Tuesday 10 February 2009

125 - Armagh Player List


From Jim McCullough to Aaron Kernan, Joe McManus selects the Orchard county’s best from the 1930s to the present day..

To comment on the list and to put your own opinion across please see the 125 Archive list on the right hand column of this page. You can enter a comment in the box at the bottom of each post.

1930s and ’40s
Jim McCullough
Rated one of the country’s best and among the first to receive the All-Time Great award. Came to prominence in the Railway Cup, winning four medals.
Despite featuring in several Ulster SFC finals with Armagh and one with Fermanagh, this medal kept eluding him.
Alf Murray
Another outstanding talent from the catch-and-kick era. His ball skills were exceptional – a forward with tremendous foresight and vision. A regular on Armagh and Ulster teams and later became president of the GAA. Winner of a number of McKenna Cup medals in the ’40s.
Joe Houlahan
An outstanding goalkeeper capped many times for Ulster and honoured to play for Ireland. He won numerous county championship medals with his club, Armagh Young Irelands and was very much the driving force behind the reformation of Armagh Harps, one of the county’s oldest clubs, in the 1940s.
Tom Clarke
Known as ‘the man with the cap’, he partnered the legendary Jim McCullough at midfield, winning a number of McKenna medals.
Eddie McLoughlin
The classy defender from Clan na Gael won Railway Cup medals with Ulster and McKenna Cup medals with his county. An Ulster SFC medal eluded him, though he played in many finals.
Eddie McMahon
One of the Orchard’s most famous sons, the Culloville man was a sturdy defender who represented Ulster on a number of occasions. His son, Fran McMahon, also represented his county and province with distinction.

Sean Quinn
From the Sarsfield’s club in Lurgan, the dynamic wing-back captained Armagh in the 1953 All-Ireland final against Kerry. Had he not retired injured, the result may have been different. Noted for the spring in his jump despite his relatively small size, he had class in abundance.
Mal McEvoy
The Killeavy man was a stylish midfielder renouned for his famous solo runs. He scored Armagh’s goal in the 1953 All-Ireland final against Kerry and was also a member of the 1948 team that lost the junior All-Ireland. A treat to watch.
Jack Bratton
A reliable full-back. He was a member of the only Armagh team to win a minor All-Ireland, in 1949, and, four years later, was back in Croke Park in a senior final, giving a performance that day made his name household. The Harps’ veteran went on to collect Railway Cup medals and four senior club championships.
Pat O’Neill
A solid centre half-back who won Ulster medals in 1950 and 1953 whose name remains household. The Keady man also excelled as a college footballer with St Patrick’s College, Armagh.
Art O’Hagan
A bustling full-forward and scorer of many memorable goals for county and province. He featured in the 1948 All-Ireland junior final which Armagh lost to Dublin and in the 1953 senior final. He scored the all-important goal in the 1950 Ulster final against Cavan – the county’s first provincial title.
Joe Cunningham
A clever footballer and speedy winger, he was one of a number from the All-Ireland-winning 1949 minor team who represented Armagh in the 1953 senior final. Was also a noted university star and winner of championship medals with Armagh Harps.
Bill McCorry
Unfairly remembered as the man who missed the penalty in the 1953 All-Ireland final, he started his county career as a midfielder, before making his name as one of Ulster’s most feared attackers.
Gene Morgan
The Crossmaglen man gave an exhibition of defensive greatness in the 1953 All-Ireland, his inimitable fielding and judgement unerring. An uncle of Oisin McConville, he played for Ulster and Ireland.
Pat Campbell
A crafty forward with an eye for a score and credited with the highest catch in Croke Park in the 1953 All-Ireland semi-final against Roscommon. He came out of retirement in 1961 to play in the Ulster final against Down.

Jimmy Whan
The Madden clubman was the county’s most outstanding forward in the ’60s. Was a regular on Railway Cup teams with the greats of Down. A body-swerve specialist with pace and vision to match.
Gene Larkin
The tall and sturdy Crossmaglen man was an exceptional midfielder and with Collegeland’s Johnny McGeary formed one of the most formidable centrefield partnerships of his era. Also starred for Ulster.
Danny Kelly
The Carrickcruppen giant had few peers at centre half-back and was renowned for his famous tussles with Down’s James McCartan in the 60s. He was famous for his fielding and drop-kick.
Felix McKnight
A steady full-back with a safe pair of hands. Had the knack of making spectacular clearances from tight positions and was also a member of the 1961 Ulster final team. Now domiciled in Australia, he was one of three Killeavy brothers who played in the Armagh full-back line.
Harry Hoy
As hard as nails, the wee man from the Clan na Gael club made the number seven jersey his own during a period when success for the county was hard to come by.
Tom McCreesh
The big Crossmaglen man was perhaps past his prime when he played in the 1977 All-Ireland against Dublin. From the old school of full-backs, the square was his domain. He was the rock on which many a forward perished.

Paddy Moriarty
The one and only Paddy ‘Mo’ from the Wolfe Tones was a class act, winning the first of his Allstar awards when only a teenager. He nailed down Ulster medals in ’77, ’80 and ’82 and played in various key positions in a highly illustrious and rewarding career.
Colm McKinstry
The Clan na Gael man captained the 1982 Ulster championship-winning team. The midfielder’s long list of accolades includes an Allstar, three USFC medals, three Ulster club medals and nine county championship medals.
Jim McKerr
Known as ‘Tidsy’, the wily defender played most of his county football at left corner back and coming up against the cream of wingers.
Won three Ulster SFC medals, three Ulster club medals. Still remembered for his long hair in the 1977 All-Ireland.
Denis Stevenson
The Sarsfield’s man made the number two jersey his own, an outstanding servant and renouned for his tight marking. Stevenson had everything a defender required in a highly-successful career which spanned many years.
Peter Loughran
An impeccable free-taker, he was Armagh’s leading scorer for many seasons. From the Carrickcruppen club, he was a ball-winner supreme, could skin his marker and find the target.
Joe Kernan
Partnered Colm McKinstry at midfield throughout the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Winner of three Allstar awards and played on many successful Railway Cup teams. His two goals in the ’77 All-Ireland is part of the county’s folklore.
Brian McAlinden
Goalkeeper for over a decade and will rate among the best netminders ever. An Ulster SFC winner as player and manager.
Jimmy Smyth
Captained the 1977 side that took Ulster and reached the All-Ireland. An Allstar forward who won three Ulster club medals.

Martin McQuillan
Winner of several Railway Cup medals, the St Pat’s man played for his county in many positions.
Kieran McGurk
A member of the 1980 and 1982 Ulster SFC-winning sides, he will always be remembered for his wonder goal in Killorglin that gave Armagh their first every victory over the Kingdom on Kerry soil.
Neil Smyth
A strong midfielder who led his club, Mullaghbawn, to an Ulster title in 1995.
Jarlath Burns
Lifted the Anglo-Celt Cup in 1999, bridging a 17-year gap, the Silverbridge man was one of the most powerful midfielders the county ever produced.
Gerard Houlahan
A firm favourite with Orchard fans for over a decade, the Allstar forward won his only championship medal when introduced as a late substitution in the 1999 Ulster final against Down. ‘Houly’ could score off both feet and bagged many a memorable goal.
Fran McMahon
The Cullaville man was noted for his power and strength in midfield. Loved the big occasion and won Ulster SFC medals in ’80 and ’82.
Mark Grimley
One of the famous twins who took the GAA world by storm. His strength and aerial ability were awesome.
Peter Rafferty
Whole-hearted performer who played on two Ulster championship winning teams.
Jim McConville
Despite being small in stature, he knew no fear. Holds the record as Ulster’s top scorer in any one game, having pocketed 4-2 in a Railway Cup outing against Munster.
John Corvan
AN exceptional talent and one of the top forwards in the country. Played in two NFL finals in the ’80s which Armagh lost, but has two Ulster medals.

John McEntee
A true ambassador for Armagh football and a medal-winner at all grades. Capable of knocking over long-range points from all angles.
Oisin McConville
Armagh’s best ever forward? Has won every accolade the game could offer. His goal in the 2002 All-Ireland set Armagh up for their first and only Sam Maguire. Retired from inter-county football holding the record of the top scorer ever in the Ulster SFC.
Ronan Clarke
Won an All-Ireland medal at 19 and named young player of the year. He was an Allstar last year and remains an integral part of the county set-up. A gifted player who can score off both pegs at will.
Paul McGrane
A loyal servant, the Ballyhegan star was captain of the 1992 minor team beaten by Meath in the All-Ireland and, 10 years later, was back in Croke Park to pocket a senior medal. McGrane played in all of Armagh’s seven Ulster finals wins.
Benny Tierney
The goalkeeper has had an exemplary career. Was surely delighted that Joe Kernan was able to persuade him to hang for another year in 2002 and experience the ultimate glory.
Kieran McGeeney
A born leader who captained the 2002 All-Ireland and the 2005 NFL-winning teams. Perhaps the county’s most influential figure ever.
Diarmaid Marsden
Scorer of many classic goals, his white flags on either side of half-time in the 2002 All-Ireland were to prove priceless. He was a master craftsman.
Stevie McDonnell
The Killeavy ace will go down in history for hitting the winning point in the 2002 All-Ireland. Currently the top goal-scorer in Ulster football, his 10-point return in the 2005 NFL final underlined his greatness.
Ciaran McKeever
Captained the 2004 All-Ireland-winning U21 team. Winner of an NFL medal in 2005, he has also sampled success in the Ulster Championship.
Francie Bellew
An icon, the Crossmaglen warrior only started his county career when Joe Kernan took charge in 2002 and the rest is history.
Aidan O’Rourke
Played a key role in the All-Ireland final victory. The Dromintee man has collected all major honours with his county.
Andy Mallon
A top class defender and great reader of the game. Winner of an All-Ireland U21 medal in 2004 he was also part of the successful NFL campaign the following year. The Pearse Og star has also secured a number of Ulster championship medals.
Aaron Kernan
Son of Joe and one of four brothers on the current county panel. Played in the 2004 All-Ireland U21-winning side and was quickly promoted to the senior ranks. The roving half-back has won a number of Ulster medals, an NFL as well as playing for his province and being selected for Ireland last year.

Remember if you think, we have left someone out who you think merits a place on the top 125 of Ulster's great footballers feel free to add you own.



  1. Kieran McGeeney would definitely make the top 15 from the Armagh list but who else would make it? Francie Bellew? I think not......
    I honestly don't know many of the Cavan players, just the recent ones and I doubt any of them would be good enough!

  2. Just looking at the Armagh selection.. would John McKnight not warrant a selection. He made the centenary team in 1984 - players who had not won an all-ireland which makes up over half of the Armagh selection above

  3. John McKnight was indeed a fine player but do you honestly think he is Top 15 material?
    There are so many greats in this time period, the Down list will be interesting!

  4. Thought Barry John O'Hagan could have been included there, maybe there's too many Clans men on already! Otherwise a good selection, really opens the eyes to the talent this county has produced...

  5. I am not to sure about Benny Tierney but than if you where funny goalkeeper's jersey and win a all- Ireland you can get on any team

  6. can i suggest dermot dowling.. he was a talented forward scoring 0-4 in the ulster victory of 1982. He also has the unique distinction of holding a sigerson cup medal as both player and manager for Queen's university belfast

  7. Congratulations to Joe McManus for a really methodical and well researched piece of work. It's a pity that the sports editor of the Irish News did not insist that some of the other assessors followed his format.

  8. As a non-Armagh blogger, I agree with the comment about the lack of uniformity in the approach by the correspondents in suggesting players who might merit a vote. If the irish News was going to embark on this process, why did the journalists not ensure this. Of course, all photographs were of recent origin, suggesting that the focus would be primarily on recent players. How would young voters know of players of 40-80 years ago without prompting form the experts???? in the Irish News? An exceeding flawed process by the Irish News

  9. Looking at the list from the 50s I think that one man who was missed was Mick O'Hanlon-a very powerfull man who was deployed at mid feild for the 53 final from his usual centre half berth,a member of the 49 minor team he also played for Ulster and Ireland

  10. pat campbell should def be amongst the best armagh footballers of all time. He was one off the best forwards in the game. Also his highest jump catch in croke park is legendary.

    1. i doubt if pats jump in croker was higher than the dozen or so mark grimley done against dublin arround 1990

  11. of course benny tierney deserves this come on tyrone

  12. In 1982, Fran McMahon was a beast.

    1. Agreed, a fair player though who out fielded most around him and could kick points from any angle. I once seen him reverse catch a long ball that went over his head down behind his back, turn and kick a point from 50 yards.

  13. Yes I remember Mick O'Hanlon playing in the fifties-a very good high catcher of the ball-if he had of played at centre half back Armagh would have beaten Kerry in 53

  14. I have the honour of being related to some of the greatest footballers on the 1953 team etc pat campbell and gerry mc stay and best of all bill mc corry whom was my grandfather and even though he made missed that penalty it was confessed by that kerry player that he was pulled but these were the greatest players

  15. Tony McEntee should be on this list.

  16. Mick O'Hanlon was a great footballer from the 1950s-his high catching was awesome and he had a great engine,he always found his man with his passing

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