GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Armagh forward Barry O'Hagan takes a walk down memory lane...

Barry O'Hagan hoists aloft the Sam Maguire Cup after Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland win
Neil Loughran

Age: 43

Club: Clan na Gael

Position: Half-forward

When did you play for Armagh?

I had three years of minor from 1990-1993, and then senior from ’93 to 2003. I quit senior inter-county football at 29 because the travelling from Donegal, between work and having a young family, was just too much.

What do you do nowadays?

I work for Derry City and Strabane District Council as head of community development and leisure. We live in Newtowncunningham, between Derry and Letterkenny. We’ve been living in Donegal since 2001.

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I’ve been coaching Donegal U15s for the last year. There’s a serious amount of underage talent in Donegal; it was only really when I got involved with the set up that I understood the size of the county and the talent available within it.

Coming from Armagh and the player base and population we have, I’m pretty envious.

What do you remember about your first game for Armagh?

We had got to the All-Ireland minor final in 1992, and I came into the Armagh panel straight after that under Jim McCorry. I made my senior debut against Kerry in the National League in ’93, either in Tralee or Killarney, I can’t just remember.

We were beat by a point but I scored two points, and I remember Eoin Liston was playing for Kerry. He had made a comeback so that was my claim to fame at the time, being on the same pitch as Eoin Liston. He would’ve been somebody I’d have looked up to out of that great Kerry team.

Maurice Fitzgerald was playing midfield that day too, though he wasn’t as big a name then as he would become.

What’s your best memory from your playing days?

Obviously winning the All-Ireland is a highlight and, to most people, would seem to be the fairly obvious one. But along the way we had plenty of great craic, even when we were getting beat. I made a lot of good friends.

2002 was great because we’d had a few unlucky days… Galway in 2001 who went on to win it, Derry in 2000 in a couple of games. The thing I probably remember most about the All-Ireland final is going a point up with nine minutes to go and we showed a lot of composure.

We made fewer mistakes and closed the game out, whereas in previous years we hadn’t been composed and ended up losing games we probably should’ve won.

Relief was the first emotion because we’d been hanging on, and then the supporters ran onto the field pretty quickly. One of the first people that came onto the field was my sister Roisin and she came straight towards me.

It’s funny though Tierney was presenting at Clan na Gael’s dinner dance a couple of years ago and himself, myself and Diarmuid Marsden were having a beer afterwards and we talked more about the craic and the nights out we had. It wasn’t really ‘do you remember that game, or this game…’

We talked about the craic we had along the way moreso than the football. Probably around the time we had a bit of success, looking back, we could’ve enjoyed it a bit more.

But success is a drug and once you get it, you want more.

And the worst?

I was player-manager of Clan na Gael in 2006 when we played Crossmaglen in the county final and I was sent off after 17 minutes - for a Cross player letting on he’d been hit after I’d pushed him trying to get on to a return pass.

There were plenty of occasions I did deserve the line, in the semi-final I probably deserved the line but I got away with a yellow card, but not that time. That’s my biggest disappointment.

I’m not saying it was his fault, it was my fault - I pushed him out of the way and I should’ve been more sensible and more experienced. That’s 11 years on, and that particular game still rankles.

I still haven’t really shaken it.

Benny Tierney was 'without a doubt' the biggest character Barry O'Hagan played alongside

Biggest character you played with?

Benny Tierney, without a doubt. He was always, and still is, the life and soul of the party – in the dressing room, before games, nights out, every time you meet him.

There were some serious characters in that Armagh group but Benny kept everybody’s feet on the ground. You wouldn’t have been able to develop an ego because Benny would’ve brought you down to size, and that was one of his big strengths.

He was also a phenomenal goalkeeper, and I think sometimes that’s overlooked. He maybe didn’t have the big, booming kick-out but in terms of being a goalkeeper and organising a defence, Benny was second to none.

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

I’m just thankful I was able to play with so many great players, and I’m glad I played in my era for one reason – that Armagh won the All-Ireland in that time.

Any regrets?

Quitting county football so early because of where I lived. I was fit enough to go on for another three or four years and, if I was faced with the same situation again, I probably would play on. That’s a big regret.

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