Kerry meet Cork in the Munster U21 Championship and remembering Paddy Downey

March 12th, 2013
by Weeshie Fogarty

No matter what way you look at this under twenty one clash with Cork next Wednesday in Pairc Ui Rinn you will really be just second guessing in relation as to who will come out on top. It is my experience dealing with county under age sides, especially at this grade, even more so than minor one has little or no form to base facts and figures on. However the one big fact in relation to this fixture is that Cork have won the last two meeting between the counties and probably more importantly they have eleven of last years winning side available to the selectors. Indeed Cork are closing in on Kerry's record twenty five Munster under 21 titles, they have won twenty three and have won eleven All Irelands in this grade in comparison to Kerrys ten All Irelands. So make what you want of that. Last years final played in Austin Stack Park was a superb advertisement, it went into extra time before Cork edged ahead to take the title. It was, even in defeat a great display by Kerry and confirmed that these young men had made great strides under the guidance of Eamon Fitzmaurice, then manager. If the side has continued to show the same level of improvement and direct style of play under Dara o Se then victory is well within their grasp. Kerry victories at this age group in Pairc Ui Rinn are few and far between and anyone who was present two years ago will scarcely forget the humiliation of that 2-24 to 0-8 drubbing. It is a difficult venue to conquer and the odds are with the home side.

Nevertheless I sense a change of attitude in players and management at under age level in this county in recent years and more emphasis is placed on physical strength and conditioning which added to the natural Kerry skills bodes well for the future. Players such as David Culhane, Fergal McNamara, Marcus Mangan, James Walsh, Sean Keane, Gavin o Leary, Conor Cox, Niall Sheehy, Tadgh Morley, Gavin o Grady and Jason Hickson are all well capable of holding their own in any company and have proved themselves at all levels in this county and in Sigerson Cup matches. Indeed I will go further and say if these young men could throw off the shackles of Munster they could go on under expert guidance and improve greatly in all facets of their game. Win, progress and improve is the great importance of beating Cork.

The Rebels are a very strong side fielding eleven of last year's victorious fifteen. Damian Cahillane, Alan Cronin, Tom Clancy, Jamie Wall remain in defence, The half forward line of Kevin Hallissey, Mark Sugrue and John o Rourke same as last year while Luke Connelly and Brian Hurley remain from the full forward line. Dan MacEoin and Brian o Driscoll also tasted action in their Tralee win last year. It's a massive challenge for these young Kerry men. A good showing not an option, victory is paramount for the future improvement of these players and the future prospects of the county. That is the bottom line. A betting man would put his few bob on Cork with the home advantage, but do not rule out a Kerry win.

Paddy Downey RIP
The death took place on March 4th of Paddy Downey, for me the doyen of Irish sports journalists; the name will mean very little to the younger generation of Kerry GAA followers in this day and age. My earliest memories of him go right back to 1959. From the 1950s he and his colleagues from the other national newspapers travelled the country like touring celebrities, meeting the locals and socializing after matches as they called into various hostelries from where reports could be telephoned back to the waiting copytakers. And Kerry was one of Paddy's favourite counties, his own words to me during one of our many conversations. The Park Place Hotel Killarney was the meeting place for all Kerry teams. September 1959 and the Monday before Kerry met Galway in the All Ireland final. The team had just been announced to the waiting crowds outside the hotel. I was with some friends in the reception area chatting to the late Mickey "Doc" o Donoghue the owner of the hotel. This tall elegant grey-haired gentleman using a walking stick, he had been stricken with polio as a child, approached the reception desk, and requested permission to use the house telephone. Permission granted I listened enthralled as he called out the Kerry team and substitutes to whoever was on the other end of the phone. That is the way it was done back then, no mobiles, e-mails, computers or other high tec gadgets so familiar to the present generations of reporters.

Paddy's reporting on our games for the Irish Times in that now forgotten era was recognized as probably the very best. His reporting of matches was always very fair, very incisive, particularly in relation to hurling. He had a great feel for the game. He was one of nature's gentlemen.  Players found him a pleasure to deal with and he was renowned for not identifying players who were having a poor game, which showed a great generosity of spirit. The Kerryman's own Eamon Horan would have been great friends with Downey, and indeed Eamon was of the very same mould, both men were wordsmiths of their time. They just had that culture and that style and that intellect that made them unique. They could paint beautiful pictures. Paddy Downey influenced and interviewed hundreds of Kerry footballers and on behalf of all those we extend our deepest sympathy's to his wife Catriona, daughter Margaret, sons John and Padraig and extended family.

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