The Monday Club: Kevin 'Hub' Hughes and Philip Jordan recall tales from the glory years
When Tyrone were winning All-Irelands, they took their Sunday business very serious, and their Monday and sometimes Tuesday business every bit the same. Cahair O'Kane headed to one of their old haunts, McAleer's in Dungannon, to meet Kevin Hughes and Philip Jordan and recount some tales from The Monday Club...
THERE are a few regulars stood just inside the door of McAleer’s, glued to the horse racing. One of them’s had a 33/1 winner today. As Thursday evenings go, that makes it a good one.
The place is decked head-to-toe in red and white. Bunting, flags, old framed jerseys.
The boss, Sean, is milling around. Kindly sets up a drink and strikes into a conversation about football.
In walks Philip Jordan, smartly dressed but minus the tie. Kevin Hughes is just a couple of minutes behind, the shirt glued to a frame that still looks made of steel. This was one of their regular post-match spots. When they played for Tyrone and there was celebrating or commiserating to be done afterwards, McAleer’s was one of the first ports of call.
That was the Sunday club. It stretched into Mondays, and an odd time the Tuesday. These were the best of times…
Cahair O’Kane: How and when did the Monday Club start?
Kevin Hughes: If you go back to minors, ’97 it was the Boe Inn in Dromore for the Monday club after the Greenvale on a Sunday night.
Philip Jordan: In ’98 we more went to Forbes’ in Ardboe, and then the Greenvale and then probably stayed in Mugsy’s house. After we won the Ulster minor in ’98, Horse [Devlin] broke the lug off the cup coming off the bus.
KH: We were in Ardboe the Monday after the minors in ’98, and then the Tuesday we came back into Cookstown. Mugsy’s mother had organised a feed for us in the top bar in the Greenvale. There was this big long table and us sitting down the two sides of it, drinking and eating away. You know what Horse [Gavin Devlin] is like. End of the season, end of the minors, he started getting emotional. ‘Boys this is f***ing unreal. You don’t realise what we’ve done. This is…this is like…the f***ing Last Supper!’ And he was crying and everything, and we were in stitches laughing at him.
PJ: He was the same after the U21s outside the Glenavon. Gormley was driving, he had the car with the music pumping and Horse was half-crying: ‘I’m never gonna play with yous boys again!’ Didn’t have much confidence in his own ability.
CO’K: You won Ulster in 2001, the first senior success for a lot of that team. How did that go?
KH: We were in Belfast House in Cookstown and we go out the side way to go to the toilet. Ricey’s just lying on a single bench sleeping. So we lifted him, walked him across the Main Street to the central reserve and just set him into it, arms crossed, sleeping.
The Monday night after we were in the Auction Rooms and I had my car over. We arranged to meet after club U21 matches and go to Belfast, but I’d no match so I was in good and early. [Enda] McGinley was playing so he came late, and he said he’d drive my car down the road. A wee oul wreck of a Peugeot 309. I was in the front, and the seat was pushed back so everyone could get in. I went to reach forward and McGuigan drove his foot off the back of my head, into the windscreen. Cracked the f***ing windscreen with my head.
PJ: McGinley was sober and he could hardly drive down the road for laughing.
KH: He was sober because he had to go down and meet the future wife.
CO’K: Mickey tried to implement a drinking ban then in 2003 during the championship run?
KH: That came about because we were playing a friendly down south and Jim Curran, [Brian] McGuigan, Horse and Mickey Coleman stopped on the way home and went on the lash. This was on the Sunday. I went out to the Glenavon with the Killeeshil lads, and big Packie [McConnell] was out. This meeting happened the following week, and everybody decided they’d better own up. So what did we agree on, three pints after a match? And ‘Horse’ just goes: ‘F*** sake Mickey, if I take three pints, that’s me on it! I can’t take three pints and go home. It’s all or nothing’. Everybody’s going ‘f*** sake Horse’. So it was nothing then.
CO’K: How did the ban work out for the rest of the year?
PJ: We beat Fermanagh in the quarter-final, and we stayed in Dublin on the Sunday night. It was a Bank Holiday in the south, and Kerry were playing Roscommon, we were playing the winners. Me and McGuigan and Canavan said we’d sneak away and find a corner in The Citywest. We’d three or four pints, went to bed thinking we’re great, we snuck out. Next day on the bus, we discover the whole thing had been in Coppers!
KH: I was one of them. Everybody was thinking the same. We went out and down the street to a wee bar, The Saggart, about half 11. There were five of us. We were at the bar chatting and the boy beside us overheard us, asked if we’re looking a taxi into the town. So he took us. Four of us piled into the back, young Frank McGuigan’s in the front. Next thing Frank, for some reason, opened the glove compartment and there’s a f***ing gun in it. The boy was a Garda. Frank started pointing the gun at everybody. The boy was up for the craic. He says he knew the owner of Coppers, we wouldn’t have to queue or anything. Pulled up, and there’s this massive queue the whole way down the street, and all the Fermanagh players at the back of it. We said we’d queue up, we didn’t want to walk in past those boys, but he took us straight down to the door. A man met us there, gave us a couple of hundred euro and let us on in. We didn’t get back out to the hotel until 8am and we met Jim Curran, he goes ‘get up to that f***ing room’. We got back on the bus to go back to watch that quarter-final and us dying.
CO’K: What’s it like in the aftermath of the first All-Ireland success?
PJ: The All-Ireland night itself wasn’t that great. The Burlington shut up shop at half 2. Everybody actually just went to bed around 3. I remember going through Carrickmacross on the way up home on the Monday and either Banty or Pat McEnaney coming throwing cases of beer in the back of the bus. By the time we got to Omagh everybody was well on.
KH: The Wednesday night was the GOAL game. I woke up in Ardboe club on the Wednesday morning and we all went back at it again. There was another boy from Killeeshil there and he drove me and Brian [McGuigan] up to the GOAL match. We came in the opposite side of Omagh with the two heads out the windows. Mickey saw us coming in and just went ‘that’s it, you boys aren’t playing’. We togged out but only played a few minutes.
PJ: The Sunday we played Cookstown, Mugsy was full-forward, I was centre-half back. About 10 minutes gone, Mugsy says: ‘What are ye doing tonight?’ I was going ‘ah Mugsy, leave it’, but he was on for the Glenavon. Me, him and big [Sean] Cavanagh went. Then Mugsy got a man to open the Greenvale. This DJ playing music, about 10 of us in it on our own, on the dancefloor like complete f***ing assholes. Mickey McElhatton left me and big Cavanagh home whatever time it was. He was sleeping and Mickey pulled up beside the door, Sean just kind of tipped over and we pushed him on out, closed the door and away on.
CO’K: Did it regularly go beyond the Monday?
KH: Barring after the All-Ireland, the only Tuesday club I was on was after we beat Kerry in ’03. We ended up in Belfast House on the Monday. We woke up on the Tuesday, they’d let us stay in the rooms. Darragh Ó Sé had left six stud marks on my chest in the game. I was working with Willie John Dolan at the time, who was the team sponsor, and I rang in to say ‘Ah I’m in wile bad shape here, I think I need to go to casualty’. Genuinely we were gonna go home but we woke up, Mugsy was in the room next to us. We went down and had the cure. On the Monday night, there was a ‘band’ playing, but it was pretty much a boy on his own doing everything. He was brilliant. He lands in on Tuesday about 12pm to lift his gear and go home, saw that there were six or seven of us, and starts playing again. We went on the drink the whole day Tuesday. We were supposed to be training that night.
CO’K: Was training ever missed?
KH: I think I missed that night, that’s the only training we would have missed. I remember having a conversation with Mickey about drink and this is why I never would have missed training. I told him: ‘We’re young, we’re enjoying ourselves. Once it affects us turning up at training, affects our performance, that’ll be us’. He reluctantly accepted it. We were 22 or 23 and flying fit. If we drank Sunday and Monday, we’d still have been at training on Tuesday.
CO’K: What impact did it all have on the team’s bond?
PJ: We had a team holiday in ’02. Eugene McKenna was there but he was gone, Mickey was coming in as manager. There was a batch of us 22, 23 years of age, maybe 15 of us. The craic we had on that holiday was unbelievable. It half made that thing for the next year. You don’t know the older boys right but I remember the first night, big Seamie McCallan had to carry [Peter] Canavan home over his shoulder. It broke the ice. He’s your hero and there he is being carried home over somebody’s shoulder.
KH: There was no doubt about it, it was the best team-building exercise we could have had. We were in Dubai in ’03 and Mickey was going: ‘We need to do a bit of training here and try to get ready for the McKenna Cup’. We all just made a stand. In Florida in ’08, same thing again. We were home on the 5th or whatever, it was a few days later. He played a good few of us. He was making a point. And then we had a fitness test on the Tuesday night at Jordanstown. There was still the whole talk about boys drinking, and I had it in the back of my mind that he was lining us up for a fall. Because I’d said if it ever affected us, we’d quit. We were doing the bleep test and big Sean [Cavanagh], Dooher, those boys that weren’t too bad were in the first group. Second group, me and Mugsy. I said to him: ‘This is for our benefit, we need to stick at this. Stay beside me and we’re not quitting ‘til we win this thing’. Sure enough, kept at it. We were dying but we kept at it and at it. Won it. It was either Fergal [McCann] or Mickey came, I can’t remember, and just goes: ‘How’d yous bastards do that?’
CO'K: Were there ever attempts to enforce a ban again after ’03?
KH: As we got older, we realised ourselves. The only safety net we had when we were younger was that we’re flying fit, we’re bouncing out of our skins and it doesn’t affect us. And it didn’t.
PJ: In ’05 we lost the Ulster final replay to Armagh in Dublin. We were staying that night. I actually got concussed in that match. [Paul] McGrane caught me full sock and knocked me cold. Woke up about 15 minutes later and goes ‘Horse, who am I marking?’ Horse is going ‘Holy ghost!’ I’m just roaring at him: ‘F*** up and tell me who I’m marking’, and Paddy McKeever standing right beside me. We were staying in Castleknock Hotel. Me, Louis O’Connor and Ricey ended up in a wine bar, and I asked Ricey what he wanted. ‘Get me a gin and tonic’. ‘Ricey, it’s a wine bar’. ‘Get me a gin and tonic’. Got him a glass of white wine. When we got back to the room, me and Davy Harte were sharing. They had us on a different floor to everybody else. Me, Ricey and Louis went up, I got off at the second floor. They went on to the third and as soon as the lift door opened, fire extinguisher. Mugsy. The boys had to all chip in and pay the bill or they were going to ban us from staying there for the next match.
CO’K: Would it have been worth the effort without the craic?
PJ: Our team needed that. We played Armagh in ’03 and The Irish News had the Allstars before it. Armagh made a real handling, coming in all stuffy, sat on their own table. John O’Mahony was the speaker and he had to do it after they left. They came in, ate the feed, presentations, photographs and away out the door. Mickey even changed our training to suit it that night. They were so uptight, and we were relaxed, we just went and enjoyed it. There was no drink but you can imagine if you were caught drinking on the Monday in that Armagh squad, you’d have been gone. McGeeney would have taken the head off you the next night at training. It wouldn’t have worked for us. We were relaxed going into those finals.
CO’K: The atmosphere has to suit the characters?
KH: That’s it. We were used to that. Not that we were big drinkers, but we were just that close a group. After a game, it was like going out with your clubmates. Same thing on a Monday, we’d all meet up.
PJ: I don’t think I worked a Monday after a championship match. What year did Donegal beat us, ’07? I think that was the first Monday I worked after a championship match. I was doing my exams at the time so I was trying to save days, which was the only reason I hadn’t it booked.
KH: Same as that. We would get two weeks in the summer and I’d have taken one and saved the other for Mondays or hopefully All-Ireland week. It brought us together. We were a real tight-knit group.