GAA Football

Where are they now? The life and times of former Down defender Miceal Magill

Miceal Magill won an Allstar for his performances in Down's All-Ireland success in 1994. Picture by Ann McManus
Neil Loughran

Age: 47

Club: St Peter’s, Warrenpoint

Position: Full-back

When did you play for Down? 1992-2003.

I suffered a really bad head injury in a National League game against Cavan, and it led to complications. I suffered loss of memory, a bit of bleeding, so I was advised that if there was another major hit to that area, that was it.

I played in the games up to the Ulster final against Tyrone but it was recommended at that time to take a complete break and I never got back.

What do you do nowadays?

I’m a director of Miceal Magill Entertainments in Warrenpoint, myself and my father are in business together. We deal with live bands across the north and south of Ireland, particularly within the wedding industry.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I’m coaching at underage level with the Burren club.

I’m actually just back because I suffered a stroke 14 weeks ago. On the fourth of April, a quarter past seven in the morning, I had lifted a glass at the side of the bed, came out on to the landing and the stroke hit.

The glass falling from my hand was the alert for members of my family to come out. I lost my vision, my vocals, I was disorientated.

The MRI scan showed it was a full stroke without the paralysis – the paralysis left me after six hours and thankfully the recovery process has started now.

I was unlucky, but then very lucky I didn’t have long-term paralysis, which was the main thing.

What do you remember about your first game for Down?

It was the 18th of October, 1992 against Meath. Down had obviously played Meath in the All-Ireland final the year before so there was huge interest - I would safely say that, for a National League game in Pairc Esler, there was never as big a crowd.

I played right half-back that day and I’m 99 per cent certain I was marking Trevor Giles. I finished the game, so I mustn’t have done too badly.

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

For any county player, winning an All-Ireland has to be pinnacle so the 1994 final against Dublin was special. It’s still as clear as day now.

On the day of the All-Ireland final, we went to Portmarnock Golf Club for our pre-match meal and I was 100 per cent. I had actually been more nervous before the semi-final against Cork.

For some reason, though, Gary Mason thought I was very nervous. A couple of elder statesmen from the ’91 campaign were very superstitious, some of them wouldn’t go into the suits we had to wear before the game. Ross Carr wore the same jeans he had worn in 1991.

Anyway, there were two buses - one for us, and one for wives and girlfriends - and when we went to leave, Gary had hidden my brand new pair of shoes on the bus. The problem was he put them on the bus going to the Burlington Hotel with the wives and girlfriends, so I was running around looking everywhere for them!

Thankfully Margaret King, our nurse, ran down and stopped the bus at the gates of Portmarnock Golf Club to get them.

I also remember the Tuesday night before the game Pete [McGrath] called myself, DJ [Kane] and Paul Higgins into a corner and said to me and Paul ‘you two boys decide who you’re picking up’.

Paul said he thought I was the man for Charlie Redmond, and he’d take Dessie Farrell. It showed Pete had complete and utter faith in us, so that relaxed the nerves.

Charlie scored his first point from play in the 69th or 70th minute, so it went okay.

Funnily enough, after the match my now wife and I decided that if we had children we would name our first boy after Charlie Redmond. Charlie and I got very friendly afterwards and he attended charity events that we organised and stayed in our house.

And the worst?

It was a National League game against Longford and I tore my cruciate ligament. A great character called Tommy McGivern, God rest him, had a jeep and he drove me from Longford to Daisy Hill, but it was through the old roads – Ardee, Kells, Mullingar – and I felt every single bump the whole way to Newry. The pain of it was excruciating, but Tommy did his best to keep me in good spirits.

Biggest character you played with?

Gregory McCartan. Sometimes it was very difficult to make him out with his broad Ballymartin accent, but Gregory was a great character.

Tyrone v Down this weekend – who wins, and why?

Your heart goes with Down, obviously. Who would have thought Roscommon were going to beat Galway? I was speaking to Kevin McKernan last week and he said the lads are absolutely buzzing, flying in training.

It will take a very good Tyrone performance to beat Down, but I know Tyrone have a very good performance in them.

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