UGAAWA MERIT AWARD For December 2013

Most young players are in a rush to reach senior county level but not Gareth McKindless. He is prepared to sit back and wait. Of course, whenever he gets the call to serve Derry at senior level he will jump at the chance. That call may come sooner rather than later if the form he is currently showing continues.

“It is the aim, naturally, to make the county senior team at some stage,” he agrees, “but if I get the call I get it, if not it can’t be helped.”

What is uppermost on Gareth’s mind just now is next month’s All-Ireland Club Senior Football semi-final with Ballinderry, against St Vincent’s, after the Shamrocks ousted Glenswilly in the Ulster final and Kerry Kingdom Gaels in the national quarters, last month.

Chairman of UGAAWA, John Martin, presents the December 2013 Monthly Award to Gareth McKindless. Pic: Peadar McMahon

In both those games teenage defender McKindless shone and for those displays he has earned the Ulster GAA Writers’ Merit Award for December, ahead of Derry senior Crissie McCaigue, who was outstanding during the O’Fiaich Cup, and Glen minor Paul Gunning, who starred with Glen in the Ulster Minor Championship.

Also under consideration were a number of young handballers who won their grades at the US Juniors during December.

“Last month was certainly a big month for Ballinderry and this award makes it special for me. Conleith Gilligan, who has won it a few times, was telling me all about the award and he really appreciates the ones he got. I appreciate this one very much, too,” enthused Gareth.

Usually lining out as a corner-back, the 19-year-old is more often than not found in other pivotal positions, curbing the talents of established players with many more years of experience. He was one of the rocks that Glenswilly perished on during the Ulster final when an astute switch sent him into the centre to handle the wiles of Michael Murphy.

The comment from a high-ranking Derry official was: “Gareth made a very good job of marking Michael, something that is not very often achieved.”

There is one fly in the ointment, however, for McKindless. If Ballinderry reach the All-Ireland final he will miss out on helping Derry in the Ulster U21 Championship, a scene he has graced in the past but the off-campus UUJ undergraduate is not too worried about that.

“I have another two years left at under-21 level and the club championship is more important now,” he maintained.

The winner puts his latest award  alongside his two Derry and one Ulster SFC medals, his Derry and Ulster SL awards and is now looking towards the All-Ireland semi clash with St Vincent’s which he describes as “a big task for us,”

At a reception in Quinn’s Corner, on January 13, Gareth received the monthly inscribed Belleek Living Vase, specially designed and engraved silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Garrett Mallon and a Sports Voucher from the UGAAWA. He will also receive training gear from O’Neill’s International Sports and two tickets plus accommodation to the 27th annual Ulster GAA Banquet at the end of the season.

Martin McKindless, Gareth McKindless, John Martin and Martin McErlean. Pic: Peadar McMahon

Gerry McLaughlin, UGAAWA; Gareth McKindless and John Martin. Pic: Peadar McMahon