GAA Football

Corrigan Park. A Place Apart: Fascinating insight to decades of dedication by Antrim gaels

Former Irish News journalist Denis O'Hara. Picture: Diane Magill

Former Irish News journalist Denis O'Hara has produced a compelling collection of riveting stories on the history of GAA progress in county Antrim.

''CORRIGAN PARK. A PLACE APART'', a hardback book offers a fascinating insight to decades of devotion by Antrim Gaels.

Featured are fascinating mini-style biographies of legendary football, camogie, and hurling personalities.

The 52 chapters have their own individual yarn of past exploits in what is a compulsively readable chronicle.

There are feature interviews with many outstanding players from not only within the county but also some of Ulster's notable athletes who paraded their mesmeric skills on the old pitch at Corrigan Park.

"A little over two years ago I was saddened to read an article in The Irish News, and an accompanied photograph by Hugh

Russell, that the Stand at Corrigan Park was in a poor state - and would be pulled down,'' said Cushendun man O'Hara.

"I felt then it was a good time to place nostalgic record some of the derring-do by Antrim hurlers, footballers, and camogie teams.

"In my youth, the pitch at Corrigan Park was THE venue in Antrim, and the memory bank whizzed back to the days of outstanding players such as 'Stout' McDonald, Kevin Armstrong, Sean Gibson, Noel Campbell, Robbie Elliott, and many more.

"Such sacrifices should not be forgotten, nor the fact Corrigan Park was the birthplace of the presently popular senior club football and hurling championships."

The list of legends who graced the Corrigan Park turf include outstanding Derry footballer Jim McKeever, Down's iconic first All-Ireland football championship-winning captain Kevin Mussen, the Mourne county's 1961 title-winning skipper Paddy Doherty, Down's 1968 Sam Maguire Cup medal winner Jim Milligan, and Down and Ulster hurling stylist Charlie McMullan.

Also highlighted are Fermanagh's Peter McGinnity, Donegal's Brian McEniff, Tyrone great John Joe O'Hagan, Derry's Larry Diamond, and Armagh legends - Joe Kernan and Jimmy Smyth.

While the author insists the live and anecdotal recall is not the definitive article, as far as Antrim's GAA history is concerned, this extensive array of revealing recall provides, nonetheless, a valuable record of many stirring happenings.

The book recalls how the GAA games survived during the beginning of the 20th century, and then really took off in south Antrim when the County Board purchased a plot of land along the edge of the Whiterock Road in the late 1920's.

The arena held the 1940's summertime Corrigan Park Week that once attracted Father Flanagan of 'Boys Town' fame.

In 1953, Corrigan Park was in the hands of the progressive St John's GAC.

From there mushroomed the famous 'Top Four' football tournament.

The famous Johnnies also produced an assembly line of wonderfully committed hurlers and footballers such as the Gallagher and McCallin families.

On display are the varied adventures of Antrim's glorious All-Ireland winning camogie teams, the five-title haul starting at Cappoquin. Also, the nearly men of the 1943 hurling, and the 1946 and 1951 football teams - moving on to the 1969 Under-21 county football heroes, and the 1970 Intermediate hurlers.

There is special tribute to outstanding camogie players and personalities, such as Marie O'Gorman making history as captain of Antrim's first championship-winning team.

There is obvious praise for exceptional players like Mairead Magill (nee McAtamney), Jane Adams, Maeve Gilroy, Teresa Kearns, Ethna Dougan, Mary McGarry, Bridie O'Neill, Peg Dooey, Nancy Milligan, Sue Cashman.

The male players in the spotlight include the county's first 'All Star' footballer Andy McCallin Jnr, his uncle Joe McCallin, Kevin Armstrong, Seamus 'Stout' McDonald, Paddy O'Hara, Robbie Elliott, Danny McAllister, John Butler, Pat Dougan, Sam Mulholland, Jimmy McVeigh, Seamus Gallagher, Eddie and Des Donnelly, Sean Burns, Peter O'Hara, Eamonn and Aidan Hamill.

Also - Gilly McIlhatton, Olcan McFetridge, Terence 'Sambo' McNaughton, Seamus Richmond, Brendan 'The Bear' Donnelly, Noel Campbell, Tony McAtamney, Patsy Lynn, Randal McDonnell, Sean Gibson, Bobby McMullan, Aidan McCamphill, Niall Wheeler, Des O'Neill, Eddie Spence, and Frankie Hamill.

CORRIGAN PARK. A PLACE APART is the eighth book compiled by the veteran journalist, and has 332 pages.

It includes nostalgic illustrations and images.

The unique tome will be unwrapped at Cushendall's Parish Centre on this Friday evening October 6 at 8.30pm, and in a book launch in the St John's GAC clubrooms, Whiterock Road, Belfast, on Saturday, October 7 at 1pm.

Guest speaker at the Saturday lunch-time gathering is past GAA President Peter Quinn. Also in attendance will be Antrim GAA chairman Collie Donnelly.

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