Player, doctor, superfan...Joe’s done it all for Antrim


As a former player, Joe Dugan knows gaelic football can be a rough and tumble sport.

And even though, thankfully, you’d rarely need a doctor, it’s good to know that there’s one nearby.

Joe is now that man, at least where his beloved Antrim GAA is concerned.

The west Belfast-based GP has been involved with the Saffrons for most of his life, firstly on the pitch and latterly off it.

The 64-year-old diehard county fan began volunteering as a medic for Antrim senior players in 1984 and has been a welcome member ever since.

“I played football for Antrim at minor level when I was younger but I’m better known these days as team doctor, having been in that role for most of my adult life,” said the father-of-three.

“Basically, it involves being at all the games; sorting out anything that happens on the day in relation to injuries and player welfare.

“If there are any injuries or medical issues that need further investigation, then I organise that, and do referrals for specialist treatment.”

Time-wise, it would be difficult to count how many hours a week Dr Dugan dedicates to his ‘other’ practice because it varies with the season.

“There are busy times of the year when the national league and championship are on,” he said.

“On match days, it’s five or six hours if it’s at home. Travelling away means a lot more hours.”

Dr Dugan’s dedication runs deep and he keeps it in the family.

His son, who’s also a GP and shares his west Belfast surgery, started helping out with the senior Antrim footballers this year, while daughter Niamh, who has special needs, is also a super fan who attends all the home and away games with him.

“Niamh’s very involved and is part of the set-up here; she is mad about Antrim. She travels with the team on the bus, and her love of the team is another incentive for me."

With the Dugans so involved in the set-up at Antrim, it’s no surprise that Joe, who is approaching retirement age, has no plans to step away any time soon.

Highlights for him so far include the Saffrons “winning the Tommy Murphy Cup at Croke Park in 2010” and “a draw against Derry in a championship at Casement Park”.The biggest thrill, however, was in 2009 when “we got to the final of the Ulster Championship, playing Tyrone in Clones”.

“Although we were beaten by a very good Tyrone it was a momentous day for modern day Antrim football. Of course, a more recent high point was seeing the current crop in Croke Park in the Tailteann Cup semi-final. Hopefully they can push on and get back there again next season. With the support of Fibrus, we can realise the potential that exists in Antrim for success at a provisional and national level,” he said.

Work on the new Casement is about to begin soon, which is just what the doctor – and every other Antrim GAA fan – ordered.

Antrim GAA’s Dr Joe Dugan and his daughter superfan Niamh pictured alongside senior footballer Patrick McBride.

I played football for Antrim at minor level when I was younger but I’m better known these days as team doctor, having been in that role for most of my adult life.

Dr Joe Dugan