The Carey twins grew up to play football…..but on the wrong side of the Bann

Last week I posted photos of the Antrim v Kerry National Football League quarter final in Croke Park, the last photograph in the set being one of two little boys dressed in full Antrim kit, taken on the Croke Park pitch. We all wondered just who these young men were and when I discovered they were the Carey twins from Moneyglass my mind began to race…. Did they go on to play for St Ergnat’s or did they even progress to county level?

Anthony and Martin Carey
The boys in Croker with Martin sporting an early version of Under Armour

The story I had pictured in my head turned out to be a bit different than what really happened, for though both of them went on to play club football, and one of them wore the county jersey – and better still won an All Ireland minor medal – it turned out to be on the wrong side of the Bann.

Although they were brought along to Antrim matches by their granddad Paddy Carey, Anthony and Martin Carey lived in Greenlough, and grew up playing their football in Derry. Their dad Brendan was a Moneyglass man but when he married Christina from Gortin, Co. Tyrone, they bought a house in Clady, “between their two ‘home’ counties”, though you feel Brendan got the better part of that deal.

Their Granda, although originally a Loughgiel man, had settled in Moneyglass and was actively involved in the St Ergnat’s club, and was a member of the South West Antrim committee. He followed the Antrim footballers and brought the two boys along to the games, so when Antrim booked a quarter final place against Kerry in 1989 the two young Derry men were dragged along, dressed in Saffron, and got the chance to stand on the sacred sod of Croke Park to have their photos taken.

As it turned out Martin would be back at headquarters to play on that same sod in All Ireland finals, not once but twice, during his football career. The first time he wore the red and white of Derry as the Oak Leaf boys beat Meath by 1-12 to 0-8 in the 2002 All Ireland Minor final, and again in 2015 when he wore the blue and yellow of John Mitchell’s Liverpool in the All Ireland Club Junior Football final, when they suffered an agonising one point defeat to Brosna of Kerry. Growing up the boys tasted success together with Greenlough at juvenile and senior level, the highlight coming when they won the Derry Intermediate title in 2008.

Martin worked as a teacher in Liverpool for almost ten years and got involved with the local club there, while Anthony moved to the other side of the world to Melbourne, Australia.  He was involved with Padraig Pearses club for many years until injuries and work commitments forced him to give it up. He is now married with two children, Paddy (named after his granda) and Mia, but gets out to the Pearses now and again for a look at what’s going on. Martin moved from Liverpool to Doha, Qatar where he now teaches English.

Anthony’s children Paddy and Mia Carey at the Pearses annual Sevens in Melbourne

The road has had a lot of turns for the two little boys in the Antrim kit on that day in Croke Park in 1994. That fleeting vision I had of them wearing the Saffron kit at adult level turned out to be way off the mark, but they still played the game their granda Paddy had hoped they would……..even it was on the ‘wrong’ side of the Bann.

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