Pick of the mighty Oaks
Seamus Mullan picks a selection of Derry players who have brought glory to the county over the years from the breakthrough sides of the 1940s and ’50s to the all-conquering teams of the ’90s and the current crop...
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WHEN men of a certain age reminisce, they talk fondly of the powerful displays of this player at the heart of the Newbridge and Derry defences, and at midfield, in the 1930s. Won a senior county medal in 1937.
A POWERHOUSE of a player, he scored 1-1 in the 1945 Ulster JFC decider against Armagh at full-forward and lined out at midfield two years later to help Derry win their first NFL title.
full-back on the 1947 NFL-winning team and played for Ulster in 1945 before he was 19. An ever-present in the Derry defence for many years.
WAS midfield on the 1947 NFL-winning team and managed the 1958 team to the All-Ireland final. Won seven senior championship medals with Newbridge and a Railway Cup medal in 1958.
John Eddie Mullan
MADE his club debut in 1940 with Drumsurn, playing for Glenullin, Limavady and Magilligan before joining Dungiven in 1945, with whom he won a SFC medal in 1947, the same year as he won a NFL medal with Derry. Another Derry SFC medal followed in 1951.
A TYRONE man who came to Limavady in the mid ’20s and played club football from then to the late ’40s. One of Derry’s greatest ever full backs, beginning his county career in the 1933 NFL.
CAPTAINED Derry to Lagan Cup and McKenna Cup success, and to their first NFL title in 1947. A Derry minor in 1939.
Matthew ‘Sonny’ McCann
Described as ‘tough as nails’ by those who played with, and against him. Played wherever he was needed. Played at centre half-back in the 1947 NFL-winning team and in goals for the 1952 Lagan Cup win.
ARGUABLY Derry’s greatest ever footballer, and one of the all-time great midfielders, he played for the county for 14 years. Started his club career with Newbridge before transferring to Ballymaguigan, with whom he won a senior championship medal. He played on the first Derry side to win a senior championship game, against Monaghan. Played a huge role in helping Derry reach the 1958 All-Ireland final. He was Ireland’s best player that year, winning the Caltex Award. His fielding prowess was legendary, his athleticism, skill and leadership set him apart.
A MINOR for Derry in 1954 and 1955 and junior in 1956 and partnered Jim McKeever at midfield in the 1958 All-Ireland final. A very elegant player he was equally adept in the attack.
WAS the goalkeeper when Derry won the 1953 Ulster junior title, having played for Derry at minor, junior and senior level the previous year. Took over as the regular senior Derry ’keeper in 1956 and played in the 1958 All-Ireland final.
Hugh Francis Gribben
A MINOR with Derry in 1952, an Ulster JFC medallist in 1955 and full-back on the 1958 All-Ireland final team. Equally at home at midfield.
HAS the distinction of captaining Derry to the All-Ireland minor title in 1965 and the All-Ireland U21 title in 1968. A powerful wing-back he had a distinguished club career with Bellaghy.
PLAYED his first senior game at club level for Ballerin, aged just 13 in 1954 He became one of the most prolific scoring machines in Derry club football, his pace and accurate left foot kicking Ballerin a host of titles, including the 1957 SFC title.
MAYBE not the paciest of players, but had a terrific positional sense and awareness at centre half-back for club and county. Won a Hogan Cup medal in 1965 with St Columb’s College and an All-Ireland minor medal the same year. Won an Ulster senior medal in 1970.
Burst on the national scene in the 1965 All-Ireland minor final when he scored 1-4 against Kerry at the age of 15. Was one of the most exciting players in the county with pace, skill and deadly accuracy. After a period playing soccer, he returned to the Derry scene at senior level.
CAPTAINED the Derry junior team which won the Ulster title in 1969. Was corner-back when Mayo beat Derry in the 1970 NFL semi-final and full-back when Derry won the Ulster crown the same year. Won three Derry SFC medals with Newbridge. A no-nonsense full-back who commanded the square.
A STORMING display for Bellaghy against the might of the famed St Vincent’s duo, Des Foley and Simon Behan, showcased the emerging form of this powerhouse player in 1965. Three years later, he won a Derry and Ulster medal, although he missed the provincial final.
HIS silky skills as he glided through the heart of defences with consummate ease excited those who had the privilege to see him play. Was also hugely successful with Cork’s Nemo Rangers. He was centre half-forward on the 1965 Derry All-Ireland minor-winning team and scored 1-1 in the 1968 All-Ireland U21 win. Won an Ulster SFC medal in 1970 and scored 2-4 in the 1971 loss to Down.
A NATIVE of Derry city, he will be remembered as the best fielder of a ball since Jim McKeever. As a Sarsfields player, he won a 1968 U21 All-Ireland medal. Winner of an Ulster senior medal in 1970, he played with Newbridge for several years, his free-running play a nightmare for defenders.
MADE his senior debut in 1974, and was man of the match when Derry beat Down in the 1975 Ulster final. In the 1976 NFL final, he gave a superb exhibition of point-scoring. A dynamic runner, he captained Derry to an Ulster U21 title.
CENTRE half-forward on the St Columb’s team that won the 1965 Hogan Cup and a minor All-Ireland medalist the same year. Scorer of 0-6 in the 1968 All-Ireland U21 final against Offaly, he will be remembered for the ‘disallowed’ point in the last minute of the 1970 NFL semi-final against Mayo. A wonderful fielder of the ball.
WON three Ulster SFC medals in the ’70s, winning Ulster and All-Ireland medals at minor (1965) and U21 (1968) and a Railway Cup medal in 1969. A sturdy half-back, he was a powerful dead-ball kicker and a resolute tackler for club and county.
MADE his senior debut in 1980 and played at that level for a decade. A versatile and consistent player with tremendous anticipation under the dropping ball, he won two Railway Cup medals.
ONE of the best high fielders to play for Derry. Marked his senior debut with a goal against Fermanagh in the Ulster championship. Captained Dungiven to a centenary year county title and also captained Derry to an Ulster SFC title in 1987.
WAS the first Derry player to win an Allstar in 1973. Two years later, he was the first player to win Allstars as a forward and defender. A member of the 1968 Derry U21 All-Ireland-winning team. Crowned a glittering career in 1990 when he came on as a substitute to win an All-Ireland club medal with Lavey.
HAS the unique distinction in Derry football of being the only player to captain successive Ulster championship winning teams (1975 and 1976) and he gained Allstar recognition in 1975. With Ballerin, he won an Ulster club medal in 1976 and played on the Sarsfields team that lost narrowly in the All-Ireland club final to Austin Stacks.
WHEN he gained his Allstar award at right half-forward in 1975, he was the youngest player to reach such heights in the then brief history of these honours. Played in three successive Ulster finals for Derry and won Ulster championship medals in 1975 and 1976. Gave up Gaelic football at the height of his powers to pursue a soccer career. Excited the crowds with his surging runs and stunning scores.
THE 1993 All-Ireland senior medallist played in two All-Ireland minor finals while still in the U16 age range in 1980 and 1981. Captained the Derry minor team to All-Ireland success in 1993. Succeeded Gerry McElhinney as the youngest Ulster Allstar at 18 years and 65 days in 1984. Had great power and pace.
WON Allstar awards in 1987, 1992, 1993 and 1995, was nominated in 1988 and 1996 and was a replacement Allstar in 1991. Captained Derry to the 1995 NFL title and was on the successful teams of 1992 and 1996. The pinnacle of his career came in 1993 when he helped Derry to win the Sam Maguire Cup.
GAVE several powerhouse performances to help Derry to the All-Ireland crown in ’93 and his displays were recognised with a second Allstar award. In 1996, he won his third National League medal and, in 1997, won an Ulster club championship medal with Dungiven. His efforts for Derry on the football and hurling fields of Ireland are part of folklore in the Oak Leaf county.
WON a Hogan Cup medal with St Patrick’s, Maghera and an All-Ireland minor medal with Derry in 1989. Has eight Allstar nominations, winning four. In 1992, he played a prominent role in Derry’s first National League title since 1947. An All-Ireland medalist in 1993, he captained Derry to their fifth League title in 2002. He also played on four Railway Cup winning teams.
THE most consistent forward for Derry between 1986 and 2000. In championship football, he has scored 2-119, a feat that ranks him seventh in the all-time Ulster list. Top scorer in the Ulster championship in 1987 with 0-20. He scored 0-6 in the 1993 All-Ireland final against Cork to bring his tally to 0-25 for the Championship. His scoring prowess brought him a second Allstar in 1993
AFTER winning MacRory Cup, Ulster U18 and U21 medals, he made his senior debut in the NFL in 1987 and had a wonderful career at club and county level, mostly as a defender, but also at midfield, culminating in an All-Ireland medal in 1993. Also won an Ulster SFC medal in 1987.
AT the age of 21, the inspiring leadership qualities of the Lavey star came to the fore when he led his club to the senior title against Newbridge in 1988. An influential member of the Lavey team that lifted the All-Ireland club title in 1991. Led Derry to National league success in 1992 and a year later joined the pantheon of greats when he captained Derry to their first ever Sam Maguire Cup title.
AN All-Ireland winner in 1993, he won back-to-back Allstar awards in 1996 and 1997. By that stage, he had won his third NFLmedal and had been top scorer in the 1997 Ulster championship with 3-15. The following year, he scored the winning goal against Donegal in the Ulster final when all seemed lost.
THE Derry senior manager made his senior inter-county debut in 1983, the same year he won an All-Ireland minor medal. Winner of county medal at all grades with Bellaghy. A 1993 All-Ireland winner, he had a trusty left boot that could open defences and pick off crucial scores.
Sean Martin Lockhart
WON National League medals in 1996 and 1997, an Ulster championship medal in 1998 and played in the 2000 Ulster final. Also won a Railway Cup medal with Ulster that season. Ulster’s only Allstar winner in 1998. A versatile defender, he is rated one of the very best man-markers in the game. He is the most capped Ireland player.
THE ‘Dungiven Dynamo’ finally gained Allstar recognition in 2000. Rated as one of the very best corner-backs in the land over a distinguished senior career that started in 1988 against Monaghan. Played a huge role in Dungiven’s Ulster club final victory in 1997. An All-Ireland medallist in 1993.
UNLUCKY not to pick up an Allstar in 1993. But he can still reflect on a fine career that brought him National League medals in 1992 and 1995 and, of course, his All-Ireland medal in 1993. Won Railway Cup medals in 1993 and 1994. A fine ’keeper, he was also a very competent outfield player with Glen and, on occasions, the county.
WILL be forever remembered for ‘that point’ in Croke Park in the 1993 All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin. Ten years earlier, he won an All-Ireland minor medal. Captained Lavey to the All-Ireland club title. A tireless worker and a tenacious tackler.
THE ‘wee man’ from Ballymaguigan will be forever revered in the Oak Leaf county as the manager who steered Derry to the All-Ireland title in 1993. Came to prominence in the ’60s when he won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1965 and an All-Ireland U21 title three years later. Won an Ulster senior championship medal in 1970 and a Railway Cup medal in 1971. He was an Allstar replacement in 1972.
PLAYED for the county at senior level in four decades, winning Ulster medals in 1958, 1970, 1975 and 1976. Captained Derry to the Ulster title in 1970. Won his first Railway Cup medal in 1965 and was successful again in 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1971 as captain of Ulster. Derry’s leading scorer in championship football with 11-118
RATED by many as Derry’s greatest goalkeeper, he won an All-Ireland medal at U21 level in 1968 and
Ulster senior championship medals in 1975 and 1976. Was the Dungiven ‘keeper when they regained the Derry senior title in 1983.
HAD a distinguished career in the Derry colours and won senior championship medals in 1975 and 1976. He won Railway Cup medals in 1979 and 1980. Was hugely influential in Derry’s 1993 success. A stylish half-back.
WINNER of a Derry senior championship medal with Newbridge, he was one of the key players in Derry’s All-Ireland success. Always seemed to have time on the ball and his accurate and
perceptive passing unlocked even the best defences.
STILL going strong at club level a few weeks past his 37th birthday, this phenomenal marksman (he was top scorer in the Derry SFC in 1989 and 1992) has won two Hogan Cup medals, Ulster minor, U21 and
senior medals and the elusive All-Ireland senior medal in 1993. A wonderful free-taker.
THE current Derry captain rates among the very best midfielders in the land in recent years, not just for his powerful fielding, but also for his work-rate in the defensive zone. Burst onto the scene in the late ’90s as Bellaghy won three county senior titles in-a-row.
MADE his inter-county debut in the National League in 1999 and his Championship debut the following season at the tender age of 18. His phenomenal scoring displays for club and county mark him as one of the very best forwards in Ireland. As captain, he scored the winning point when Glenullin won the 2007 senior championship, the same weekend he was awarded an Allstar.
THIS mercurial player, an All-Ireland U21 medallist in 1997, has produced a range of skills that have lit up games for club and county over the years. His high fielding, pin-point passing and accurate finishing have been the hallmark of his play that has rightly earned him Allstar recognition. Key Ballinderry won the All-Ireland club title in 2002.
CAPTAINED Derry to the All-Ireland minor final in 1995 and was again captain when they overcame Meath three years later in the U21 decider. He was full-back in the NFL semi-final against Laois the same year. In the last decade, he has been a great servant to club and county, his indomitable spirit central to Loup’s SFC success.
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.
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VOTING WILL BEGIN AFTER ALL NINE COUNTIES HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED. THE PLAYERS NAMED IN EACH COUNTY ARE SUGGESTIONS ONLY AND READERS SHOULD FEEL FREE TO NOMINATE ANY PLAYER WHOM THEY REGARD AS WORTHY