GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Monaghan maestro Tommy Freeman looks back at his career with the Farneymen

Tommy Freeman was one of the leading forwards in Ireland during the Noughties as Monaghan became a major force under Seamus McEnaney. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Neil Loughran

Age: 36

Club: Magheracloone

Position: Full-forward

When did you play for Monaghan? 2001-2013

What do you do nowadays?

I did carpentry work for 16 years but then the downturn came in the economy, and now I’m working for Kingspan installation in Castleblayney.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I’m still playing away with the club, going rightly enough, not too bad. I’ve got involved in the coaching side of things too and did one year with our junior Bs, and then two years with the minors, and then I was over the U21s last year. I haven’t joined up with any of them so far this year because a few things have cropped up, but in the future I’ll get back involved.

What do you remember about your first game for Monaghan?

I made by debut against Fermanagh at Brewster Park [in the 2001 Ulster quarter-final, Monaghan won 2-10 to 0-14]; I came on and scored a point.

I hadn’t played any League with them, and I remember my brother Damien coming home and saying ‘right, you’re called into the panel, we’re playing Tyrone in a challenge match up in Omagh’.

I had been playing fairly well for the U21s that year - I didn’t believe him at first but he said it was true so I was over the moon. I came on in the second half and I was marking Chris Lawn, and my idol Peter Canavan was at the opposite end of the pitch that same day.

I ended up playing against him then for years after that, but I think I scored five points in that challenge match, three from play. Days like that you remember.

We played Cavan in the Ulster semi-final then and I came on with 20 minutes left and I scored four points ended up getting man-of-the-match. I hit the ground running I suppose, but there was plenty of speed in the legs them days!

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

Winning the 2013 Ulster Championship, my first and only one. That was a great day. A lot of miles were put up by a lot of boys to finally get that medal.

We went to our first Ulster final in 2007 and lost to Tyrone, then we suffered a heavy defeat in the 2010 final against Tyrone again, we just never got out of the traps. It plays on your mind, is it going to happen? But we just kept our heads down and kept working hard and thankfully it paid off in the end.

That was my last year with Monaghan. I was actually going to go again but I had just started my new job and there was shift work involved – I was willing to do a few things but other parties just mightn’t have been happy with the set-up, which is understandable.

You have to know what you’re at when you’re playing county level.

And the worst?

It has to be the All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry in 2007. I was never in a worse dressing room in my life than after that game. Everyone was so disappointed. A lot of hard work went into that and, call a spade a spade, we probably should’ve won – but probably is a word we use a lot about that day.

We were leading for most of the game but Kerry just sprung a few boys off the bench, they had a slightly stronger bench than us on the day and that won it for them.

You’re left with a lot of what-ifs. If we had got over that game, we’d have been playing the Dubs in front of a full house at Croke Park, and in those days we could always handle the Dubs.

Kerry went on and won that All-Ireland – they beat Dublin and they beat Cork by 14 points. It goes round in your head ‘if we had got over Kerry, could we have possibly gone on and won an All-Ireland?’

People might laugh at me saying that, but that’s the belief we had at that time. It took a while to get that one out of the system.

Biggest character you played with?

There were a few, but Rory Woods was a good character. He’s always that smart wee answer or smart way of going on. You’d be wondering whether he was being serious or not sometimes but he’d only be acting the bollix. He got plenty of abuse from opposition players but the same boy was well fit to take it, and well fit to give it too.

Any regrets?

I would’ve liked to have been a bit more successful – I’d have loved an All-Ireland medal, another couple of Ulster medals, but I count myself lucky to have got an Ulster medal because there were a lot of other great players I played with who just missed out. I was lucky to just hang on in there and get one in the end.

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