My GAA Life

My GAA Life with… Brian Canavan

Name? Brian Canavan

Which teams did you represent?

The Abbey CBS, Ulster University Jordanstown, Carrickcruppen, Armagh
in three decades, from the seventies to the nineties, and Poyntzpass,
Redmond O’Hanlon’s.

What is your current involvement in the GAA?
I referee. I’ve refereed four matches already this week (March 2-6).

What was your greatest moment in the GAA?
Winning the 1997 Junior Championship with my home club O’Hanlon’s when
I was 40 was probably my best playing moment, even though I played for
Armagh and won two Ulster Championships. I knew every individual on
the team inside out because I had grown up with some of them and had
coached them all. The best management moment was in 1999, when Armagh
beat Down in the Ulster Championship final. It was the first one
Armagh had won in 17 years. Myself, and Brian McAlinden became the
first men to have both played and managed Armagh to win an Ulster

What was the most surprising moment in your career?
I was surprised Armagh didn’t win more All-Irelands after 2002. The
team were as good in ’03, ’04, ’05 and ’06 as they were in 2002.

Who was the best player you ever played with?
Peter Loughran from Carrickcruppen. I don’t think there was a forward
in Armagh like him ever before or ever since.
What was the best score you ever saw in a game you were involved in?
The best score was Johnny Corvan against Cork in a National League
match, RTE actually have it on tape. A long ball in bounced in front
of Johnny and the full-back, but it bounced over their heads and by
the time the ball was coming down again Johnny had rounded the
defender and volleyed the ball into the top corner of the net. It was
the best score I had ever seen in my life.

Which manager made the biggest impact on you and why?
At an early age, Patsy O’Hanlon, who was an uncle of mine, encouraged
me into the Carrickcruppen route, and pushed me along to Armagh. Later
in life, probably Gerry O’Neill was as good a manager as I’ve seen.
What was the best piece of advice you ever received about playing?
The best piece of advice I have ever got from anybody, it doesn’t
matter what you’re at whether it’s football, work or anything, is keep
your head down, work hard, listen to advice from all angles and at the
end of it all, make your own judgement.

What was the best thing about playing in your era?
The best thing was the camaraderie amongst the players that I played

What was the worst thing about playing in your era?
I played in two All-Ireland semi-finals and I managed in three All-
Ireland semi-finals, and never got to the final.

When did you know it was time to call it quits?
As a player, when I knew when to call it quits was the 1990 Ulster
final. I was marking a young fella called Declan Bonner and I could
see at times that he was a wee bit sharper than I was and I knew
rightly that the next year, he’d be getting a bit quicker and I’d be
getting a bit slower, so I had a good innings and I thought it was
time to move on. As a manager, it was whenever the county board came
to the door and said to me “you’re not managing next year!”

What interesting or funny story may readers not know about you or one 
of your former teammates?
We were playing Roscommon. Roscommon and us were very close rivals in
the early ’80s, and we were playing in Armagh one day, and I was
marking Michael Finneran, a top-scorer at that time for Roscommon.
Anyway, he got injured, he hurt his ankle and the physio shouted over
to the order of Malta, “Bring the stretcher on.” And then some guy
from the crowd, just when it went quiet, roared, “You may bring a
stretcher on for Canavan too!”

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