Video: Red Hand fan Shea Gordon going up in the world with Partick Thistle
IN 2003, when the All-Ireland final at Croke Park ended, five-year-old Shea Gordon was one of the first supporters on the pitch celebrating Tyrone’s historic victory.
From that sea of red and white, fast-forward to last week with Gordon walking on water at Firhill as he toasted Partick Thistle’s promotion to the Scottish Championship.
The former Northern Ireland Under 21 international played an influential role in Thistle’s success this season following a controversial relegation last term, when they were sent down on a points-per-game average after the campaign finished prematurely due to Covid-19.
Gordon, 23 later this month, has been a driving force from midfield for Partick, who used their sense of injustice off the pitch to inspire them on it.
Winning 5-0 at home to Falkirk last Thursday night sealed the League One title in Scotland and was a moment to savour for Gordon who left his home in Derrylaughan, close to Dungannon, at the age of 16 to join Sheffield United in a bid to make his football dream come true.
Prior to that Gordon, as articulate as he is passionate about sport, split his childhood between playing soccer and Gaelic football, and going to cheer on his Tyrone heroes with his close-knit family.
He says: “I feel lucky to have been at all the All-Ireland finals that Tyrone have won. I was five when we first won it and was one of the first people on the pitch at Croke Park in 2003.
“Mum and Dad were in a different part of the stadium and me and my brothers were with my granny at the side of the pitch and we were pulled onto the pitch at the end of the match to join the celebrations. It was a brilliant experience.
“Growing up I loved Peter Canavan and Brian McGuigan. Players who could do something different always appealed to me.
“I still follow Tyrone and it’s good that the GAA is on Sky because it means I can watch the games even when I’m away from home.”
The former St Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon student added: “I always played Gaelic football and football as a boy. I played for my school and my local GAA team, Derrylaughan, until I was 16 before I left to go to Sheffield United.
''Doing both sports and being part of the Northern Ireland U15 squad, I was training maybe five or six times a week.
“In GAA I was a centre half-forward mostly which isn’t much different to how I play football. I’m a midfielder but I like to run beyond and make forward runs.
“My best friend, Tomas Carney, is in the Tyrone squad now as is another good friend of mine, Brian Kennedy, who played in the same club as me back home.
''I know quite a few of the Tyrone team, like Michael McKernan, who I played with in the same school team.”
Talented, determined and with an admirable team ethic running through his blood, there’s a good chance had Gordon stayed in Tyrone he would have been playing for the county team by now.
GAA’s loss was soccer’s gain with a host of clubs keen to sign him before the Blades proved sharpest in snapping him up.
“When I got the opportunity after turning 16 to go to Sheffield United I was never going to turn it down. It was a dream from I was six years old,” said Gordon.
“I’d been to Sheffield a few times on trial but living over there was different. Even a simple thing like getting a public bus, I’d never done that back home so it was an eye-opener.
“When I first went over I made the decision to not come home for any weekends for a few months to settle myself.
''That was difficult but once I got into a routine of waking up every morning, going to training and coming back and relaxing I got used to it and stuck at it.
''Also being a footballer is what I wanted to do.
“There were moments I thought it was a cut-throat business and I experienced that when I left Sheffield United.
''I signed for the club to play for the first team. Not being able to do that was tough but in football you have to adapt because there are setbacks all the time.”
After leaving Bramall Lane in 2017, Gordon joined Motherwell where former Northern Ireland star Stephen Robinson gave him the first team debut he craved.
“I was 18 and it was one of the biggest moments in my life. I have ‘Robbo’ to thank for that. He was always very good to me and I learnt a lot from him,” said Gordon.
Injuries curtailed his development at Motherwell and in 2019, aided by long-time agent Stephen Whelan, Gordon joined Partick, who recently have had a habit of drawing Celtic in cup competitions, enabling him to fulfil another dream.
Based in Glasgow, he says: “I’d never been to watch a game at Celtic Park so the first time I actually went to the ground was to play against Celtic.
''It was something I’d wanted to do for years and to play in front of a crowd at the stadium was an amazing experience. “Olivier Ntcham and Callum McGregor were in midfield and Scott Brown came on after an hour.
''When you play against that quality you can see where you are and think what you can take from them to improve your game.”
Gordon’s ambition now is to stay with Partick and help them win another promotion to the top flight to take on Celtic and Rangers on a regular basis.
Having been in a football bubble for months, he’d also welcome a trip back to Tyrone.
Ahead of tonight’s final game of the season at Montrose, Gprdon said: “I’d love to get back to see family and friends and maybe go and watch Tyrone as well if that was possible.”