GAA Football

Joe Brolly-Paul Higgins clash at Celtic Park in 1994 almost didn't happen

Derry"s Joe Brolly in action against Cork in the National league. Pic Ann McManus See derry-brolly (action).
Andy Watters

THE recent good-natured social media exchange between old rivals Paul Higgins (Down) and Derry’s Joe Brolly (after Brolly was silenced by presenter Claire Byrne on RTE current affairs programme ‘Claire Byrne Live’) has its roots in the on-field battle between the pair in an Ulster Championship classic in 1994.

Derry (the reigning All-Ireland champions) were dethroned by Down (their successors) and the Higgins-Brolly battle was one of many memorable sub-plots in the drama. After Brolly was sidelined by Byrne on RTE, Ballymartin native Higgins joked on Twitter: ‘Even I treated Joe Brolly better than that RTE…’

But it was emerged that their famous duel at Celtic Park almost never happened. Higgins had been left out of Pete McGrath’s team for the game and almost quit the game in disappointment but then emerged as a substitute and curbed the threat of Allstar forward Brolly.

“It’s the one game that everybody would talk to you about but it wouldn’t be one of my favourites!” says Higgins.

“I thought I should have been starting that day, so to say I wasn’t in good form would be an understatement.

“I was for packing it in because I thought the management had made the wrong call. I took it more personally than I should have – I thought it was a personal thing so I wasn’t in the best of moods. DJ Kane was our captain and only for a phonecall from him I probably wouldn’t have been there, it turned things around for me because I was going to walk away.

“When you’re all geared-up and flying-fit and thinking you’re the best man for the job... not to start annoyed me. Even now, talking about, it would still annoy me. Even after the game, when everybody was in such jovial form and a great mood, I was sitting in the corner still fuming!

“I had been playing for five years then so I didn’t think I had to prove anything but, then again, maybe I did. Maybe they (Pete McGrath and his management) saw something I didn’t. Anyway, it all worked out for the best.”

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GAA Football