GAA Football

From Dean Rock's Sam-clinching free to lighting up the Garden in New York - a look back at some of the highs and lows of 2017

As a new year kicks into life, sportspeople from the past and present look back on their highs and lows from the past 12 months – and reveal their hopes for 2018…

01 January, 2018 01:00

Stevie McDonnell (ex-Armagh)

Highs: The highlights for me were Armagh getting back to the All-Ireland quarter-final stage and Killeavy winning the Armagh Intermediate Championship, while the most memorable moment of the year was Dean Rock’s free-kick to win the All-Ireland.

From the outside you could say that it was a relatively easy kick but, given the circumstances of the situation and the pressure he was under, he remained calm and stood by his tried and trusted technique to claim the Sam Maguire and three in-a-row for Dublin.

Lows: There were a few lows too, including the disappointing manner in which Armagh lost out to Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-final, Killeavy getting beat in the first round of Ulster in a match they should have won and - because I am working with Burren - when they got beat by Kilcoo in the Down county final.

New Year wish list: To see the trend of more attack-minded game-plans continuing, because the game is going that way again.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Antrim)

Highs: Winning the Sigerson Cup with St Mary’s was a day I'll never forget (and the few days after).

Lows: It went downhill from there! A few eventful months ended with losing a county championship final with my club, St John’s. But there's no point crying over spilled milk so we'll be back at it in 2018.

New Year wish list: For my sport, no football in December or January. It’s too cold.

Dublin provided Tyrone - and the rest of Ulster - with a wake-up call when they hammered the Red Hands in the All-Ireland semi-final. Picture by Hugh Russell

Stefan Forker (Maghery)

Highs: The All-Ireland final probably left us all feeling as if the 2017 Championship was enjoyable but, taking that out of it, there wasn’t much that really got me going.

It was a great final, easily the highlight of the year. Mayo left heartbroken again, they simply came up against the most physical, skilful and organised team of all time in Dublin.

Andy Moran’s form this year gives hope to the older boys and, knowing him briefly from UUJ, it couldn’t have happened to a better man.

Lows: The inter-county game’s lack of competitiveness and the dominance of the big four is a real issue. It doesn’t grab people the same way and the Super Eight will add a novelty factor, but no change to the eventual outcome.

The club scene, on the other hand, is getting better each year. Club competitions from junior to senior produce easily the best games and the best scenes every year.

New Year wish list: The inter-county game needs to go the same way as the club – junior, intermediate, senior. And leave the fixtures the way they are. It’s hard to beat club games the first week in December – what else would we be at?

Paddy Bradley (ex-Derry)

Highs: The New England Patriots’ comeback against Atlanta Falcons to win a fifth Superbowl. Another high was Aidan O’Brien breaking the record for group one wins in a horseracing season.

On personal note, managing Newbridge to a Derry double in my first season as a manager. Other highs were Derry minors’ performances the whole way to the All-Ireland final and the atmosphere at the Dublin v Mayo decider.

Lows: There were a few lows sadly, like Coleraine losing the Irish Cup final and Derry not performing to their potential in the minor final (extremely proud of their efforts to get there).

And playing my last game of football for my beloved Glenullin in a championship defeat to Greenlough.

New Year wish list: This is a pipedream but the GAA to finally sort out the calendar which gives county and club players alike a fair crack at it. There is too much emphasis on the county game at the minute.

Down sprung a major upset when they defeated Monaghan in the Ulster SFC semi-final. Picture by Philip Walsh

John Clarke (ex-Down)

Highs: Down’s win over Monaghan in the Ulster Championship. It was a quality game with Down pulling off one of the upsets of the summer. The most memorable moment was Dean Rock’s pressure kick to win Sam Maguire for the Dubs. Unreal pressure and it never fazed him.

Lows: Dublin’s hammering of Tyrone. Tyrone were easily the best team in Ulster this year, and that defeat showed how far Ulster is behind the Dubs.

New Year wish list: That Down can win that Ulster title and end the long wait. And I hope someone can take the Dubs and stop them doing four in-a-row.

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to teaming up with my brother Marty this year at St John’s as we aim to challenge for the Down intermediate championship.

Conor Glass (Watty Grahams and Derry Minors)

And here’s a 2018 wish from way Down Under as Derry lad Conor Glass continues his epic journey with Aussie Rules side Hawthorn.

The Watty Graham's, Glen star and former Derry minor captain has enjoyed a few highs in 2017 including the promise of a place on the Hawthorn senior list in 2019.

But he’s not getting carried away. The focus is firmly on 2018.

New Year wish list: After making my Australian Football League (AFL) debut, I’m aiming to keep my spot in the AFL side and play against Sydney under Friday night lights.

We wish him well …..

Paul McCloskey (ex-boxer)

Highs: Definitely Ryan Burnett winning the IBF belt against the tricky Lee Haskins and then immediately unifying it in his first defence against the hard as nails champion, Zhanat Zhakiyanov. It was an amazing feat.

Also Michael Conlan making his pro debut, headlining in Madison Square Garden. And having Conor McGregor walk him out to the ring was unreal.

Lows: Carl Frampton losing his rematch against Leo Santa Cruz and then his split from the McGuigans.

Steven Ward (boxer)

Highs: Most of the year was a high for me - getting to be on some amazing cards, fighting on the undercards of the likes of Jamie Conlan and Carl Frampton.

My most memorable high? That’s a tough one. It would probably have to be getting to box in the Odyssey under a stacked card with Jamie Conlan fighting for a world title, and then Carl Frampton making his comeback - not to mention Jono Carroll and Zolani Tete on the bill.

I’ve watched so many fights there over the years and always wondered what it would be like to box there - now I know.

Lows: I was lucky enough to not have really any, apart from maybe when Oliver Harrison took ill. I didn’t really have a good structure in place but thankfully it’s all sorted now.

New Year wish list: To see big Tyson Fury make a comeback, I’d love to see him box Anthony Joshua and I think Fury would win it. I’d love to see it happen but I doubt that will be next year.

Conor McGregor walked Michael Conlan to the ring when the west Belfast fighter made his professional debut at a packed Maidson Square Garden in New York. Picture by AP

Michael Conlan (boxer)

Highs: Making my professional boxing debut and going 5-0 with four KOs in my first nine months as a pro - a dream start.

My most memorable moment of the year was walking out on my pro debut at a sold out Madison Square Garden in New York on St Patrick’s Day with Conor McGregor by my side and thousands of Irish fans cheering and going nuts.

It was spine-tingling. The atmosphere was something I’ll never forget.

Lows: To be honest I haven’t had a low part in 2017, it’s been a great year.

New Year wish list: To sell out Madison Square Garden again on St Patrick’s Day and also sell out the SSE Arena in Belfast on my homecoming.

01 January, 2018 01:00 GAA Football

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