March 07, 1992
Anthony Tohill holds possession
The sporting family TOHILL
Young Anthony Is The Jewel In The Crown
Hugh and Eileen Tohill are proud of their four boys and four girls. Swatragh is their home and if their family can bring a little fame to the mid-Derry village it's acknowledged. Be it mass on Sunday, or business in the town, the people of this tightly knit community have a common strain in their conversations. The G.A.A. ranks high in Swatragh's list in priorities. The Tohills are people to be proud of, writes BERNIE MULLAN.
Anthony Tohill first saw the light of the day on the second of August 1971. He was Hugh and Eileen's third son. Gaelic football was deeply engrained in the Tohill stock. Hugh had picked up a junior championship medal with Swatragh. A strong rugged player who took no short cuts he had little doubt that the boys would follow in the family footsteps. That they did and the four boys now proudly sport the green and white Celtic style hoops of the Michael Davitt Club.
John holds an All Ireland Scor Quiz medal. Hugh Martin made his debut against Cavan in the league last year and scored four points. Indeed, it was his goal that helped to stop Leitrim winning promotion. Currently he is undergoing treatment for a bad knee injury. Youngest brother Brian is at St. Patricks Maghera. Jane captains the Derry minor camogie team while the other three sisters Mary, Mairead and Aileen have taken up the caman for the honour of the village.
For a village of it's size Swatragh's is quite a remarkable place. They have won three All Ireland titles in various grades of scor question time. Charles J. Haughey is the son of Swatragh parents. Indeed, it has been whispered that a few Haugheys may have kicked a ball for the Davitt's while holidaying in their ancestral village. The Camogie team has won the Derry senior for the past 18 years. A tremendous record considering that camogie is strong in Derry. The local co-op provides much needed employment. Emigration is not as bad as in other areas. Swatragh is full of self reliant people who make their own living.
Anthony Tohill first kicked a ball in earnest at St. John's Primary School Swatragh. The principal Mr. Cleary had played for Fermanagh at senior level. He proved an excellent coach. Then for the lanky Anthony it was on to St. Patrick's High School Maghera which was just four miles away. As they say around Derry 'if there's football in you, they'll take it out of you in St. Patricks'.
Anthony will be first to admit that he wasn't an overnight star. Being tall and lightly built he found difficulty in tight match situations. Sometimes easily blocked, sometimes easily bowled over. He grew quickly and at 17 began to fill out. In 1988 he was on the local club team that won a first ever Derry minor championship. Hugh Martin was in the act as well. Virtually all the players had came through the ranks since their Primary School days. The man in charge again was Master Cleary. He was still called 'Sir' by some of the boys.
1989 was to be a great year for Anthony. He had now graduated to the Derry First Division. In his first senior championship game he scored eight points against Glennullin. They were mostly from frees here was a player to watch. At St. Patricks it had been history making all the way. He had been on the hurling team that had won the Mageen Cup, this is the Ulster Colleges Senior Hurling Championship.
Under the superb Guidance of coach Adrian McGuckin the college went all the way and won the Hogan cup. Anthony had played well but lacked consistency. With many of the players eligible for the minor grade, it was obvious that Derry would be very strong at this level. After a shaky start against Fermanagh they made it to the Ulster final. Anthony was still lacking in confidence at times and was replaced.
It was at approximately 2.40 p.m. on the 13th August 1989 that Anthony cast all his doubts and cost at wet and windy Croke Park in the All Ireland MInor semi-final. His team had struggled in the first half and there was fears of shock defeat as a certain Derek Duggan caused Derry all kinds of problems. As if reborn the bit Swatragh lad simply took the game by the scruff of the neck. He kicked two super second half points as his team went on to record a staggering 4-16 to 1-7 victory.
A month later with Offaly the opposition Derry collected their third ever minor title. The Irish Independent on MOnday blared out the heading 'Super Tohill is the Derry Star'. He had been simply magnificent and had kicked four points from play in Derry's 3-9 to 1-6 victory.
Derry fans looked forward to a quick promotion to the senior ranks but four months after the victory Anthony was on his way to Melbourne to sample the rough and tumble of Australian Rules football.
He quickly adjusted to life in Melbourne just as quickly as he adjusted to the oval ball game and pitches. He established himself on the Melbourne Demons Call and Reserve teams. He missed a chance of playing in the Reserve Grand Final. He got a broken leg playing a game of Gaelic Football in Melbourne.
He was in the same club as Jim Stynes and Sean Wight, two Gaelic footballers who had made the level grade. Being an extremely sensible and level headed lad, he continued his education at an engineering college. He was still very much in the minds of Derry GAA people and several rumours that he was coming home proved to be only rumours.
Then came the good news. In June of last year he arrived back after 18 successful months 'Down Under'. On the day he came back he attended senior county training. Amazingly in match situations he looked as if he was never away. He came on as a sub agianst Down in the championship and scored a vital point in the drawn game. In the replay he was less successful.
Anthony's skills are wide ranging, he excels at golf, squash, hurling and soccer. However, his first priority is gaelic football. He is now at Queens University and plays on both the freshers and first teams. Since the start of the current league, he has played right half forward for Derry and has played a leading role in their wins over Meath, Kildare, Kerry and Down. In those games he has scored a total of 1-6 and more than once has dropped back to midfield and starred.
Against Down at Celtic Park he gave an astounding performance of high catching, long range scoring and inch perfect passing. Such was his performance that he has been selected for Ulster despite not being listed in the original panel of 40 players. Standing six feet four inches and weighing over 200 pounds, he is a magnificent sporting specimen.
There is an air of optimism in Derry that hasn't been there for years. Anthony epitomises a new breed of Derry footballer, big, athletic and skilful. It's to his regret that so far he hasn't played for Derry along with his brother Hugh Martin but that may not be too far away. Hugh Martin was recently picked on the best Queens University team of the last 20 years. He may not be as big as his brother but he has inherited his father's grit and determination. He hopes to be back training with Derry in a couple of weeks time. Anthony has become the first Swatragh player to represent his province in football. The village is delighted. CJ might have stepped out of the limelight. Right now big Anthony is filling that void.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
7th March 1992
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