Current ‘A’ team player / manager Jim McClintock, is by common consent “Town’s” greatest ever player. From 1996.
Now in the twilight of his career Jim, or “Tabs” as he is better known, was the complete midfield performer and his exploits for the “Town” in the ‘80s and ‘90s brought him four ‘A’ team player of the year awards and made him one of the best players locally. He could dictate the pace of a game, had the speed of thought to create space with perceptive running and an ability to open up defences with pin-point passes. His strength, tough, timing, judgement and above all confidence galvanised and inspired those around him.
“Tabs” began playing for the “Town” in the late 1970s and apart from a brief spell with Irvinestown Wanderers he has spent his whole areer with “Town” for whom the 1980s proved a frustrating period as they yo-yoed between Division I and Division II with alarming regularity. There is no doubt that for years “Tabs” carried “Town” and the irony of his Celtic Park career is that a team fit for his talents was assembled only towards the end of it.
Under his captaincy “Town” won the Division II championship in 1987, the Mulhern Cup in 1990 and 1994 and the Kennedy Cup in 1992 and 1993. In 1994 his inspirational play helped “Town” win the Irish Junior Cup and it was entirely appropriate that is was him who was presented with the much coveted trophy after leading the Club to the pinnacle of Junior Football with a replayed final success over former kingpins Oxford United.
His appointment as ‘A’ Team Manager was a natural progression and his ability to motivate players, his grasp of tactics and his passion to succeed have maintained “Town’s” position as the leading side locally. His young charges have evolved into a neat passing adventurous outfit who have acquired a consistency, commitment and strength of continuity much admired by other clubs and the winning of the Mulhern cup last season for the third time was considerable consolation for their narrow eclipse in the Division I Championship.
“Tabs” is also an outstanding administrator and during his three year term as Chairman of the Club he took it by the scruff of the next and elevated it to hitherto unknown horizons. He brought tremendous improvements to the general organisation and administration and he was the driving force behind the club’s memorable 25th Anniversary celebrations in 1995. His efforts that year were rewarded by his selection as Clubman of the Year.
For many people “Tabs” has been the catalyst in the remarkable evolution of “Town” from periodic strugglers to perennial challengers for major titles. The winning of the Division I Championship remains the “Holy Grail” and “Tabs” will not be satisfied until the Mercer Cup proudly rests in the Club’s magnificent trophy cabinet.
Who were the biggest influences on your career?
At “Town” – Wee Paul. When training with “Town” was not fashionable Wee Paul always kept it going, in all types of weather. His contribution to local football and “Town” in particular will never be surpassed.
Outside “Town” – Sammy McFerdrick. I played quite often for Lisbellaw in Summer Competitions and Sammy always kept on at me – to pass, to push forward, to shoot, to come back and defend, to support players in possession, etc. He also was quick to criticise me but he was always constructive in his criticism.
Who was your most difficult opponent?
The most difficult player to mark was Paul Cassidy of Irvinestown Wanderers. You always had to concentrate on where he was. A strong, skilful opponent, but always a sportsman.
What were the best matches you were involved in?
“Town” v Ballinamallard United in the 1989/90 Mulhern Cup Semi-Final which was played at Drumad, Lisbellaw. Ballinamallard were hot favourites but we beat them 3-1. John Reihill scored two crackers and I scored the other. It was a brilliant team performance.
“Town” v Dergview in the 1992/1993 top four final which was played at Ferney Park, Ballinamallard. We played with caution to the wind that night and nearly paid the price. Gary Beckett scored a superb hat-trick in a 3-2 victory. Again, it was a great team performance.
What was your biggest thrill in the game?
To win the Junior Cup is everybody’s dream. To be captain and to carry the cup back into “The County Bar” is something that I’ll always remember – the hair on the back of my neck still stands when I think of it.
What was your biggest disappointment of the game?
Losing 1-0 to Lisbellaw United in the 1979-1980 Mulhern Cup Final which was played at Celtic Park, Enniskillen. My brother Kevin had the misfortune to score an own goal and after the game the two of us, along with Brian Keenan, stood in the centre circle and cried our eyes out.
Have you ever been booked or sent off?
Unfortunately yes! I can’t recall how many times I was sent off but as a competitive player I sometimes got a little carried away and at times found it hard to control my temperament.
What are your favourite grounds?
For atmosphere during big games, Celtic Park would be hard to beat. For a playing surface most suitable to “Town’s” style of play Lisbellaw United’s ground at Drumad is without equal.
Who are your favourite “Town” players of the past?
I have had the pleasure of playing with some great talent down through the years with “Town” but I think in the early eighties, when success on the field was limited, four players of contrasting styles stood out :
Jack Love – Undoubtedly the most skilful footballer I ever had the fortune to play with.
Kenny Maguire – For a ten year period in local soccer he was simply the best keeper around.
Kevin McClintock – Not a stylish or skilful right full-back but nothing went past him without some sort of aggressive challenge from him going in.
Brendan Lyons – Stylish, skilful, good in the air, two footed. Maybe not the quickest of players, but he made up for it by his reading of the game.
Which present day players do you most admire?
Gary Beckett – now with Derry City – who has the potential to become an even better player. He is skilful, a good reader of the game, a great striker of the ball – his only weakness is his heading ability. I also admire “Town’s” first team panel who last season showed great character and resilience when the odds were stacked against them.
What were the best goals you have ever scored?
A lot of people talk about that goal scored from a free-kick against Enniskillen Rangers at Celtic Park. I certainly enjoyed it although I’m not sure if Gary Howe did!
The most important goal I scored was against Ballinamallard United in the 1989/90 Mulhern Cup semi-final. I gained possession in mid-field, broke through their defence, drew their ‘keeper and placed the ball under him with my left foot. We went on to win the Mulhern Cup for the first time.
What other sport(s) do you enjoy?
At the moment I have started to attend the footballers’ graveyard, the golf course. I enjoy watching Gaelic Football and Hurling. My secret passion is hill-walking.
What are your hopes for the next season?
For all “Town’s” teams to win every game and every competition they enter.
What are your long term ambitions?
- For “Town” to obtain their own training and playing facilities.
- For “Town’s” first team to play in a higher league
- For “Town’s” youth teams to play week in week out competitive football.