Where are they now? Former Monaghan corner-back Dermot McArdle looks back on his career with the Farneymen
Club: Castleblayney Faugh’s
When did you play for Monaghan? 1996-2011
What do you do nowadays?
I’ve a few companies I’m involved with. There GR8 Entertainment in Castleblayney which is a family entertainment centre, and I’m also involved in gaelicperformance.com and RAMfit. The RAM is a multi purpose fitness tool for use in a broad range of sports related activities - RAM stands for Resistance, Activation, and Movement.
Are you still involved in Gaelic football?
Yeah, I’m still playing club football, playing wherever I’m needed. I hadn’t planned on playing a full role this year but I sort of got talked back into getting involved and I’ve ended most of the matches. I keep myself in decent enough shape and I’m enjoying it.
What do you remember about your first game for Monaghan?
It was against Mayo at MacHale Park in Castlebar in 1996. They were after being beat by Meath in the All-Ireland final, and I’d say there was about 15,000 at it. They beat us in the end, I think it was tight enough.
A next door neighbour of mine, a guy called Kevin Casey, played full-back that day and ended up scoring an own goal – one of those freak goals that came off his back and ended up in the net.
I remember marking Colm McManamon. I was only 19-20 at the time and he was a big brute - I couldn’t get over the size of this man, he was an absolute animal. You knew you were stepping up a few notches when you saw the size of some of these boys.
Mayo were strong at that time, probably as strong then as they are now.
It’s funny, I would always look back at those early years of county football as maybe the easiest you play because you hadn’t much expectation. You were the new kid on the block, if you played well, you played well but if you were poorly, people would say ‘awe sure he’s only starting off’.
In those early games, it would’ve been more excitement than nerves.
What’s your best memory from your playing days?
Ach, there’s not really one particular moment. I never really dwelled on things too much, win lose or draw. It was always just on to the next game.
The overall experience of playing county football, while it’s a big commitment nobody is holding a gun to your head. It just becomes a part of your life, and to commit to anything that’s bigger than yourself is always a great thing to be involved in.
Your own development as a person is more important than any one performance or any one day.
People ask about the success Monaghan has had in recent years while there was six or seven of us who played up to 2010 who wouldn’t have had much success, but that wouldn’t frustrate me. To know you gave your all when you were there, that you could do no more, that’s the bottom line.
And the worst?
There was probably a sequence of days. From the 2010 Ulster final into the week after against Kildare, it was a bad six days. We had gone well that year, into the Ulster final, but we got our tactics wrong completely against Tyrone. Hindsight’s a great thing but we were very naïve.
And then six days later we played Kildare, they were a strong outfit at the time with [Kieran] McGeeney there, and they beat us convincingly in Croke Park. We were a team capable of doing something at that stage of the All-Ireland series and we completely underperformed two days in-a-row.
It took Monaghan football three years to recover from that.
I had decided not to play any more but I came back in 2011 because Eamonn McEneaney’s a club-mate of mine and he wanted to keep a couple of the older players there. I played one League game, against Mayo actually, and I knew I was done.
Biggest character you played with?
In the early days there were a lot of great characters around - they mightn’t always have been the most dedicated footballers but there was always a good bit of craic to be had. That was sort of the mentality of Monaghan at that time.
Later on, Rory Woods was always a great character. Cheeky, but a great player. He took a fair bit of abuse but he could give it and take it to be fair to him. You’d have had plenty of leaders too, the likes of Damien Freeman, Owen Lennon. Gary McQuaid never would’ve said a whole pile but led by what he did on the field.
Glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?
I’m happy enough with when I played. When I started it was a bit more free-flowing, you had the likes of Down winning the All-Ireland in 1994 playing that way, and it has got quite regimented. It was going that way when I finished.
One of the underlying things was maybe that Conor McManus arrived on the scene maybe two years too late. We would’ve relied heavily on Tommy Freeman, although in 2010 Conor was phenomenal against Armagh and Fermanagh. He probably wasn’t mature enough to deal with Tyrone but the Conor McManus of 2015/2016 would’ve dealt with that easily.
That’s probably the only regret, but there’s nothing you can do about that.