Old Friends are best - Pat Cronin

December 14th, 2010
by Weeshie Fogarty

A phone call last week certainly rolled back the years for me and brought a legion of memories long since forgotten flooding to the surface.  The caller introduced himself, "Pat Cronin from Wicklow here Weeshie, you probably will not remember me but we played against each other forty one long years ago in 1969". Immediately Pat mentioned the year 1969 and the county Wicklow I knew exactly who I was speaking to. We chatted briefly and a few hours later I met with him and his lovely wife Margaret at their Killarney hotel where they were holidaying. It was the All Ireland Junior Home final and Wicklow shocked the Kingdom the afternoon coming out on top 0-11 to 1-8. Pat Cronin guarded the Wicklow net that day and I was in the Kerry goal. The only time in history to my knowledge that two Kerrymen opposed each other as goalkeepers in an All Ireland Final.

The Cronin family left Kerry and settled in Wicklow in the fifties. They were from Duagh. Pat now living in Stratford has an amazing record. In that year of 1969 he played minor, under twenty one, junior and senior football in goal for Wicklow. And he did like wise in hurling playing in goal in all grades for his adopted county. He informed me how the late Tadge Crowley county secretary at the time contacted Pat asking him to declare for Kerry in the early seventies and assured him that the goal keeping position would be his. However the genial Stratford man declined the offer as it would require him travelling from Wicklow on a constant basis and uprooting his family connections in Wicklow. It is believed that Pat holds a record number of Wicklow intermediate and junior football and hurling championships medals. And it was he who persuaded Mick Gleeson back in the seventies to train his club helping them win the Wicklow county championship. Mick himself the holder of two senior All Ireland medals was teaching in Dublin at the time.

Not alone has Pat been a successful trainer of his club sides but he has also made a huge name for himself as successful handler and trainee of greyhounds. His kennels and gallops are on his own farm at Randallstown and turns out many winners on a constant basis.  Both his sons, Patrick and Diarmuid are class footballers. His daughter Hillary is the club juvenile secretary while wife Margaret is also a long term officer of the club and is present PRO. It was a special reunion and confirmed for me, if that is necessary, that one of the great strengths of the GAA is the friends you make for life over the years. Kerry's loss of this great dual player was certainly Wicklow's gain. It was a great pleasure to renew old acquaintances. The old adage "old friend's are best" can now certainly to myself and Pat Cronin.
That Kerry Junior side who became the first team from the Kingdom to lose a championship match to Wicklow 0-12 to 1-8, is worth recalling for the record. Weeshie Fogarty (Killarney Legion), Gerry McCarthy (Gneeveguilla), Moss Keane (Currow), Jim Coughlan (Beaufort), John o Keeffe (Austin Stacks), Tom Doyle (Laune Rangers) (0-1), Tom McGill (Clanna  Gael Dublin), Mick Aherne (Currow), Donal Kavanagh (Dr Crokes), Paudie Lynch (Beaufort(0-1) Christy o Sullivan (Finuge), Derry o Shea (John Mitchels (0-1), Tony Barrett An Gaeltaght), P J Burns (Sneem), Paudie Finnegan (Kenmare (0-4), Subs: Noel Power (Kenmare), Sally Long (Dingle), Gerry o Mahoney (Renard), Johnny Guerin (Listowel), Michael Slattery (Dingle), Colm o Callaghan ( North Kerry (0-1).

By a very strange coincidence just a few days after Pat Cronin had spoke to me another team mate from that 1969 team once again entered my life. Tim Doyle was the centre back that day and he contacted me appealing for help to promote a very sad and wonderful cause in relation to his exemplary nephew twenty seven year old Dan Doyle who is seriously ill in Houston Texas. Young Dan's father Danny brother to Tim was born in Dunloe Lodge in 1945 and lived in the Black Valley and Corobally Killorglin. He played with Mid Kerry and immigrated to New York when just seventeen years old and married his American wife. On July of this year young Dan together with his girl friend and twenty friends went on holidays to Mexico. He and one of the friends went for a swim, dived beneath the incoming waves, Dan's friend surfaced but Dan did not. All his girl friend Kristen saw was a pool of blood. He had dived straight into some rocks that were submerged beneath the water and the force of the impact as his head crashed against the rocks shattered the vertebra from (using medical terms) C-1 down to the C-7 area. He had suffered a horrific injury and the doctors later stated that it was his great fitness and Kerry strength which had kept him alive. Dan was flown to Houston memorial Hospital where they performed a twelve hour operation to save his life. They put a halo on his head to stabilize his spine and he had that for twelve weeks. The hope of the family is to have him home in Connecticut for Christmas. He will continue his rehabilitation in the Kessler unit in New Jersey where he lives.

Now a group of family friends have come together and organized a big benefit night in an effort to help defray the enormous costs the family is undergoing during this traumatic time in their lives. On next Saturday December 18th at 8-30 pm in Kate Kearney's Cottage just outside Killarney friends and supporters will gather to raise funds (tickets are 10 Euro). Main organizers of this very worthy cause include Donie and Liz Foley, Barlymount, Michael and Kate Murphy Dunrine, Eileen and John Clifford Dromin, Gabriel Gallagher, James Arthur and Timmy (The Postman) Breen from Firies.  It is my life long experience that Kerry people have never been found wanting when the need to help others is greatest. So if you can support this massive worthy cause for a young man with Kerry blood coursing through his veins who lies seriously injured in far away Houston Texas.

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