DENIS O’HARA’S compelling collection of riveting stories on the history of GAA progress in County Antrim, is titled ‘Corrigan Park – A Place Apart’.
The hardback book offers a fascinating insight to decades of devotion by Antrim Gaels. The narrative, the eighth book compiled by retired journalist O’Hara, has 332 pages. It includes nostalgic illustrations and images. Featured are absorbing mini-style biographies of legendary football, camogie, and hurling personalities.
The 52 chapters have their own individual yarn of past exploits in what is a compulsively readable chronicle, with the pages almost blissfully able to turn themselves. There are ‘live’ interviews with many outstanding players from not only within the county but also some of Ulster’s notable athletes who paraded their mesmeric skills on the old pitch at Corrigan Park.
The list includes outstanding Derry footballer Jim McKeever, Down’s iconic first All-Ireland football championship-winning captain Kevin Mussen, the Mourne county’s 1961 title-winning skipper Paddy Doherty, Down’s 1968 Sam Maguire Cup medal winner Jim Milligan, and Down and Ulster hurling stylist Charlie McMullan.
Also highlighted are Fermanagh’s Peter McGinnity, Donegal’s Brian McEniff, Tyrone great John Joe O’Hagan, Derry’s Larry Diamond, and Armagh legends – Joe Kernan and Jimmy Smyth.
While the author insists the live and anecdotal recall is not the definitive article, as far as Antrim’s GAA history is concerned, this extensive array of revealing recall provides, nonetheless, a valuable record of many stirring happenings.
The book touches on how the GAA games survived during the beginning of the 20th century, and then really took off in south Antrim when the County Board purchased a plot of land along the edge of the Whiterock Road in the late 1920’s. The arena held the 1940’s summertime Corrigan Park Week that once attracted Father Flanagan of ‘Boys Town’ fame.
In 1953, Corrigan Park was in the hands of the progressive St John’s GAC. From there mushroomed the famous ‘Top Four’ football tournament. The famous Johnnies also produced an assembly line of wonderfully committed hurlers and footballers such as the Gallagher and McCallin families.
On display are the varied adventures of Antrim’s glorious All-Ireland winning camogie teams, the five-title haul starting at Cappoquin. Also, the nearly men of the 1943 hurling, and the 1946 and 1951 football teams – moving on to the 1969 Under-21 county football heroes, and the 1970 Intermediate hurlers.
There is special tribute to outstanding camogie players and personalities, such as Marie O’Gorman making history as captain of Antrim’s first championship-winning team, Mairead Magill (nee McAtamney), Jane Adams, Maeve Gilroy, Teresa Kearns, Mary McGarry, Bridie O’Neill, Peg Dooey, Nancy Milligan, Sue Cashman.
The male players in the spotlight include the county’s first ‘All Star’ footballer Andy McCallin, his uncle Joe McCallin, Kevin Armstrong, Seamus ‘Stout’ McDonald, Paddy O’Hara, Robbie Elliott, Danny McAllister, John Butler, Sam Mulholland, Seamus Gallagher, Eddie and Des Donnelly, Sean Burns, Peter O’Hara, Eamonn and Aidan Hamill.
Also – Gilly McIlhatton, Olcan McFetridge, Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton, Seamus Richmond, Brendan ‘The Bear’ Donnelly, Noel Campbell, Tony McAtamney, Patsy Lynn, Randal McDonnell, Sean Gibson, Bobby McMullan, Aidan McCamphill, Niall Wheeler, Des O’Neill, Eddie Spence, and Frankie Hamill.