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Joseph (Jody) O'Neill

Jody O’Neill holds a distinguished place in Tyrone GAA history. Captain of the first team from the county to win an Ulster senior title in 1956 and subsequently a senior county manager, his involvement with teams – at club, school, college and county – straddle the decades from the middle to the late 20th century. The interview begins with recalling his early sporting experiences in Coalisland and his introduction to formal games in primary school. He continues to chart his experience of football at St. Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon and recalls memorable games and players he played with and against. Moving to third level, Jody explains his reasons for declining an offer to become involved with the Queen’s University Sigerson Cup team. He discusses the years he played minor football with Tyrone and the transition to playing senior football. He explains the background to his appointment as team captain with Tyrone in 1956, aged just 19. He recalls some of the games played, including the defeats in two All-Ireland semi-finals and Tyrone first ever Ulster title in 1956. He also provides an insight into the characters and talents of a number of his team-mates, among them the famous Iggy Jones. After his retirement as a player, O’Neill entered into management and he documents his experiences with county minor, junior and senior teams as well as club teams. Included among these was the winning an All-Ireland junior title in 1968, an achievement which was followed by a trip to New York which is described here. Throughout all this, O’Neill offers insights into how football was played at different times, how players prepared and how competitions were run. O’Neill offers frank appraisals of the impact of the Troubles on the GAA in the North, as well as the role of the clergy. Finally, O’Neill comments critically on certain aspects of the modern game of Gaelic football and reflects on the breakthrough All-Ireland success of Tyrone in 2003.

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