DURING his playing names the name of Clan na Gael’s right corner back, Kevin France, was easily remembered by reporters and commentators alike.
Kevin France is not often persuaded into giving interviews but the privilege of securing ‘an exclusive’ was in no small measure accommodated by the Shankill man’s daughter Jane and his wife Marion who stressed that he still loves to talk about football.
Growing up just a stone’s throw away from Davitt Park it was inevitable that Kevin France would play for the Clans. But the extent of the success that the Blues man was to witness could only be dreamed about when he was being coached at youth level by his schoolteacher Harry Hoye and at his club by ‘Mr Clan na Gael’ Harry McGarry.
“Harry managed the young Clans team and Harry Hoye coached our school teams at St Paul’s. Like many long serving players at our club, and as with many others, my playing career was attributed to both of these men for their time and effort and for their dedication to the GAA,” said the former Clans stalwart.
Kevin is currently giving something back and is at the forefront of the coaching structures at Francis Street, particularly with the club’s under 10s. Kevin stressed the importance of keeping the youth structures strong at the Lurgan club.
He said: “We can all look back at Clan na Gael’s past with pride but currently the emphasis should be placed on the youth at Davitt Park.”
Kevin’s roll of honour is staggering to say the least - three Juvenile Championships, three Juvenile Leagues, three Minor Championships, three Minor Leagues, nine McKillop Cup medals, eight Armagh League medals, three Ulster Club Championships and an all-county Player of the Year award in 1972 are amongst the accolades attached to the Blues man’s career with club and county.
Kevin, who normally played in a defensive line alongside Jim O’Hagan and Sean J. Moore, said he felt full of confidence playing in front of the legendary Padge Scullion, the then Blues goalkeeper.
“He installed a feeling of calm as you knew that if anything got past you, he was there. He made the defenders comfortable and confident in every game,” said Kevin.
Last Friday night, at the Clan na Gael 90th anniversary celebrations, memories flooded back of all the great players who had worn the blue jersey with distinction - John Greene, Jimmy Smyth, Jim McKerr and Colm McKinstry to name but a few.
But, when prompted, Kevin France remembered the skills of what he described as a very special player. “During the seventies we were fortunate enough to have had a full panel of equally matched players, however, I would mention Terence McCaughley. I wouldn’t say he was the best but I can’t think of anyone who was better.” he said.
Brian Seeley’s managerial know-how could not be underestimated during the Clans’ glory days. Speaking about his former boss, Kevin said: “Brian was a great manager, he was hard and fair. Along with various coaches he insured that we were always working hard in training and were in top condition. He made sure of it.”
“Clan na Gael has been through a difficult time recently but we have a lot of dedicated coaches, players and officials to ensure that the new players coming through from the youth ranks can bring back the glory days,” he said.