would contribute to our forwards getting suitable ball to launch attacks. I could be accused of being biased in my choices here but it’s my belief that these two would enrich the format of the team and make a solid midfield pairing.  Here I nominated:

8) Gavin Shaw. When in possession he had the ability to carry the ball and know where a colleague was better placed for distribution and always covered much of the pitch continually working in support of his teammates.  

9) Frank Brady had one the best pair of hands you will ever see in the middle of the park. A tireless compact combatant he gave his all constantly driving forward when in possession and falling back when in defence, his forte was in punching points often afar from the opponents goals.

Half and Full Forwards

If you don’t outscore your opponent’s you don’t win so I looked for speed accuracy and tenacity and there was a plethora of candidates who came to mind to choose from including John and Pappy O’Toole Terry Magee, Fonsie McVeigh, James Coleman, Joe De Meulemeester, Gerry Withers, Stephen Brady, Jim McAuley, Liam O’Neill, Joe Muckian,  Martin Mooney, Terry Park, Kevin McParland, Stephen Toner and Joe McDonnell. What a headache but what a forward line you could make up from these stars.

10) At right three quarters  I place Jim McAuley the complete player who had great awareness of what was going on all around and could deliver the perfect ball to anyone for team benefit and he was also very accurate in  free taking usually  scoring from anywhere around 50 yards from goal.

11) At centre three quarters I opted for Martin “shiner “ Mooney who like Jim had a great knowledge of where we were better placed to inflict damage on our opponents, he was a team player who always gave his best over the entire game and could take scores readily from anywhere when the opportunity came his way. 

12) This was a very easy pick. Stephen Brady stands out as one of the finest footballers ever to put a Davitt shirt on. Making his debut as a young teenager on our senior team his ability to play the game was quickly recognised and he would soon be selected on the Antrim senior team playing at the highest level. Undoubtedly an outstanding player he is fully deserving of his place on past and future best ever Davitt’s 15.

13) The position of right full forward goes  to Kevin McParland a quick thinking player able to use both feet and take scores as they came and deadly from free kicks in close proximity of the opposition goals. Kevin often found space and penalised our opponents with numerous scores.

14) When one looks at the full forward position this is where games are won and lost and I believe you need brain brawn and bravery to better the full back (which is a key position). In choosing Joe McDonnell I am confident that he fits the bill perfectly. I could well have put him in midfield but having watched him in the role of poacher I think he would be the perfect target man with our nominated forwards supplying the ball to him. A great fielder of the ball and a talented footballer his attributes would make him more than a match for the best of full backs.

15) Left full forward I found hard to finalise this last position given the credentials of those mentioned above but in the end I took Stephen Toner who captained our minor championship team in midfield back in 1987 Stephen went on to display a quality of forward playing football, for many years at senior level, that was of the highest order. A skilled player he always delivered top drawer performances winning us many games.

As previously stated I could easily have picked another 15 and I regret not being able to put in some great players but that’s the name of the game. I do however list my substitutes (Under Covid 19 you can use more than the limited 5,) below knowing full well that they would easily slot into the team if called upon,

1) Joe O Riordan

2) Jimmy Donnelly 

3) Alphonsus “Red” McVeigh

4 ) Paul McGuigan

5) Eugene Gallagher 

6) Jim Davis 

7) Sean O Neill

8) Liam O Neill

9) Joe Muckian.

10) Michael Brady

Given that there will be a hurling 15 coming soon I am sure some of those mentioned in my article will gain a place on that team and good luck to whoever the selector is I wish you well.


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