CHARACTER and characters make up the highest 15 hurlers chosen by Sean McGuinness, the previous Antrim and Down supervisor, who famously led the latter to Ulster titles in 1992 and 1995.
“I do know folks might be lifting this on the Ards saying ‘What the f—okay is he speaking about?!’ – and it’ll be worse in Antrim,” he stated with amusing. And he gives loads of these.
There may have been extra Saffrons on his choice (and he gave a glowing point out to Dominic McKinley), however he explains “most of these boys solely performed one yr for me.”
Down reminiscence lane he goes…
1. Noel Keith (Ballycran & Down)
What a performer. Seventeen years in targets for Down. He may practically fall into the coaching floor however he was all the time the final there. He would have stayed behind with boys taking pictures at him from all angles. He managed the defence, tremendous at that. ‘Kerby’ was his nickname.
The variety of occasions he saved Down was unbelievable. So proud when he put that Down jersey on. He captained the workforce in ’95 and when he was standing ready for the Cup he was shaking like a leaf. He’d been there for therefore lengthy, within the dangerous years.
Noel stated to me one week, ‘Give Graham [Clarke] a run’, so I did – and Graham gave an exhibition. The next week I picked Graham once more, however he damage his fingers at work. Noel stated to me ‘I consider Graham’s damage – and, by the best way, I informed you ‘one match’.’
However the nicest fella you possibly can meet. The talent he had, he used to cease balls and also you’d surprise how.
2. Kevin Coulter (Ballygalget & Down)
The complete-back line are all Ballygalget males. The battles that they had in Division One hurling with one of the best forwards in Eire, they had been unbelievable.
‘Cody’, that’s all he was often known as, was recognized for his lengthy placing. Within the Ulster Last once we received a few 70s, he close to hit them into Musgrave.
He was the slagger on the workforce, all the time chittering. Donal McCormack was the chairman on the time and he used to offer him canine’s abuse. Donal wasn’t married on the time – and sooner or later he received on the bus with a pink sweater on, now you’re speaking about 25 years in the past, the abuse he received.
I keep in mind ‘Kloot’ [Olcan McFetridge] getting his Allstar, which he deserved – however the subsequent match, ‘Cody’ by no means gave him a take a look at it. He was doing triathlons and I informed him he was shedding his pace’; he informed he had packed them in – whether or not he did or not…
3. Gerard Coulter (Ballygalget & Down)
A fantastic full-back. He didn’t stand out like ‘the Rock’ [Diarmuid O’Sullivan of Cork] however he did a job for you. Regardless of who went in at full-forward he was the person.
I keep in mind he packed it in, stated he wasn’t coming again. I rang his home, and his spouse Eleanor answered, he wasn’t there. I stated ‘I hear he’s packed it in.’
‘He’s what?!’, she stated. ‘Do you assume I’m going to be sitting right here on a Tuesday and Thursday night time listening to him saying ‘I want I used to be up at that coaching’? He’ll be at coaching on Tuesday night time’. And he was. I made him captain of Ulster that yr. An actual good man.
There have been no fancy issues about him. He received there – or, if his man received the ball, he knew all about it. In tackling, shoving, pushing, typical full-back.
4. Paddy Braniff (Ballygalget & Down)
Pretty much as good a corner-back as there was in Eire. He was actually dogged. By no means stated a phrase, simply performed away. Sadly he received injured in London two weeks earlier than the semi-final of the All-Eire; a hosepipe ban, it was like taking part in on concrete. He was a horrible loss as a result of we needed to re-adjust that full-back line. We had him in every single place making an attempt to get him sorted.
Within the first yr we beat Antrim and we had a person postpone; Paddy simply swept throughout between the half-backs and the full-backs. The ball went down and also you simply noticed him pulling out, with the inexperienced helmet, popping out and clearing the ball. Regardless of who he performed towards it didn’t make any distinction. He was a type of fellas you’d hate to be taking part in towards as a corner-forward.
5. Marty Mallon (Portaferry & Down)
One of the skilful hurlers in Ulster on the time, revered proper all through the Ards for his talent.
I used to be simply previous tapes – on occasion I take a look at them, significantly once we received – and one time he had misplaced his stick, however he simply threw himself on the man’s stick as he went to hit the ball. Braveness was no downside to him.
Folks speak about it but, he received a ball on the flag at Casement and put it over the bar on the far finish; you’d have thought the ball was by no means going to cease.
Noel Sands performed high of the left and Marty was proper half; as quickly as Marty had the ball ‘Sandsy’ was away, transferring as a result of he knew Marty was going to hit it to him. That they had an incredible understanding – they married two sisters, for a begin; I believe they ran the workforce, by no means thoughts these boys, two smashing women.
He was the primary participant I noticed taking part in with a 34” stick, not a 36”… His stroke was so tight and so fast. May learn a sport. He and ‘Cody’ had been nice on the identical wing.
He runs a butcher’s store in Portaferry, however he’s by no means ever threw me a couple of steaks…
6. Gary Savage (Ballycran & Down)
‘Gazza’ – a personality. He used to bop up and down the bus coming dwelling, singing. His high track was ‘Wanna be in my gang’. ‘Gazza’ can be half-sleeping and Huge Hugh Gilmour would wink at me, begin singing it, and ‘Gazza’ can be up, dancing up and down.
At my 70th party, I went to have a meal with my household and there have been about 200 at it, we completed the night time with everyone spherical and ‘Gazza’ giving the message in the midst of the ground. That flaming pink hair.
He might have come on as a sub in a single match, I don’t know why he wasn’t beginning, however within the six years that I used to be there I believe he performed each match. He performed in every single place bar targets. You may stick him in anyplace.
He may hurl and he was an incredible competitor. My spouse thought the world of ‘Gazza’. He gave you every thing; when he got here off you possibly can wring his shirt out.
7. James McNaughton (Cushendall & Antrim)
Relaxation in peace, James. A stable participant. Folks could be stunned by this selection; I don’t assume James was making the Antrim workforce after I took over however see after his first match? He was by no means off it. An excellent hurler and a pleasant man. Didn’t say a lot, simply hurled away, a implausible wing-half.
When Antrim had been on the best way up he performed some matches. They performed Laois within the Open Draw Cup , in Laois, had by no means overwhelmed Laois – and received by a few factors. Simply earlier than the tip one of many Cuddys drove a ball and the rim of it caught James on the attention and opened him. Sean, his brother, received a maintain of him by the neck, lifted him and stated ‘There’s solely a few minutes to go, it’s not even lower’ – you wished to see it!
After I went right down to Antrim matches [as Down boss] some folks would have ignored me; not James. It was very unhappy when he handed away.
8. Danny Hughes (Ballycran & Down)
He wasn’t there in the beginning and I introduced him in. Nice man, nice hand, he’d bounce and catch the ball regardless of who was swinging. I believe he received ‘man of the match’ within the ’95 [Ulster] Last. He was one other who by no means stopped working – working, working, working. He was the most important of some brothers; the remainder weren’t that large however made up for it by utilizing the stick.
He was tall, well-made, an actual athlete, large lengthy stride. He’d offer you every thing, however he was by no means early. See if coaching was at 8 – ten previous eight; at half eight, 20 to 9. By no means early.
His taking pictures wasn’t sensible; we had been some extent down at dwelling to Laois within the final minute, a draw would have stored us up. Huge Danny catches the ball in midfield, runs ahead, and I’m working alongside the road shouting ‘Move it! Move it!’ He shot and scored – and turned spherical and gave me the fingers.
We used to do penalties towards Keith; Danny took one, objective, ‘That’s me achieved. 100 per cent’.
9. Paul McKillen (Ballycastle & Antrim)
‘Humpy’ – in my first yr with Antrim I wanted a half-forward and anyone informed me about him, nonetheless final yr of minor. I went up, didn’t know him, and stood on the hill (which I did to be out of the highway so no one may annoy me). I requested this wee man in a cap to level out Paul McKillen and he did. He was terrific, solely a child; after the match I finished him, requested him to affix the Antrim seniors and he was so proud. I thanked the wee man, who stated ‘Paul McKillen’s my son’.
Robust as an ox, he finally made a midfielder, I believed he wanted to be on the ball extra. He held his personal with anybody he ever performed. He would have put his hand the place you wouldn’t have put a spade. Speak about powerful, taking part in away.
The primary time we – by that I imply Down – beat Antrim the Championship, the primary man over to shake my hand was Paul McKillen. I had plenty of time for him, a pleasant lad.
10. Gerard McGrattan (Portaferry & Down)
Clearly you need to go along with the one and solely Allstar Down ever received. McGrattan was out of this world.
Towards Cork [in the ’92 All-Ireland semi-final], they moved 5 totally different males on him. Monsignor Michael G O’Brien was working their workforce – and I didn’t assume folks like that cursed…
McGrattan had a blinder. The one factor he didn’t catch was pigeons. The peak he received within the air, his working. 5 factors from play, I believe. He left fellas in his wake, working by and sticking balls over the bar.
After the match RTE wished to interview him and me and this man standing there says to him ‘I’ve a job for you in Kilkenny if you would like it’.
Huge Gerard was in a position to deal with anyone. He did his cruciate and no one educated tougher after that operation however he was by no means the identical once more.
11. Gary O’Kane (Dunloy & Antrim)
Some might discover this unusual however Gary may play anyplace. He may change positions. Pretty much as good a reader of the ball as I’ve seen in an extended, very long time. He was powerful. They performed him within the All-Eire Last when he was simply out of Minor…I wasn’t selecting the workforce.
That Dunloy workforce he performed in, he was tremendous. He was very decided about attending to the ball. The primary yr they received the Championship  I did a wee bit of labor with them.
A really regular participant and he actually developed by the years, appeared to get higher as he received older.
12. Tony McGrath (Dunloy & Antrim)
You’ve no thought how skilful he was. A fantastic lad. I keep in mind an Antrim U21 workforce towards Derry, him and ‘Humpy’ had been in the midst of the pitch, and the 2 of them received postpone.
He was one of many youthful lads I’d introduced in and he’d have made you sit up and say ‘What a participant!’.
He had an issue with somebody within the administration after me and he by no means went again. I informed him a few occasions it was a waste, I wasn’t something to do with the [Antrim] workforce then, however he wouldn’t change his thoughts.
The Ballycastle boys dragged him to a dance in Cushendun as soon as and a fella got here and whacked him, gave him a black eye, saying ‘You Ballycastle bastard’.
13. Chris Mageean (Portaferry & Down)
‘The Hunter’ may have performed anyplace within the ahead line and even in midfield. You couldn’t go away him off the workforce.
In Portaferry the nets behind the underside objective had been a bit low. There was a cornfield behind it and when the ball was hit in there you couldn’t discover it. He had a canine, he’d have snapped his fingers, and the canine introduced the ball again!
He was a giant, strapping lad. Took issues very significantly. He despatched phrase he wasn’t coming again so I despatched his uncle Mick to inform him I stated ‘There will need to have been a full moon that night time.’
On the boat I noticed him coming down like a roaring bull, ‘Did you say that about me?’ I replied, ‘Chris, would I say that about you?’ Then he was away searching for ‘that f—er Mageean’ – his uncle!
That point we beat Kilkenny, The Hunter drew throughout Pat O’Neill’s palms, a grimy motion. O’Neill was raging, threw the helmet off and the stick down, ‘Proper, me and also you’. So The Hunter clocked him along with his stick on the top.
He was an incredible man.
14. Olly Collins (Lavey & Derry)
I took Lavey for a yr and I used to be so impressed with that boy’s hurling. They had been beat within the Ulster Last by an incredible Dunloy workforce. Olly was a brilliant participant, large sturdy fella.
Whether or not you’d play him at full-forward is one other factor; he’s a fella you possibly can play from the half-backs up, I used to be making a place for him.
He took stick as a result of he was a giant lad, fellas laid into him, however he simply took it. I’d have cherished to have had him on county groups. The sport was harder then, with the longer sticks and the swinging.
15. Noel Sands (Portaferry & Down)
Must be ‘Sandsy’. An keen beaver, all the time in there in the midst of issues. He’d have been in hassling goalkeepers from the phrase ‘go’. He received an early objective towards Antrim like that.
I by no means noticed him strolling away from a deal with, he was as powerful as might be. He was manufactured from iron regardless that he wasn’t that large. He was in there battling. My first captain.
He was the one one of many workforce that wasn’t associated to another person on the workforce, that’s onerous to credit score, all cousins or second cousins; then him and Marty Mallon married two sisters.
Dunloy had some nice corner-forwards, like ‘Horse’ [Gregory O’Kane] however Sandsy was the sort you wished. He was out of this world and he by no means died, stored going, shifting again and forwards.
You may all the time rely on him for scores; if he received an opportunity, ‘Bang!’, he was your man.