My GAA Life

My GAA Life with Armagh’s Barry Shannon

Which teams did you represent?

Forkhill, Dromintee, Abbey CBS, UUJ and Armagh.

What is your current involvement with the GAA?

Currently I’m still playing with my local club Forkhill in the Junior League in Armagh. In a coaching capacity, I look after many of the school teams in St Paul’s High School, Bessbrook.

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?

I wouldn’t say there was one particular moment but instead a lifetime of moments and memories as a player, coach and supporter. I suppose for me, anytime I played for Armagh was that bit more special – I was fulfilling my ambition that I had as a kid growing up, watching Armagh in the Athletic Grounds, the old hill in Clones or behind the goals in Croke Park. Playing for Armagh was the pinnacle.

What was the most surprising moment in your career?

I would say making my championship debut for Armagh so late in my career was a surprise for me. As a 28 year old, I probably thought that my time had passed. I made my Armagh debut in the McKenna Cup in 2003 against Down and my league debut in 2004 against Cavan. It was one of those days in Breffni Park where everything went right for Cavan (and Larry Reilly) and nothing for us. I got the curly finger at half time and didn’t play for Armagh again until 2008. I had a decent season in ‘09 and made debut v Tyrone that year. Getting to play in the senior championship with Forkhill was also a surprising moment for a club that had never got there before. A fantastic achievement that deserves a mention.

Who was the best player you ever played with?

To single any player out would be an injustice to many of the great players I played with. For Armagh you could say any of the ‘02 team that I was lucky enough to play with; Oisin, McGeeney, Mc Grane, Marsden right up until 2010 where you still had the likes of Steven McDonnell, Ronan Clarke, Ciaran McKeever, the Kernans, Finn Mo, Brian Mallon and Jamie Clarke. At university, Sean Cavanagh, Paddy Bradley, Fergal Doherty and Mark Lynch would be all right up there. At club level then you had players like the O’Rourkes and Kevin Dyas. Top players.

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

Not one score but a series of scores. In 2002, Dromintee played Pearse Og in the semi-final of the Armagh Senior Championship. In the first 15 minutes Ronan Clarke kicked three or four points where each point was better than the previous one. It was three weeks after the All-Ireland final where he had kicked three amazing points off Seamus Moynihan. These were the same if not better. It was peak Clarkey. Thankfully we still won the game.

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?

All managers I had the opportunity to work under made an impact. Most were positive, some were negative but they all had their different ways of getting something out of you. I’d say my dad probably had the biggest impact on me growing up. When he passed away, I was only 17. Although it hit me hard at the time it probably pushed me on to get as much out of the game as I did and continue to do.

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

Basics, basics, basics. Concentrate on them and you’ll not be far away.

What was the best thing about playing in your era?

The best thing about playing the era of the late ‘90s into the ‘noughties’ and onwards was that you were playing with and against some of the best players ever to play the game. It coincided with the golden years of football within Armagh, in Ulster, and at a national level. The club scene in Armagh then was at a different level. Yes Cross were the dominant team, Dromintee were so strong, Clans with Bumpy O’Hagan and Marsden, the Ogs, local derbys with Mullaghbawn etc, those games were as good as anything going on in Ireland at the time. Ultra-competitive and a serious standard.

What was the worst thing about playing your era?

With the standard being at such a high level nationally, there were very fine margins between winning and losing. Cross kept winning and Dromintee kept falling short. Losing five finals, plenty more semi-finals, replays…always the bridesmaids!

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

Still trying to play. You must be telling me something!

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

I met my now wife after a game against Monaghan in Inniskeen on a dark January night. The McKenna Cup has its positives!

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