Q1 - Although you are originally from Ballynahinch, you enjoyed a long and successful period at Carrick Rangers. How did your move to Taylor’s Avenue come about?
I was playing for H&W Welders and had just been made captain when I got a serious groin injury and had to stop playing for a couple of months after which I received a call from Donal Bell at Drumaness Mills to see if I’d be interested in playing and getting fit again.
It was perfect for me and I soon regained fitness and was playing really well. Carrick had been scouting me and I received a call from them one Saturday evening after they’d been at our game. They wanted me to play the following Tuesday and then Saturday away to Newry Town as they were then. I played on Tuesday and must have done OK because I was handed the captain’s armband before the Newry game and that’s how my career at Carrick started.
Q2 - One of your highlights was captaining the Carrick side that reached the 1999 League Cup Semi Final. Did you feel additional pressure in your role as captain?
I never got nervous before games, even the big ones. I’ve seen ex Internationals being sick in the toilet before Finals but I loved every minute and just tried to lead by example and give my all for my team.
Q3 - Who had the biggest influence on your career and why?
No one else in my family played football so anything I’ve done in the game has been through my own hard work. But I always tried to learn different things off some of the good players I’ve played with or against over the years.
Q4 - Who was your favourite opponent (team and individual player) to play against?
I always loved the East Antrim Derbies against Larne. There was always a big crowd and the games were always a bit tasty with tackles flying in - they were great fun. As for individuals, I’ve played against some smashing players over the years - Jim Cleary and Lee Doherty were great players. I remember marking Paul Byrne one day, he’d just returned from Scotland, and it was like marking a ghost. One second he was there, then he was gone, but Tony Gorman was top class for both Portadown and Linfield - an absolute machine.
Q5 - You remained associated with the club as a supporter and more recently as a member of the backroom staff. How does the current Carrick team compare to the side that you played in?
I played with some smashing players in good teams over the years at Carrick but the main difference with today’s team is the age. This team is full of super young players who’ve been given an opportunity to play Irish League Football. Players like Reece Neale, Lloyd Anderson and Liam Hassin among others coming through are getting a great learning experience and I hope more of the local talent will see this and sign for Carrick instead of the ‘bigger’ teams where they’ll be very lucky to get those opportunities.
Q6 - If you could select one player from the Carrick side that you played with to feature in the present day team, who would it be and why?
This one is very easy for me, there’s only one GLENN TAGGART! What can I say, I admire Glenn so much for his loyalty to Carrick over 20 years and he was a top player appreciated by every player who ever played with him and seen how good he was close up.
He never missed training and it was a privilege to be his captain and share the pitch with him over many years. He’d play in any Carrick team in any era all day long.
Q7 - If you look back on your career to date, what has been your biggest highlight and also your biggest disappointment?
A big highlight for me was being named Player of the Year at Carrick but nothing has ever replaced pulling on the Amber shirt every Saturday. I just loved everything about the club from Diane the tea lady to our loyal supporters who are still there with the team from my time. I always tell people we may not be a massive club but we are a great club with great people.
The biggest disappointment has to be going down in the play offs to Newry two years ago we were 2-0 up in the first leg and cruising then the wheels came off and they ended up winning 3-2. To be fair, they were the better team over the two legs but to see your team losing at home in such a big game was terrible.
Q8 - What do you believe has been the biggest change in the Irish League across the past two decades?
The game has really changed, it’s nowhere near as physical but there are more good footballing teams with the more technical players being able to shine because you can’t tackle them anymore - it’s nearly a non contact sport now which I don’t like, but I do think the standard is decent.
The players definitely look after themselves better nowadays and the training and coaching has changed dramatically. In my day you hardly saw a ball in training and it was a grind but that's all changed with a lot more emphasis on work with the ball.
Q9 - How have you enjoyed working in the current set up at the club?
I have really enjoyed working within the current management team - Niall, Cliffy, Andy Hunter, John Mac, Lee Wilson and Jim Nesbitt have all been top drawer. Of course the success helps but that success has been hard earned through the hard work and persistence from these guys working on the training pitch to get the team playing in a system that works for us.
I just hope we build on the success, improve and don’t stagnate because we’ve been there before and we know where that can lead. We have a great foundation to work from at the minute and need to keep it going.
Q10 - Do you still play football recreationally?
Yes I still play for an hour on Tuesday’s and Friday’s with a group of friends and ex players including Kel McDermott, Lee Doherty and my old teammate Deccy McGreevy. It's very competitive and Kel hates losing!
I also turn out for the Northern Ireland Masters over 40’s. We play a lot of charity games and have raised thousands of pounds for good causes. I’ve also played for them in games against England, Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland, Czech Republic and many more over 10 years.
Interesting fact: I also appeared for Carrick in two games to help/hinder the team at the age of 42 during an injury crisis - my last competitive appearance in the Amber.