June 04, 1993
Kilkenny's DJ Carey -one of the all time greats.
Master of the hurling ring at the moment
If there's one area in which hurling can count itself especially fortunate, it's in relation to it's leading players. Other sports have so-called heroes in carousing, drug-abusing, semi-illiterates to whom the word "modesty" is as unfamiliar as the phrase "quiet night at home." Hurling, thankfully, has the likes of Brian Corcoran, Nicky English and DJ Carey - gentlemen who've proven that, contrary to popular opinion, nice guys can finish first.
DJ Carey not least. But before you say, "is this going to be another profile retreading the familiar and well worn path of DJ's career?", try the following few paragraphs and see if they don't throw new light onto the man's life and lucky deeds.
Did you know, for instance, that:
• He's a grand-nephew of Paddy Phelan, peerless Kilkenny hurler of the 1930s and left half back on the Sunday Independent's Team of the Century?
• He entered St. Kieran's College in September 1983, on the same day that Pat O'Neill and Adrian Ronan did likewise? And that the trio have since gone on to combine for All-Ireland colleges, minor, under 21 and senior medals?
• In his first year at the famous Noreside nursery, he won provincial juvenile honours in gaelic football as well as hurling? The football medal came in the B grade, Dublin's Drimnagh Castle being vanquished in the semi final and St. Marys of Edenderry in the decider. Adrian Ronan was the team's centre back, Pat O'Neill was corner back and Carey - "a beautiful footballer, small but skillful" in the words of trainer Tommy Lanigan - lined out at wing forward
• He was the only St. Kieran's attacker to score from play as St. Flannan's wiped them out in the 1987 All-Ireland Colleges final (4-11 to 1-7 at Birr)?
• Twelve months later he weighted in with two points from the right corner forward spot in a thrilling showdown in Waterford, which saw a 14 year old Brian Corcoran marking Ronan and the Kilkenny school coming late to beat a fine Midleton CBS outfit 3-10 to 2-7?
• Corcoran, now at midfield, finished on the losing side again on the first Sunday of the following September (ie 1988), Carey contributing to the Cats 13th All-Ireland minor crown with a second half goal and an earlier assist in an all-Gowran move - Pat O'Neill drove the ball out of defence to DJ, who beat his man in the corner and transferred to clubmate Charlie Carter for Kilkenny's opening goal?
• DJ won his second All-Ireland colleges medal in 1989, scoring three goals from full forward against St. Flannan's in Nenagh? And that his younger brother Jack wore the number five shirt the same day?
• Another brother, Martin, kept goal for Kilkenny's 1991 All-Ireland winning side and did likewise for St. Kieran's last year?
• This was the position in which DJ made his county senior debut while still in school?
• His sister Catriona, a junior cert student at Loreto Convent, Kilkenny is an accomplished camogie and hockey player?
• He probably wouldn't be involved in inter county hurling now had he taken up the offer of a handball scholarship to a college in the United States a few years ago?
• Famous actress Michelle Pfeiffer says the Three Rivers Oil employee is her favourite hurler?
(Er, that last bit's made up, actually!!)
"He was always a natural," enthuses John Knox, DJ's former principal at Gowran NS. "He was never without his hurl. In school, he'd be out playing at 11 o'clock and at lunch hour, five days a week, winter and summer. At home he and his brothers even hurled in their bedrooms!
"The first time he was in Croke Park, he came with the school. It was the day Joe Hennessy scored a goal from a '65 for Kilkenny. After the ball hit the net the RTE cameras shot into the Cusack Stand and there was DJ with his pals. He was about eight years old at the time."
His first outing in the Gowran colours came in goal during a seven a side match at the CBS grounds in Kilkenny. This positioning was mostly due to the fact he was the smallest lad on the team, although John Knox - perhaps unconsciously - was also remembering Fr. Tommy Maher's dictum that a manager should always put his best player in goal.
In time, Carey graduated to the forward line, his jinking style earning him the nickname "Dodger". His favourite trick, John Knox recalls, was to solo in from the left wing and handpass the sliothar home. The change in the rules forced him to alter his gambit somewhat!
An early game provided a glimpse of future glory. Gowran were playing Thomastown, and DJ swung overhead on a high ball and rattled the net. Afterwards, one of the Thomastown followers was raving about the goal. The last player he'd seen with that style was the late Paddy Phelan, he revealed, could this young man possibly be related? Talk about hereditary instinct revealing itself! Briseann an duchas, etc. as the seanfhocal has it.
Aided and abetted by colleague Dick O'Neill, the Gowran principal guided the school to successive Kilkenny under 12 titles in the early 1980s. "We had an outstanding crop of players, but DJ was probably the main reason we won in 1982, with a youngish team. The following year most of them were on the age and we won again.
"DJ was always the man we looked to for a score. If he wasn't seeing much of the ball in the corner, we'd move him out to the wing. The year we went to Feile na nGael in Westmeath he was dynamic - he quickly made a name for himself. 'Watch out for the little lad' was the usual cry from the opposition.
"He had a natural talent for football and handball as well, of course. It's just as well he didn't turn his attention to professional football, because I've no doubt he would have done well there too," John Knox adds.
With time ticking away, last Sunday afternoon Kilkenny looked to be on the way out of the championship race. Battling Offaly appeared set for a famous victory. The press boys were already penning the headlines 'Cregan's Braves', 'Mighty Midlanders' ... enter one DJ Carey and those headlines quickly transformed into the DJ Carey Show. Included are some of the Monday morning quotes concerning hurling's present day maestro.
Desmond Fahy - The Irish Times
"Just minutes before half time, Offaly led by four points. Enter DJ Carey. There will be few finer contests during the summer than Carey's epic duel yesterday with Brian Whelehan. Carey may have finished with 2-4, but this is no stern reflection on the application of Whelehan, who hurled with skill and determination all afternoon.
It is much more of a testament of Carey's rare talent. Even on an indifferent day, which he had yesterday, he can still notch a match winning return."
Peader O'Brien - The Irish Press
"And, once again, it was goal poacher supreme DJ Carey who eased those blossoming Kilkenny blushes. He scored two goals and four points and his second goal, from a penalty, four minutes from time, set Kilkenny on the road to victory.
As Offaly looked dazed and bemused, it was Carey who added another point from a free to ensure Kilkenny's semi final place against Carlow on June 20th."
Paddy Hickey - The Irish Independent
"With 2-4, Carey was Kilkenny's hero. He started at left half forward, but on the restart, moved to centre half forward in an attack in which none of the forwards held their original positions in the second half."
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
4th June 1993
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