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Where are they now?

Greg Blaney

(Former Down footballer)

Perhaps the enduring memory of Greg Blaney's career was his celebrated near-telepathic relationship with Mickey Linden, a devastating playmaker-to-marksman attacking link that was fundamental to Down orchestrating the most storied period in their history.

It was textbook forward play, the final product of hours of rehearsals on the training ground, a forerunner of the modern Alan to Bernard Brogan interplay if you will. At least it would appear that way. Not so, according to Blaney himself.

"There was not the slightest bit of planning or rehearsal that went into it," says Blaney. "At times it may have looked like it was pretty well planned but the reality is somewhat different -- the truth of the matter is that it was simply get on and get at it. It was off the cuff really."

A revelation, indeed, that may startle opposition defences who had to endure the skills of one of the most enigmatic and ingenious players of his generation.

There are few whose achievements can rank with Blaney at all levels and across two codes in the GAA. His father Seán played football for Armagh and it was there that he first got a taste for the game. A glittering underage career followed, where he won Ulster minor, Ulster under 21 and All-Ireland under 21 medals (at the ripe age of 16), and this was a precursor to winning All-Ireland senior titles in 1991 and 1994, ending a drought of 23 years in the county.

A supremely gifted athlete, he was the centrepiece of a star-studded side including current manager James McCartan, DJ Kane, Ross Carr and captain and current Armagh manager Paddy O'Rourke. Blaney also claimed an Ulster SFC back in 1981 plus National League honours in 1983 and an unprecedented provincial hurling breakthrough in 1992.

A recipient of All-Star football accolades in 1983, 1991 and 1994, Blaney won five Railway Cups between 1983 and 1995 and represented Ireland in the Compromise Rules series in 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1990. He also starred at Queen's University, emerging as top marksman in the 1982 Sigerson Cup victory as a Fresher.

Blaney retired from football 15 years ago at 34. He was Down selector under Paddy O'Rourke in 2002. They were denied an Ulster Championship in 2003 at the hands of Tyrone after a replay. He is a dentist in Belfast and is now taking up his first senior club management position at Belfast club St Brigid's.

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