GAA players turned soccer stars

JAMIE Clarke has made the headlines for throwing his lot with Newry City. Shaun Casey looks at some of the GAA stars who made it on the soccer scene…

Jamie Clarke (Armagh)

THE former Armagh attacker is the latest GAA star to switch codes and sign up for a soccer career in the Irish League. Clarke recently returned to club football in the Orchard County, lining out for Crossmaglen during the league and will be a key part in the Rangers’ championship plans. Clarke signed for newly-promoted Premiership side Newry City in the last few weeks and made his debut last weekend, coming on as a second-half substitute in their 3-1 loss to Linfield.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (Antrim)

FITZPATRICK is without doubt one of the best footballers in Antrim, but his Saffron career was cut short as he turned his attention to soccer. Back in the winter of 2019, Coleraine signed Fitzpatrick. A Sigerson Cup winner with St Mary’s in 2017, Fitzpatrick then moved to Glenavon where he has played ever since and remains a key attacking threat within the team.

Eoin Bradley (Derry)

’SKINNER’ was one who starred on both the Gaelic and soccer fields and is still doing the business at club level for Glenullin, scoring 0-16 so far in the Intermediate Championship. Bradley was a key member of the Derry side that reached the Ulster final in 2011, but unfortunately suffered an ACL injury before the decider and missed out. Bradley won an Irish Cup with Glenavon in 2014 and another with Coleraine in 2018 and has since returned to Glenavon.

DUAL STAR…Former Derry star Eoin ‘Skinner’ Bradley won Irish Cup medals with Glenavon and Coleraine

Niall Morgan (Tyrone)

MORGAN is currently one of the top GAA goalkeepers in the country and an All-Ireland winner with Tyrone in 2021, with his displays earning him an All-Star award as well. The Edendork native, who plays out the field at club level, lined out for Dungannon Swifts for four seasons between 2010-2013 before being called up into Mickey Harte’s Red Hand panel. Along with the All-Ireland medal picked up last year, Morgan has also won Ulster titles in 2016, 2017 and 2021 in the red and white jersey.

Shane McCabe (Fermanagh)

VERY few players excel at both sports at the same time, but Shane McCabe was an exception. McCabe starred for the Erne County during the 2008 season when they reached the Ulster final for the first time since 1982 but lost out to Armagh after a replay. At that time, McCabe was also lining out for Glentoran and also enjoyed spells with Dungannon Swifts, Ballinamallard, Glenavon and Portadown. McCabe was recently part of Ryan McMenamin’s management team during his time over Fermanagh.

Shaun Patton (Donegal)

SHAUN Patton started out between the sticks in soccer but changed codes in 2018 when he was called up into the Donegal senior panel and was the number one choice for Declan Bonner over the last number of years. Patton played in the League of Ireland with Derry City, Finn Harps and Sligo Rovers before pulling on the Tir Chonaill jersey. The St Eunan’s man has picked up two Ulster titles in 2018 and 2019 and won the Donegal Senior Championship with Letterkenny last year, scoring a ‘45’ in the final.

Ryan McCluskey (Fermanagh)

McCLUSKEY finished his Fermanagh career as a legend having lined out in the green and white of his native county for 19 years. But Gaelic football wasn’t the only sport he tried his hand at, and he had quite a good soccer career as well. McCluskey enjoyed spells at Cliftonville and Sligo Rovers and played in the Irish Cup final for Dungannon Swifts in 2007 when they lost out to Linfield after penalties. He also lined out for Portadown, but it was Fermanagh that attracted most of McCluskey’s attention in the last decade.

Brian Neeson (Antrim)

‘BAM’ Neeson was a free flowing, goal-scoring corner forward for Antrim but when it came to soccer it was his goal-stopping ability that caught the eye. Neeson burst on to the scene for the Saffron’s in 2014 when he nailed a personal tally of 1-6 in the first round of the Ulster Championship against Fermanagh. Around that time, Neeson was also lining out for Carrick Rangers and eventually secured a move to Cliftonville which brought an end to his inter-county career.

Emmett McGuckin (Derry)

DERRY finally climbed to the top of the mountain in terms of Ulster football this season but McGuckin, like a lot of others, were around when things weren’t so good. The Magherafelt man was part of the side that plummeted through the league and ended up in Division Four, although he did feature when the Oak Leaf County contested the Division One league final in 2014. McGuckin signed for Coleraine and later played for Carrick Rangers during his soccer career.

Collie McCullagh (Tyrone)

McCULLAGH came on the scene during Tyrone’s most successful ever period and just missed out on their maiden All-Ireland triumph in 2003. The Dromore man did get his hands on a Celtic Cross in 2005 as he was part of the panel, but he had broken into the starting team by 2008. In the intervening years, McCullagh lined out for Newry City in the Irish League and in more recent years was back on the club scene managing Dromore to last year’s Tyrone Senior title.

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