Weeshie's Week

Pa Fitzgerald is still the top dog on the greyhound scene

March 13th, 2012
by Weeshie Fogarty

PA Fitzgerald is a very remarkable Tralee man. As a brilliant Austin Stacks footballer, he was part of the Kerry team that won the 1955 All-ireland final against Dublin, while in his professional career he became a very famous greyhound trainer, winning a plethora of classic events on track and field.

Today, Fitzgerald is still at the top of the training game, which is truly remarkable all these years later, and he brought that brilliant track star, Ballymac Under (Ballymac Maeve – Ballymac Lark) to Tralee Track on May 15, 2010, and despite a lack of competitive action since mid-november 2009, Ballymac Under treated a big crowd to a flawless exhibition of tracking on his way to a smashing victory over 525yds in 28.62.

Pa Fitzgerald is now in his 80th year and I was privileged to meet one of Kerry's greatest ever greyhound trainers and his story stands shoulder to shoulder with any of the other galaxy of Kerry sporting stars

Born at 29 Rock St., Tralee he was reared in an area where greyhounds and football went hand in hand. He recalled the many families deeply involved in the greyhounds, Martin "Bracker "Regan, Rory O'connell, Dan Lynch, the Curtin family, Jim Brosnan, the Barretts, Kerr Boyle, Purty Landers and Den Lynch, father to one of Kerry's renowned greyhound men, Patsy Lynch of Tralee.

In 1948, when just 16 years of age, Pa went to Dingle where he trained his first major winner, Philandros, to win the Kingdom Cup and the Dr Griffin Memorial Cup. He took the boat to England in 1951 and while he came home occasionally his success in England was unparallel. Working at the Burhill Kennels of Gerry Hannifin in Surrey, under Tralee trainer Paddy O'driscoll, and later for Duagh native Patsy Byrnes, he was involved in some magnificent successes. The Welsh, English and Scottish Derbies were captured as was the Peterborough Derby. Four Dundalk International Invitation Cups were added. In this the three best dogs from Ireland and England did battle and also another major win came his way with a Grand Prix victory in Walthasmstow. He was also involved with the Royal Family when he trained one of their greyhounds. Prince Edward was given a half share in the dog which ran in the English Derby. He won his five heats, qualified for the final and was narrowly beaten into second place. All monies raised went to the Prince's charity. There was a host of other success for the Tralee man until he returned home to his beloved Tralee in the 1970s.

Pa's expertise continued in Ireland with six magnificent Irish Cup victories. Ballyard Yank began the run in 1980 followed by Ballyduff Bobby in 1983, Black Rock in 1986, Castle Pines in 2005, Castlemartyre in 2008 before Sandy Sea brought an unbelieveable sixth victory for the Kerry trainer in 2009. Pa Fitzgerald's list of successes as a trainer is amazing. He has been involved in victories the length and breadth of Ireland, all too numerous to include here. He is still going as strong as ever and his enthusiasm, passion and deep knowledge of the greyhound industry in second to none.

In his youth he was a superb footballer, winning a minor All-ireland medal with Kerry in 1950. He also played Junior with Kerry and was a member of that legendary Kerry team that shocked the so-called unbeatable Dublin machine in 1955. During his time in England he lined out at full forward against Meath in the 1952 All-ireland Junior fina, which they lost.

Pa Fitzgerald is one of Ireland's greatest trainers, his record speaks for itself. A lovely, quiet, unassuming man he values the defeats just as much as the long string of successes because as he told me, "the beauty of my work is meeting all those great greyhound people all over the country. That, for me, is more important than anything else".

Fogra: A lovely Kerry football story on my In Conversation Radio Kerry programme this ( Wednesday at 7 pm) with Joe Mcgill, the great grandson of the legendary Kerry footballer of the 1920s Jack Murphy.

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