January 01, 2001
Taken from Hogan Stand 1999
To this day, Andy McCallin holds the distinction of being Antrims only football All-Star recipient. We speaks to the man whose skills in both football and hurling illuminated many an Antrim and Ulster performance
Few names in Antrim GAA come much bigger than that of Andy McCallin. A dual star who had the rare distinction of representing his province in both football and hurling, McCallin is probably best known for being the only Antrim man to receive an All-Star for his exploits on the football pitch.
An individual who reached the height of his playing career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Andy McCallin was unquestionably one of the finest dual players of his generation. Although his competitive playing days are now behind him, McCallin is still a familiar face on the Antrim GAA scene. This year, Andy was manager of the Erin's Own, Cargin team which suffered an unlucky defeat to his former club, St. John's in the county senior football final.
Reared on a diet of GAA only a puck of a ball away from Casement Park, it was almost inevitable that McCallin would make his name in the games he loved so much. Son of Andy McCallin Snr., Andy can vividly remember how passionate his father was about the affairs of the St. John's club.
"The GAA was his life," Andy recalls. "My father was a diehard St. John's clubman and served many years as club chairman. He also managed the club for a number of years and was over the team when they reached the All-Ireland Club final in 1978 (a team which Andy Jnr. played on). So, I suppose some of it was bound to rub off on me," he adds.
Andy Jnr. was cast into the hurly-burly world of football at a remarkably early age. "I'll never forget my first game for St. John's," he says. "I was only nine years of age when I was asked to play corner-forward for the minors because they were short a couple of players. I can't remember much about the game except that the lower part of the jersey I was wearing was down around my knees!"
A player of immense talent, complete with an incredible eye for scores, Andy won practically every honour that was available to him at underage level in both football and hurling. His skills were duly recognised by the county selectors and Andy went on to represent his county at every level in both codes.
The Belfast native first shot to national prominence in 1969 when he played a starring role in Antrim's 1-8 to 0-10 victory over Roscommon in the All-Ireland Under 21 Football final. Operating from his favourite corner-forward berth, Andy finished the All-Ireland final with a magnificent scoring tally of 1-5.
Despite the saffrons' lack of success at senior level, McCallin was a household name throughout Ulster. 1971 was easily the most successful year of his career. That season, he became the first Antrim man since Kevin Armstrong in 1946 to represent Ulster in both football and hurling. Ulster's win over Connacht in the Railway Cup football final enabled Andy to pick up his one and only inter-provincial medal.
Another medal which came his way that season was a National Hurling League Division Two memento, to add to the All-Ireland Intermediate Hurling Championship souvenir he had garnered in 1970.
1971 finished on a real high for the then pride of Antrim GAA. Andy was selected at right-corner-forward on the very first football Allstar team. Incidentally, the only other Ulster man to feature on that team was the great Sean O'Neill of Down who was chosen alongside Andy at full-forward.
Andy went on to play nine years for the Antrim senior footballers but highlights were not nearly as plentiful as in the early years. At club level, however, Andy's career continued to flourish. He won eight senior football championship medals in the colours of St. John's as well as two senior hurling championship mementos. He also garnered an Ulster club hurling championship medal.
While still in his early twenties, Andy had already ventured into management. He guided St. John's to victory in three consecutive county minor football finals between 1972 and 1974. The experience he gained then would serve him well in later years.
Andy took charge of the Antrim minor footballers in 1977 and remained at the helm for three seasons. In 1980, Andy left Antrim and settled in Limerick where he worked on the giant Alumina plant which was under construction at that time.
For the next seven years, McCallin resided in the Raheen suburb of Limerick city and played both his football and hurling with Mungret. He quickly became a regular on the Limerick senior football team and played one game for the Limerick hurlers against Kilkenny in the Oireachtas Cup.
In 1984, Andy was appointed manager of the Limerick football team. He admits that success was hard to come by, recalling that the lure of rugby proved too difficult to resist for many of the county's top gaelic footballers.
"The attraction of rugby greatly reduced Limerick's chances of making any significant headway in football," he regrets. "The footballers in the county were just as good as anywhere else - it was unfortunate that so many of them were lost to rugby and, indeed, other sports."
Andy returned to Antrim in 1987 - Cushendall to be exact - and continued his hurling career with the local club. He played his football with nearby Glenravel.
Life in the Glens has been good to Andy and he jokes that the fresh air enabled him to line out for the Antrim Over 40s (Masters) earlier in '99.
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