St. Gall’s ‘Best 15’ footballers

Today we look at St. Galls, Antrim’s most successful club and include their ‘Best 15’ through the eyes of one of their stalwarts, Chris Kerr. Big Chris has been part of the St. Galls and Antrim setup for more than a decade and is still regarded as one of the county’s top goalkeepers. He has modestly excluded himself from his ‘Best 15’ and it certainly looks a side to be reckoned with.

  1. Ronan Gallagher
  2. Colin Brady
  3. Andy McClean
  4. Paul Veronica
  5. Terry O’Neill
  6. Conor Burke
  7. Sean Kelly
  8. Sean Burke
  9. Aodhan Gallagher
  10. Karl Stewart
  11. Kieran McGourty
  12. Kevin McGourty
  13. Cj McGourty
  14. Kevin Niblock
  15. Michael Pllock

Probably one of the hardest tasks I’ve ever been given. How do you pick a team from the most successful Antrim club team ever with such an incredible period of dominance In goals – obviously I couldn’t pick myself so I’ll give one of the other lads a run! I was very fortunate to grow up and work alongside with so many top goalkeepers Ciaran O’Connor, Paddy Murray & Ronan Gallagher all with brilliant attributes that I have taken on board and use myself in my own game – Paddy had a massive presence very imposing figure which forwards hated the sight off. Ciaran O’Connor fantastic shot stopper and really top class striker of the ball. Ronan was a top class kicker and hitting space utilising short kick outs 10 years ago, nominated all-star and great organiser – so I’ll give the nod just to Ronan Gallagher. Although I had the voodoo doll out for all 3 of them at a stage! Forwards win you games but defenders win you championships. We were and are so fortunate to have so many top defenders who could win battles 1v1. Colin Brady the best man marker I’ve seen up close & personal, so quick, strong, great tackler and hands , superb reading of the game and calming voice never panics nothing- always says the right thing at the right times. Andy McClean incredible athlete, so big, strong, aggressive on the ground and in the air, and can’t half play ball also. Had a great understanding with him at no3. Class act.

Paul Veronica ferocious tackler, hard as nails, quick and aggressive would put his head where some wouldn’t put their feet massive fan.  Terry O’Neill could play anywhere from 5 onwards. Quality player – to do it for so long and the standard of performance and his cv speaks volumes, one of the all -time greats – can tackle, score, work rate and break ball specialist and would run through a brick wall for St galls – Conor Burke such a big man, brilliant athlete and man marker can play anywhere out the pitch. Sean Kelly at 7. Nothing else needed. The best player I’ve ever played with in every aspect – talent, ability, attitude, temperament. Simon Kennedy, Gary McGirr & Anto Healy just miss out. Midfield – had to go with Sean Burke and Aodhan Gallagher. Complement each other so well. Both mobile, brilliant in the air, hard as nails and can hit like a mule and both can play ball. Mark McCrory was a classy footballer along with Ciaran Mc Crossan during my earlier years. Forwards – some of the forwards Karl Stewart all day – hard as nails – classy and skilful On the ball but can tackle, hit like a horse. Ginge is a quality player.

Kieran McGourty again to play at that level for so long it a testament to him, never had pace but had a brain that was 3-4 steps ahead of everyone else. Two footed, brilliant link man, picks the right pass and a break ball expert, a man for the bjg day. Kevin McGourty (Hank). You talk about athletes you talk about Hank, who could do it all, kick, pass, dominate the ball In the air – had the confidence and belief he could take anyone on. Could do it all. Incredible player – stifled by injuries but one of the best I’ve ever seen play. Cj McGourty. Bjg game player, been fortunate enough to see this man at his work from 5 years of age, crazy ability, best left foot in the county for well over a decade and has the accolades and performances to back it up. If you get a goal chance you want it in his hands. Brilliant from play and dead balls. Kevin Niblock at full forward – Can play anywhere, has it all. Strong as an Ox, great feet and vision, unreal ball winner in the air and on the ground. Can score any type of score. Class act. Micky Pollock – lightening quick, strong, can take a score of either foot – a defenders worst nightmare. Getting better with age. Can play anywhere from 8 to 15. Attitude, application and work rate to match the talent and ability.

Seanie Burns is another who could walk into any team. Class act from play and dead ball. Hard as nails and could take a score.

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St. Mary’s Ahoghill ‘Best 15’ footballers

Today we feature Colum Graham’s selection of ‘Best 15’ footballers of St. Mary’s Ahoghill. Yesterday we feature a first when St. Mary’s Rasharkin ‘Best 15’ included a father and son and today Colum has bit the bullet by selecting himself, something which is perfectly OK. I had the privilege of seeing Colum playing and he would have made my ‘Best15’. Colum has added a few tongue in cheek comments which should get a few laughs.

Remember it’s only a bit of fun and no team will get universal approval but over the first three days the interest has been immense.

1 .Francis Neeson. Great shot stopper, likes to play the odd 1-2 with his defence and go for a run forward.

 2 .Gareth Hardy. Real natural footballer, deliveries of Coca Cola stopped him reaching his full potential.

 3 .Stephen O’Connell. One of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen play in the red & black. Sometimes would give you heart failure as he side steps players and then comes back and does it again to the same player.

 4. Paddy Graham. Tough corner back, ended some matches with blood on him, not always his own.

5 .Bernard (Budgie) O’Neill. .Flying half back, his heroics in our junior championship win over Portglenone in 1992 will never be forgotten.

6. Martin Graham. I just had to have him in here. Great passer of the ball, not always to his own team, great at dispossessing opposition, likes to play on the edge. Has calmed down since Sadie his first daughter was born.

7. Bernard Scullion. (Blondie) great hands, great speed. Remember well his ’50’ from out on the wing up in Randalstown against the breeze to win us a div 4 league match one Wednesday night in 1982, never seen the likes of him since.

8. Dermot Graham. (Big D), Hands like shovels could catch balls all day long, could he shoot, I’ll let others decide.

 9. Neill (Boris) O’Connell. Great hands also for midfield. Natural 2 footed player, believes he’s the best of the O’Connell’s.

10. .Dominic (Pencil) Neeson, always sharp, great engine, could run all day. His memorable fisted point against St.Gall’s to keep us in div 1 was just one of his highlights, can’t remember who got relegated?

11. Paddy Logan. What a natural footballer, came onto our seniors when he was about 15.Equally good with left or right, his juvenile career was success after success. God he was good.

12. Joe Downey (big Joe) great player to have around when protection was needed. Some managers have a player who is always first on the team sheet, when Jarlath O’Donnell was referring rumour had it he had Joe’s name pencilled into his wee black book before the match started.

13. Colum Graham (Alfie) just had to. When I scored a goal in the junior championship against Ardoyne in 1992, Geordie wrote, Graham’s goal was worth the admission fee alone. (Alfie, never received club footballer of the year, but we’ll never talk about it.) My kids don’t believe that was ever written in the paper.

14. Donal Graham. Great left foot, could always be guaranteed to get scores, must get that from his mother.

15. PJ O’Connell.Fast, sharp, great leap when going up for a ball. His quick thinking when he rattled the quick free into the Portglenone net in the O’Cahan Cup final was one I’ll never forget.

16. Harry Graham. Solely for his performances at full forward in the 9 aside competition that used to be hosted by All Saints up in Hugomount, he was unreal.

Keep you nominations coming! Over the coming days and weeks we hope to publish a ‘Best 15’ for every club in Antrim, football and hurling, but we can’t do it without the cooperation of clubs.

Rasharkin ‘Best 15’ footballers

Today we look at St. Mary’s Rasharkin’s ‘Best 15’ as seen by Liam Tunney, a former player and frequent contributor to the Saffron Gael. Liam’s team is a more recent 15 and therefore doesn’t include some of the great players of the past whom he didn’t have the pleasure to see in action. Liam’s team includes a first for this feature, father and son John and Eamonn McNeill. Remember it’s only a bit of fun and no 2 contributors are likely to name the same 15.

Club Team of my Lifetime

My conscious experience of being involved in the club and watching matches begins in the early 1990s, which rules out three greats in John McGarry, Frank Hasson and Christy Hardy, widely regarded as the best player ever to don the blue and yellow jersey.

The football side is backboned by a number of graduates from the 1999 minor championship-winning team, while there is a more modern feel to the hurling selection.

Hopefully, having a read through will have everyone itching for a sunny afternoon at Dreen, with a line of cars parked along the sideline and the pitch immaculate.

Here are the 15 I have opted for in both codes:

Football

Goalkeeper – Sean Hardy

A tough call, with Sean just pipping Donal McLernon to the number 1 spot. For sheer longevity of service, the custodian was hard to look past, and indeed hard to get past. An excellent shot-stopper with the communication skills to organise his defence.

Right Corner Back – Alan McNeill

A tough competitor with plenty of pace, McNeill manned the corner at the beginning of the millennium when the club were regularly competitive at senior championship level. Tenacious and energetic in the tackle, forwards found him difficult to shake off.

Full Back – Michael Hardy

Living up to his father’s moniker of the ‘Gentle Giant’ Michael administered justice with a smile from full back. A solid defender, his leadership qualities lent themselves perfectly to the full back position.

Left Corner Back – Cathair O’Kane

‘Snout’ went about his defensive role with zealous application and relentlessly tortured many corner forwards throughout his career. Rarely shirked a tackle and was fully committed to the side.

Right Half Back – Michael Hasson

Currently exiled Down Under, ‘Mucksy’ was an underage star and provided the fulcrum of a dedicated ‘give it to Mucksy’ game plan. Settling into senior as a pacey defender with a self-driven licence to roam, he was part of the 2010 Antrim IFC success.

Centre Half Back – Thomas Doherty

Currently the club chairperson, ‘Bob’ is still lining out for the senior side. A member of the Antrim minor championship-winning side in 1999, his commitment in the tackle and ability to motivate those around him are key to his success.

Left Half Back – Paul Baird

Another member of that successful 1999 side, Paul was a tight defender who had the ability to pick out a pass with accuracy. He lined out in the forward line almost as often as the defence and knew where the posts were.

Midfield – Paul Doherty

Rasharkin’s own Rolls Royce, Paul had the size and skill to control any game from midfield. He represented Antrim at senior level and was included in the Ireland U17 compromised rules team that toured Australia in 2002.

Midfield – Brendan Hasson

Another towering midfielder, and a clubman who represented the county during the remarkable run to the Ulster Final in 2009, Brendan’s surging runs and physicality would often cause opposition defences to panic.

Right Half Forward – Declan McKay

A mainstay of the Rasharkin from a young age, Decky’s pace and cultured left foot had the ability to put notions of attack out of many half backs. Scored a memorable goal in the 2004 senior championship to knock out Portglenone in a pulsating replay.

Centre Half Forward – John McNeill

Playing around midfield and the half forward line, John mixed fitness, physique and guile to good effect and was often found driving St Mary’s forward. A classy footballer with a hard edge, he went on to represent Antrim and indeed Ireland in over 40s competitions.

Left Half Forward – Owen Quinn

Another Rasharkin man exiled in Australia, Owen could play almost anywhere on the pitch and switched between defence and attack with ease. His fitness and strong running could cause teams problems and he represented the county in the early 2000s.

Right Corner Forward – Johnny McAleese

One of the sharpest forwards to pull on the jersey, Johnny was yet another member of the 1999 minor team. Not only able to take a score from any number of angles, he could split the defence with an inch-perfect pass when required.

Full Forward – Jarlath Mooney

Although normally lining out in midfield or half-forward, making room for ‘Chisel’ was a must. His physicality often gave him an edge on his opponent and he had the vision to bring others into play effectively.

Right Corner Forward – Eamonn McNeill

If you are in need of a score, Eamonn can usually conjure one up. He has a single-mindedness for the posts that, although sometimes leaving team-mates bereft, usually ends with the umpire raising a white flag.

Subs:

Brendan Etherson – Another midfielder known for aerial prowess, ‘Tiptoes’ was unlucky to miss out.

Donal McLernon – Claimed the number 1 jersey from Sean Hardy in the late 90s and retained it for over a decade.

Paul McFerran – A hugely versatile player whose passion and leadership continually drove the side forward.

‘Best 15’ footballers, Kickham’s Creggan

Today’s ‘Best 15’ footballers features Kickham’s Creggan and comes from another good friend to the Saffron Gael, Tony McCollum. Tony very modestly excluded himself from the line-up but he was a hard tackling defender in his time and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a very useful Creggan 15.

It’s ok to select yourself-if you can stand the slagging but remember, it is only a bit of fun and no selection is likely to get universal approval from your club colleagues so why not have a go?

Tony McCollum’s Creggan ‘Best15’ selection

“Paddy that wasn’t easy but here goes”

1. Martín Mc Ateer (Great kick out and as brave as they came) 

2. Seán Maguire (Probably the best and scariest player I played with)

3. Ricky Johnston (Big Ricky just delivers every time and hates full back) 

4. Enda Mc Lernon (Enda Just didn’t give up ask James Mc Carten, Paddy Bradley & Kevin Madden (haha)

5. Sam Maguire (Sam has one of the best engines in the modern game and can play a bit)

6. Marty Johnston (When Mickey Moran said to me at an u16 match that he was the next Séamus Moynihan enough said)

7. Adrian McCann (Dr McCann was the most intelligent footballer on the field just knew where to be and what to do)

8. Terence (Teddy) Mc Keown (Terence was that player who annoyed everyone usually because he always won the high ball)

9. Darrell Martin (Darrell was another player who would go up and down the field all day and no slouch under the high ball)

10. Seán Mc Auley (Seán Mc Auley would go through a brick wall (or 4 men) to win a ball) 

11. Conor Small (Conor to me is poetry in motion when playing probably the most skilful player I’ve seen at the Club)

12. Stephen Mc Kay (Stephen was a flying machine with a great eye for a goal) 

13. Adrian Dougan (Adrian was that pest who would continually annoy you but would always win the dirty ball)

14. Mark Dougan (Mark has been our go to man and he’ll never let you down score from anywhere) 

15. Ruairi McCann (Ruairi is too versatile for his own good so put him in the corner and let him free to score and defend) 

Subs:

16. Kevin Small (Kevin is another young player with a big future a strong runner with the ball and can score) 

17. Vincie Maguire (Mr reliable was always there in full back and when coming out he always had the ball with him)

18. Conleth Mc Cann (Conleth was one of them players you knew would always win the ball and very seldom wasted it)

19. Oistin Mc Ateer (Oistin was another player that when he came of the field you knew he had given everything) 

20. Dermot Mc Cann (Big Dermot always looked knackered until you tried to go past him then the big hand came out and up the field strode Dermot)

Let the slagging begin!

The ‘Best 15’ footballers launched today

Today the Saffron Gael launches a new article and its one I’m sure will generate a lot of interest as the site goes into year 4 since our launch in May 2017.

We are asking contributors to name the best 15 club footballers from within their time involved with their own club. Remember it’s only a bit of fun and like our very successful team of the week competition it’s unlikely that your selection will find universal agreement.

Say something about the players in your selection and to set the ball rolling Dunloy native and Saffron Gael contributor, Brendan McTaggart gives us his best 15 Dunloy footballers that he has watched.

Brendan’s too young to remember the great Dunloy football championship winning sides from the 1920’s and 30’s so his side includes players from the last 30 years or so and it’s a formidable looking outfit.

Hopefully we will be able to publish a team every day for the next number of weeks but that depends on representatives from each club sending us your best 15 footballers that you have had the privilege to watch.

Later we are going to extend the ‘best 15’ to hurling and you might start sending us your best club 15 hurlers as soon as possible but for now here we go with the best 15 footballers from Dunloy

Brendan McTaggart’s best 15 Dunloy football team

Mission impossible.  Some quite brilliant players in both codes have wore a Dunloy shirt and I’ve tried to narrow them down into a starting 15 from the last 30 years.  Far from an easy task and even now when I’ve finished I could make a few changes in either team.  But here it is.  My attempt at Mission Impossible.

Dunloy’s Best 15 since 1990 – Football

  1. Sean Doherty
  2. Conor Cunning
  3. Conor McKinley
  4. Eamon Downey
  5. Nigel Elliott (senior)
  6. Gregory O’Kane
  7. Kevin McQuillan
  8. Dermot McFerran
  9. Johnny McAleese
  10. Gareth McAllister
  11. Colm McGuckian
  12. Benny McGarry
  13. Kevin McAllister
  14. JJ McFerran
  15. Chris Kearns

There’s plenty to chose from.  Dunloy have produced plenty of quality ‘ballers’ through the years who were equally as gifted with the big ball as they are with the sliotar.  A few notable absences and first names on the bench – Paudie Shivers, Malachy Molloy, Joe McErlain, Sean McIlhatton, Darren Webb and Tony McGrath while Justin Dooey got pipped to the number one jersey by Sean Doherty. 

Woody played in the forward line in recent years but his displays on the edge of his own square during Dunloy’s championship run in ’07 were immense.  Gregory O’Kane could have made any team in the county in any era in my own opinion.  Just like his exploits with a hurl, ‘Dick’ excelled and read the game like no other.  Nigel ‘senior’ was another was one of the first names on the sheet while Kevin McQuillan brought his talents from underage through to the seniors.  Eamon Downey was better known for his displays from half back as a marauder and occasionally in midfield but a superb reader of the game and I’ve moved him back a line to include ‘the Bear’ in front of him.

Midfield was difficult.  I moved ‘Parrot’ to wing forward as I just had to make room for ‘Big Paws’ while Dermot McFerran was one of Dunloy’s mainstays for many’s a year in midfield.  McFerran was another strong ball carrier and excellent in the air while Johnny was one of the best clean catchers of a ball I’ve ever witnessed.  Loved a tackle and relished the challenge and to be honest, he had to be in there for his famous ‘air horn’ celebrations.  Legendary throughout the village.

The forward unit was difficult to choose.  That being said, my first two names on the sheet were ‘The Dip’ and ‘JJ’.  Benny was the most naturally gifted footballer I ever witnessed and could turn his marker in a phone box while JJ’s vision, accuracy and partnership with The Dip was one of the best ever.  On the gaelic pitch and soccer!

Cookie was a fierce competitor and strong ball carrier and a natural at number 11 while Kevin ‘Rev’ McAllister is the ageless man.  Some say he’ll be 38 on his next birthday, some say he’s playing as well now as he did 20 years ago.  Chris ‘Powder’ Kearns led the Dunloy attack for many’s a year and had a burst of speed that saw him leave his marker for dead more often than not. 

We will leave it up to clubs to nominate someone to send us their selection so if you would like to take part send us your ‘Best 15’ club footballers from your own club to ptrckmclwn@yahoo.co.uk or john.mcilwaine@yahoo.co.uk