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10 GAA Stars Who Kept Playing Long After Their Inter-County Exits

10 GAA Stars Who Kept Playing Long After Their Inter-County Exits
By Conor Neville Updated

19 years after winning all All-Ireland title with Clare, Niall Gilligan is still hurling.

On Saturday evening, Gilligan - who turnes 40 in August - will once again pull on the jersey for Sixmilebridge. It's 21 years since he made his senior club debut.

There are countless icons of the game who have carried on for their clubs long after their inter-county careers came to an end. Here is just a selection of some of our favourites.

Frankie Dolan 

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Apparently, since 2006, Roscommon have always had six better forwards than this guy, who starred for St. Brigid's during their glorious period in the first half of this decade.

The 36 year old scored 1-8 in claiming ninth county title in Roscommon in 2014 (he also won in Longford with Ballymahon in 2002).

In 2013, he was instrumental in helping St. Brigid's win the All-Ireland, striking over the winning score late in the game (a score which Willie Hegarty really enjoyed, listen here).

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A pivotal figure in Roscommon's Connacht championship win in 2001 and a brilliant performer during Roscommon's long run in the qualifiers in 2003, Dolan was exiled from the Roscommon set-up during John Maughan's period as manager in 2006-07.

After captaining Brigid's t0 the 2007 Roscommon championship, he used his winning speech to send a message to the Roscommon management, 'pick the best players in the county and you will win the Connacht championship in 2008.'

He was invited back for a few League games early in 2008, but did not feature in that year's championship, in which Roscommon were hammered 2-18 to 0-6 in Salthill.

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Even after Maughan's acrimonious departure from Roscommon, Dolan was not ushered back into the squad as subsequent managers decided to hang the county's fortunes on the All-Ireland winning minor class of 2006.

 

Maurice Fitzgerald

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Maurice Fitzgerald's Kerry career ended in the worst possible way, with a humiliating defeat to Meath in the 2001 All-Ireland semi-final. The most strikingly graceful player of the past three decades claimed two All-Ireland titles in 1997 and 2000 after soldiering through Kerry's bleak years in the early 90s (Read our piece 'Kerry: The Lost Years, 1987-1996).

But his club career continued well afterwards. Between 2004 and 2006, he won three county titles in a row with South Kerry. And on Christmas Eve 2011, at the age of 42, he helped his club St. Mary's Cahirciveen to the South Kerry Divisional title.

Last year, he guided Cahirciveen the Munster intermediate title. Cognisant of his players' exertions over the previous 10 weeks, he saw fit to throw himself on as a substitute in a Division 2 League match against Gneeveguila in December.

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St. Mary's won 1-14 to 1-7.

Tony Keady and Noel Lane

A three-time All-Ireland winner, Lane's inter-county career ran from the late '70s up until 1990, when he quit the county scene after Galway's shock defeat  to Cork in that year's final. He is best remembered for his super-sub role in the '87 and '88 final wins, scoring the only goal in both games.

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He was already pretty old at that stage.

However, when his club Balinderreen were in dire need of some late heroics in their 1999 relegation playoff, Lane, then pushing 45 and holdinh some role or other in the backroom team, was sprang (or insisted on springing himself) from the bench.

According to the sketchy reports of those present, Lane may have rustled up a score or two for Ballinderreen, but it was to no avail as Killimordaly held out on a scoreline of 3-6 to 0-12.

On Killimordaly's team that day was one Tony Keady, a comparatively youthful 36 year old but one who had retired from the Galway set-up eight years previously. The 1988 Hurler of the Year only played eleven championship matches in his inter-county career and five of them were All-Ireland finals.

At the end of the game, Ballinderreen lodged an appeal on the grounds that Killimordaly's late sub Timmy Lawless failed to hand a slip to the referee informing him of his arrival.

 

Joe Brolly

Brolly was done with the Derry seniors by 2000, after he claimed his fourth National League title.

Nine years later, he was still plugging away for his Belfast club, St. Brigid's GAC, suffering a leg-break in a challenge match against Cookstown.

In 2006, he was part of the Brigid's team that played the first ever competitive match against the PSNI Gaelic Football team.

 Declan O'Keeffe

Goalkeepers famously go on longer.

O'Keeffe left the Kerry set-up the same year Paidi O'Sé was sacked. He won three county championships with East Kerry in 1997, 1998 and 1999 but moved to Clare shortly after he finished up Kerry.

He initially opted to play for Clooney-Quin, but their football team declined badly so he plumped for St. Joseph's Doora-Barefield (another hurling team). He helped them to the 2011 and 2012 Clare county finals but they were beaten on both occasions by Kilmurry-Ibrickane.

 

Mickey Linden 

 

One would have imagined it would have been difficult for Mickey Linden's club career to have dragged on much longer than his county career - given he finished up with Down in 2003 at the age of 40.

However, in 2008, he won his eighth county championship medal, and his fifth on the bounce, with Mayobridge. And only two years ago, at the age of 50, he came on for the Mayobridge thirds and kicked four points.

Kevin Walsh

Like Noel Lane, he made a rare appearance in very unusual circumstances. Walsh's Galway career ended the same year John O'Mahony moved on in 2004.

Ten years later, at the age of 45, he was included in the substitutes for Killanin after a late injury crisis left them short ahead of this year's Galway intermediate final. This was kept a closely guarded secret and Walsh was not seated among the subs.

With six remaining, the call went out and Walsh was summoned from the Stand in Tuam Stadium. Walsh won the first ball in midfield as Killanin went on to win by three points. Galway Bay FM's Ollie Turner described the action memorably (listen here).

John Power

A battling centre forward who played for Kilkenny during the relatively barren 1990s (he only won two All-Irelands that decade - very unfortunate), Power hung on until the early days of the Brian Cody era, and was a workaholic on the forty as Kilkenny cantered to the 2000 All-Ireland final. He appeared as a substitute in the 2002 All-Ireland win and drifted off the county scene shortly afterwards.

However, by the turn of the following decade, he was still turning out for his club John Lockes (perhaps the only GAA club in the country named after a British liberal philosopher - though maybe there's another John Locke?) well into his forties.

Ciaran McDonald

Made what everyone now must accept was his final appearance for Mayo as a second half sub in a defeat to Derry which ended their miserable 2007 championship campaign.

John O'Mahony's mysteriously abject second spell as Mayo boss dragged on for three more years and McDonald never got a look-in.

By the time O'Mahony was replaced by McDonald's old teammate James Horan, too much time had elapsed. The 36 year old was still a majestic spectacle at club matches, but Horan wasn't enough of a dewy eyed romantic to build his forward line around a maverick talent pushing into his late 30s.

McDonald was in scintillating form for Crossmolina in the 2012 county championship and there were emotive calls for him to be lobbed into a Mayo squad that was now chasing an All-Ireland again.

In 2014, he did this in a club match against Davitts.

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