|Founded in 1888||Young Irelands|
|Abbey Park||Social Club|
|Roll of Honour||Team of the Millennium|
|1958 Championship Winners||Jack Brattan|
|1989 Championship Winners||John Corvan|
|1991 Championship Winners||Twin Grimleys|
|1977 All-Ireland Final Representatives|
Armagh Harps Foundation were founded in 1888 in an attempt to generate the spirit of Gaelic games and national culture in Armagh. Harps represented Armagh in the Ulster Final beating Cookstown's Owen Roes, but losing to All-Ireland Champions Middleton of Cork in the All-Ireland Semi-Final.
These were the days of 21 players in a team. Many of these first Harps players have descendants playing today:- Harps 1890 was Joseph Donnelly, James McGerizen, Patrick Knipe, Hugh O'Neill, Thomas Allen, Patrick Molloy, Jack Mullan, James Deegan, Jack Fitzpatrick, James Lennon, John Vallely, Henry & William Thomas, Ned Mallon, James & Barney Corr, William Slevin, Owen McKenna, John Mulholland, Hugh Carberry, Charles O'Neill and William J. Mckernon, grandfather of a later Harps stalwart Buddy McArdle.
During these years, Harps, along with Tir na nOg and Phelim Brady's kept football strong until the decline during the years 1910-15.
It was in 1916 that Armagh Young Irelands were formed but opinion seems to favour the view that this club was one and the same as Armagh Harps with many committee and playing personnel being interlinked between the two. Fr.Peter Kerr (1989-91 Senior Team Manager) has studied these years in depth and has read of intense rivalry at matches with players arriving on horseback with two valuable pieces of equitment - a sledge hammer and a crowbar! John Vallely, Frank McAvinchey, Joe Harney and Jack Corrigan, were outstanding personalities at this time and all were part of Armagh's All-Ireland junior winning team of 1926. Also prominent was Joe Houlahan, grand Uncle of Gerard Houlahan, and of course the legendary Jim McCullough.
Two other vital mediums for football during the early 40's were the St.Malachy's Club under the guidance of Patsy Irwin from Primrose Hill and the legendary streets league, started by Carvan Peter McDonnell (uncle of Fr.McDonnell), Harps Honorary Vice President. The Athletic Grounds was often filled to capacity during these titanic struggles especially those between Navan Street and Irish Street.
With a generation of interest in Gaelic games, Harps were reformed in 1945 under its present name following a meeting in the City Cinema (Now the Foresters Club). The following officials were elected to administer the club; Jim Cooney, (chairman) R.I.P, P.J Toner (Secretary), John McCusker, (Treasurer) R.I.P, Joe Houlahan, Hugh Cassidy, Jim McCullough (R.I.P), John Lenagh (R.I.P), Gerry Hicks, Pat Garvey (R.I.P), Jack Corrigan, Pat Houlahan, Committee. These were the men who were to carry on the heritage of dedication and tradition from the earliest days of the GAA at grass roots level. The scene was set for greater achievements still.
Abbey Park can be traced back to the time of St. Malachy (1094-1148) where father taught at the old abbey which was sited behind where the present Parochial House stands in the city of Armagh.
The monks of the Abbey owned land which stretched almost to the Grange and was used by them for growing crops and vegetables. With the reformation in the 16th Century the lands of the Abbey were seized from the monks and given to Lord Charlemont. The Lord in due course built a park for the servants - and hence the name "Abbey Park".
During the 19th Century the park came into the hands of the Vincentian Order at St. Patricks College. It was from the Vincentians that Armagh Harps purchased the grounds for the new Abbey Park in 1979. The pitch was laid and developed in 1983 by Coalisland contractor Mr. Patsy Campbell and completed in 1984. It was then left to settle down.
The first Senior match took place in 1986 between Harps and Killeavy in the League. Around that time 600 trees were planted on the outer perimeter of the grounds. When the pitch settled down it was in constant demand by Harps teams from under-8 upwards and also for Ulster Colleges matches, Hurling, Camogie, Ladies Football, schools games & also for Mid-Armagh and County championship fixtures.
The foundations for the new dressing rooms complex were laid in 1988, but no further progress was made for over 4 years dur to financial commitments - mainly social club refurbishment. A "Two year Draw" was launched in 1992 which was very successful in raising much needed finance for the dressing rooms development. A further boost came from the "Foundation for sports and the Arts" who provided assistance to the tune of £90,000. However the remainder of the finance needed to complete the development had to be found through fundraising ventures which received magnificent backing from club members.
By 1995 development work was now in full swing at Abbey Park with further progress on the dressing rooms, security fencing & pitch resodding completed. The committee then turned its attention to the provision of an all-weather pitch, car parking area, covered stand for 500 spectators and floodlighting. The all-weather pitch is dual purpose - teams' training and carparking for major championship games.
The impressive two-storey dressing rooms consists of 4 changing rooms, each with its own shower unit, committee room, referee's room with shower facility, and viewing area upstairs which incorporates public address system and press facilities.
New Dug-outs have been constructed on the main pitch and just recently the dressing rooms have undergone more improvements. But further work is required before Abbey Park development is complete - tarmacing, new inner fencing, terracing on the stand side, modern scoreboard and new entrance.
Club Historian Phil McGinn says "This development would never have got to its present stage had it not been for the reliability and constant support of club members and supporters - who continually responded when money was needed. All of us at Armagh Harps G.F.C feel proud of such a wonderful development at the new Abbey Park - The Home of Na Clairsigh Ard Mhacha."
In December, 1978 there was a real possibility of Armagh Harps folding completely with a terrible apathy having crept in throughout the previous year. Eamon O’Hagan and John McCarthy in consultation with the newly elected chairman John Morrison decided to bid for the site known as Gillis Houses on the Loughall Road. With the assistance of Mr. Barney McManus, the site was purchased for a sum of £10,000 since that day in January, 1979 the club has gone from strength to strength culminating in the recent purchase of Abbey Park, a 7 acre site near our club on which pitches have now been developed. By July 1979 the old houses had been flattened and the site cleared and the first building begun.
By March 1980 the building was complete and ready for use and we are happy to record the club opened its doors for community service on Wednesday 2nd April 1980. The highlight of our club life was the visit of Mr. Patrick MacFlynn, President of the GAA to officially open our premises on Wednesday 28th May, 1980.
|Founded||1888 (Known as Young Irelands 1917-1941)|
|Colours||White with Blue togs and trimmings|
|Teams||Senior 'B', U-21, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10.|
|S.F.C Winners: 1889, 1890, 1891, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1917, 1918, 1928 - 1932 (4), 1934, 1946, 1952, 1955, 1957, 1958, 1989, 1991|
|County Minor||1949, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1968, 1980, 1985, 2002, 2003|
|'B'||1981, 1984, 1985, 1998, 2002, 2003|
|U-16||1976, 1978, 1983, 1984|
Harps Team of the Millennium, as chosen by club members
|Dominic Clarke||Jack Bratton||John Kearney|
|John Toner (jnr)||Martin Kelly||Matt Grimley|
|Sean (Dingle) Daly||Joe Cunningham||Sean Devlin|
|Pat Campbell||John Grimley||John Corvan|
As one might expect in an exercise such as this there are upwards of a dozen other men who would have been entitled to have been elected to this team and no one would have quibbled. Nor can anyone quibble with the final choice.
An interesting fact about our team is the length of service many have given to Harps, with some of their playing years covering a whole decade and sometimes parts of two others.
To show the quality of this team, three of them represented Ireland; eight played for Ulster with seven of them winning Railway Cup medals; ten more won Ulster Championship medals at either senior or minor level; five played in an All Ireland Senior Football Final and four were nominated for places on County Armagh’s Millennium team.
|Joe Houlahan in goal began playing for Young Irelands in the late 1920s and was still playing when Harps won the Senior County title in 1946. A founder member in 1946, he played six times for Ulster (1931-37) and was a regular on the Armagh County team then. In 1932 he was chosen to represent Ireland in the famous Tailteann Games.|
Dominic Clarke only retired in 2001 seventeen years after turning out for the club in the 1984 County Senior final. He has been invaluable to Harps through all those years and has been chosen four times as Senior Player of the Year.
Dominic can be linked with John Toner whose story is similar and who has played so often with Dominic. The voters must have remembered John as the accomplished half back he was, but he could so easily have been chosen at centre half forward. Both players were regulars on the county team for many years.
|John Kearney and Matt Grimley can also be mentioned in the one breath as they played for years together on the left wing of defence. Each would tell you how much the other meant to the team, Matt with his intelligent play and delightful footwork and John with his motto, “Thou shalt not pass”. Matt along with his brother Gerald was unlucky not to have played more often for the county, but at that time, the mid to late fifties, competition for places was keen.
Gerald Grimley was a brilliant player who could play in any position. He so often was an inspiration to Harps when things weren’t going so well, turning games in their favour with vital scores, usually goals.
|Three others who must go together are Jack Bratton, Pat Campbell and Joe Cunningham, all members of Harps great fifties team, all members of the Armagh team which so very nearly captured Sam Maguire in 1953 and all members of the Ulster team which won the Railway Cup in 1956, a time when that competition was much more prestigious and when it was so difficult to win.
|Conn Shortt in his history of Armagh wrote about the high fielding of Bratton and the body swerve of Cunningham which left many top players trailing in his wake, and of course there is photographic evidence of one of the highest catches ever in Croke Park, made by Pat Campbell. In the Railway Cup semi final of 1956 when Ulster beat Connaught 3-7 to 1-4, one newspaper report said “Cunningham along with Carolan of Cavan was brilliant, Bratton was outstanding at full back and Campbell had a glorious second half when he moved to full forward”
In the final when Munster were beaten 0-12 to 0-4 the Harps trio were even more outstanding. Again from a National newspaper, “Bratton had the game of his life holding “Three goal Murphy” and others scoreless. Cunningham gave an exhibition seldom seen in Croke Park, and Campbell scored six points, half of Ulsters’ total”.
Martin Kelly, Sean Devlin and Sean (Dingle) Daly were members of Harps seventies team who were still playing first team football in the mid eighties and even further. The two Seans were great forwards who notched up plenty of scores during their careers for club and county and didn’t let anyone down when they played in the 1977 All Ireland Football Final. Who can forget Martin Kelly in action, always giving one hundred percent and covering practically every blade of grass in every game. In full flight he was almost unstoppable and was certainly inspirational.
|The Grimley Twins, Mark and John of course are inextricably linked, playing with Harps senior team from the tender age of seventeen. Again they never gave less than one hundred percent, (though they had more than their fair share of injuries) whether playing for Harps, Armagh or Ulster. They reached the pinnacle in 1990 when chosen for the Ireland team which travelled to Australia to take on the home team in the Compromise Rules Series.
And finally, John Corvan at number fifteen. From an early age the title of “genius” was easily applied, but it was one that was worthy of the man. To put it simply, he did things on the field of play and took scores that were thought impossible. Who can forget the buzz of anticipation that ran through the crowd at the 1991 County Senior Final when Harps introduced John, who was home on holiday from Australia, in the second half when Maghery were getting on top. He didn’t disappoint and had a big say in helping a fourteen man Harps team to victory.
It was no surprise either when John was voted “Harps Player of the Millennium”
In 1958 Harps lost their league title. At the top for eight years with literally hundreds of league, championship challenge and tournament games behind them – the tracks were beginning to show.
But the championship was still their number one objective following a first round bye, they defeated Crossmaglen Rangers 3-7 to 2-3 with one newspaper report saying the games outstanding feature was Harps teamwork with Murtagh, Kearney, Harney and Nugent solid defence and O’Neill and Hanratty tops in the forwards.
Madden were Harps semi-final opponents and played better than the score line 1-11 to 0-5, in favour of Harps might suggest. Twice Harps defender gave away penalties and twice Des Brutton in goals saved.
Meanwhile old foes Keady Dwyers had won their way through to the final in the other half of the draw. This would be the fourth Harps v Keadys final since 1952 and the score was 2-1 in Keadys favour.
The rivalry was as keen as ever and the report in the Armagh Guardian said “the record crowd was kept on it’s toes until the last whistle”. From the beginning every ball was contested with intense ardour which left no room for polished performances and with the result in doubt right to the end, rival supporters were besides themselves with anxiety.
While Keady had the better of exchanges in the first half it was Harps who went ahead with yet another official goal, by that man Carisle. Dwyers fought back but found Murtagh, Jack Bratton and especially Kearney almost impassable. Gradually however two points from Harry Loughran and one from Crowe brought them back to level terms. Each side had its chances to go in front again but it was Dwyers who edged ahead just before the interval with a Brendan O’Neill point.
Half -time - Dwyers 0-4 Harps 1-0
On the restart Keady continued to attack but then Harps mentors again made one of their inspirational switches moving Ambrose McKeever back and Matt Grimley up to bolster the attack. Matt and his brother Gerry linked up to aply heavy pressure on the Keady defence and despite the heroics of Seamus Finnegan in the Keady goals, the equalising point came from Malachy McMahon.
Even bad injuries to Des Harney anf Jim Campbell failed to upset Harps as their replacements Peter Lavery and Tony Lappin fitted in perfectly and showed plenty of grit. Towards the end it was all Harps but the scores wouldn’t come. Then amid great tension Lappin made a break and sent the ball up to the square where John Hanratty gained possession and tapped over.
The report tells us that it was an unforgettable moment as he was surrounded by his team mates while the supporters among the crowd were equally enthusiastic.
A few moments later the final whistle sounded, and the McKillop Cup was presented to Jack Bratton, by Mr. John O’Neill a Killeavy Gael who was home on holiday from New York.
Harps team: Des Bratton, John Murtagh, Jack Bratton, John Kearney, Brendan Nugent, Des Harney, Matt Grimley, Gerry Grimley, Eddie O’Neill, Malachy McMahon, Jim Campbell, John Hanratty, John Toner, Ambrose McKeever, Jim Carlisle.
Subs-Peter Lavery, Tony Lappin, Brian Connleey, Phil McGinn.
Armagh Harps 3-09 St.Pauls 2-08
At around 5 p.m. on Sunday 10th September 1989 Harps captain John Grimley hoisted the Mckillop Cup amidst absolute euphoria and unprecedented scenes of jubilation. Harps 3-9 to 2-8 victory over a gallant St.Paul's team meant that john was the first Harps captain to carry out this task since the great Jack Bratten, 31 years before in 1958. "The long wait is over!", "the bridge has been gaped!" were the cries that echos from the shambles to Abbey Park, and from Banbrook to Longstone, all known Harps territory. True, the fifties formed an integral part of Harps "history" (indeed they became known as The Glory Years) but to search for Harps tradition one must delve back another 60 years to the late 1880's where it source can be found. To find such information such places as local library headquarters, or the Irish Reference Department of the National Library have had to be used.
In his quest to seek out this tradition, one of Harps finest officers and committee men, Phil McGinn has been researching Harps history in an effort to compile the complete story of Armagh Harps. The greatest pitfall in such a task is not what to put in but the danger of leaving some event or person out.
Armagh Harps destroyed the modern footballing myth that they were easy prey in championship finals. The victory restored the title of 'champions' to a club which has always considered itself the 'premier' club.
Sunday 10th September 1989 was a perfect setting, a well manicured Athletic Grounds, and a fine day augured well for an open sporting contest and that's what 5,000 spectators witnessed. Pre-match experts had plenty to consider and debate. Who would the Harps play in the now vacant full back position? Would the Harps management gamble and play John Grimley at centre half-forward? Had Kieran McNally's sojourn in the States dulled his footballing skills or could he cope with a ramaging Harps captain? The debate continued as the teams appeared onto the field.
Martin Grimley lined out at Full Back, Adrian Moore became Mickey McDonald's shadow and McNally and John Grimley faced each other in a crucial head-to-head. Malachy Gribben opened the scoring and four minutes later St.Pauls had forced ahead 2 points to 1. Harps came back again through Eamon Kelly. The game was very open and the football keen and lively. Mark Grimley began to Dominate. Harps continued to press and John Grimley fed the advancing McGleenan for a forceful point. Tony McParland brought St.Pauls back into the game with a clever point after one of the games intriguing incidents. A High ball bounced on the crossbar and was gathered by Marty Grimley whose clearance was blocked down to a St.Pauls forward. Under severe pressure the Harps defence stood up and forced St.Pauls out and wide but McParland cleverly made room and took the point. John Grimley replied with a high catch and a drive between the posts, so simple yet so difficult.
Then the Harps scored a goal! A ball into the corner was won and despatched to the square by John Toner. Kieran McNally jumped to catch and found John Grimley bombing in to put the ball in the net. The green flag indicated a goal. Declan McCoy's' role in the final was one that may have been overlooked on the day, but thanks to the wonders of video it is very clear how he picked up the loose ball and fetched and carried through the game - a crucial role. (H-Time - Harps1-6 St.Pauls 0-4).
As the game resumed Harps looked comfortably placed and seemed to have underlined the difference between the two divisions. Liam McCorry knocked over an early score for St.Pauls. John Toner pointed a '45' to restore Harps five point advantage.
Eamon Kelly received the ball wide on the left and sent the ball into the box where Andrew Clarke collected and drove the ball into the net. Minutes later St.Pauls had the ball in the net and they were back in it. Tony McParland showing real ability took a good point and the game was no longer so certain. Jim O'Hare then entered the fray for Gareth McGleenan.
Emphatically and remorselessly Mark Grimley demanded that Harps win the game as he won the ball and fed O'Kane, Toner and McCoy, who all wasted chances. Tony McParland , once again claimed a point as St.Pauls refused to lie down. Eight minutes remained - Malachy Gribben used that left foot once again to take his second point.
The stage was set for a crucial score and what a score. Harps put all that coaching into effect and scored a memorable goal without a St.Pauls player touching the ball. Art McGinn's kickout found who else but Mark Grimley. Marks catch was relayed to Jim O'Hare who found the prowling Barry Ryan. Barry kicked high and the captain took a hand with a catch, a swivel, and a pass to Malachy Gribben. Malachy cut inside two defenders, fought of a despairing lunge and fired home with his right foot. The blessings of being two-footed! A score worthy of the moment. Now Harps had the cup won - or had they? St. Paul's continued to press and a fierce drive from Shane Mc Conville was spectacularly saved by Art McGinn only for that opportunist Mickey Mc Donald to be on hand to shoot home. That was the final effort and Jim Murphy blew the whistle to end the match and start a four-day carnival which began in the Athletic Grounds and took root for a four-day period in the shambles.
Art McGinn had a sound match and his full back line of Rath, Grimley and McConville stuck doggedly to their task against a forward line who dwarfed them only in physique. Andrew Clarke, Eamon Kelly and Gareth McGlennan all proved their ability to take vital scores, points already recorded.
Malachy Gribben had the game all footballers dream about and well he deserved it. Caption John destroyed the threat of Kieran McNally and emerged as caption in every sense of the word playing the true caption's role. Mark Grimley won the Man Of The Match Award, and no-one would dare argue. A competitive open game with numerous patches of good football and many highlights was a fine advertisement for football.
Referee Jim Murphy allowed what was a relatively free flowing game to ebb and flow and he deserves praise. Total commitment by players, management and officials had come to fruit on a marvellous September day.
Armagh Harps 0-11 Maghery 1-07
Harps decision to play John Corvan, home on vacation from Australia, proved correct as the former Ulster and County star inspired the team to a well deserved victory when introduced early in the second half.
The last quarter was truly pulsating with the winner only coming in the dying moments. Harps could have been left to rue their extreme wastefulness, accumulating 13 wides to Maghery's three. When Liam Fox scored the only goal of the game 13 minutes into the second half giving them a two point lead, history was very much on the cards. But the loughshore men were to be denied that opportunity, mainly through the genius of Corvan and Big Mark Grimley who had the game of his life at midfield and was the automatic choice for 'man of the match'.
Not alone did Corvan's introduction inspire Harps, their opponents panicked particularly in defence where they had been playing the extra man. there was one time when four Maghery defenders went to pick up Corvan as he ran for a ball. Corvan was no sooner on the field until he set up the equaliser for Harps and was involved in all of their remaining scores.
Had Harps lost they could have justifiably felt aggrieved. They scored a point in each half which wasn't awarded and the Maghery goal was suspicious. It seemed as if Harps goalkeeper Art McGinn was pushed into the net as he hesitated for a high tentative lob from Marty Toye, finished to the net by the in-running Liam Fox.
"Extra Man" No Benefit
Maghery were never able to utilise the extra man properly and for long periods it looked as if Harps had "him", such was the extent of their outfield dominance. It was superbly motivated, well drilled and remarkably fit Harps and this victory will surely be recorded as one of the sweetest in the club's long and illustrious history. If Harps had lost it would have meant that Harps would have lost five out of their last six finals in eight years.
It's worth noting that any of those teams that beat harps in a final never came back to contest another with them. So it could be argued that Harps have been the most consistent team in the county over those eight years.
The entire Harps defence gave an excellent display. especially the half-backs Brian O'Kane, flanked by captain Adrian Moore and Malachy McCoy. Dominic Clarke at Full back was another one of the stars. Midfield belonged entirely to Mark Grimley but it wasn't until Corvan joined the Harps forward-line that they began to buzz. Aidan Breen, playing top of the left caught the eye and also landed three good points. The sides were level seven times and when it seemed as if the match would finish a draw up popped John Toner with the winner.
Big john Lined as Mark Takes Control, plus Corvan entrance
The Big full-forward won his free but swung his arm striking a Maghery defender. He was ordered to the line. Despite being down to 14 men Harps remained in control with Mark Grimley, obviously enraged at his brothers departure, became totally unstoppable, not alone in midfield but all over the Park. John Rath, having his best game in the championship, saved Harps bacon with a great interception. By the 33rd minute Maghery had regained the lead. declan McCoy and Gribben brought Harps wides tally to eleven before Gribben was replaced by Corvan which brought a great buzz of excitment to the ground. with his very first touch Corvan showed he had lost none of his old skills, setting up Declan McCoy for a 38th minute equaliser. A minute later, Harps who had stepped up a few gears in every department went ahead through Eamon Kelly.
The game had improved enormously and Corvan laid on the simplest of chances for Kelly who had his shot blocked and Maghery's goal came from the counter-attack. It was a speculative lob from Martin Toye in the 43rd minute that created the score and the bulk of the blame must lie with Harps keeper Art McGinn who hesitated. The ball bounced perilously in front of him and next thing both ball and goalkeeper were in the back of the net, corner forward Liam Fox taking the credit for the goal. Harps battled on and curled over a 46th minute free kick. The Harps forward line was given added experience when veteran Sean Devlin replaced early point scorer Richie Nugent. Harps, trailing by a single point were very much in the driving seat and after captain Moore had kicked a long wide, Breen drove a loose ball over the bar from the edge of the Maghery square, after Corvan had harassed a Maghery defender causing him to lose possession. and so for the fifth time the teams were locked together, but not for long. Dixie Robinson landed the best point of the day, from out near the sideline. It looked a winner but gallant Harps were not to be denied and Toner from a free won by Corvan, squared things once again.
In the 54th Minute Robinson restored Maghery's one point lead but one minute later Harps were equal to it Breen grabbing his third. With five minutes left, both Corvan and Devlin missed chances of the winner, finally secured by Toner from a move that began in the Full-back line with Dominic Clarke and led of to Toner from that man again Corvan. Harps captain Adrian Moore received the McKillop cup from league board chairman Mr Pat McMahon.
Art McGinn, John Rath, Dominic Clarke, Barry Ryan, Adrian Moore (captain), Brian O'Kane (0-1), Malachy McCoy, Mark Grimley, Declan McCoy (0-1), Ritchie Nugent (0-1), John Toner (0-3), Eamon Kelly (0-1), Malachy Gribben, John Grimley, Aidan Breen (0-3). Subs - John Corvan (0-1) for Gribben, Sean Devlin for Nugent.
JACK Bratton never imagined when he took his first faltering steps in the Armagh jersey in 1950 that he would go on to become one of the most outstanding full-backs ever to emerge from Ulster
Even now at 71 -he would pass for 10 years younger -this most modest and unassuming of men cuts an imposing figure, the original gentle giant. It was after a scintillating start to his club career with Armagh Harps that Jack graduated to the county colours and two Ulster Championship medals quickly followed, complemented by three Lagan Cup medals.
His consistency earned him a call-up to the Ulster side for the Railway Cup and his 1956 medal is still one of his most treasured possessions. In winning that medal Jack pitted his skills against the greatest player he ever encountered, Galway and Connacht ace Sean Purcell. "What a player. He was superb and I can tell you I had my hands full. Not only was he a great sportsman, he was also a gentleman," reflects Jack.
Armagh's abortive All Ireland final bid against Kerry in 1953 is the perennial topic of debate when people meet Jack. "That match always seems to come up in conversation," he smiles. Magnificent "But although we lost, we had some magnificent players. I always think it is gratifying that even younger people today can talk about those men with awe -that is a measure of their status within the game."
But Jack's sporting life was not without its setbacks.He spent two years sidelined with disc trouble and fulfilled the role of a reluctant spectator. "The trouble came at a bad time for me but I've no complaints. Many players have had to suffer long- term injuries in their careers and I was lucky enough to pick up a few honours along the way, " he says. His four senior championship medals -coming on the heels of his minor accolades -with Harps were not the only club honours that Jack amassed.
Like good wine, he seemed to get better with age - a fact acknowledged even by present day Tir na nOg officials within the portals of which club Jack is still highly revered. Apart from the occasional appearance at centre half-back or midfield, Jack played all his football at Full-back.
" I just slotted into the position from the start. I always felt comfortable there and I'm just thrilled to have been apart of those Harps and Armagh teams," says Jack. He adds: "Gaelic football has given me unbelievable pleasure down through the years and I never tire of looking back on games and enjoying the craic with friends and supporters.
Arguably the most talented footballer and indeed sportsman to emerge from Armagh City in modem times and from a very early age was quite simply a genius with a ball. Grew up at Windmill and went to Armagh C.B.S. Primary School, which was then as it is now a great nursery for Armagh footballers. From his early teens, his under-age mentors within Harps (Eamon O'Hagan, John McCarthy, Brendan McArdle) had recognised something special and as a result he was playing U-14, U-16 and U-18 football, three years before his time. However, he was not just making up numbers, he was staring for these teams.
Despite his presence and the fact that Harps had many fine under-age players, Corvan never won an under- age championship with Harps but did achieve that success with Cuchullains whom he played his hurling with. More success came when wearing the colours of Armagh C.B.S. Grammar
school where he developed his skills under the watchful eye ofP.E. teacher Jimmy McKeown and Brother Kelly. (now Principal of St. Patrick's Grammar). Here he was to "come into his own" winning 2 All-Ireland Colleges 'B' medals. and 3 McClarnon Cup medals between 1975 and 1978. His goal scoring exploits for the Brothers were to become legendary for those who remember games in Tullamore, Portar1ington and finally in Croke Park in Apri11978. These games attracted huge crowds and fleets of buses would leave Armagh early on Sunday mornings to make the long journey southwards.
In the All-Ireland semi-final of 1976 at Clones. the Brothers found themselves five points down with only minutes left. Jimmy McKeown went behind the goal being attacked by the Brothers and relayed a message to the sixteen year old Corvan that two goals were needed. With the next two attacks. Corvan had conjured up two magical goals and Armagh were in the fma1. By 1978. he was a "Veteran" of the college level as captain of C.B.S. which included other Harps players. Marty Grimley. Mickey Curley, John McConville. Sean Hart with players from Pearse Ogs such as Sean Gordan. Tommy Martin. Gerry Guy and Paul Turley. At centre-half forward he was unstopab1e. the dynamo to a machine that surely would have won a McCrory cup and Hogan Cup had they been entered. In the McClarnon Final. a heavily bandaged Corvan scored
Harps win the title. sixteen years after he had played in his first county final for Harps as a sixteen year old. For sheer footballing talent. Johnny Corvan had it all. Although not remembered as a fielder. few will forget his catch between two Maghery defenders from Benny O'Kanes high ball seconds after his appearance in '91. That catch was not about height reached by Mark Grimley . or the great Pat Campbell but another attribute he had in abundance- timing. His ability to time his runs. passes or leaps was impeccable. He knew when to hold the ball up. give it long or short or simply stand and juggle with it. His left foot was lethal in front of gaols on the ground or with the ball in his hand and from an early age he has mastered the "solo, dummy, and body-swerve to take him past defenders. Many did try and keep his to him right foot but to their cost as he was almost as skilful and deadly with it. Put all these attributes together with a footballing brain that was able to plan moves. runs and passes with lightning speed. He would make runs and tell players where to go to take a pass from him. He could draw defender out of position to leave space for others. causing havoc in opponents defences and as a free taker like Sean Daly and Sean Devlin, he was deadly accurate.
Many tributes have been paid to the genius that was John Corvan. that he was always two or three moves ahead of his own team-mates at county or club level. In 1983 the great Jack O'Shea visited Harps club through his Connections with John and left all members in no doubt that Corvan would have been good enough to claim a place on Mick O'Dwyers Team of All Talents. Only last year the great Charlie Neilligan. as a guest on " know your sport" stated that along with Jimmy Barry Murphy. Corvan was the most dangerous forward he had ever faced.
Probably most pleasing of all is the fact that quite a number of todays senior panel have named his as their favourite player of all time and indeed his is still the yard-stick that many talented under-age footballers are measured by. A player who will he remembered not only by the goals or points but by the way he scored them. his ability to conjure up something out of nothing. turning defences inside out. leaving defenders in his wake bemused and shaking their heads in disbelief with the ball in the net. Will we ever see his likes again?
for the All-Ireland Colleges 'B' final at Croke Park. a rain-swept day in April in Croke Park where he scored 3- 7 from the Brothers total 3-10. The next ten years, he was to become a household name Armagh and Harps lining out usually in the full forward line. In 1987 he emigrated to Australia with his wife. But fate decided that he would win his first county medal for his beloved Harps and this occurred in 1991 when Harps appearance in the county final co-incided with his coming home for for brother Pauls wedding. Having declined to join the panel at first. He later accepted and the rest they say is history. now part
Although known these days for his services in recent years to Armagh County team. he was first and foremost a Harpsman both as a player and former administrator. Like Devlin, Corvan and Daly. he was a key member of the Inteffi1ediate winning team of '74 and the senior final squad of '75.
|Armagh city, renowned for its majestic twin-spired Cathedral, also proudly boasts two famous twin footballers - the Grimleys, Mark and John, who have added a completely new dimension, not alone to football in the Orchard County, but Ulster as well.
The Harps and former county duo have also represented Ireland in the Compromise Rules Series. Not since the days of the legendary Jim McCullough has Armagh produced such powerful men, whose physique, strength and aerial ability must surely be the envy of every opponent. They are identical twins, in their former 'car man', Francie McGuigan, also the Armagh physio at the time, who ferried them around could not distinguish them. Aged 23 when they headed to Australia both men stood at 6' 2" and weighed 15 ½ stone.
Their fortune was to take a dramatic swing and were soon to add Railway and McKenna Cup medals. The twins are now only 70 minutes away from an Ulster medal and try telling them they aren't going to get it.
They just don't know the meaning of the word defeat, as Donegal manager Brian McEniff is fully aware. There is no more greater admirer of the lads than the Donegal boss who hadn't to think twice about their Railway Cup call-up considering they were relative newcomers to the inter-county scene. They were first picked for the county Senior team aged 20.
|Mark plays most of his football in the min-field. John has been alternating between the defence and attack. During the league he played full-back, Gareth O'Neill was sidelined through injury. It's worth nothing that since John moved into the back line in 1990 Armagh won the McKenna Cup without conceding a goal.
In the Championship win against Tyrone it was the same story and in the first half against Down in the drawn game, the ball still hadn't crossed the goal-line. John didn't appear for the second half, injured, and Down struck four goals. He was back for replay and there were no goals. His intimidating presence in the defence is having an adverse effect on most forwards.
||Indeed, it was Mark who was getting most of the praise and recognition for his spectacular high fielding in mid-field, but in the championship it has been John he was nominated 'Man Of The Match' in the Tyrone game.
On the field, the twins are fierce competitors; off it, quiet, shy and backward. They have an older brother, Paul, who plays for their city rivals, Pearse Og, and when both teams met in the quarter-final of the county championship in 1990, brotherly love was forgotten about.
Built Around Twins
When Armagh manager, Paddy Moriarty set about building his panel a number of years ago, he did it by using the Grimley brothers as the corner stones of his team construction. Their progress rate, however was quite remarkable, especially with the county team.
They are both old mould of Gaelic footballers, catch and kick style, and really detested the new rules. Infinitely more suited to the Australian rules their selection for the Ireland trails was an obvious one.
Was one of Harps seniors longest ever servants with a career that spanned twenty-three years. Sean made his senior debut against Madden in 1969 and from then on wore the Harps and Armagh jersey with distinction during his illustrious career.
In 1974, he was a member of John Dalys trail-blazing young Harps side that won the Intermediate championship and included great players like Sean "Dingle" Daly, Barry Digby, Marty Kelly, John Morrison, Frank Donnelly, Mick and Joe McKenna, Sean and Colm Doran, Niall Lappin, Eamon
Donnell y , Kevin Woods, Eamon O'Hagan. Dennis and Eddie Lappin, Paul Cartmill, Dennot and Gerry Cauldwell, Charlie Vernon, Peter Rafferty, Patsy Morgan, Pat McKenna, Paul Wasson and a youthful 15 year old John Corvan.
This team reached the county senior final in 1975 but the search for work had taken Sean to England and he missed the first drawn game and the replay which Crossmaglen won on October 18th by (0-9) to (0-4).
However, greater days were ahead for "Devvy". In 1977 Armagh beat Derry in the Ulster final and few can forget that first All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park against Roscommon. A series of brilliant performances for Harps that summer saw Sean receive a call-up to the county squad by manager Gerry O'Neill. In the first match, Armagh found themselves six points down with twenty minutes remaining. Changes were needed. Jim Finnegan was forced to retire, the great Tom McCreesh went to full back. Paddy Moriarty was reverted to centre-halfback and Sean Devlin was placed at right corner forward. History will record Armagh's fantastic comeback to draw level in front of 35,000 ecstatic followers.
Sean Devlin had played his part and he kept his place for the replay and the All-Ireland final against Dublin. At club level he continued to play for Harps in forwards and at midfield where his speed and stamina were vital to a Harps side that often struggled in the early 80's. He played on four losing finals and then injury struck in '89 weeks before Harps beat St. Pauls and he played no part in that game. However his ambition to play in a winning county final finally came true in 1991 when he entered the game as a second half substitute. The following year 1992 he was back again and scored Harps only goal in the first round when they were beaten by Carrickcruppin. Sadly this was to signal the end of a marvellous career.
As a footballer, Sean Devlin had many attributes and practised and trained constantly for club and county. He was a prolific scorer, deadly in front of goals with a blistering shot. He was a very accurate free taken anywhere from 50m inwards and used to practice for hours in the College field. For his height, he was a brilliant fielder but is most remembered for his lighting speed and his ability to career past defenders in top gear while keeping total control of the ball before sailing the ball over to split the posts. In 2000 Sean received Armagh Harps 'Hall of Fame' award.
Sean "Dingle" Daly
His connections with Armagh Harps go back to his earliest years but he graduated through juvenile football to become a key figure in armagh Harps minor winning team of 1968 managed by Joe Mackle and the Late "Buddy" McArdle. Sean's team mates included Marty Kelly, Donal Richards, Eugene Connolly, Sean Doran, Pat McKenna (capt), Joe McKenna, Brendan Kelly and Gerry Cauldwell.
Some of those were to form the backbone of John Daly's very talented squad of the mid 1970's that won the intermediate championship in '74 and reached the final of the senior championship in '75. "Dingle" was captain of Harps that day and led Harps in the pre-match parade at Carrickcruppin. A unique fact on that day was Harps skip which was red jersey with a white hoop and white shorts. However, "Dingle" stood out more than most as he needed a white hairband to contain his hair!
With less than a minute remaining Crossmaglen led Harps 1-6 to 0-8 and Harps were awarded a sideline free, all of fifty metres from the goals. Indeed, I recollect that "Dingle" had to remove the sideline flag to get a clear angle at the kick. However this was Dingles speciality, the result of hours and hours constant practise in his back garden, the College field. He may have been told it was the last kick or he may have known, but he had got everything right, the distance, the angle, the head down, the follow through with the ball sailing to level the match and giving Harps a replay. History will record that Harps lost the replay but by this time "Dingle" was already wearing the orange jersey of Armagh and surely his greatest moment came when he came on as a second half substitute for Armagh in the All-lreland Final of 1977 against the mighty Dublin. He played a key role as Armagh staged a terrific comeback and was involved in both of Joe Kernans goals.
He played for Harps right through the 80's until his retirement from Harps in 1988, when he joined Madden as player-manager. Sadly he played and lost in three more county finals for Harps in '84, '85 and was goalkeeper when beaten by Clan Na Gael in '87. However, his ability as a player in attack and defence led to Harps revival at this time and like Sean Devlin and John Corvan was a prolific scorer from frees and plays.
As a player he had many attributes, the already mentioned frees. a great fielder. the ability to swerve the ball in passing or going for a score. He had mastered all aspects of Gaelic football and was equal I y adept at either right or left foot. it didn't matter to "Dingle". A former senior player of the year with Harps. he gave great service to all under-age teams and returned as manager to Harps seniors in 1992 bringing in some of todays youngsters to senior level.
Surely one of Harps greatest modern day players in the last quarter of a century this service was recognised in part when in 1989. a year after he had left Harps he was very much a part of their championship winning celebrations and was lifted shoulder high with the McKillop Cup on the Monday night at the Shambles Corner. Harps will be eternally proud of the service given by Sean "Dingle" Daly.