THE brief was to pick his best side from the men he’d played alongside or managed and Jody Gormley has come up with a team that includes comrades from the Tyrone side that reached the 1995 All-Ireland final, as well as former pupils and team-mates and players he managed at club and county level. Andy Watters picked the Trillick native’s brains as he selected his personal Allstar selection.
1 Finbar McConnell (Tyrone)
HE was the goalie in 1995 when we got to the All-Ireland final. A big presence in goals who guarded like the square like it was his own personal property. A solid custodian, he was vocal and he was aggressive and he had a boom of a kick-out. You always had confidence with Finbar in there and then his brother Pascal went on to do goals after him. It’s a family tradition almost but Finbar was the originator.
2 Fay Devlin (Tyrone)
A TENACIOUS marker. He was tough and fast and although he wasn’t the tallest he played midfield for his club, Ardboe. For Tyrone he was always an honest, fair, tough corner-back. He got an Allstar in 1996.
3 Colm Murney (Abbey CBS, Newry)
A LOT of people might not know Colm but he played on the Abbey teams that won the MacRory and the Hogan Cups in 2006. He could have played anywhere on the pitch and he did, from number three out. Wherever there was a problem, that’s where we put Colm. He was a tough, aggressive player. He’s from Rostrevor and I was very surprised that he never made the breakthrough to county football with Down. He went out to teach in the Middle East and he’s back playing for his club now.
4 Owen Costello (Breadagh)
HE played captained the Bredagh team that won the intermediate championship in 2016. It was Bredagh’s first-ever intermediate title and he played centre half-back on that team but his best position is corner-back. He is tough, uncompromising and he knows how to snuff a man out of the game. He would have been on the Down panel from time to time but he was unfortunate with injury. A good footballer and a solid fella.
5 James Loughrey (Antrim)
HE played for Antrim when I managed them and then subsequently went on to play for Cork. A no-nonsense player who worked exceptionally hard, he was very good at snuffing a man out of the game and linking play with the forwards. He could get up and down the pitch and he was totally committed. He was a huge loss to Antrim when he left and he did very well with Cork too.
6 Kevin Dyas (Abbey CBS)
ANOTHER player from the Abbey team that won the MacRory and the Hogan in 2006. He was absolutely exceptional right through the campaign. He would have marked the likes of Marty Clarke in the MacRory Cup final and in the Hogan final he was brilliant, he scored two goals from centre half-back. A fantastic player with tremendous pace and aggression. He went out to Australia to play Aussie Rules at the same time as Marty Clarke. Unfortunately he picked up a serious injury and he came back and played for Armagh after that but I don’t think he really fulfilled his through potential due to that injury. He had one brilliant season for Armagh that culminated in beating Tyrone in Omagh. He was unbelievably fast and a very, very intelligent footballer.
7 Kevin McKernan (Abbey CBS)
HE was captain on the 2006 Abbey team and he always had great leadership qualities. He played through injury on a regular basis – you just couldn’t put the man down. I saw him carried off in a game and he wanted to come back on again. A really tough, honest character who led from the front and was totally committed.
8 Ger Cavlan (Tyrone)
A VERY talented player, he could almost hang in the air when he went up for a ball. He was very good off both feet and naturally very athletic and very gifted. He could see things on the pitch before anybody else, just a sublimely gifted footballer. He would have been outstanding in today’s game too because he was very athletic.
9 Dan Gordon (Loughinisland)
DAN still wouldn’t be far off county standard even though he’s 39 years of age. He has been one of the best club players in Down over the last number of years. He is very committed to the club, leads from the front and every time he pulls on a blue jersey he gives everything. Obviously he has the pedigree with Down as well. He is the last Down captain to lift any silverware – the Dr McKenna Cup in 2008. He plays centre half-back for Loughinisland and he is very good at organising the defence.
10. Alan Davidson (Bredagh)
HE played in the team that won Bredagh’s first intermediate title. He came into Gaelic Football very late but he was a driving force in that team. He had an absolutely relentless style, he didn’t stop moving and he was very unpredictable on the pitch and very hard to mark. He gave an exhibition from number 11 in the intermediate final against An Riocht. He was really outstanding that day. A good free-taker, good under pressure and very dedicated. The problem for him with Down was that he came into the game very late. If he had started playing Gaelic football four or five years earlier I have no doubt he would have been a fixture in the Down team. He didn’t really get much of an opportunity when he did get into the Down panel. I thought he would have got more of a run but it just wasn’t to be and then he picked up a couple of injuries so it didn’t work out for him.
11 Robbie Tasker (Cullyhanna)
A PHENOMENALLY talented player who was instrumental in Cullyhanna getting to their first-ever county final in 2016. He was superb at centre half-forward, his vision, his pace and his selflessness on the ball were all outstanding. He always knew when to pass it, when to shoot…
As good a club footballer as I have ever seen.
It’s a shame that he could be lost to the game because I only found him to be totally dedicated and committed to Cullyhanna, he was truly outstanding. He got a bit of a run for Armagh but at that time Armagh were going through their pull-everybody-back-behind-the-ball stage and he was playing at wing half-forward. That isn’t Robbie’s game, he is a very creative player and exceptionally hard-working. He needed to play up around the 45 where he could work his magic. Super feet, unbelievable vision and his ability to pass the ball was second to none.
12 Donal Hughes (Bredagh)
A TERRIFIC player for Bredagh who has made huge sacrifices to play for the club whether it’s coming back from holidays or giving up jobs… He has been an absolutely magnificent ambassador for the club both on and off the pitch. He captained Bredagh to their second intermediate title in 2018. A super footballer who has been unfortunate that on the couple of occasions he has got on to the Down panel he has been injured and he ihasn’t been able to give a true account of himself but he is at that inter-county standard without a doubt.
13 Damian Gormley (Trillick)
MY brother. He played for Trillick through the lean years, as did I, when we battled and battled away but without any success. At that stage in the early 1990s Damian would have been one of the top forwards in Tyrone and he would have been on the Tyrone panel the same time as me. He was one of those players – you just needed to kick the ball in his general direction and he would have won it high or low. He was good off either foot, he had a good temperament, was very aggressive and strong in the air. He captained the Tyrone Masters when they won the All-Ireland three years ago. He was maybe just lacking a wee step of pace for county football but he was phenomenal at club level.
14 Peter Canavan (Tyrone)
THERE can only be one number 14. I was fortunate enough to play with Peter and we won two All-Ireland U21 titles and then in 1995 and 1996 we won two Ulster titles. Unfortunately we lost out in the All-Ireland final in 1995 but Peter gave an exhibition the whole way through the Championship that year. He got man of the match in every game he played that year, apart from the All-Ireland final and he probably should have got it in then as well. What more needs to be said about him?
He was a big game player. When the chips were down you knew that you had to get the ball to Canavan, that was it, and nine times out of 10 he delivered. Once he got the ball in his hands he made something happen and he proved that he could play across eras as well. He wasn’t just a player of the ‘90s.
Obviously he went on and lifted Tyrone’s first All-Ireland so he proved that he could play any way you wanted. He was never bullied on the pitch, he could control the game, he could influence the opposition, he could influence us, he could influence referees… He was just one of a kind and, contrary to what is said about flawed geniuses, Peter was a very shrewd operator, he was in control of his faculties at all times. Mentally he was strong and he had the talent and everything else to go with it.
15 Tommy Maguire (Tir Chonaill Gaels, London)
I DON’T know if many people will know him. He was originally from Kinawley, he had played senior football for Fermanagh but he played for the Gaels for years at the stage when different players would have been going over to London for the summers. I was over there working for Keaney Construction for a couple of years and we won championships in 1998 and 1999. He was a brilliant forward, really brilliant. He was one of those players that once he had the ball in his hands he either scored or he was fouled. A brilliant footballer, you could ask anybody from that era about him and he was a real tough lad too, he could look after himself on the pitch. He could win the ball, he could score, he could score frees… No matter what you wanted from him he could do it and he always did it with a smile on his face. He loved the game.
IT’S interesting when you sit down to pick a team because I could have picked about three teams! But I have tried to pick a team based on boys primarily that I have won something with. You need some sort of a guiding factor because there are a lot of other players I could have picked. Pascal Canavan was a great player to play midfield with and I could easily have included him. Fergal Logan was another great player to play with and so were big Mattie McGleenan, Adrian Cush… There’s a lot, Mark Gallagher from Fermanagh was a brilliant corner-forward who I played at Jordanstown with and Stevie McGinnity from Monaghan as well. You could pick a different team every day of the week.
These are boys who appeal to my style of football and if I had a chance to play with any of them again I would jump at the opportunity.