10 April 2001
Paddy Doherty in action
Ballykinlar! The name conjures up contrasting connotations. A bleak Prisoner of War camp in which many Irish patriots spent years of frustration and oppression or the place that produced the legendary Down footballer Paddy Mo Doherty. With our ingrained penchant for leaning towards more pleasant images, there is little doubt that most of us will associate Ballykinlar with Doherty and his magical left foot.
The Down team of the early 1960s certainly caught the imagination of the public with their bright and breezy style and their arrival on the All-Ireland scene provided the Association with a massive boost as huge crowds flocked to their games. Down teams had given their supporters little cause for celebration throughout the first 75 years of the Associations history but they marked that 75th Anniversary by winning the Ulster championship for the first time. Many of the games afficionados still regard Downs arrival as the biggest, and most welcome, development in the last half-century.
Despite the lack of a successful tradition in the county, football was still the main game and, in Ballykinlar, the Doherty name was synonymous with the local club. Ballykinlar is one of Downs seaside parishes and prior to the formation of the GAA club, cricket was the most popular game with soccer also widely played. Both of these sports declined considerably following the formation of the football team and in 1936, Ballykinlar won the Junior championship.
Paddy was one of the second generation Dohertys to play with Ballykinlar and his talents, even as a teenager were soon the talk of the East Down football fraternity. He was on the county minor team for two years playing in the Ulster final of 1952 in which Down lost to Cavan. He was selected on the Junior team in 1953 and made his debut for the seniors in a Dr McKenna Cup match against Tyrone in 1954.
But Paddy was also a gifted soccer player and having impressed local scouts, soon came to the attention some clubs in the Irish League as well as some from England. Eventually he signed for Lincoln City but only stayed for two months because of homesickness. On his return home he signed for Ballyclare Comrades and scored over 30 goals in just half a season with the Irish League side.
For his troubles Paddy was suspended from the GAA for a year which was subsequently reduced to six months. On the expiry of his ban, he returned to football action, a decision which was to have an enormous impact on the future of Down football.
He was a substitute on the Ulster team that won the Railway Cup in 1955...Downs slight improvement was highlighted by the fact that they had two players on the starting fifteen, Kevin Mussen and Kieran Denvir. George Lavery was also on the panel.
The County Board embarked on a new, progressive method of team management, and with the realisation that there was unprecented talent available in the county, no stone was left unturned in the efforts to make the provincial championship breakthrough.
In 1958, the Mournemen qualified for an Ulster final clash with Derry, thanks to a comprehensive semi-final win over defending champions Tyrone (Paddy scored the games only goal). It was only the third occasion on which they appeared on the provinces big day...they were beaten by Cavan in the 1940 and 42 deciders, and hopes were high that the Anglo-Celt Cup would make its way to the county for the first time. Adding to the excitement of the occasion was the fact that Derry were also attempting to win the title for the first time.
There is a remarkable anecdote concerning the game which is scarcely believable in the context of preparations and arrangements for modern big match occasions. Star corner-back George Lavery was missing when the Down team arrived in the dressing room...inexplicably, he had been not been collected and was unable to get to Clones!
The incident forced a re-shuffle in defence and the team failed to recover. Despite Paddy scoring a goal from a penalty, Derry went on to win by four points.
While supporters and players may have been deeply disappointed, the team management remained optimistic...they were ahead of schedule in their overall plan and were confident that the breakthrough was imminent. An interesting statistic...the 1958 final was the first of 12 consecutive Ulster final appearances for Down!
Another encouraging aspect emerged from the Clones curtain-raiser in which the county minors won the provincial title for the first time. At centre-field on the winning team was a certain Sean O Neill, whose display hinted at an upsurge in the countys fortunes.
In 1959, a late point from Paddy against Derry secured a place in the Wembley Tournament against Galway, a game which many observers believe to have been the turning point for Down. They played superbly and won by 3-9 to 4-4 with Paddy Mo accounting for 0-7.
The Wembley victory gave the team an enormous boost and they went into the Ulster Championship surrounded by an unprecedented degree of optimism. Victory over Derry and Monaghan in the McKenna Cup helped to maintain the momentum...it was only the second ever McKenna Cup success for the county.
Championship victories over Antrim and Tyrone followed and the scene was set for a second successive Ulster final appearance...this time the opposition would be provided by Cavan...a team with 33 titles to their credit against a team aiming for their first.
With Huge Down support urging them on, the team was well on its way to victory by half-time when they led by 1-10 to 0-2. Paddy Mo had created the goal opportunity for Brian Morgan and had also accounted for four points. Incredibly, Down had fifteen points to spare at the final whistle, 2-16 to 0-7.
There were wild celebrations across the county but the voyage came to a disappointing end when Galways greater experience was the decisive factor in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Kerry emerged as All-Ireland champions in 1959 and when Down registered a memorable victory over the champions in the 1960 National League semi-final, all doubts about the teams potential were removed. A crowd of 50,000 turned up for the final which was the first ever all-Ulster decider, and saw the Mournemen take the title for the first time with victory over Cavan.
The path to the most historic of All-Ireland victories began with a win over Antrim and continued with another against Monaghan. Both were of the easy variety and, once again, Cavan were waiting in the provincial final. The Breffnimen were not lacking in motivation following their humiliation in 59 but Paddy Doherty was similarly dealt them a mortal blow after only forty seconds when he buried the ball in the net. And it was the Ballykinlar genius who finished off a subsequent Cavan rally when he scored his second goal at the three quarter stage.
Offaly had emerged from Leinster for the first time and the All-Ireland semi-final clash was the most novel of pairings. In a tough as teak encounter Offaly looked to be on the path to victory when they led by 2-4 to 0-3 at half-time but the second half saw Paddy at his best and theres little doubt that he was the inspiration behind Downs magnificent comeback that saw them snatch a deserved draw.
Apart from his excellent point-taking both from play and placed balls, he was the executor-in-chief when Down were awarded a controversial penalty. They were trailing by three points at the time and the tension was unbelievable. Doherty rifled it past Willie Nolan and Down were back in contention.
The replay was also a close affair with the Ulster champions coming out on top by two points.
The scene was set for the final showdown...Down v Kerry...Down seeking their first title and Kerry seeking their 20th. There was an amazing atmosphere all over the county as the players prepared for the big day. But they were well prepared and were not over-awed by the great occasion. They led by 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval but Kerry were still in contention until Doherty forced his marker to bring him down in the square. Cool as ever, he stepped up to blast the penalty to the net.
Although Kerry subsequently battled bravely, it was always going to be Downs day after Paddys goal. In the end, it was a double scores victory, 2-10 to 0-8, and the Sam Maguire Cup was on its way across the border for the first time.
The breakthrough had been made and a new force had arrived on the scene. Downs victory was arguably the most significant in the GAAs history and their achievement was to be a great example to other teams in future years.
Kevin Mussen was the first captain from the Six Counties to be presented with the Sam Maguire Cup and he was captain again when the Mournemen set out to defend their title in 1961. The Ulster title was retained but Kevin lost his place for the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry and the selectors opted for Paddy as captain. Down maintained their superiority over the Kingdom thanks to a scintillating display which is still regarded as their finest at Croke Park...they had six points to spare at the final whistle.
Offaly provided the opposition in the All-Ireland final in which five goals were scored in a sensational first half. The first two went to Offaly but Down recovered and, inspired by James McCartans wonder goal they erased Offalys six-point advantage before going on to retain their title with a one-point win. It was a memorable occasion for Paddy Mo who further enhanced the list of legendary All-Ireland winning captains.
Over the next six years, Paddy experienced the ups and downs of football and there must have been manys the occasion when he despaired of ever again gracing Croke Park on All-Ireland final day. The Ulster title was won in 1963, 65 and 66 but on each occasion Down lost out at the semi-final stage.
And then, when least expected, they returned in 1968.
Only Paddy, Sean O Neill, Dan McCartan and captain Joe Lennon remained of the 1960-61 team but they provided the experience, the inspiration and the example to their relatively inexperienced colleagues. They won the National League in the Spring and defeated Cavan in the Ulster final.with Paddy scoring 0-9 against the Breffnimen.
The defeat by Galway at the same stage in 1965 was avenged in the semi-final before the 100% championship record against Kerry was maintained in the final.
In total, Paddy won three All-Ireland SFC medals, seven Ulster SFC medals, three NFL Medals and seven Railway Cups. He was part of one of the greatest half-forward lines ever seen and his name will always be mentioned when great forwards are spoken about. Taken from Hogan Stand magazine April 2001