Billy Joe heaps praise on Mayo legend McDonald
FORMER Mayo and Armagh footballer Billy Joe Padden is eagerly looking forward to facing a player of pure genius in this evening's ‘GAA Open' charity game at St Patrick's Park, Newcastle (7pm).
Padden, who will line out for an Ulster Select side against the ‘Rest of Ireland, has lauded the brilliance of former Mayo team-mate Ciaran McDonald who is expected to play in Newcastle with all proceeds going to the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children.
The charity Gaelic football game has been organised as part of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open golf tournament in the Co Down town which gets under way on Thursday.
Padden played in the same Mayo side as McDonald for many years and said he was often left in “awe” of the Crossmolina's natural talent.
“Ciaran was exceptional,” said Padden.
“It's hard to compare him to any other player - and we've had so many great players. He was a fella that played the game who solely relied on being able to do the spectacular.
“There are very few players who could do that and he did it so consistently. It's very hard to see another player like that emerge.
“You'd be awe-struck at times what Ciaran could do,” Padden added.
“It could happen in games, it could happen in training. He could hit a ball 50 yards and it would fall right into your lap. He just had that crazy ability.
“When Crossmolina [McDonald's club] and Ballina were going well in the All-Ireland the whole county would have gone to see him play. He created that kind of buzz because he could do something special.”
For all of McDonald's genius ability he never courted attention and always steered clear of the media.
“He never did interviews or anything like that. But, as a player, he was so generous with his time towards younger players on the panel,” said Padden.
“I remember he would have had gear thrown at him and he gave me a free pair of boots. He was really generous towards his team-mates and towards members of the public.
“If there were Mayo supporters looking for a photograph or children looking an autograph he always made time for them. They are the things that stand out for me.”
McDonald will be joined by the likes of Padraic Joyce (Galway), Eamonn O'Hara (Sligo), Declan Browne (Tipperary), Dessie Dolan (Westmeath) and Mattie Forde (Wexford) in a side that will be managed by John O'Mahony and Sean Boylan.
The Ulster Select side, managed by Down greats Sean O'Neill and James McCartan jr, have named an excellent squad that includes Stevie McDonnell, Aaron Kernan (both Armagh), Benny Coulter (Down), Damien Freeman (Monaghn) and Kevin Cassidy (Donegal).
“It's always good to get out and play against players you admire considering what they've done in the game and refresh a few memories,” said Padden, who plays club football for Carrickcruppen in Armagh.
“I'm looking forward to playing against Ciaran McDonald and the likes of Pauric Joyce, and playing with some of the Armagh lads again will be great, and Marty McGrath who I played Sigerson football with at Queen's.”
Tickets are priced at £10 for adults and £5 for children and can be purchased online at www.tickets.ie
Ulster: Paddy Cunningham, Kevin Brady (Antrim) Aaron Kernan, Stevie McDonnell, Brian Mallon, Billy Joe Padden (Armagh), Gerard O'Kane, Paddy Bradley, Enda Muldoon, Conleith Gilligan (Derry), Kevin Cassidy (Donegal), Benny Coulter, Brendan McVeigh, Liam Doyle, Ambrose Rogers, Kalum King (Down), Barry Owens, Martin McGrath (Fermanagh), John Paul Mone, Dermot McArdle, Damien Freeman
(Monaghan), Kevin Hughes (Tyrone).
Rest of Ireland: Barry Cahill (Dublin), Padraic Joyce (Galway), Enda Murphy, Anthony Rainbow, Dermot Earley (Kildare), Colin Regan (Leitrim), Shane Lennon (Louth), Ciaran McDonald, James Nallen (Mayo), Anthony Moyles (Meath), Eamonn O'Hara (Sligo), Declan Browne, Brendan Cummins (Tipperary), Dessie Dolan (Westmeath), Matty Forde (Wexford), Leighton Glynn