BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal's best goalkeeper?: We have been spoiled for choice

BRIAN MCENIFF COLUMN: Donegal's best goalkeeper?: We have been spoiled for choice

This week I have been tasked by the Sports Editor to come up with something different and he has set me a challenge.

Over the coming weeks I have to come up with my best three players in every position who has played for Donegal in my time.

And to add a little extra he has also asked me to name the three best players in the various positions outside of Donegal.

Well, we have to start at the beginning and to say that the goalkeeping position has changed over the last 60 years would be the understatement of the century.

Back when I started playing the goalkeeper didn't even have to kick the ball out. That was mainly the duty of the corner-back or the full-back, whose aim was to kick it as far as he could.

My first memory of goalkeepers in Donegal would have been Seamus Hoare of St Eunan's, who would have played for Donegal up until around 1970. He was a top class 'keeper who also played for Ulster, winning four Railway Cup medals in total, his last in 1968.

During Seamus's time he had an understudy called Sean McHugh, who played four years as a county minor. He was a very competent 'keeper but Hoare would have been the incumbent at the time and McHugh didn't get many opportunities.

Next in line a young Daniel McGeehin from Glenties came in to the Donegal side. He got sent off in a club game at the Ulster senior championship semi-final stage. He was playing in a match against Gaoth Dobhair and he got sent off.

A lad called Donal Britton from Donegal Town came in in his place; he was killed in a car accident some time afterwards. He would have been the reserve goalkeeper to Alan Kane, who was 'keeper when Donegal won their first Ulster title in 1972. Alan would have been in the Ulster panel for Railway Cup in 1973, but didn't get to play.

Then Noel McCole came in for the Ulster final replay of 1974. I had him as a county minor as well. He would have been the first goalkeeper that came in for Donegal who took the kick-out. Before that goalkeepers didn't kick the ball out. John Hannigan had a great kick-out; (Pauric) McShea was a good striker of a ball. He would have got a special pair of rugby style boots for that purpose.

McCole was there for some 10 years and he was replaced in 1984 by Gary Walsh, who probably should have been on the 1982 Donegal U-21 panel but Tom Conaghan didn't carry a reserve goalkeeper.

Then after Gary Walsh came Paul Callaghan and I discovered Paul Callaghan in a trial match in Inishowen. He was a soccer 'keeper but he had a very lengthy kick-out. He later became a county coach and works now for the Ulster Council.

Gary Walsh was there until 1996 and of course he was 'keeper on the All-Ireland winning team of 1992 and capped that success with an All-Star.

Tony Blake came in after that. I had tried to get Tony Blake into the panel in 1989-'90 when I went back in as manager. At that stage he was playing with Derry City. But when I came back in my last stint, Tony had come into the panel and he had a run out with Ulster as well.

He was replaced by Paul Durcan, who I took out of the U-21 team that my son, Seanie, ran. He went on to win an All-Ireland and two All-Stars and also played for Ulster. And I had a lad in the squad with Paul Durcan, Michael Boyle, who I rated very highly. He was only 17/18 at the time doing his Leaving Certificate. He was involved in the coaching of that Gaoth Dobhair team that did terribly well recently. He was a very good keeper.

Then you had Mark Anthony McGinley from St Michael's, who is now on the Finn Harps books, who I would rate very highly too, with a good kick-out.

And the present incumbent, Shaun Patton of St Eunan's, who could go on to be the best 'keeper Donegal has ever had. He has that potential.

So, I suppose you would have to go with the two All-Star 'keepers and the present No. 1 Shaun Patton. We have been very well served over the years. There was one other good goalkeeper who could have played for Donegal and that was Bosco Gallagher of Gaoth Dobhair.

Bosco was very committed to soccer at the time and I couldn't get him to play Gaelic football. He was a very big man and a good 'keeper.

I played with the first two 'keepers mentioned - Seamus Hoare and Paul McHugh, and I brought a lot of the others into the squad in my time as manager. A lot of them played for Ulster and I have no doubt that if the Railway Cup was still going, Shaun Patton would be No 1 in Ulster at the moment.

My three best Donegal goalkeepers

Gary Walsh, Paul Durcan and Shaun Patton

Outside Donegal

Outside Donegal the first name that springs to mind is Billy Morgan of Cork. I had great respect and regard for Morgan. I played with him and against him.

When I was down in Cork, I had the opportunity to train with the Cork team in preparation for the All-Ireland semi-final of 1966 and the final of '67. My wife's brother-in-law, Mick Burke, was playing on the Cork team at the time and I got to know Billy very, very well.

Billy himself was a great coach and brought a lot of success to Cork, and after Larry Tompkins came in to the team in 1987 they had great success, especially in Munster. They kept Kerry in the background for a number of years and they should have won more than they did win.

They were unfortunate in a number of All-Irelands, even in 1993 against Derry when the wing half-back was sent off and he never should have been sent off.

The other two 'keepers I would have would be both from Dublin. There was John O'Leary, who was a fine 'keeper, and of course, Stephen Cluxton, who has brought a whole new dimension to goalkeeping.

They would be the top three outside of Donegal.

But there were a lot more good 'keepers out there. Thady Turbett of Tyrone was a good 'keeper and Derry had a great 'keeper in the 1950s called Patsy Gormley and he had only one eye, believe it or not.

Kerry always had good 'keepers and Down also had good 'keepers. Galway had a very good goalkeeper in Johnny Geraghty but I didn't see much of him because I was in Canada at the time.

My top three 'keepers outside Donegal:

Billy Morgan, John O'Leary, Stephen Cluxton

NEXT WEEK: The three best corner-backs in Donegal and the three best corner-backs outside Donegal

Brian McEniff was in conversation with Peter Campbell

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