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John Haran in action during the drawn 2003 All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final.

John Haran in action during the drawn 2003 All Ireland SFC Quarter-Final.

John Haran enjoyed St Jarlath's and Donegal adventure

By Cian O'Connell

John Haran's Twitter bio only tells half the tale: number 20 on the best Hogan Cup team ever. Haran was so much more than that.

A decorated figure in St Eunan's, Letterkenny's history, Haran was also a hugely relevant figure in a team that is still fondly remembered in the west.

In 2003 during one of Brian McEniff’s storied wins in charge of Donegal, Haran came on in the gripping All Ireland Quarter-Final replay triumph over Galway in Castlebar.  

St Jarlath's Hogan Cup winning crop of 1994 was sprinkled with Galway's most distinguished collection of footballers since the three-in-a row outfit in the 1960s.

Tomas Meehan, John Divily, Michael Cloherty, Tommy Joyce, Michael Donnellan, Declan Meehan, and Padraig Joyce all subsequently earned All Ireland senior glory in maroon and white. Haran was there in the thick of it all.

"It was a golden generation for Galway, them boys were some players,” Haran says. “I was lucky to be part of it for them few years, it was brilliant. When you look back on it now, I'd still be in contact with (John) Divilly, (Padraig) Joyce, (John) Concannon, they'd be three good friends.

"Three of the that team that won the 1994 Hogan Cup team went on to become Players of the Year - (Michael) Donnellan, Joyce, and I think Declan Meehan in 2000 when Galway were beaten in the final. It is unbelievable when you think that one team could produce three Players of the Year a few years later.

“They were brilliant footballers, the best of the lot was probably Concannon, it just never worked out for him.”

Concannon’s underage career was sprinkled with magical moments, a backheeled goal in a Connacht Colleges Final, a 1-6 haul in the 1994 All Ireland Minor Semi-Final. Undoubtedly Concannon was the forward youngsters in the school and with an interest in football in the west wanted to become.

That delicious flick lingers in Haran’s mind. “He did it in Tuam Stadium, he was phenomenal,” Haran recalls.

“Him and Donnellan were the standout players on that team at that stage. Padraig Joyce was captain, he went on with Donnellan to be the best of the lot in my opinion. He had a long career, won all the honours, but Michael Donnellan was phenomenal as well.”

Haran went to school in Tuam in 1989 until 1995, following a path that had been set by Leslie McGettigan, who was involved with two Hogan Cup triumphs.

“I was there from first year, I was there with all of them boys in September 1989,” Haran explains.

“My brother had gone the year before and I suppose people always ask why we went down with us being from Letterkenny. Paul McGettigan's younger brother, Leslie, won two Hogan Cups with Jarlath's in 82 and 84. They were neighbours of ours, my father was a Sligoman, he was a football fanatic.

“He thought if there was any football in his sons he would send them to Jarlath's. My brother went before me, he wasn't made go, he was given a choice. He went, then I went, and my other brother went the year after.

“Then a few years later Kevin Winston, who was corner forward on that Hogan Cup team, he came down for his last two years in school, he was from St Eunan's, Letterkenny. He is a good friend and a team mate of mine, he came down and he was a brilliant footballer.”

Being in boarding school was demanding, but Haran relished the sporting opportunities which existed.

“Leslie had gone down before and Daddy just said that if there was any football in his sons surely Jarlath's would get it out of them.

“There was nothing easy about boarding school, but we stuck it out. I was there for six years, most of that team that won the Hogan Cup in 1994, anyone that was young enough to play the next year repeated the Leaving to get another year. That year didn't work out great, but Jarlath's was just football. It was morning, noon, and night.”

Speed and skill were what Jarlath’s focused on. Joe Long trained the exciting 1994 vintage, while the late Fr Ollie Hughes was also a significant influence. “Yeah, Joe Long was the manager of that team, Ollie Hughes hadn't been there for a few years, but he came back and was President for the last couple of years.

“They were brilliant men, football mad. Everything was done the right way, everything was done the proper way, they wouldn't be into defensive football like nowadays. Times have changed, but it was very traditional back then, it was let the ball do the work, 15 against 15, no blanket defences or sweepers.

“It was catch and kick, let the ball do the work. Just work on the skills of the game. They were brilliant coaches and brilliant men. The ethos of the school was football and to do everything right and in a sporting way. You just bought into it, discipline was key. There was no mouthing to referees or dirty tackles, that is just the way it was.”

Following his school days Haran continued to impress with St Eunan’s, Letterkenny and made the step-up to inter-county level. The 2003 campaign included two titanic battles against his old pals, who were still playing with Galway. “Declan Meehan, Tommy Joyce and Padraig, Michael Donnellan, Tomas Meehan, they were all still there,” Haran remarks.

“It was good craic. We had played them in a challenge game in Sligo a few weeks beforehand because we went out of Ulster early in the first round against Fermanagh. We had a challenge game against Galway one evening in Markievicz Park and they hammered us.

“We were at a low ebb, but we got a run together in the backdoor. We came up against them in the Quarter-Final at Croke Park. We probably should have beaten them, I got a point at the end to put us a point up, I thought it was going to be the winner. I had a good chance a minute or two later, I probably should have put it over the bar, but I passed it, the pass went astray. The ball came up the field and Kevin Walsh kicked a big point to equalise it.”

Unperturbed Brian McEniff found a cause. Aggrieved that the replay was set for Castlebar Donegal responded summoning a dynamic display on a sultry evening out west.

“The replay in Castlebar was a big day for Donegal because we had massive support,” Haran remembers. “Brian McEniff put out this rallying cry that this game was in Galway's back yard, that it was wrong, and that Donegal were being hard done by. We got massive support down, we won and it was a great victory.

“It was a great summer for Donegal in 2003, it was nice to get one over on them boys. I got to swap jerseys with Tommy Joyce the first day and I got Declan Meehan's the second day in Castlebar. We have good memories and it was nice to get one up on them boys because they had the stellar careers, it wasn't me, but it was nice to get one up on them once.”

When Haran’s Donegal days finished, he remained busy collecting Donegal titles with St Eunan’s, Letterkenny. “I kept at it, I loved my football, I always kept in good enough shape,” Haran says. “I'm still playing senior this year, I've won eight Championships with St Eunan's, it is an honour.

“I'll be 41 in November, we won our last Championship in 2014, I was midfield, I mightn't get my place this year, but I'll be there or thereabouts.” That is a certainty. Haran continues to enjoy the game, his rich contribution alongside a gifted group in the west won’t be forgotten either.

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