My GAA Life

My GAA Life – Donegal’s Paddy Campbell

Former Donegal player Paddy Campbell recalls the high points of his playing career


Paddy Campbell

Which teams did you represent?

Naomh Conaill, Donegal, Queen’s, Steelstown Brian Ogs (Derry)

What’s your current involvement?

I am coaching the Steelstown u-14s and u-16s. I was with Derry minors for a couple of years.

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?

When I broke onto the Queen’s team I was delighted. I wasn’t playing county football, I hadn’t played much county football with Donegal at underage. When Dessie Ryan gave me that shout in 1998/99, that was one of my highlights. Winning the Sigerson in 2000, and winning the Division one league with Donegal under Brian McIver was good. I was captain of Naomh Conaill when we won the championship. That was the first ever championship for the club. That was the top one but I had a lot of good moments thankfully.

What was the most surprising moment in your career?

Losing a semi-final to the Guards with Queen’s in the Sigerson. When we were nine or ten point up and playing at the Dub. We had a mighty team. McGuinness (Jim) was playing with Sligo in the other semi-final and I was mad keen to get playing against him. We had a very good team. That game still haunts me.

Who was the best player you ever played with?

I was lucky to play with Michael Murphy when he was coming through but he was not at his full flow. I played with Cormac McAnallen at Queen’s and he was excellent. He was unique. His wisdom at that age was top clas. Karl Lacey with Donegal was outstanding. I’ve never seen a defender like him.

What was the best score you ever saw in a game you were involved in?

The year we won the Sigerson, we were playing Cork in the semi-final. Cormac McAnallen kicked a score from 45 metres out, with the outside of his boot over on the left wing. I still can’t believe how he did it. I was actually looking for the footage to see if I could see how he did it. I will never forget that score.

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?

It’s a tough one, you feel like you could do a disservice to managers by answering this one. I have played under Mickey Moran, and Brian McIver. Hughie Molloy made me captain of Glenties. I played under McGuinness as well. But I would have to go back to Dessie Ryan. He had a massive impact on my career when he was managing me at Queen’s. He gave me the break that I needed. I will be forever grateful to Dessie Ryan.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing?

Sometimes before games people get nervous. One time Sean O’Neill came in and he was talking about stepping that half yard in front of your man, instead of level or behind. It is about stepping up to the mark. That has always stayed with me. Whether you are a corner back or a corner forward you should bring the game to the opposition. The other one is, I hear so many talking about it, is that you have bad days and good days. If you have a bad day you have to keep the head up and focus on the next one.

What was the best thing about playing in your era?

There was no blanket defence. In my era it moved from amateur to semi-professional in terms of training and it was good to be part of that learning curve. Ryan Porter came in, Paul McIver came in to help Brian. Jim McGuinness was with the club. It was a great education.

What was the worst thing about playing in your era?

Not winning the Ulster title. We had a couple of chances and we blew it. The Ulster final against Armagh in Croke Park. We should have won that one.

When did you know it was time to call it quits?

When I had kids. I lived so far away from the club. I travelled back and forth from Derry to Naomh Conaill for seven years. But then kids came along and fatigue set in. Work got busier, kids came along and that meant that it was time to knock it on the head.

What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one of your former teammates?

I used to play a bit of Basketball. I won a vocational schools title in the mid 90s. But a funny story that I remember happened the year we won the championship we were struggling. We were playing St Naul’s in the first round. I was struggling. I gave away three goals in the first half. I had an awful start. I was definitely at fault for two of the goals, but I don’t know about the third.

Towards the end I made an uncharaterstic run up the field. Leon Thompson had a shot the keeper saved it and I happened to be standing in on the edge of the box and I was able to score a goal. We won it by two. I rarely scored goals. John Gildea keeps slagging me about that day, he says that I scored four goals that day.

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