I have been playing the flute since I was 14 years old. I can safely say it is one of the best things that I have done and feel that it is one of the things that define who I am. As anyone who plays Irish traditional music can state, there is immense enjoyment attached to playing music, both in the actual playing itself and with the social interaction with others that comes with it. Between the years 1990 and 1995, I was three times All-Ireland senior flute champion (1993, 1994 and 1995) and runner-up on two other occasions (1990, 1992). I also won the All-Ireland flute slow airs competition in 1991, the miscellaneous instruments title in 1992 and, with Barry McLaughlin, the duet competition in 1993. I was born and bred in Omagh, Co. Tyrone. Both my parents had a deep interest in Irish music. My father came from a very rural area of Co. Tyrone near the village of Carrickmore and would have heard many musicians come and play in houses in the locality in his youth. My mother came from the townland of Carnaleck, near Tubbercurry in County Sligo, an area synonymous with traditional Irish music. Several members of her family played music including my uncles Gerard, Tommy and Packie McCarrick, and my cousins John Gildea and Jack McCarrick. I remember house sessions in Sligo from a very early age. I was also very fortunate to have excellent music teachers. Arthur Kearney was a wonderful, kind, wise man who loved passing on the tradition to others. He taught a class over several years at which I learned the tin whistle. He has sadly passed on. Sean McCusker was a flute and accordion player from Dromore, near Omagh. He was a great teacher and I learned so much from him. He too has passed away, at far too young an age. The third reason I feel fortunate is that I had, in Barry McLaughlin, a good friend, of my age, who was learning the ropes at the same time I was. He is a great fiddle player, a former Fiddler of Dooney winner. He lived within walking distance of our own house. We played together for years, at sessions and in competitions, with some success. We were also at Queen's University in Belfast at the same time. He now lives in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. In more recent years, my wife Deirdre has been a constant source of encouragement in keeping me playing music despite the demands of our young family and my work.