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A Dying Breed - The 8 Best Characters In The GAA

A Dying Breed - The 8 Best Characters In The GAA
By Ellen McConville
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The GAA has always been a good home for the fabled "Character". A staple of Irish society since time immemorial, the character used to thrive in a GAA environment, where pranking, half-arsedness, corner-cutting, and making eejits out of other lads were the cornerstone of nearly every training session.

Unfortunately, they are a much rarer beast than they once were. In fact, they are quickly becoming an endangered species.

Broadcast media bans, social media bans, drinking bans, sex bans, they've all curtailed the progress and development of the humble character. When you spend your mornings running on a beach and your evenings in the gym, there isn't as much time for the old charactering. By the end of the day, you just want to get home and settle down with a nice spinach and kale protein shake and a packet of cashew nuts.

Fortunately, some have survived. We present them to you in the hope that others will follow their lead.

GAA Characters - The last of a dying breed:

1. Seán Quigley

Where do we even start with this boyo? A complete scallywag of the GAA. But you can't not like him, with a laid-back attitude, he is still one hell of a player. In the 2015 Allianz League, he was the top scorer across all 4 divisions.

Last year, he was given a one-match ban for, wait for it, turning the lights off in the tunnel. During a Division 2 game, there seemed to be a bit of a kerfuffle between Armagh and Fermanagh in the tunnel at half-time. Quigley flipped the switch and sent them all into darkness.


Unfortunately, the CCCC didn't think it too funny, and with the use of video footage, they gave him a one-match ban, and hit the Fermanagh County Board with a €5,000 fine.

For the sheer divilment inside Quigley, you can't help but laugh.

Aside from the cheekiness, he seems to be so likable because he is honest and open. He once said in an interview with the Irish Times that he still loved his mother's cooking, and his preferred meal before a match is pizza. Ahead of a Championship match with Laois, he told his marker he had been up late enjoying it:


At the end of the day, I’m not walking around the house eating a piece of lettuce. Here, to be totally honest about it, I ate a half a pizza last night about two o’clock in the morning. Then I got up for a drink of water about four o’clock and I ate the other half.’ He burst out laughing. I’d say he thought I was taking the piss. But I was totally serious.

The pizza shop where he had been the night previous, Pizza D'Or in Monaghan, responded by giving Quigley two free pizzas. Quigley responded by saying “C’mere, if Bernard Brogan walked in there, he wouldn’t get two free pizzas, would he?”

He can take it all in his stride, and rightly so. Nominated for an All-Star, he was the skill to be one of the best players in the country but also one of the best characters as well.


2. Neil Patrick Collins

A unique character of the GAA, Collins hung up his boots for Roscommon this year and moved off to the bright lights in the Big Apple.

GAA isn't the only passion in his life, he also has a love for music, writing and most notably fashion. He launched his own clothing line called Cryptic Clique. He can sing, play guitar, and he's had a column in the Daily Mirror.


He once wrote in it about going into the Roscommon dressing room, dressed in his flamboyant style and a trilby hat on his head:

I remember the first time I wore a trilby hat into the Roscommon senior football dressing room, it caused consternation. A conservative dressing room, more familiar traditional methods and lifestyles, where it was easier to conform. Lads were bent over with laughter, and I enjoyed that we could share those moments of daftness together.

In an interview with RSVP, he was asked, 'What is the worst/most embarrassing thing you happen you on a night out or date?' He responded, 'I went home alone once'.

Oh, and he also has a debut single.



3. Mickey Burke

If you are watching a Meath game, you cannot miss Mickey Burke. He is one of the most distinctive looking players in the GAA, with his long hair, beard (which he has now snipped off), and a great set of bulging biceps, decorated with a sleeve of tattoos.

Once talking about his burning desire to beat the Dubs, he said that he wanted to prove that he hasn't been eating blueberries, avocados and spinach for nothing.

Ye boys think I'm delusional, but I'm not training since November to just go up and get the runaround from Dublin. We put so much effort, sacrifice and time into football. I'm eating nothing but blueberries, avocados and spinach all day, every day.

The secretary in his club Longwood, Joey Stenson suggested that he was perhaps born with his beard. Stenson also spoke about Burke's 'refusal to give in and his ferociousness,' in an interview with the Independent. With his tattoos, he has his mother's name, his date of birth in Roman numerals, and he also has an outline of Meath. Refusal to give in is right.

4. Sean Maher



A fresh and somewhat new character to the GAA, the current Westmeath U-21 keeper Sean Maher gained himself hero status this week after his performance in an under-21 match against Kilkenny.

Firstly he is a trooper for wearing a black long sleeved half zip during the game while the rest of the country sweated in this week's heat. It was 27 degrees, yet he powered through.

With his shaggy long hair, he is giving Mickey Burke a run for his money. He is a young man of considerable bulk, and even had a role in the TV show Vikings. He remains pretty agile, mind:

Wrecking Ball Westmeath keeper Sean Maher destroys opponent du...

Wrecking Ball Westmeath keeper Sean Maher destroys opponent during club championship game

Maher's appearance - jumper, long hair and beard - coupled with some gutsy goalkeeping won him the adoration of neutrals watching on TG4.

The Westmeath U21 is a multitalented individual - he once appeared as an extra in Vikings. He also boxes and plays football for St. Malachy's.

Here he is playing for Malachy's last year in the Westmeath SFC. Up against Tyrrellspass, Maher levelled Brian Slevin with the opposition player through on goal. Not content with the first shoulder, he also hit him with a second before clearing his lines.

Posted by Humans of the GAA on Friday, June 23, 2017

5. Jamie Clarke

Clarke is a more notable character of the GAA, a brilliant left peg, he stands out for his unique taste and nonchalant attitude.

Is he playing for Armagh or he is not? In and out of the panel like a yo-yo, Clarke's love for travel took preference, like Neil Patrick Collins, he too moved to New York.

However, he returned home in late 2016 and made his first championship appearance in two years this summer. The prodigal son of Armagh GAA.

Off the pitch, he has a strong passion for style. And coffee too. He has spoken about his love for all things French, the elegance of Paris and writer Jean-Paul Sartre. He has the French saying 'enfants de l'univers' tattooed on the back of his right arm: 'child of the universe.'

Oh and he has a really good hair too.

There seems to be a good bit of depth to Clarke as well, level headed and maybe somewhat spiritual. In the BBC documentary 'Field of Dreams' following Crossmaglen's quest to the All-Ireland Club Final, it shows Clarke keeping a diary, where he would record his scores and shots, as well as small quotes that according to Clarke, keep him grounded and grateful.

6. Ciarán Lenehen

If you follow Lenehan on Twitter, you won't be short of a few laughs from this Meath player. He loves his cows and his tractors, but he loves the craic as well.

7. Jackie Tyrrell

Another man with good hair and a keen interest in fashion too.

Tyrrell retired back in November, but we can keep up to date with him as he has his own column with The Irish Times, where we frequently get an insight into the Kilkenny hurlers life. He once went for a pint when he was getting drug tested before struggling 'to go' on demand.

He also recently said that the Waterford hurlers were the type of lads you want your sister to go out with. 

If you go on his Instagram, we couldn't blame you for confusing him for a model rather than a hurler. Here he is, in a field obviously, thinking back on his successful hurling career, in a snazzy coat and a sharp pair of boots. Go on Jackie.

8. Eamon McGee

McGee won an All-Ireland in 2012 with Donegal, starting on the half-back line with his brother Neil. He is also known for his wit and having a sharp tongue. During his time with Donegal, four managers were forced to remove him from the panel.

Clearly seeing his skill, Jim McGuinness brought him back.

He is outspoken about a lot of things, voicing his support for the 'Yes' in the Marriage referendum of 2014. This led to him receiving death threats.

Famously, he now doesn't see eye to eye with Kevin Cassidy after Cassidy's involvement in Declan Bogue's book, 'This is Our Year.' He recalled how the pair had to be separated in a pub one day. 'We had to be separated, which was lucky for me, as I'd have had the head kicked off me.'

Oh, and he also wrote in his Irish Daily Star column that he once called Diarmuid Connolly "to abuse him" when he was drunk.


So there you have it. Is there anyone we've missed? Please let us know in the comments or at [email protected].

SEE ALSO: 7 Of The Strangest GAA Punishments In History


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