#Last20Years: Derry's best team from the last two decades
In the second of a nine-part series, Cahair O'Kane selects his best 15 footballers to represent each Ulster county over the past 20 years...
OVER the past 20 years, Gillis has been the only goalkeeper who has had any considerable hold on Derry’s number one jersey. That owed to his solidity and consistency. There were few better under the high ball and he offered a big presence behind his defence. A last-gasp save in a Newry qualifier win over Down stands out as his best.
DIDN’T always grab the headlines because of the strength of the defence around him, but McGuckin was one of Derry’s most reliable and consistent soldiers across a decade. A master at getting the hand in on a forward, the Ballinderry man played most of his county football in the corner. The fact that he’s still going for the club at midfield shows that he had great natural ability. His longevity edges him in ahead of Dermot McBride.
IN an era where the big man at full-back still had all of its charm, Kevin McCloy was the best in the country for a while. He won an Allstar in 2007 as Derry reached the last eight, with his performance against Dublin – and that shoulder on Mark Vaughan, putting him into the Canal End – helping secure it. Captained the county to league success in ’08.
Sean Marty Lockhart
THE Banagher man was the most natural successor to Kieran McKeever that Derry could have hoped for. Picked up where his neighbour had left off in taking on most of the big man-marking duels. Won his Allstar in 1998 and was nominated again in 2000 and 2001. Keeping Peter Canavan scoreless twice in a matter of weeks in 2003 was a real career highlight.
HE might not always have garnered the same praise as others, but any Derry man will tell you the value that Paul McFlynn brought over his nine years with the county from ’97 to ’06. While at his best at wing-back for the county, he played a fair bit around the place, and always brought a consistently high level. Edges out Gerard O’Kane and Chrissy McKaigue.
WHILE the vast majority of his best football was played during the ‘90s, it can’t be forgotten that the Dungiven dynamo won his Allstar in 2000. By that stage he’d moved out to a patrolling role in the half-back line as the Oak Leafers won the National League. McKeever was also nominated for a hurling Allstar in 2000, and retired from football duty at the end of ’01.
Sean Leo McGoldrick
WHEN he came on to the scene, people wondered if there was a county footballer in him. By the time he left, Damian McErlain begged him to step back in to the championship panel two years ago. Played his very best football at 11 in the 2014 season, where he seemed to score a goal every week, but was an outstanding wing-back who dictated Derry’s play.
THERE might have been better footballers in Derry’s past, but there are few as brave and as committed as Fergal Doherty. Battled with a bad back for so much of his career but when he was fit, the Oak Leafers had a serious weapon. Started out as a wing-forward but slotted quickly into midfield and was the team’s spiritual leader for years. Outstanding in the 2008 league final. Scored more often than he was given credit for.
PATSY and Doc. That was the dream midfield combination for Derry for almost a decade, yet between injuries to the pair of them, the amount of games they played together was negligible. Bradley was as brave, as committed, as the man beside him. Would have killed men beneath him to win kickouts. Literally had to be rolled off the pitch after one championship game, such was the pain barrier he played through.
ONE of the best warhorses to bring into battle. McBride captained Derry for a stage, playing most of his inter-county football around midfield. Strong set, he could win ball without ever getting off his feet. And his left foot could do things with it others could only have dreamed of.
BROUGHT into the panel in 2000, he made his debut weeks later in the National League final replay win over Meath. A deadly accurate finisher, his clinching goal in the 2011 Ulster semi-final against Armagh – solo on the right, finish on the left – was probably his best moment. Squeezes in ahead of Enda Lynn, meaning there’s no representative of the current team on this 15.
MARKED out as a special talent when he led Derry minors to All-Ireland glory in 2002, Lynch made his bow in the 2004 run to the All-Ireland semi-final and only retired last year. Another who peaked in the 2014 season, when the new black card rule and his peak physical condition made him unplayable. Would have won an Allstar only for Derry disastrously getting knocked out in round one. Suffered from being moved about too often.
THERE have been few, if any, better forwards in Derry’s history, and none too many in Ulster. His game was based around incredible movement and the ability to score from whatever angle he received the ball in. Developed an excellent right foot as time went on that made him even harder to mark. Some campaigned against him during his Oak Leaf career but hindsight shows how hard he has been to replace.
THE Big Easy was one of the most stylish footballers of his generation. The image always springs to mind of his outstanding goal against Galway in 2001 All-Ireland semi-final. Scored a beauty in the 2004 quarter-final win over Westmeath too, a year that he spent inside with Paddy Bradley. That almost seemed a waste of his vision and passing ability. One of the most talented ever to wear the red and white.
A VERY different player to the brother, ‘Skinner’ was arguably the more natural. His physical build allied to his pace made him an absolutely fearsome player at his best. Injuries – a broken leg, a torn cruciate – disrupted him badly but when he was fit, he was unplayable. Could be frustrating and wasn’t as reliable a finisher as Paddy, but just when you’re about to pull your hair out he’d stick one in the top corner. Derry lost him to soccer far too young.