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Former Principal of St Ronan's Primary School, Newry, Frank Dawson is one of a select few to have managed at inter-county level in hurling (Down) and football (Antrim), Belfast-born Frank Dawson has had a long and successful career at club and college level starting with his native St Gall’s and including stints at clubs in Derry, Tyrone and Down.

He selects his Allstars side from the many fine players he played alongside and/or managed. Andy Watters writes…

1 Martin McCrory (UUJ)

HE was on my first Freshers’ team at Jordanstown in 1988. We won the All-Ireland that year. I called him ‘Mr Cool’ because he was always so calm and reliable under pressure. He was a good shot-stopper, comfortable on the ball and he could organise the defence. The confidence he gave the defenders was outstanding. He also played Sigerson that year (Freshers could do that in those days) and he came at the last minute when Cathal Canavan got injured before the game. He produced a ‘Gordon Banks’ moment in that game and that won it for us. An outstanding, unflappable goalkeeper. 

2 Mark Doran (Longstone)

MARK just thrived on the job of stopping opposing forwards and the bigger the forward the more he rose to the challenge. As well as that, he loved nothing better than attacking – he would launch attack after attack and he was very comfortable on the ball. He was a nightmare for any forward and a dream player to manage. 

3 Mattie McGleenan (UUJ)

HE played at full-back in the Poly Freshers team for me. I don’t think he’d ever played there before you but never would have that it the way he played that year. He was outstanding. He commanded the square, he protected his defenders, he just neutralised everybody he marked and for a big player he was very sharp in the tackle and very strong in possession. He epitomised the mantra: ‘Do the simple things right and often’. He a man mountain, I remember in one game he drop-kicked the ball on our 21-yard line and it went wide at the other end of the field. A huge, huge player. 

4 Paul Donnelly (UUJ)

THIS is Paul of James-McCartan’s-boot fame. He marked him in the Ulster Championship when Tyrone played Down and James’ boot came off during the game and he grabbed it and threw it into the crowd at Clones! That was the third time that year he had marked him – he also marked him when we played Queen’s in the Ryan Cup and the Sigerson. Those three battles between the two of them were three of the most compelling battles I ever saw on a football field. Paul was so competitive, he didn’t give an inch even though he was very slight of build. He never gave a forward a moment’s peace or space and he always gave 100 per cent and relished every challenge that was put in front of him. 

5 Kevin McKernan (Burren)

I MANAGED Kevin for three years at Burren and he was undoubtedly one of the easiest footballers I managed such was his dedication and commitment to the team. In 2010, when we won our first championship, Kevin was at his ultimate best for club and county. He was marauding all over the pitch, making blocks and interceptions and launching attacks and he also contributed very consistently on the scoreboard. He has the full repertoire of skills and his performances were always of the highest quality. In 2011 I made him captain when we retained our Down title and he was at the forefront of that too. Just a complete footballer.

6 Kieran McNally (Bellaghy)

HE never let the team down. Very solid at centre half-back and a very driven player who demanded the best from everyone, no-one moreso than himself. A man of few words but he led by example and when he did speak the players really listened to him, he had that aura about him. He was very comfortable on the ball and loved nothing more than driving down the field and attacking with the ball. A very accomplished footballer, a leader and a very good person.

7 Mickey Gribben (St Gall’s)

I PLAYED with Mickey throughout my career. If you wanted a prototype for a modern wing-back, he would be the mould you would use. Hugely-talented as a basketball player as well and he always strove for perfection and he approached training and games with 100 per cent commitment. He seemed to stroll through games but he was a tremendous defender. He had very quick feet and hands and he used them repeatedly to intercept and dispossess forwards before threats even materialised. He had the ability to be in the right place at the right time and that allowed him to go about his business quietly and efficiently. I made him captain when I managed St Gall’s and he led by example every time he took the field. It was no surprise that he went on to captain the county too. 

8 Fergal Doherty (Bellaghy)

A WARRIOR. One of the most committed and fearsome competitors I’ve had the pleasure of managing. He just thrived in the engineroom and would go from his own 14-yard line to the opposition 14-yard line relentlessly, right throughout the game, taking all the hits, all the knocks and never saying a word. His efforts were always driven to helping the team, it was never about personal things. A great fielder of a ball with an engine that never stopped, he was the type of guy you wanted in the trenches with you. 

9 Kalum King (Bryansford)

IT was only when I worked with Kalum at Bryansford that I realised how good a footballer he was. Everyone knows about how big and strong he was but I came to admire the more subtle qualities of his game – the way he would use his hips to steer opponents away, how he would place his feet to provide cover for a team-mate to win breaking ball, the way he spread his arms to make space to win the ball… For such a big man he was very nimble on his feet, very subtle in his interventions. He had a calming effect on his team-mates – he never got flustered on the field and he went about his business very quietly but he was an extremely effective midfielder for both club and county.

10 Mark Poland (Longstone)

THEY always say that good things come in small packages and it’s definitely true of this man. He was my captain at Longstone for three of the four years I was there. He was a leader who demanded everything, firstly from himself, and then those around him. He had the great ability to win his own ball no matter what possession he was under and once he gained possession he rarely lost it. He was a brilliant playmaker and he had the ability to see the right pass and, more importantly, execute it and it always led to scores for us. A stalwart for his club and county; an outstanding player. 

11 Ross Carr (Clonduff)

WHAT can I say about this man? He first played for me when I was at Clonduff in 1990 and I returned 10 years later in 2000 and made him captain – he’d never been captain in all the time he had played! We won the championship that year and Ross played centre half-forward surrounded by five kids in the forward line. Ross drove that team forward with his top drawer performances and determination and made sure that my gameplans and instructions were carried out to the letter. His left foot was so good, whether he was taking a score or delivering a defence-splitting pass, that he really didn’t need a right foot. Probably the best captain I ever had and I’ve had some really good ones. A brilliant player and an even better person who I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know.  

12 Eamon McGovern (Burren)

IT’S always said that you need a man in your team to do the heavy-lifting and put in the hard yards and Eamon was that player – Mr Consistency. He worked relentlessly all over the field in order for the team to succeed. Strong, athletic and he had an engine that allowed him to run all day. No challenge that I presented, or the opposition presented, was ever too tough for Eamon and he thrived on doing that dirty work, the unselfish role that every team needs. He was a major contributor to Burren winning two championships. 

13 Ronan Fitzpatrick (UUJ)

HE played in the UUJ Freshers team and he didn’t need to be told that his role was to score. He would defy any number of opponents or lack of space to produce a score when you didn’t think it was possible. Hard-running wasn’t his game but smart-running was and he was a very confident player who never doubted what he could do. The number of times he saved us in that All-Ireland campaign were just too numerous to mention. A committed team player, he used the ball well and winning the game was all that mattered to him. I remember many times thinking to myself: ‘Don’t shoot’ as he lined up a shot only for him to come up with a score out of nothing. He had a killer instinct on the field. 

14 PJ O’Hare (St Gall’s)

A SUPERB player who had to get the number 14 jersey. He is the only player on this team that I never managed but I was lucky enough to play with PJ and also play under him when he became player/manager of our Ulster Championship-winning St Gall’s team in 1982. He played full-forward in that team and he was a very accomplished basketball player which helped him become a very effective ball-winner. He could score from anywhere but the thing that stands out for me was his awareness of where other players where on the field and his ability to bring them into the game. He had a football brain many years ahead of his time. In recent years we’ve seen goalkeepers coming out and soloing up the field but PJ had our goalkeeper doing that in the late 1970s. 

15 Collie Curran (Clonduff)

I WORKED with him in 1990 when he was around 19. Even at that point you could see he was something special. A total team player who was a joy to coach, he had tremendous ability, great strength and belief in himself. I played Collie as part of a two-man full-forward line and he wasn’t the biggest in the world but he was physically very strong in possession and always had the ability to make something happen. He could often do the work of two or three people to get us over the line. He lost his life in a car accident but I’ve never forgotten watching him perform that year and being in awe of what he did.  

Substitutes:

The strength of a team should be gauged by the bench and there’s a lot of talent on this one. I offer my apologies to all these players who didn’t make the final 15 and also to the many other wonderful players who names have not found their way into print.

Gerry Moore (St Gall’s), Cathal Murdock (Burren), Gareth O’Neill (UUJ), Chris Lawn (Moortown), Sean Kelly (Antrim), David O’Neill (Bellaghy), Ambrose Rodgers (Longstone), John Kennedy (St Gall’s), Kevin Diamond (Bellaghy), Conor Maginn (Bryansford)

Overview

I’D love to have a virtual-reality game with my team against any of the other teams that have been picked in this series and I would fancy my team. Doing this has made me feel very lucky to have worked with these players. Originally I thought I’d just pick from the four clubs I managed to win championships with to make it easy for myself but then I thought about all the other players I would be leaving out! So I decided to pick from all the teams – 18 of them – that I’ve managed but if somebody featured in another team in this series I left them out. 

When I started I came up with a list of 74, I brought it down to 34 and then finished with this team. What sets these 15 players apart is that I still talk about all of them today – their talent and ability still shines for me and that makes them stand out. Doing this made me realise the great players I had the privilege of coaching but not only are they players, they became friends and they still are to this day.     

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