Today we look at Éire Óg through the eyes of Fintan Morgan, a stalwart with the Doire Achaidh club. As with all the previous teams, not everyone will agree with his selection. It’s just one man’s opinion. Just a bit of fun!
Fintan Morgan’s Éire Óg ‘Best 15’
This team represents the best Éire Óg footballers of the last 40 years. It would be remiss not to mention some of the great Óg’s who were in the twilight of their career prior to then namely Gerry Hodgkinson, Paul Crozier, Gerry Henvey, Bobby Rice and widely regarded as the greatest Óg of the last 50 years the great Sean Rice who represented his county in both hurling and football. Where positions have been closely contested, longevity in playing for the Óg’s has been the determining factor.
1– Neil Ryan
Not a surprise Neil is on the team but perhaps a surprise for some that he gets the goalkeeper’s jersey. Neil was a county minor goalkeeper although he played for the Ógs at half back for the majority of his career. Neil never missed a training session and was highly respected by his teammates. Neil captained the team for a long period in the 1990’s and 2000’s and many believe retired too early.
Phil Boomer and Rowan Vernon were both great shot stoppers while Curley Ferrin also merits a mention.
2- Brendan Downey
Brendy played with the county seniors and was without doubt, the best defender the club has seen in the last 40 years. An excellent reader of the game, for any high or low ball that came in to the square, Brendy always seemed to emerge with it firmly in his hands
3- Joe George
Still playing, Joe has unbroken service with the club since primary school. A vocal and no-nonsense defender, Joe wasn’t long in telling you if you made a mistake. Not one for kicking the ball, Joe’s soft hands has quietened many a full forward.
- 4- Conor Wills
The quiet man Conor was a mainstay of the 2001 of Junior Championship winning team. Conor played in almost every position during his Eire Óg career, but typical of the man, he never complained. Putting a lot of time into the club, Conor was the author of the Éire Óg 75th Anniversary book.
Brian Quinn and Brendan McPoland were two ‘quiet’ corner backs in their day, while Fintan Morgan, controlled the edge of the square for over 20 years supported by tigerish corner backs Fergal Lynch, Aidso O’Reilly, Kayvan Vesali and Kieran Ryan
5- Conor Ellis
Current club captain Conor’s tight marking makes him a nightmare for forwards. He never gives an inch and is always looking to go forward and support the midfield and attack. Conor will hopefully be part of the senior team for many years to come.
6- Gerard McNulty
The current Creggan Kickham’s manager, Gerard had a long and distinguished career with the Óg’s at juvenile and senior level. With his Rolls Royce engine, it was always a pleasure to play alongside Gerard, as he covered every blade of grass and covered for any defenders who were caught out of position.
- 7- Conor Muldoon
Current joint manager of the Óg’s ladies’ team, Conor loved to mark ‘space’. What he lacked in speed he made up for in courage and determination. Conor never pulled out of tackle, is an all round good guy, and a good man to have in your company on or off the pitch.
Hugh McPoland, Killian Shortt, Jim Magee, Henry Largey, Niall Cochrane, and Paul Taggart were the other stand out half backs over the last forty years.
8- Johnny Smye
Without doubt the best fielder of a ball the club has seen in the last 50 years. Johnny was the target of all Óg’s kickouts when he was playing and rarely lost a high ball challenge. His quality was recognised throughout the county and he played for the Saffron’s under several managers.
9- Alec McGoran
Alec soldiered with the Og’s for an eternity, not being allowed to retire, and still played midfield on the Senior team into his 50’s. Probably the only Óg’s player we have never heard swearing, his fitness levels enabled him to have a long career. Alec was also one of the best coaches the club had. Alec is currently coaching at Carryduff.
Lawrence Kelly came close to displacing his teacher for the midfield slot, Lawrence was unfortunate with injuries. Other exceptional fielders of the ball were John Morgan, Gerry O’Reilly, Colm McAuley John Devlin, JP Dunney, Seamus Holmes and Deano McMullan.
10- Conor McKenna
Conor is the backbone of our current senior squad. A dedicated trainer and now TV star (after being selected for TG4 Underdogs last year), Conor’s determination to bring the Og’s to the next level is infectious to his teammates and hopefully he will get his just rewards in the next couple of seasons. A great lad who is an excellent ambassador for the club.
11- Jim Dalzell
The fulcrum of the forward line in the 1985 Intermediate championship team, Jim was a stylish player who always created space for himself to either have a shot or link up with another forward. Almost impossible to get the ball from him when he had possession
12- Paddy Doherty
The Óg’s have yet to see a better free-taker since Paddy retired. His accuracy was one of the main reasons why we won the Intermediate Championship in ‘85. An excellent footballer, Paddy was one of those players who could make a chance out of nothing.
Brian Turbitt, David Morgan and current senior coach Gareth Gags McLaverty were all outstanding half forwards, while Ciaran McGarrity, Gerard Crawford and Aidy Doherty were stalwarts in the 90’s. Micky Quinn and Chris Browning were two similar reserved forwards with the motto ‘thy shall not pass’.
13- John McPoland
Apparently the ‘best’ footballer in the McPoland household, John was another who played in several positions throughout his career. As an accurate forward John always liked to remind people that he was equally as accurate with either feet. John faced sibling rivalry from his brother Brendan for the number 13 jersey
14- Peter Elliott
The baby of the 2001 Championship winning team, Peter’s underage talents transferred to senior where he was the Óg’s top scorer for numerous seasons. Rarely missing when close to goals, unfortunately for the Óg’s, Peter has suffered from injury the last few seasons and has been badly missed.
15- Pat Rice
The number 15 jersey was a straight fight between father and son. While Niall was lightening quick and skilful, his departure to Oz meant his senior career was cut short, although we may see his return in the future. His dad Pat was Mr Éire Óg an excellent footballer and part of the ‘85 Championship winning team. Pat would later go on and serve every position within the club. A great friend to all who had the pleasure of knowing him and deeply missed by everyone.
The full forward line was probably the most difficult to pick. Emmett Holmes unlucky to lose out to the two corner forward veterans, while Gerard Ferrin and Jim Kane from the Intermediate champions in ‘85 also had an eye for goals. Full forwards always capable of turning games and deserving of a mention include the roving Sean O’Neill, Kevin Brown, Barry Hall, Sean McKenna and Fra Grimley. Luckily most of them played before the introduction of the player-fit jersey!
I’ve no doubt that if we revisited this topic in 10 years time, current senior players Ciaran Rice, Conor Erskine and Caoimhin Daykin will also be pushing for a place.
I’m sure the 15 chosen will spark many a debate but it’s all about opinions.