GAA Football

Derry goalkeeper Oran Hartin following a natural path

Derry forward Callum Brown in action against Dublin. Picture by Hugh Russell

IF ever a youngster was destined to grow up GAA mad in a world of distraction, it was Oran Hartin.

Despite flirting with soccer, where he did goals for Limavady United's youth teams up until he pulled the pin last year, the Derry number one comes very much from a Gaelic background.

His father Richard, known to everyone in Limavady simply as ‘Red', is a former player and senior manager with the Wolfhounds club, while his mother Tracey has also been a pivotal figure behind the scenes.

“Everybody always knows Da,” he laughs when asked if he is of that lineage.

Oran was trailing after them acting as ballboy, waterboy or whatever-was-needed-boy from the age of 4. His father coached him for a few years at under-14, at which stage he was playing at full-forward.

Although he had done goals at school for Loreto College Coleraine, Hartin continued out the field until he suffered a torn cruciate knee ligament in 2014 that robbed him of a year's football.

But when he returned, there was an opening on the county under-17 squad.

“I saw something for Derry under-17s looking a goalkeeper and thought I might as well try it. I enjoyed it at Loreto. I'd done nets a bit in soccer. I went to the under-17s for two months and then got the call up,” says the quietly spoken shot-stopper.

His path from full-forward to goalkeeper is one that his guiding hand knows well. Barry Gillis has been the goalkeeping coach under Damian McErlain's reign, and he went a similar way, winning a National League in 2000 as an outfield sub and then another as goalkeeper eight years later.

The work he's done under the Magherafelt man came to the fore towards the end of the first half against Dublin three weeks ago.

With the sides level at 0-7 apiece, Ross McGarry got away from his man along the endline and came across the goal, but his left-footed effort was repelled by Hartin. It was the game's seminal moment.

The full-back line in front of him had a brilliant day to keep him from having to produce further heroics but Hartin was full of praise for the defensive virtues extolled by their whole team

“Playing a good team, you'd need to be zoned in. Our full-back line was unbelievable, but it starts from the full-forward line. They put the pressure on, Dublin's full-back line didn't have a split second.”

His team-mates will tell you that there's very little fazes him. “You couldn't insult him,” laughs one as they head out the doors of Owenbeg to head home from the pre-All-Ireland final press night.

On the whistles of Hill 16 as he's lining up a kickout against the Dubs, he just smiles.

“To be honest I didn't hear anything, I just zoned out. It's like any other game, just 15 on 15. I don't seem to get nervous. I don't see the point.”

His clubmate Callum Brown will play a part against Kerry as well. Brown is on the books at Linfield but his impact on the GAA field has grown enormously in the two years since he was taken under the wing of Chrissy McKaigue, who works as Gaelic Games co-ordinator at St Mary's school in the town.

The pair of them would stand to create history by becoming the first players ever from the Wolfhounds club to win All-Ireland championship medals.

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