Dara Patton was one of the top strikers in Donegal football circles over the last twenty years.
He had an excellent career with Fanad United, and then had a number of successful seasons with hometown club Rathmullan Celtic.
Patton has come up against some top quality players, and this week has picked the best 11 (3-1-4-2) he faced.
Liam Grant (Letterkenny Rovers): I played against a lot of good goalkeepers. Caolan McGettigan was excellent but I chipped him one too many times to include him in this team! Liam Grant was a brilliant goalkeeper with Letterkenny Rovers and some of the saves he made were just out of this world. He was just constantly frustrating you.
Jason Gavin (Shamrock Rovers): We played against Shamrock Rovers in the FAI Cup in 2005, and Gavin had just come back from England where he had played for Middlesbrough and Bradford and a few other teams. I was up front with Davitt Walsh and we didn’t get a sniff. I decided then to try the dark arts and gave a few verbals to see if it might draw him out. That might have worked in the USL, but the next ball that came up, Gavin came through me with a perfectly timed tackle. He won the ball, and I broke a bone in my foot and spent the next six weeks in plaster.
Marcus McDonnell (Lifford Celtic): I had a decent enough record when I went to the Donegal League with Rathmullan and scored against most teams, but I don’t think I ever scored against Lifford. Marcus McDonnell was a big reason for that and he was one of those defenders that would have put his head where others wouldn’t have put their foot. I remember one day I had a chance from about two yards, and was thinking this is finally the drought over, and he came from nowhere to clear off the line.
John McElroy (Cockhill Celtic): John was a very good player. He played for Derry City and Omagh Town before going back to Cockhill and he was a big reason as to why they started to enjoy the success that they did. He was strong in the air and good on the ground and gave it his all every day he went out. A great lad off the pitch, he’s a big Bruce Springsteen fan too, and you have to respect that.
Paul Nash (Finn Harps Reserves and Swilly Rovers): I remember playing against Paul for Fanad when he was with Finn Harps Reserves. We had Kenny Harkin and Martin McGinley in midfield which was as good as you would get, but Nash dominated. He went on to play for Swilly as well and we were delighted then when he signed for Fanad. A class act, I think he even patented the Paul Nash drag back at one stage!
Ivan Sproule (Dergview): I played in the Convoy Cup for Rathmullan a few times and came up against Ivan Sproule in a Dergview/Castelfin select. I didn’t think I was that slow but Ivan went past me and had the ball in the net before I was even turned. Linford Christie wouldn’t have kept up with him – he was lightning. He went on to score a hat-trick for Hibs against Rangers at Ibrox, so that made me feel better about it.
Glenn Bovaird (Kildrum Tigers): Glenn was a fierce, fierce competitor. Kildrum had a really strong team when they joined the USL and Glenn was the heartbeat of their side. You would have to battle for every ball with him and he could pop up anywhere on the pitch too and score the odd goal. He was very successful with Kildrum, but I’m sure he would say that the highlight of his career was winning the Donegal League with Rathmullan.
John Keeney (Letterkenny Rovers): We would have played St Eunan’s College regularly when I was at the Convent in Milford and John Keeney was the best about at that time. He was completely dominating matches and he was head and shoulders above the rest. I also would have come up against ‘Minger’ for Letterkenny Rovers. Ollie Horgan managed him with St Eunan’s and couldn’t speak highly enough of him as a player, and you know how readily Ollie dishes out the praise.
Sean Friars (Quigley’s Point Swifts): Around the turn of the Millennium, Quigley Point Swifts had a very good team with the likes of Ronan Coyle and Gary Heaney, and Sean Friars was a class apart. He has just come back from Liverpool and he was very talented. We had a good defence at the time in Fanad with ‘Burger’, John Doc, Davy Deery, and Shane Sweeney, but even they would admit that they had trouble with Friars. He just glided over the ground. He didn’t stay in the league that long and went on to play for Derry and Harps, and a few teams up the North.
Dave Mooney (Shamrock Rovers and Longford Town): Mooney was a top class striker and he scored against us when we played Shamrock Rovers, and a couple of years later, he also scored when Longford Town beat us 2-0. Longford were relegated that season but Mooney still won Player of the Year. He went on to play for Cork and had a good career in England too.
Ross Connolly (Buncrana Hearts): This was really a toss up between Ronan Coyle and Ross Connolly. Coyle was a phenomenal player, but if I had to decide between them, I think we had more trouble with Ross. He was big and strong and always a handful. He had a brilliant first touch as well. Ross was the main man with Buncrana Hearts but had a few stints up with Harps as well.
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