NIALL Kerr was among the friends who shared the journey with Jonny Curran through school and underage football to winning club and county championships.
Since Jonny’s tragic passing on Sunday, the Coalisland Fianna veteran’s mind has gone back to the many memories on and off the field. They made their way through underage football to play for Tyrone minors when they won the 2004 All-Ireland and were on the Fianna 2010 team that brought the O’Neill Cup back to Fr Peter Campbell Park for the first time in 20 years.
“Myself and Jonny and Plunky Kane and Philly Toner (Jonny’s cousin) played on that 2010 team and we lived beside each other growing up,” said Kerr.
“As children we’d always be out playing soccer and Jonny would do goals. He was a big fan of Peter Schmeichel who played for Man United and wore his jersey. Right from school days you could see he had a massive kick-out, before anybody, which was big advantage and he was a great shot-stopper.
“Back then and throughout his life, Jonny was a larger than life character with a big cheesy smile always bouncing and on the move. He never seemed to be in bad form.”
The 2004 Tyrone minor odyssey was the journey of a life-time for the Fianna lads, Niall and Jonny and Philip Toner.
“Jonny was brilliant in nets for that team. I remember manager Liam Donnelly saying, “If you win you will have friends for life”. That is so true. There are players on that team I hadn’t spoken to in years have been in touch with me since Sunday.
“Like ourselves, they can’t believe Jonny has gone. The captain Mark Cunningham Facetimed me from Australia. I haven’t spoken to him in years. We have so many brilliant memories of that win and of Jonny.”
In 2010 the Fianna won the Tyrone Senior Championship another momentous event for the young friends. Jonny’s brother Stevie Curran also lined on that team.
“That was another incredible time,” Niall added. “Jonny did his own thing and despite some plans for short kick-outs he just booted it up field. A lot of teams couldn’t handle his long kick-outs. It was great Stevie was on the team too and lovely photos of the two brothers have been posted up of that day with the O’Neill Cup.
“Jonny retired a couple of years ago but was back in the gym lately talking of a comeback in 2021. He idolised Clodagh and his two boys. They were his life. It is terrible for his family. Everyone is devastated”.
Not surprisingly Jonny’s goalkeeping skills transferred to the soccer field and he was on the 2012 Dungannon Swift’s team that reached the Irish Cup semi-final.
Extending sympathy to his partner and children and the Curran family, a statement from Dungannon Swifts said, “Jonny was always on hand if we ever needed him and he was always more than happy to help. Rest in Peace Jonny.”
Former Swifts coach Rodney McAree said, “A nicer friend you couldn’t wish to meet, always a smile on his face and time to chat.”
By Ronan McSherry