Cardinal O’Donnell’s ‘Best 15’

Today we look at Cardinal O’Donnell’s GAC. Through the eyes of JoeMcNerney, a long serving committee member and a revered hurler within the club. Joe has gone for players from over the last 45 years and has included Intermediate championship winners from 1981 and 1994 and Junior championship winners from 1973 and 2010.

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

Just a bit of fun!

Joe McNerney’s ‘Best 15’ O’Donnell’s footballers

The club has had some great goalkeepers over the years going back as far as Frankie Cahill and up to the present day with Conor Walsh but there no doubt that ODonnell’s number 1 has been and always will be Seany “The Cat” McManus. Over 40 years’ service to the club epitomised in his quality kick outs and numerous one on one saves.

The right full back position goes to Sean McKenna a consistent and formidable ex county defender. He has won numerous personal accolades within the club over his career.

Sean Lavery current juvenile coach takes the full back spot, a great reader of the game who lead by example with perfectly timed tackles and a will to win that was obvious in all games, in particular during 2 recent Junior Championship wins for the club.

 For left corner back I cannot split Fra McCaffrey and Colin Skillen, both men with fitness levels that were hard to match by opponents. Fra could run all day and was a regular scorer from defence while Skilly was the one you called on to man mark an opposition player, and he had a unique ability to catch a ball under severe pressure.

John Garland, Dee Toner, Pearse Rice and David Campbell ran all of these full backs close for a position on the team.

The centre half back position could only mean one man…Dan Crummy an elite footballer and mentioned in every discussion around O’Donnell’s best team. His ability to retain possession from kick-outs was a great asset and he regularly pushed into midfield to do that.

He is flanked by 2 distinguished half backs in Brendy Mead and Ciaran Loughran, two players who could run all day. Meader’s strength was his pace and his fitness levels which were well above any others on the pitch while Locky maintained exceptional levels of consistency while also having a soccer career in the Irish League. 

Peter Crummy, and Ciaran McKissock just miss out on selection here while Ernie Garland only misses out due a bad career ending injury.

Two midfielders are Jim Walsh who is also the current club Poc Fada champion and dual star Titch McGowan captain of the 1994 Intermediate Championship team. Jim’s catching ability that he no doubt developed on St Thomas’s basketball team along with Titch’s point scoring ability make them the perfect combination. Paul McElvanna can count himself unlucky not to make it into the midfield with immigration a big factor in the late 80s.

We have had numerous forwards over the years that would put the fear of God into any Irish League defence never mind GAA, and I have settled on a half forward line of Jimbo Cooke, an absolute fitness machine, Jim “Mac” McDonald from the same era as Jimbo, and they are complimented by the younger Noel Ferran. Jimbo holds the distinction of winning Intermediate titles 13 years apart, scoring the winning point in the Junior final in 1973, and he played 30 consecutive years for O’Donnell’s and there is really no one like him at our club. (Mr O’Donnell’s). Mac was a scoring machine and top scored in every season he played with both goals and points with left and right foot. Noel was the man who made Jimbo and Mac tick, he was very skilful and was sometimes used as a man marker in particular during the 1981 Championship final, when he also scored the winning goal.

The fact that Brendan Tully and Gerry Brammeld and Marty McAreavey did not quite make the starting 15 shows the quality of this half forward line.

The early 90s seen the senior football team kick on following the signings of forwards Tony Devlin and Gus Shields from Gael Uladh ultimately resulting in the 1994 Intermediate Championship and its Gus, who top scored that year, who gets into the full forward line ahead of the injury prone Devlin.

Full forward had some great nominations such as Bomber Wallace, Sean Hughes and Ciaran McKenna, but Ciaran O’Hare stands head and shoulders above everyone else. A multi-talented sportsman he excelled at everything he did and another the club lost to immigration while at his peak.

In the other corner is Gerard Meenan the 2 goal hero of the 1994 Intermediate winning side and he just squeezes out Pat Hughes for this position. Gerard could point a ball from any angle with his left foot while Pat, ex Antrim and current St Edna’s coach, wasn’t too far behind him. “Just to conclude any of these 3 players could have started in any position on our team; Tom McGaharan, Fergal McNerney (SNR), and John McElvanna before his transfer to his native Armagh where he made numerous county appearances”

We have been blessed with some great club mentors like Battler Campbell and Wally Fennell and we have had some great managers like, Joe “Mourinho” McVeigh, Ciaran McKenna Snr, and Ernie Garland, but one man who we would always want to be on our touchline would be Micky Rafferty (RIP).

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