GAA Football

Where are they now? The man who scored Down's crucial goal in '91 All-Ireland final, Barry Breen

Barry Breen (back row, second from right) with the Down 1991 team that would go on to win the All-Ireland title
Neil Loughran

Age: 50

Club: RGU Downpatrick

Position: Half-back/midfield

When did you play for Down?

1985-1996. I had two operations on my Achilles tendon and just couldn’t get back from it.

What do you do nowadays?

I’m an A-level biology teacher at St Malachy’s High School in Castlewellan.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

Just as a spectator. I managed Downpatrick for a few years with my cousin Paul Evans, I was also involved with the Down minors when we won the 1999 All-Ireland, I was a selector under Gerry Docherty. We took the U21s for a year too but I’m not really involved in taking any teams at the minute.

What do you remember about your first game for Down?

I was 19 and it was a National League game in 1985 but, to be honest, I’m not sure who it was against. It could’ve been Armagh.

By the time the Championship came around the following summer, I was brought in for the Ulster final against Tyrone after Jim McCartan picked up an injury. I didn’t hear until I got to the pitch that I was starting.

I was marking Stephen Rice from Augher who, funnily enough, was a friend who I’d gone to Jordanstown with. The ball only came in our direction about three or four times in the game. The big thing about that game was [Down goalkeeper] Pat Donnan stepping back over the line, which I don’t think he did.

But Tyrone were better on the day. They had some big names in that team, Plunkett Donaghy, Eugene McKenna at centre half-forward was a great player, and went on to the All-Ireland final that year.

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

Scoring the goal in the 1991 All-Ireland final against Meath is obviously a special memory, but ’94 was probably more memorable because I had a hip injury that kept me out of the whole League so I only played Championship that year.

I was in a race against time but I just made it back in time to win my place back for the match at Celtic Park. Pete McGrath had an A v B match the week before, I was on the B team, but I must’ve done well enough to get into the starting line-up.

Unfortunately that meant an old mate of mine, Paul Higgins, lost his place. He wasn’t too happy but it turned out alright for him, he got an Allstar that year.

I was up against another friend, Dermot McNicholl, and it was an unreal game. I just remember, if you were on the ball, you hadn’t got a second to get rid of it.

It was a really hot day, the heat was stifling, and it felt like a cauldron.

And the worst?

In 1993, I lost an Ulster final to Errigal Ciaran with the club. Both myself and Conor Deegan were carrying injuries going into that game and it’s still very disappointing that we lost.

You don’t get to too many and that was our only one and we were beat by six points.

With Down, the Ulster quarter-final defeat to Derry [3-11 to 0-9] in 1993. Every game in Ulster was hugely competitive and we just didn’t perform. Derry seemed to be more up for it than we were.

Biggest character you played with?

Paul Higgins and Gregory McCartan. Higgins is very witty, very good at one-liners. He could put you down in a second!

Gregory was only a young fella then, but him and Higgins were two great characters.

Glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?

Yes, but I’d like to know if I’d have been able to play in this era. The fitness levels are unbelievable and the training techniques too. When you look at the Tyrone team, they might be extremely fit but they’re all excellent footballers in their own right.

Any regrets?

That I couldn’t get past the couple of injuries that finished me off. When I got to 29 I just wasn’t enjoying football because of the pain, and that’s a regret.

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