Although the McQuillan’s Club in Ballycastle are most renowned for Gaelic games with the small ball, the Town has produced its fair share of fine size 5 ballers. Having played football for the McQuillan’s club for 18 years, Gerard McIlroy looks back at his “Best 15”.
Not everyone will agree with his selection. It’s just one man’s opinion. Just a bit of fun!
Gerard McIlroy’s ‘Best 15’
1- Aidan McIlroy. For sheer fear of getting kicked with one of his steel toed kick-outs, he was always a big presence in the nets for the early part of my time playing. Good length in the kick-out (didn’t matter where they went!). Being the younger brother, he always had my back too!
2- Colm Dynes. Was as wide as he was long! Thou shall not pass was his motto. Also did mixed martial arts……You just didn’t mess with him. Excellent carrier of the ball, could tackle (properly) and give a pass out from the back.
3-. Damian (Boogie) McAfee. Leader on the pitch, never say die attitude and surreal fitness levels! Never one to let a forward pass by without a “gentle” tackle! I played a lot of my playing days in Full Back – Boogie made it look easy!
4- Conor Donnelly. One of the calmest heads on the pitch. His famous runs from corner back would often see the ball end up over the “black spot”. A real hassler in the full back line. I always liked play at 3 when Conor was on the pitch. He knew when to go or when to cover. Always one of the fittest on the pitch!
5-Benny Bailey. Could run all day. Awesome fitness levels and speed. He was the creator of many scores for the forward 6. In backs he could give the best half forwards a difficult day. He also like the pints in the city after Sunday games!
6- Ronan Boyle. One of the best natural footballers in north Antrim. He was able to control a game single handed. His fitness levels never seemed to drop (until he hit 40!). Going into the tough games, you want to have Ronan on your side, tough as they come and had the ability in football terms to back it up!
7-. Barry Kelly. Although Barry played mostly in midfield or the half-forward line, he was best suited to the half back line (nothing to do with the amount of shots he put wide in the length of a game). Simply because the man could run! He had the pace to burse out of the half back line and deliver a pass….or on occasions took the odd shot – sometimes they went over!
8- Stephen McGill. Looks like butter wouldn’t melt. The mistake most people make with the big fella. Could shoot from halfway and did all the tracking from 21 to 21. Played with this guy for over a decade and can’t state highly enough the impact he has had on many wins for McQuillan’s.
9- Leon Bailey. The Joker of the pack. On his day he couldn’t be marked! Alongside McGill in the engine room, this pairing were unbeatable. A Rolls Royce engine….as long as he wasn’t out the night before! Could have played against the best and still came out on top.
10- Mark Higgins. I never played with Mark but in recent seasons I have watch a fair few games. Ball carrier and scorer can take the big hits and give them! Would fit into any McQuillan’s football team over the years.
11- Jaffa Connolly. Mr Shuffle. I play indoor soccer with Jaffa still! He had such ability for all sports. He played a number of positions over my years with the club and he is still involved in coaching. Like Ronan Boyle, he can control a game and put the scores over when needed most. He was fond of rolling over ten times after a challenge looking for a free – more often than not he got them!
12- Conor McMichael. An unreal talent from a young age. Came through the youth setup with Aidan Toner and Gerry McGlynn. Could play anywhere on the pitch. He was strong and had pinpoint accuracy for a pass or score. He is certainly a player we have missed over the last number of years.
13-.Michael Magee. Played, retired, came back, retired,….then played in the 2019 North Antrim Feis final with his Sons! The wee man from Armagh was lethal between the 45 & 21 lines. Either from play or from the dead ball the man could finish! Once the clubs top scorer…..he obviously never told anyone, apart from the time we won the NA Feis in 2010. The pub crawl after….Michael vanished and came back in a taxi with his top scorer trophy from 2000! Always a good laugh with him about!
14- Joe Cassidy. The king of the “Show and Go” played for his home club Bellaghy and Derry at various levels. Ended up his playing days for the town. If only he played for Ballycastle years before, oozing natural ability. Effortless stride and the capacity to kick scores from anywhere on the pitch. Fine free taker and was a real focal point anywhere in the front 6.
15- Martin (Marty J) Jamison. Could play on the line, roam deep, brilliant ability to read the play and passes. Had the ability to shoot from either side no matter how tight the angle! He was a running machine.
Having played football for so long, there are a few honorary mentions:
When Curly hung up the gloves, Patrick (POD) McAuley stepped up. Has been there ever since and would be the first name on the team sheet.
Brian Gaynor – Came late to Ballycastle having won it all in Laois and Lenister. Sound fella with bags of skill!
Brian McLernon – the beast of midfield. Enough said.
Sean Kelly, Conor McAuley, Stephen McIlroy & Conleth McCaughan – Great servants to the club and on their day could command their position. We had some great Feis and Championship runs.