GAA Football

A line up of champions assembles as The Irish News gets 'Championship Ready'

The Irish News sports team (l-r) Brendan Crossan, Thomas Hawkins, Neil Loughran, Andy Watters, Kenny Archer and Cahair O'Kane
Andy Watters

SOME line-up for ‘Championship Ready’ isn’t it?

A three-time All-Ireland winner from Tyrone, an Armagh legend, a Down Allstar, Hogan Cup winners, Paddy Drummond Cup winners, Sigerson Cup winners, current county players…

Then, bringing up the rear, you’ve got the three amigos from The Irish News, waaaahaaay out of their depth.

When we signed up for this we thought it was going to be a couple of laps around the pitch, then maybe a penalty shoot-out or a crossbar challenge followed by a spot of lunch.

Next thing we hear, Paddy Tally has devised a GAA-version of the Crystal Maze! It’s not going to be pretty.

Inside it's a strength test, agility test, reactions test and then (hahaha) a speed test.

Then outside there’s passing, shooting, free-kicks, penalties and (hahaha) 45s.

But before we even get down to the nitty-gritty, some important wardrobe issues must be sorted.

Panic in The Irish News sports desk:

Jesus, I don’t even have a pair of boots.

Neither do I.

What sort of boots do you need?

I dunno.

Blades is it? Or studs?


Are you wearing shorts?

I dunno. All I have is running shorts and I don’t know where they are.

This needs sorted out. I’m not gonna be the only person there wearing shorts.

Do you need football socks?


I have black socks.

They’ll do the job.

Neil Loughran was brought up cheering on Down legends like Peter Withnell, Mickey Linden and Greg Blaney as they strutted their stuff at Croke Park in the 1990s.

Unfortunately there’s no chance of him getting anywhere near their standards today.

When asked to sum up his emotions as he looked forward to the ground-breaking event, he remarked: “I hope it snows.”

The former Rosario FC sub (his da used to play with George Best though) added: “I hope Paddy Tally has paramedics at the ready.”

Cahair O’Kane hails from the same windswept Oak Leaf county that produced football legends like Brolly, McKeever, Scullion, Tohill and Ronan Scott.

Of course, Derry has produced more than its fair share of loveable donkeys too (Paddy Heaney for example) and Cahair has carried on that unfortunate tradition.

But after training with single-minded zeal, he can hardly contain his ’sel.

“Did I mention that I’m injured,” claimed the former/current/part-time Drum GAC netminder/corner-forward, in reference to the ‘injury’ story he concocted after falling off the bench last weekend.

“And wan more thing: I’m dung and I was never any good in the first place,” he added modestly, but absolutely factually correctly.

Meanwhile, Orchard county native Andy Watters looks back fondly on his attacking ‘runs’ up the right wing during his playing days, but perhaps he is best known for walking slowly back into defence after giving the ball away?

Anyway, he says he has a point to prove.

“Somehow I’ve been overlooked by Armagh managers from the 1990s to the present day,” said the delusional former O’Hanlon’s half-back.

“At the end of the day, I’ve got more footballing talent in my entire body than some of the boys in that 2002 team had in their wee fingers.”

Inspirational Irish News sports editor Thomas Hawkins has been piling on the work this week in order to “keep the lads’ minds off Friday”.

“We’re keeping the make-up of the teams a closely-guarded secret so there will be no time for reading up on the opposition,” he said.

“The team lists are under lock and key in The Irish News marketing strong room (Championship Ready event organiser John Brolly’s biscuit drawer, so there’s no chance anyone could break into that).

“So talking tactics will have to be done at pitch side, on the hoof.

“Worryingly, we've had a few injury concerns over the last few days and at one point I thought I might have to draft in replacements for Andy Watters (flu, with Lemsip, etc, props on his desk to ‘prove’ it) and Cahair O’Kane (ribs, too many at Tony Roma’s).

“Neil Loughran, has shed a few pounds as he fine-tunes his preparations (he got his hair cut).

“I’m standing by just in case they can’t make it to the slap-up banquet lunch at the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich afterwards. I’ll do first reserve there, no bother.”

The line-up

St Ronan’s: Jack Haddock, Rioghan Meehan, Malachy Ward

Holy Trinity College, Cookstown: Tiarnan McNamee, Mark McKearney, Tiarnan Quinn.

St Mary's University: Ciaran MacIomhar, Darragh Kavanagh, Joe Colton, Marc Reid, Miceal Rooney, Ciaran Corrigan, Colm Byrne.

Irish News columnists: Danny Hughes, Enda McGinley, John McEntee

Irish News sports reporters: Neil Loughran, Andy Watters, Cahair O’Kane

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