Wednesday 11 February 2009

125 - Cavan Player List


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Memories are aplenty from best of Breffni Kevin Carney delves through the ages and profiles the finest players to have pulled on the blue shirt from the 1920s until the present day.

Louis Blessing
Part of the all-conquering Cavan Slashers’ teams of 1922 ’24 ’25 ’27 ’30 and ’31 and starred in Cavan’s 1935 All-Ireland SFC final success as an archetypal full-forward target-man. His strength and height made him an intimidating figure.
Jim Smith
Arguably Cavan’s greatest footballer from the early ’20s to late ’30s. A man of great physique and determination with elegant fielding and long kicking skills. Holder of 13 Ulster championship medals, he captained Cavan to their first senior All-Ireland title in 1933.
Patsy Lynch
From the Bailieboro club, the teak-tough defender captained the county to a first ever All-Ireland title in 1927 when playing centre-back on the triumphant junior side.
Hughie O’Reilly
The Cootehill clubman featured on the 1927 All-Ireland-winning junior team and was man-of-the-match in the 1935 All-Ireland SFC semi-final win over Tipperary. Captained the ’35 final-winning side from midfield and showed the sort of intelligence on the field of play that he later demonstrated as an All-Ireland-winning manager.
Barney Cully
From Arva, he won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1937 and went on to represent Cavan and Ulster for many years. Considered way ahead of his time as an attacking defender. Represented Ulster also.
Willie Young
Was a ’keeper of great athleticism and concentration, both traits helping him to All-Ireland-winning medals in 1933 and ’35. Won seven Cavan SFC medals with Cornafean.
Pakie Phair
Considered the dynamo of the Sam Maguire Cup-winning 1933 team which downed Kerry in the final and was Mr Consistency in the county’s odyssey to the ’35 crown.
Simon Deignan
A gifted half-back who had his finest hour against Kerry in the 1947 All-Ireland SFC final. Was again one of the Breffni county’s stars in the ’48 double success of League and Championship.
Peter Donohoe
One of the county’s best ever free-takers. He gave an exhibition of place-kicking and was the star in Cavan’s famous All-Ireland SFC win in the Polo Grounds in 1947, scoring eight points against Kerry. Also starred in the county’s All-Ireland SFC triumphs in ’48 and ’52.
Des Benson
Considered to be one of the most underrated players of Cavan’s glorious ’40s period, when the Blues scooped the Sam Maguire Cup in ’47 and ’48. One particularly memorable save against Kerry helped the Blues achieve their first NFL title in 1948.
Tony Tighe
Likened to a gazelle when in full flight, Tighe was an attacker of speed, elusiveness and vision who had arguably his greatest game in the 1947 All-Ireland triumph at the Polo Grounds. Was on hand again in ’48 and ’52 All-Ireland wins.
Mick Higgind
Considered the brains behind Cavan’s All-Ireland wins of ’47 and ’48 and captained the 1952 Sam Maguire Cup-winning crew. Brave, an opportunistic goalscorer and a born leader, he played for Cavan from 1942 to 1953.
PJ Duke
A fantastic half-back who died at the premature age of 25. Won All-Ireland SFC medals in 1947 and ’48 and in 1952 (when he scored seven points) and collected a Railway Cup medal with Ulster. Won three Sigerson medals with UCD, but it was with his native county that he achieved most fame and is ranked as one of Cavan’s best ever defenders.
John Joe O’Reilly
The ‘gallant’ John Joe was described by Antrim star Kevin Armstrong as “the finest all-round footballer of his generation.” Captained Cavan to victory in the All-Ireland SFC finals of 1947 and ’48 and was a regular on the Ulster teams of the ’40s.
‘Big’ Tom O’Reilly
Brother of John Joe, but a star in his own right. Shone in Cavan’s historic 1947 win in New York having captained his county for a couple of years beforehand. A man-mountain at the back for both Cavan and his club, Cornafean.
Jim McDonnell
Was man-of-the-match in the 1955 All-Ireland SFC semi-final defeat to Kerry as a marauding half-back-cum -midfielder and is considered by many to have been Cavan’s finest player of the 1950s.
Phil ‘Gunner’ Brady
A veritable collossus for his club Mullahoran and was a regular for Cavan in the 1940s. His strength, bravery and inspirational qualities were legendary and he remains one of the county’s true football legends.
Johnny Cusack
Considered to have been the most potent forward in Cavan club football in the 1950s and got his due recognition when he was part of the county’s All-Ireland SFC-winning troupe of 1952.
Gabriel Kelly
Arguably Cavan’s outstanding defender of the 1960s, during which time he picked up a number of senior provincial medals. The Cavan Gaels clubman was a regular also with Ulster, with his power of recovery and his anticipation two key elements of his game.
Charlie Gallagher
One of Ireland’s greatest gaelic footballers, the Cootehill Celtic clubman was an iconic figure in the 1960s and regularly topped the nation’s scoring charts. Captain of Cavan’s 1969 Anglo-Celt Cup-winning team.
Andy McCabe
One of Crosserlough’s principal engineers of their record-breaking seven-in-a-row of Cavan SFC titles (1966-72). A no-nonsense defender who made up for his lack of pace by sheer determination and will-to-win. A long-time member of the Cavan full-back line during the 1960s.
Gene Cusack
A goal-getter supreme whose balance and creativity plus expert finishing made him a household name in Cavan for over 10 years straddling the ’60s and ’70s. One of the stars of the great Crosserlough teams and was honoured at inter-provincial level on occasions.
Ray Carolan
A Cavan and Ulster midfielder par excellence during the ’60s, his fielding, honest endeavour and inspirational qualities helped haul Cavan to the top in Ulster on several occasions.
Enda McGowan
A glue-like defender who was an unsung hero on many Cavan sides, although had his finest hour in the victorious 1969 Ulster SFC final. Represented Ulster and was the bulwark for Ballyhaise through many lean years.
Ollie Brady
Cavan’s first Allstar (1978). The Redhills collossus led by example from his centre-back berth, but was desperately unfortunate not to win an Ulster SFC medal. Strong, fast and good at pushing forward.
Sean Leddy
A member of St Pat’s College’s All-Ireland-winning Hogan Cup crew of 1972, the
Butlersbridge native was a very reliable defender whose forays forward were the stuff of legend. Unlucky to have played in relatively weak Cavan sides, he finished up with an Ulster JFC medal in 1984.
Ollie Leddy
Brother of Sean, the towering midfielder held the middle for Cavan for the guts of a eight years during the 70s and had a great pair of hands and enormous strength on the ball.
Paddy McNamee
One of the few Cavan players during the ’80s to get a look in at Railway Cup level. The Ramor Utd attacker made his Championship debut against Down in Castleblayney on the same day he played for the county minors.
Ray Cullivan
Arguably one of Cavan’s finest playmakers, the Laragh Utd ace was blessed with great vision, control and his ability to bring players into the game set him apart. A terrific engine.
Joe Dillon
Despite being relatively small in stature, could jump with the tallest of them and couldn’t be parted from the ball when in possession. Drove Kingscourt to numerous county titles in the ’80s.
Jim Reilly
Represented Cavan, Ulster and Ireland with distinction. A gem of a half-back who was equally at home joining in with the attack, ‘Captain Fantastic’ invariably got on the scoresheet, irrespective of the opposition.
Adge King
Was a stalwart in the engine room for Cavan seniors from 1974 to ’84. His consistency, workrate and passion made him a fans’ favourite, but he was unlucky to have played on struggling Cavan teams.
Fintan Cahill
Lit up the Cavan forward line in full-flight and caught the eye of the Railway Cup think-tank as a 19-year-old. The Cuchullain’s forward was adept either drawing a free or invariably scoring himself.
Dermot McCabe
Cavan’s second Allstar and still the county’s talisman. First came to prominence when starring for the county U21 team that reached the All-Ireland final in 1996. His versatility has also seen him used to great effect on the edge of the square.
Stephen King
Captained Cavan to the county’s last Anglo-Celt Cup success in 1997. Represented Ulster and Ireland too. His fetching ability and powerful runs into enemy territory made him an inspiration and someone team-mates looked to.
Ronan Carolan
Cavan’s best-ever free-taker? Consistently topped the scoring charts in Ulster over the course of the ’80s and ’90s despite Cavan’s travails then. Deservedly won an Ulster SFC medal in ’97. His ability to carry the ball at pace was another key weapon.
Derek McDonnell
One of Cavan’s most potent attackers during the ’80s. His ability to side-step an opponent and his eye for goal made him a textbook match-winner. A sterling servant of Ramor Utd, he topped the provincial goalscoring charts in 1983 when Cavan reached the Ulster SFC final.
Tommy Smyth
When Cavan were at their lowest ebb in the early ’90s, the Denn stalwart was at the coalface in defence. One of the most consistent club players over the course of almost 20 years.
Philip Smith
Invariably employed in defence or midfield during a long inter-county career (1987-2001). The Crosserlough clubman always showed the heart of a lion and has been one of the county’s most outstanding club footballers of modern times.
Damien O’Reilly
A top full-back for Mullahoran and Cavan. Was part of the Cavan U21 team that reached the 1988 All-Ireland final. His speed off the mark and the quality of his foot-passing were invaluable as Cavan stormed to Anglo-Celt Cup success in ’97.
Jason O’Reilly
One of the finest goal-poachers ever produced by Cavan Football Inc. One of the stars of Cavan’s 1997 provincial championship triumph and still going strong. Caught the eye when featuring for Cavan U21s in ’96 when the provincial title was scooped.
Bernard Morris
An inspiring figure for Cavan and Ulster. Much underrated on his own doorstep, but feared and respected in equal measure by opponents countrywide. The Gowna stalwart formed the hub of many Cavan rearguards during the Ulster SFC-winning run of ’97.
James Reilly
An Allstar nominee in 2004, the 26-year-old has represented Ulster with distinction and could be Cavan’s number one ’keeper of all time. A tremendous kick-out allied to cat-like agility complement his physique.
Larry Reilly
Still part of the Cavan set-up, the Knockbride ace has represented Ulster and Ireland in his time. A livewire, he is just as fast carrying the ball as running without it. A sweet left foot with a jink to match. Starred in Cavan’s 1997 heroics.
Peter Reilly
Brother of Larry and another sensational performer for Cavan for the guts of 10 years. Now a selector with the senior county team, the attacker-cum-defender captained Cavan too and could always be relied upon to give 100 per cent.
Paul O’Dowd
Brought leadership qualities and a great joie de vivre to the table in 1997. His excellence between the sticks was his forte, his shot-stopping ability second to none in the country. A technically-minded ’keeper.
Anthony Forde
Cavan and Ulster are all the better for being able to call on the speed, adaptability and workrate of the Cavan Gaels ace. Has been his county’s most consistent defender for almost 10 years now, but has lost none of his passion and zest for the fray.
Sean Johnston
Cavan’s most prolific scorer over the past couple of years, the Cavan Gaels ace gained Railway Cup recognition in 2008 and got a trial for Ireland. Two great feet, can turn on a sixpence and plays with a swagger.
Micheal Lyng
Has suffered from the effects of injury in the last couple of years, but the former Ulster Railway Cup player still ranks as maybe Cavan’s best playmaker at present.
Gerald Pierson
He has represented Cavan and Ulster with distinction and has top-scored for his club Gowna since making his senior debut almost seven years ago. Coming to the boil after a long-term injury.
Ronan Flanagan
One of the Breffni county’s major hopes for the future. Already recognised at interprovincial level, the Castlerahan star is equally at home in defence or attack such is the vision, skill and pace he possesses.

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. charlie gallagher was and always will be a legend .his brother brian was also a footballer of fine stature . may they both rest in eternal glory.

  2. Phelim Costello deserves to be in there as he was the top scorer in the national league and put tremendous effort into his all-round game/

  3. willie Doonan from the 1947 team - Cavan Town

  4. Victor Sherlock- 1940's and early 50"s

  5. tom lyngh was my favourite during the 1960 he played at midfield or centre half back and was a reason for cavan winning four ulster championships

  6. sorry should read tom lynch and i am from laragh united

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