The Bests of both worlds

The Best boys from Antrim’s 1943 team were cousins of George

By John McIlwaine

Back in 1989 when Antrim qualified for the All Ireland final I did a lot of research into the team who had qualified for the final forty six years earlier in 1943. In the team photo taken on the day in Croke Park there were two Bests, one of them Tommy, who was was the team trainer, while the other one, Willie, a son of Tommy, was a sub on the team.

The colourised photo of Bishop Mageean meeting the Antrim and Cork players before the 1943 All Ireland final.

I remember at the time there were lots of stories going around that they were related to the great Manchester United star George Best, but I was never able to confirm the fact. However when I posted the colourised photo of Bishop Mageean meeting the teams before the 1943 final it attacted a lot of interest, and a good few of the children and grandchildren of players on the team got in touch offering a few snippets of information and correcting some mistakes I had made.

Team trainer Tommy Best is second from the left on the back row, while Willie Best is second from the right on the front row in this photo of the Antrim 1943 team.

One of those who contacted me was Maura Best, daughter of the aforementioned Willie Best and grandaughter of Tommy. She was pointing out where they were in the photo, but thoughts turned right away to those stories about them being related to George, so I messaged her back and ask if there was any truth in it.

The following day Maura got back to confirm that George was indeed a cousin and also that she was related to a famous name in Antrim GAA, Liam Harvey, the man who the Ulster Senior Hurling Championship trophy is named after.

George Best playing for Manchester United in his prime prime in the 1960’s

Maura wrote,

” My dad’s mother was Jane Harvey, a sister of Liam Harvey. She married Tommy Best, my dad’s father. Tommy was the brother of George’s grandfather Jimmy Best, so George’s father Dicky and my dad’s were, first cousins.

Tommy married Jane Harvey and they started married life in the shadow of the shipyard where my dad was born. They soon moved to the Falls Road where Tommy (Granddad Best) got involved with GAA. Both of his sons Willie and Kevin played hurling. Willie, who was my late dad, played for a team which I think was called O’Connell’s. So there you have it – a slice of Best family history combined with Antrim hurling history.”

I would like to thank Maura sincerely for her assistance with the story, answereing my queries over the past couple of weeks and getting me the photos I requested. She has been really helpful and nothing was ever too much trouble for her.

Thanks again Maura.

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