August 09, 1991
Dream of the Down defence
by Brian McAvoy
Early in the Ulster Senior Football Final against Donegal, Down's wing half-back DJ Kane moved up the left wing, took a pass from Mickey Linden and fired the ball low over Gary Walsh's crossbar. He had moved upfield to score crucial points in earlier rounds against Armagh and Derry and this latest episode at St. Tiernachs Park, Clones levelled the scores at 0-2 apiece. The twenty-six year old Belfast-based Newry Shamrocks clubman has earned the reputation of being a very competitive footballer and a tenacious tackler and while essentially a defender he does occasionally like to move upfield when the opportunity presents itself to shoot the odd point.
A total competitor who hates losing, DJ Kane has made a most significant contribution in ensuring that the Anglo Celt Cup is now back in Down after an absence of ten years.
When DJ's older brother, Val, played left corner forward for the down team which defeated Donegal in the 1963 Ulster Final at Breffni Park, Cavan, the younger Kane was not even born. Val was to command a regular place on Down teams over the next few years and was a sub on the Down team which won the All-Ireland Senior football title in 1968. By virtue of Down's success in this year's Ulster Final, the Kane brothers can certainly claim to have scored quite a unique family double over the men from Tir Connail.
DJ Kane commenced his playing career with the Newry Mitchels club. At underage level he was quite successful and was a member of the Mitchels side defeated by town rivals (and now clubmates) Newry Shamrocks in the 1981 Down Minor Football Championship Final. Twelve months later however he won his Down Minor Football Championship medal playing on the Mitchels side which easily accounted for Rostrevor in the final.
Once described by a local journalist as a "late developer", DJ Kane never represented Down at minor level. He did however, play Under 21 football for the county and played as a forward on the Down side which defeated Antrim in the Centenary Year Ulster Under 21 Final. This was the last occasion in which Down won this particular title but they lost out to Munster champions Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final. Apart from DJ Kane only two members of that Ulster title winning side are presently on the Down senior panel, Ross Carr and Michael Linden.
Winner of a McRory Cup medal with the Abbey CBS, it is at higher education college level that DJ Kane has enjoyed his greatest success to date. In his first year at the Northern Ireland Polytech (now officially known as the University of Ulster, Jordanstown), he won an All-Ireland Freshers medal and he followed this up with Sigerson Cup winners medals in 1986 and 1987. He is also the proud holder of three Ryan Cup medals (Higher Education League) and on one occasion he was selected to play for the Combined Universities in the annual representative games. When UUJ won the Sigerson Cup again earlier this year he occupied a different role - that of team trainer. That team was managed by his brother Val. As UUJ Gaelic Club President, John Farrell says "Both as a player and a coach, this club owes a lot to DJ. Anything he takes on he gives it his total commitment and he is a brilliant team motivator. Any accolade he has ever earned on the gaelic field has been earned totally on merit."
Presently DJ is employed as a Physical Education teacher at Lagan College, Northern Ireland's first officially integrated school which is situated outside Lisburn. Even prior to the setting up of the State in 1921, a system of segregated education was in existence. State schools are perceived as Protestant institutions while Maintained schools are perceived as Catholic institutions. Little has changed in the intervening years though a number of years ago Lagan College was established in a positive attempt to breach the segregated divide. About 700 pupils attend the school and, although gaelic games are on the Physical Education curriculum, only a limited amount of time is devoted to the sport.
Since commanding a regular spot on the Down teams in the autumn of 1986, DJ Kane has always been an integral part of the set-up. Prior to this year, however, he won while playing at this level for the county. In the intervening years he has also changed his club allegiance. After a brief sojourn on the books of the O'Connells club in Belfast, he transferred to the Newry Shamrocks club some years ago. Although with a new club, he was still very much on familiar surroundings, however, as both Newry Shamrocks and his former club, Newry Mitchels, share the town's county ground, Pairc an Iur.
On occasions in the past DJ, by his at times over enthusiastic approach has allowed his temperament to get the better of him but no-one could ever doubt his dedication to the game and to his team mates. "When I go out on that field, I play my guts out for myself and for my colleagues around me," he said and to quote one delegate at last year's Down County Convention, "If Down had more players who scored as much as DJ Kane we wouldn't be looking back on ten years without an Ulster title." The message has obviously had its effect.
Whatever role is asked of this red-haired man, he will go about it diligently and in his own indelible style. When Liam Austin cried off the Down team through injury for the replay against Derry and Barry Breen was pencilled into midfield, DJ was given the difficult assignment of marking Derry's much daunted attacker, Dermot McNicholl. He and DJ are actually quite good friends but that friendship clearly did not extend to the playing field, as DJ completely outplayed the Glenullin man and indeed held him scoreless for the entire game. Martin McHugh suffered the same fate in the Ulster Final. No matter who DJ Kane marks, they can never expect an easy time.
Like all other Down players, the mind of DJ Kane is now firmly set on Sunday's All-Ireland semi final meeting with Kerry in Croke Park which, incidentally, he says is his favourite pitch. He totally dismisses all this hype about down never having lost to Kerry in the championship. "What happened twenty or thirty years ago has absolutely no relevance today. Kerry are Munster champions and a good team at that. They looked very impressive in beating Cork and scored an amazing twenty-three points against Limerick. they must have some forward line. They will really take some beating."
Five months ago Kerry demolished Down in their National League encounter in Killarney and doomed Down to Division Two. Kerry played much constructive football that day and demonstrated that they are a very capable unit. Whether or not Down have improved sufficiently to beat them remains to be seen but one thing is certain: DJ Kane will undoubtedly be giving his all to the cause of the men in Red and Black.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
9th August 1991
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