GAA Football

Where are they now? Former Antrim forward Kevin Brady takes a walk down memory lane...

Kevin Brady holds aloft the Tommy Murphy Cup after Antrim's 2008 victory over Wicklow. Picture by Seamus Loughran

Age: 39

Club: St Ergnat’s, Moneyglass

Position: Corner-forward

When did you play for Antrim? 1998-2013

What do you do nowadays?

I’m a PE teacher at St Mary’s Grammar School in Magherafelt so I’m enjoying the summer off. It’s the best perk of the job!

Are you still involved in Gaelic football?

I take the school and I’m also in my first year coaching Donaghmore in Tyrone. This year I played a wee bit with the Antrim masters team because I’m in my 40th year, so I enjoyed that.

What do you remember about your first game for Antrim?

It was away to Westmeath in the last round of the National League in 1998. I’d been called up to the senior squad just after the U21 Championship, I think I was 19 at the time – I’d been asked on to the panel the year before but I was still at school and felt I was maybe too young.

But then when you move on to university, you maybe feel like you’re more ready for senior county football.

I can’t remember a whole lot about the game – I think we were beaten. Kevin Madden and I were the two corner-forwards, and I keep telling Madden his man was moved over to mark me so I must’ve been the more dangerous of the two that day.

What is the best memory from your playing days?

The feeling after we beat Cavan in the 2009 Ulster semi-final was special.

Standing on the pitch after the game, amongst the supporters, knowing we had an Ulster final to look forward to… Antrim football supporters don’t get too many big days out so I think they were appreciative that they were going to get another day out in Clones. There was a real feel-good factor.

Beating Donegal was the springboard that year, and at that particular time there just wasn’t the same fear about going to Ballybofey. They were in a bit of a lull and it worked out well for us.

I think I was marking Kevin Cassidy, and I remember Kevin O’Boyle popping up from corner-back and scoring a point. You knew then it was going to be our day.

‘Baker’ [Liam Bradley] had come in that year and he had a great way of instilling confidence in players, and making you feel on a par with whoever the opposition was. Going into that Cavan game we were quietly confident.

And the worst?

The 2009 Ulster final. We just didn’t do ourselves justice against Tyrone, and personally I didn’t play well, I was substituted, so I think we would all like the chance to play that game again.

Tyrone were defending All-Ireland champions and on the day they were ruthless. We needed the fast start but they got it - after that the game just sort of passed a lot of us by.

It would’ve been nice to have got back to an Ulster final again, then it wouldn’t have been such a novelty and perhaps we would have played better, but it wasn’t to be.

Who is the biggest character you have played with?

There have been many playing with Antrim for so long, but probably a guy called Jim Darby who played with the county for a few years. He was a serious character, he never knew what to be at. Everybody enjoyed his company.

When I started my career in ’98 there were players like Locky McCurdy and Jimmy Wilson, two St John’s men, there and we had a famous trip to London in the early days where we got to play the game on a Saturday afternoon and had a night on the town after. There were a few weekends like that in London, one as memorable as the other!

PJ O’Hare was a great character as manager, and I have to give Anto Finnegan a mention too. Anto was able to strike the balance between having fun when the situation allowed but also being very serious in the heat of battle.

Are you glad you played in your era rather than the modern day?

Most definitely, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed playing county football in the current era. I preferred the days when a corner-forward was able to stay in his position and chasing attacking corner-backs was a rarity.

But I really admire the likes of a Paddy McBrearty who has adapted his game so well to be an effective corner-forward in the modern era.

Any regrets?

There’ll always be regrets but because I had such a lengthy playing career for both my club and county, and most of the time I was injury-free, I’m satisfied in that regard. Having more medals and silverware to show for it would be nice, but playing Gaelic football gave me great enjoyment and there’s very little I would change.

Interview by Neil Loughran

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