GAA Football

Where are they now? Andy McCallin looks back on a colourful career with Antrim and Limerick

Antrim footballers' only Allstar, Andy McCallin, who is involved with the St John's club in west Belfast. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

Age: 67

Club: St John’s, Belfast

Position: Wing half-forward

When did you play for Antrim?

I played for the senior footballers from 1969-79, and the hurlers from 1969-75.

When did you play for Limerick?

I played for the footballers for a couple of years from 1979 and then I managed them, and I played for the hurlers once.

What do you do nowadays?

I worked in architecture but I’ve retired, so now I’m doing a bit of work for myself as a domestic energy assessor.

Are you still involved in the GAA?

I’m a selector with St John’s, Paddy Nugent’s the manager. I’m a trustee of the club so I just try to help out wherever I can.

You won an Allstar for your exploits with the Antrim footballers, but what do you remember about your first game for the county?

It was 1969 and I was thrown in at the deep end against Down at Casement Park on, in my opinion, the best left-back at that time, Tom O’Hare. I came off the pitch 50-50, so I was happy with that.

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

One day I’ll never forget was the 1969 All-Ireland U21 final win over Roscommon at Croke Park. I scored 1-5 of our 1-8 but Seamus Killough was the man of the match, no doubt about it. He was brilliant that day.

And then I scored two goals in a Railway Cup final, playing alongside the likes of Sean O’Neill, who was absolutely out of this world. I think that’s what won me the Allstar in 1971 [Andy remains Antrim’s only-ever Allstar].

And the worst?

The All-Ireland Club final against Thomond College [in 1978] – I still haven’t got over it.

The players had wanted to go down on the Saturday evening but it was decided we’d go down on Sunday morning and stay that night. We went to Malahide, I think, for something to eat and got stuck in the traffic on the way to Croke Park - we arrived about 10 minutes before the ball was thrown in and it was just a total panic to get out on to the field.

We never got over that and we were stuffed. We didn’t play and we had played absolutely wonderful football on the way there. That was the most disappointing thing.

Biggest character you played with?

God have mercy on him, Din Joe McGrogan. I played with him at St John’s all through my days, and he played in the other corner on the Antrim U21 team. He was the guy that settled us all down and had the craic in the changing room – he was something else.

He taught me how to win a match without touching the ball. Myself and Gerry McCann were two years younger, we played left and right half-forward, Din Joe played centre-forward and he took two people to the corner flags and everywhere around the pitch. Gerry and myself just had to tap the ball over the bar.

Din Joe was a great fella.

Are you glad you played in your era rather than today?

I would maybe have a car now and people running round after me nowadays!

No, my era was far better. More manly, more football. I came up against the likes of Gabriel Kelly, Tom O’Hare, Tom Quinn, all big men. We were mad for an hour on a Sunday but after that we were the best of friends.

As well, I just think it was better football, with more skill in the game because they’re athletes now. I used to have a smoke at half-time - and I wasn’t on my own either.

Any regrets?

I’d like to have given the Limerick hurling team a proper go. I played one game, at right half-forward against Kilkenny at the Gaelic Grounds, and did reasonably well.

I went to a football match for the club the following Tuesday night instead of county training and I never heard from them again. I regret it in a way, but I was always committed to the club first.

I was 30 then, but I’d like to have seen how far I could’ve gone with the Limerick hurlers.

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