Veteran ends long and distinguished career

St Pats player Dayle O'Neill  is hanging up the boots after 20 years
St Pats player Dayle O'Neill is hanging up the boots after 20 years

ONE of the North's best-known footballers is about to hang up the boots after 20 years of playing.

Dayle ``Sticky'' O'Neill, was part of North Launceston's 1998 statewide premiership-winning team under coach Mathew Armstrong and spent 12 years at North before moving to NTFA clubs Rocherlea and St Pats.

The 40-year-old builder said this will definitely be his last season of full-time football but might consider playing a few games of masters footy next year to fill the void.

``I debuted under David Rhys-Jones at North against the Southern Cats at York Park in 1995 as a 19-year-old in the old Statewide League,'' O'Neill said.

``I think I've played about 360 senior games roughly all up _ I spent 12 years at the Northern Bombers, six years playing and coaching at Rocherlea and the last six years at St Pats.

``I was part of the 1998 Statewide premiership side at North under Matthew Armstrong and won the club's best and fairest in 2001.''

O'Neill has played under some good coaches of the ilk of David Rhys-Jones, Armstrong and Gary McIntosh and said his nickname was given to him early in his career by North coach Stephen Goulding. 

``I was playing seniors in the early days and was lucky enough to pull down a few marks and he called me ``Sticky'' and the name stuck ever since,'' he said.

``I've always played at centre half-forward but I went back to the backline after I left North and went to Rocherlea.

``The only one senior premiership I played in was the 1998 flag at North when we went through undefeated and beat Clarence in the grand final at North Hobart _ that was definitely a highlight with the level of footy and playing against the best players in the state.''

Other highlights included playing in a couple of representative games against the South including a Northern combined side coached by former Devonport coach Mick McGuane which beat the South by a point at Aurora Stadium.

Two of the most difficult opponents he played on during his career were Clarence's Danny Noonan and Wayne Weidemann at Devonport, because they were both strong players who found the ball easily and were hard to match-up on.

``I've played with some handy players such as Todd Spearman and Jason Gibson and I remember one game early in the Statewide League at York Park against Devonport there were about 4000 people there and unfortunately you don't see those sort of crowds anymore,'' he said.

``Obviously then there were a few former AFL players on most lists so that attracted healthy crowds but now with financial restrictions you don't get those players on a regular basis.

``I remember one game when I played on Andy Goodwin who was playing for Devonport and he actually tackled one of his own players to get them going, which I'd never seen before _ and it worked because the guy played out of sight after the tackle.''

O'Neill said he felt the time was right to hang up the boots and devote more time to his son and daughter who were involved in sports of their own but hasn't discounted some sort of coaching role in the future.

`` I might look to help the club (St Pats) out _ I'd like to work as a forward coach and pass on some of my experience and teach key position players because I think in the modern game they tend to get caught out of position with the run and spread of today and don't know how to run into space effectively.''

O'Neill said St Pats could have an impact in finals this season and faced a tough game against Fingal today.

``This week is going to be a challenge because they're a quality side and I know they have improved a bit since last time we met but so have we so it is going to be a great contest.''

The match will be played under lights at St Pats Oval starting at 6.30pm.


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