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Ballyclare Primary School

50 years of National CnmB: Davy Harte

6th Sep 2021

Davy Harte

 

Davy Harte attended St. Mary’s PS, Aughnacloy from 1986 1993. He has taught in St Patrick’s Grammar School, Armagh from September 2005 to the present day. He was a key member of the Tyrone All-Ireland winning teams of 2005 and 2008.

 

For my primary education, I attended St Mary’s PS, Aughnacloy. At the time, my class was considered a large class as there were about 14 pupils, half of whom were boys. I attended the old school beside the chapel until the end of P4 before moving to the new school at its present location. The old school had a large yard which was split in two where the P5/6/7 played at the bottom end while the P1-4 remained at the top half. It was like a dream come true when we moved down to the new school as there were 3 pitches: one for P1-3; one for P4/5 and what we regarded as the main pitch for P6/7 which had its own nets. The way we organised our football was that every Monday, we picked two teams which lasted for the week. This game continued each break and lunch and the score by the end of the week would be something like 50 goals to 45!

 When I started primary school, the player that everyone was talking about was Sean Douglas, who went on to play for the Tyrone minors during my P5 year. When I was in P5, the school had a great P7 team and Stevie Donnelly was a very skilful player who could have scored points from anywhere. Stevie, who would go on to play for Tyrone minors and U21s, was a player that I would have looked up to. We had also a very good team by my P7 year. Martin O’Neill who was a very tenacious player, was our best player. We had also Paul Douglas, whose brother Hugh was playing for Tyrone seniors at the time. Paul always had a bit of sway round the school yard as he would have had a bit of inside knowledge of the goings-on within the Tyrone set-up and so was forever being grilled for gossip. He did have some stories for us but whether they were all true or not was another matter! Another lad in our class was Neil Morrison who was a super player. Neil, who would have got most of our scores, went on to appear in Riverdance, subsequently touring for six years. Our goalkeeper was Pierce McKillion who loved that position and never wanted to play anywhere else. He received a pair of Peter Schmeichel goalkeeping gloves for Christmas one year and after that he thought he was a professional goalkeeper. So all in all, we had a good school team. My younger brother Jarlath and Joe McCann, both in P5, made up the team.

I played on the school team for 3 years starting in my P5 year. After playing against the boys from my own school, I thought that I could hold my own against most P7s but when it came to the competitions against other schools, I soon realised that I was out of my depth physically. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, there is a big difference physically between a P5 and a P7 pupil and I found myself being brushed off the ball quite easily. I remember being taken off during a Knockmany Cup match after having done very little in the match up to that point...

We felt we had a good team in my P7 year and this was helped by our success in the schools’ league section. St Mary’s PS, Ballygawley had won the prestigious  Knockmany Cup the previous year and were favourites for that year’s competition as well.  We beat them by 10 points at the league section, which left us very confident going forward to the Knockmany that year. We had also easily defeated Glencull PS and Altamuskin PS in the league. The Knockmany Cup was a massive competition in the eyes of primary schools at the time. Everyone would always be asking how the schools got on during the annual competition.  We managed to reach the final of it during my P5 year but were defeated by Glencull PS. I would have known many of the players from other schools at the time as I had joined the Errigal U12 team for training which had just started up. Our family had moved back to Glencull when I was 5 years of age but my mother had decided to keep us at Aughnacloy PS. From Ballygawley PS, I knew Enda McGinley and John Devine. I recall in my P6 year at the Knockmany tournament we remained on to watch the final in which Enda captained the Ballygawley team against Altamuskin, although the Ballygawley lads still maintain that Stevie Quinn was their real leader. John Devine, who was in his P5 year, was their goalkeeper and excelled at six-yard sprints. Brian MullinAdrian O’Donnell were excellent players in the Altamuskin team. In my P7 year we had already won the schools league section having defeated Garvaghey in the final so as was discussed at the Errigal U12 training, we were deemed to be the hot favourites for the Knockmany trophy. Indeed, we got through our group section very easily defeating Glencull, (which was very satisfying as they had beaten us at the same stage the previous year) and also Fivemiletown. We then won our quarter final and met Fivemiletown again in the semi-final who beat us by one point! They went on to get well beaten in the final by Garvaghey! Garvaghey had an exceptional player called Emmet O’Hanlon who was so much bigger than anyone else on the pitch but backed up his size with a superb skill set. Also starring for Garvaghey PS was Paddy O’Hanlon and William Shields. It still annoys me to this day that I never won a Knockmany in my three years of trying. In my P5 year, Glencull won it, followed by Ballygawley in P6 and finally Garvaghey in my final year. These were all schools that were part of the Errigal club and therefore I would have known all the boys who were players on the teams and holders of the coveted Knockmany medal. Nowadays the ‘slagging’ still goes on among the players of those three years regarding the ownership of the Knockmany medals or lack of! Enda’s Ballygawley PS year group will slag the boys from Altamuskin whom they defeated. However, the Glencull boys from the year above him will slag him and his Ballygawley PS year group while the Garvaghey PS boys will slag the Ballygawley boys as well. And of course everyone slags me and reminds me that I never won a Knockmany medal! Even to this day I hear our younger Errigal senior players slagging each other about the Knockmany.

While at primary school I had a keen interest in Tyrone senior football. It was around this time that Mickey took charge of the Tyrone minor team. It was the tradition that we met up at my grandmother’s house on match days (Mickey and my Dad’s mother)It was a big family affair and we all travelled in cars to the matches. My best memories of Tyrone matches are from the 94/95 era. I had been to the two U21 All-Ireland Final victories in 1989 and 1990 and even at that age, I was aware of the exceptional talent of a certain Peter Canavan. I always remember Peter’s wee jig after scoring a goal into the Canal End in what I think was the National League Final in 1992. It was of course the bulk of that team that carried on to the mid-90’s senior team and I would have admired both Peter and Pascal Canavan. I had watched them winning the Ulster Club title in 1993 and they were true idols of mine. While Peter is the best player I have ever seen, I always tried to model myself on Pascal, in terms of consistency levels - how he applied himself and how he played and read the game. From the team of the mid 90’s I was a huge fan of Adrian Cush. When we were playing in the back garden I always pretended to kick left footed points like Cushy. He was left-footed in a time when there were not many stand-out left footers. He would collect the ball and weave through defences and kick great points and frees.

I began my teaching career at St.  Patrick’s Grammar Armagh the day after we won the momentous All-Ireland semi-final versus Armagh in 2005!

I was sheepish enough going into the building on that day, but underneath it all, I was on top of the world having just qualified for my first All-Ireland Final. There was a teacher in the school who was on the Armagh panel called Paul McCormack. Tyrone Goalkeeper John Devine was working with me and we were both very fortunate that our Principal Fr Donaghy was a super man and looked after us very well in terms of football and was very generous in giving us time off. He would have allowed us out to attend events which we would have viewed as important. He was of the opinion that as well as representing your county you were also representing your school.

Playing GAA at my primary school was a very important beginning to my sporting career. It is where I developed a love for the game and it was also my first experience of sporting competition. I still like to reflect on the great days I spent with my classmates in the school yard and representing theschool against my neighbouring schools. I have many friends from primary school and I still like to reminisce about the ‘good old days’. It’s great to see that GAA of all codes is still very much active in the primary schools of our county and long may it continue. The future of Tyrone GAA is bright!!!

 

                           Davy Harte