Which teams did you represent?
Tyrone, Castlederg, and I played for a few teams in America; a Galway team, Notre Dame and I was a founding member of the Aidan McAnespies club in 1995/96. I played for Ulster in the Railway Cup. I played for Red Hughs before I packed it in.
What is your current involvement with the GAA?
I was going to be involved with Coalisland before the lockdown.
What was your greatest moment in the GAA?
People talk about the greatest feeling of things that they have won. The greatest feeling I had was beating Galway in the semi-final to get to an All-Ireland final in 1985. But the greatest thing for me was actually getting introduced to Gaelic Football. I was playing soccer when I was younger, but I got introduced to the game when I was u-14. We had a man called Charlie Gallen who introduced me to the game. It was amazing. I can remember getting involved in Gaelic and just falling in love with the game.
What was the most surprising moment in your career?
Getting selected for Tyrone teams. That was always a surprise. I can remember getting selected to play for Tyrone vocationals and minors. I had no expectation of that. Then I can remember being told that I had been selected for the Tyrone seniors, I didn’t believe it.
Who was the best player you ever played with?
I played with the two Tyrone greats, Frank McGuigan and Peter Canavan. But that’s too obvious. There were two great players that I played with who are not from Tyrone. I played with Greg Blaney at Railway Cup. I got to understand why he was so good. Blaney had everything. He had the physique. He was impossible to dispossess. He had no fear. He was oblivious to all that was going on around him. Sometimes players can get intimidated by verbals, but he was oblivious to all that. And he had skills as well. He was the perfect Gaelic Footballer. The contribution he made to Down was unreal. Robbie O’Malley was another pure class act. I played with him in Aussie Rules.
What was the best score you ever saw in a game you were involved in?
Noel McGinn’s goal against Derry (1986 Ulster SFC first round) led us to an All-Ireland final. He knew he had to get the ball and hit the net. He knew a point was no good, he had to get a goal. To have the confidence to go and do that was unreal. The other score was in the Ulster final that year against Down. Damian O’Hagan got on the ball. There were two Down men in front of him, both of whom had every right to get the ball, but he got it. He got the foot to the ball right at the end line. That is one that I always remember. If you ever see how he got his foot to that ball and get it over the bar was unreal.
Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?
Art McRory. He saw something in me as a minor that I didn’t think I had. He is one of the greatest managers in that he was able to build a team of players. No one has ever had a bad word to say about Art. He was great with people. When we were playing he left no stone unturned to get us to be the fittest team. The only problem that Art had was that no one could work with him. He was always on his own. We could have won more if he had had someone along with him.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing?
When you were training with Art it was very serious. I remember I was doing a circuit session in Dungannon, and we used to climb up the ropes. I hated climbing up the ropes. I couldn’t be bothered. Art must have seen that I wasn’t bothered and he came over to me and said ‘Is this the new John Lynch?’
That was all he needed to say. It was advice to buck up or I would be gone. It was the kick up the ass I needed.
What was the best thing about playing in your era?
We were turning a corner in that there was more thought put into the game. Art was studying different forms of training. We were miles behind what is going on now. But there was more work on fitness, and team set ups.
What was the worst thing about playing your era?
There was nothing bad for me except for injuries. I had a lot of injuries and broken bones.
When did you know it was time to call it quits?
When injuries finally got on top of me. In 1989 I developed postviral fatigue which is a thing that attacks your body. 1994 was my last year. I had changed my diet. I knew at that point there was no point going on. I was asked back in 1995, but I knew there was no way my body would hold out. I had changed my diet, and taken advice that I probably shouldn’t have. I was taking things out of my diet that I shouldn’t have.
What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one of your former teammates?
Art took us to Carton house for training sessions. When we went it wasn’t what it is now. When we went it was just a farmhouse. Once a year we would get to stay in that old house. They had corn fields all round it. We drove down ourselves and then we would train three times a day and stay over. I can remember Kevin McCabe getting Eugene McKenna’s car and driving it into the middle of a cornfield. So Eugene McKenna gets up the next day and can’t find his car, because it was well hidden in the cornfield. McCabe said don’t tell him about his car until we are ready to go home. I think at one stage the Guards were almost called.