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Seán O'Neill: Key Down Playmaker When Down Won Their First All Ireland In 1960
Born in Newry in 1940, Seán O’Neill was a Down footballer of the 1950s and 60s, a player who excelled in three decades and became a household name all over the gaelic football globe. His career spanned eighteen long years, a period illuminated with glorious memories for football fans, but especially for the Newry man himself. The style and excitement he brought to the game, and the genius displayed, became a trademark. When the Down team were in town, the presence of Seán O’Neill always ensured a bumper attendance.
He first emerged in 1958, when he played at midfield for Down minors, who captured the Ulster title. In the All Ireland semi final, Down faced Dublin at Navan. Seán was opposed on that memorable day, by another football giant, Des Foley of Dublin fame. In 1959 Seán was on the Down team that won their first ever Ulster senior football title. Down retained their Ulster title, and then proceeded to become the first ever team from the six counties to bring the famed Sam Maguire Cup across the border in 1960. Seán was now a budding twenty years old footballer, and the best was still in reserve.
In 1961 Down retained their All Ireland title and in 1968 the Newry footballer, at twenty eight, and now in his prime, won another All Ireland senior football medal. Alas this historic triumph was to be his last Celtic Cross on the highest stage, but he still continued to wear the Down colours until 1977.
Eight Ulster senior medals and eight Railway Cup medals, gave due recognition. His selection on the 1984 Centenary Football Team and the 2000 Millennium Team, were honours truly warranted. He was chosen at right half forward on both teams. In 1971 and 1972 he was also chosen on the Carroll’s All Stars teams. Numerous other awards were bestowed on a footballer who established himself as one of the all time greats of gaelic football, since the foundation of the G.A.A.
3 All Ireland Senior Football Medals: 1960; 1961; 1968:
8 Ulster Senior Football Medals: 1959; 1960; 1961; 1963; 1965; 1966; 1968; 1971:
* Contested 15 Ulster
Senior Football Finals:
3 N.F.L. Medals: 1959/60; 1961/62; 1967/68:
All Star: 1971; 1972
Team Of Century: 1984
Millennium Team: 2000
Sigerson Cup: 1959
(Queen’ University, Belfast)
8 Railway Cups: 1960; 1963; 1964; 1965; 1966; 1968; 1970; 1971:
* 1st All Ireland Final: Sunday 25 th Sept. 1960
Down 2 - 10 Kerry 0 - 8 (Played right half forward)
* 2nd All Ireland Final: Sunday 24 th Sept. 1961
Down 3 - 6 Offaly 2 - 8 (Played right half forward)
* 3 rd All Ireland Final: Sunday 22 nd Sept. 1968
Down 2 - 12 Kerry 1 - 13 (Played full forward)
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE FINALS:
1959/60 - Down 0 - 12 Cavan 0 - 9;
1961/62 - Down 2 - 5 Dublin 1 - 7
1967/68 - Down 2 - 14 Kildare 2 - 11
Composed by Derry JF Doody