All-Ireland winning Dr Crokes football selector chats about his strong links to Skibbereen and West Cork
BY KIERAN McCARTHY
ONE of the men who masterminded Dr Crokes’ All-Ireland club senior football final triumph on St Patrick’s Day spent the first five years of his life in Skibbereen and trained with Ilen Rovers in his early football days.
Current Crokes selector Harry O’Neill (56) lived in Skibb until he was five and then his family moved to Killarney, and the rest, as they say, is history with Harry a very popular figure in Kerry GAA.
He has managed Dr Crokes to three Kerry SFC titles (2000, 2010 and 2011) and he came on board as a selector under Pat O’Shea last year – and it’s a move that paid off richly with Crokes beating Slaughtneil in the senior club decider in Croke Park last Friday.
Harry’s father, Jimmy O’Neill, is from Aughadown, and he married Peggy (nee Courtney) and they lived in Skibbereen town where Jimmy owned an electrical shop on North Street, where Ann Cahalane now owns a
Harry’s uncle Teddy O’Neill was involved in Skibbereen Motor Works and another uncle Paddy O’Neill is better known as Paddy O’Brien, the former RTÉ greyhound commentator.
‘I spent my first five years in Skibbereen, I went to school in Skibb, junior infants, and then we moved to Killarney – where my mother is from – around 1966,’ explained Harry (pictured below), a former Kerry U21 football selector.
‘I had a lot of cousins in Skibb – Harry, Noel, Brian, Ann, Siobhan, Claire and Grainne O’Neill – and I spent almost every summer from when I was six to 14 staying with them.
‘When Ilen Rovers started up, and when I used to spend the summers in Skibbereen, I would have gone down to Baltimore training with the lads at the time.
‘I remember that my father would have known Liam O’Regan (former owner and editor of The Southern Star) and we would have been out at his house as kids.
‘I don’t get down as much as I’d like to now with all the football.’
As well as O’Neill, another strong West Cork link to the Crokes’ set-up is former Doheny Michael Milner, from Ballinacarriga, who was an unused sub in last Friday’s All-Ireland club final. Milner, a former Cork underage footballer, transferred to Dr Crokes in 2014 and lives in Killarney where he works as a Garda.
‘Mike’s been a great addition to us. It’s a hard team to get on and it’s an excellent squad we have and Mike has been an integral part of that since he came on board,’ O’Neill explained.
‘When we played St Kieran’s in the county championship last year, he was the best player on the field for us that day.
‘One of the big things for us was our A versus B games and we were lucky to have the likes of Mike putting it up to Johnny Buckley in those training games. He’s a big part of the panel, he came on against Corofin in the All-Ireland semi-final and a lot of other games, and he’s a big part of what we are doing down here.’