On All-Ireland final Sunday in 2013, the GAA honoured hurling and football selections from the 1980s, comprised of players who never won All-Ireland senior titles.
It was a nice touch and drew an enthusiastic appreciation when the players were introduced to the crowd. Antrim were double-represented on the hurling team, with Dessie Donnelly at left full-back and Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton at left half-back.
It was a fitting honour for both. Dessie’s older brother, Eddie would have been a certainty if a similar team were selected for the 1970s. His career stretched from the 1960s to the 1980s, with his best performances coming in the 1970s when he was twice called up as a replacement All Star for the tour to America.
‘Sambo’ and the two Donnellys fill the first three positions on our ranking list, with a third Donnelly, Brian, also in the top ten.
Top spot goes to ‘Sambo’, a man who has been synonymous with Antrim hurling since making his debut as a teenager in the early 1970s. He is one of only five Antrim players on the All Star roll of honour, having been selected at midfield in 1991. He was also received two other nominations.
Whether in defence, midfield or attack (where he played in All-Ireland final of 1989), ‘Sambo’ was a constant driving force in an era when the Glensmen were competing consistently at a much higher level than nowadays.
Eddie Donnelly nudges out his brother Dessie for second place, followed by Paul McKillen and Ciarán Barr. Dessie was an All Star corner-back in 1989 and received two other nominations.
McKillen, a high-quality midfielder, won an All Star award in 1993, five years after Barr, who captained the team in the 1989 All-Ireland final, won his award at centre-forward.
Barr, Dessie Donnelly, McFetridge, who we rank sixth, ‘Sambo’ and McKillen, are the only Antrim players to have won All Star awards.
1. Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton, 2. Eddie Donnelly, 3. Dessie Donnelly, 4. Paul McKillen, 5. Ciarán Barr, 6. Olcan ‘Cloot’ McFetridge, 7. Gregory O’Kane, 8. Brian Donnelly, 9. Gary O’Kane, 10. Dominic McKinley, 11. Niall Patterson, 12. Liam Watson, 13. Neil McManus, 14. Peter Boyle, 15. Terence Donnelly, 16. James McNaughton, 17. Leonard McKeegan, 18. Aidan McCarry, 19. John Carson, 20. Alistair Elliot
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