August 05, 1994
Sharpshooting Dooley Brothers
Make up half of the faithful attack
1985 was the last time that an Offaly captain climbed the famous Croke Park steps to receive the Liam McCarthy Cup from the President of the G.A.A. and said, "Tà an-àthas orm an corn seo a ghlach ar son foireann Uibh Fhàile". Only one member of the team which was led by Pat Fleury had survived the ravages of time and injury to be to be a significant feature of the outfit which mowed through Wexford in the Leinster final of 1994. Joe Dooley wasn't feeling too lonely however, as by the side in the forward line, were two of his brothers, Billy and John, to keep him company. The Dooley clan from Clareen were out in force and the Faithful County reaped the benefits
Joe is the eldest of the family (30), although he denies being the team's father figure, preferring to confer that honour upon Jim Troy, who missed the provincial final due to injury. The ESB employed auditor is married to Marie and they have three young children, Shane, Aideen and Niamh. Billy (25) is a builder working with his brother Seamus, while Johnny (23), is a carpenter with the Office of Public Works. They both live at home with their immensely proud parents Sean and Bettie.
Up to this year the greatest day for the Dooley brothers was when their club Seir Kierans, won their first and only county Championship in 1988. Joe, Billy and John were joined on that team by two more brothers, Seamus and Kieran. Eugene Coughlan, the former All-Star full back, also lined out that day. Seir Kierans were finally defeated in the Leinster Club Championship by Wexford team Buffer's Alley, who went on to defeat O'Donovan Rossa of Antrim in the All-Ireland final, thanks to the inspirational contribution of Tony Doran. "I actually coached Seir Kierans in 1988 at just 24 years of age, basically because a gun was put to my head", laughs the elder Dooley. "We're going alright at the moment but it's early days yet. We've played two and won two. The standard is fairly high in Offaly with Birr and St. Rynaghs being the teams to beat and this probably explains why the county team is going so well at the moment".
The three Dooley's have many more medals than their Offaly Championship, Joe won five Leinster finals with Birr Community School with men such as former intercounty team mate Paddy Corrigan and Ken Hogan, former Tipperary goalkeeper and present selector: "I had no success with the Minors and Under 21s and just missed the Senior success of 1981 in the All-Ireland. I was a sub in 1982, missed '83 with a broken hand and was back for 1984. I scored goals by the new time but it ended up being an anti-climatic year with the loss to Cork in the Centenary All-Ireland. There was probably too much hype surrounding Offaly and Cork were not going to lose three-in-a-row. 1984 probably motivated us to win in 1985 which was very sweet victory because everyone was so determined to do it and we did." Joe won his sixth Leinster medal against the Model County this year.
Billy won two All-Ireland Minor medals in 1986 and 1987. "We beat Cork in '86 and Tipperary the following year. I hurled for the Under 21 in 1989 when Tipperary beat us by two points (4-10 to 3-11). I also hurled in the League final against Wexford in 1991 when we won and in the Championship game against Dublin, which we lost by two points. I was out of the team then until this year and thankfully things have been going well so far".
Johnny also has two All-Ireland Minor medals. "I was only 15 when I played in the '87 game and we beat Clare in 1989. We also lost three Under 21s which was a sickener, especially the last one against Waterford which went to a replay. I made my Senior debut in the League against Dublin when we went on to win it".
With all this underage success, people were waiting for Offaly to burst onto the scene but it didn't happen until this year. "It takes a few years for fellows to mature", explains Joe. "These lads have begun to realise that you have to work much harder at Senior level. But it's a fairly young bunch. For about five years I was the youngest in the panel . time flies doesn't it?"
Joe feels that the Kilkenny game was easy from a psychological point of view. "We had been waiting since last May and it was easy to motivate ourselves. It was a tough game but we expected it to be closer. Kilkenny were probably tired and we were hungrier. Everybody played really well and it was nice from a personal viewpoint to get onto the end of a ball and score a goal". Billy agrees that Kilkenny were fatigued from having played a lot of hurling. "If Offaly or any other county had played that much, they would nearly be glad to lose". And the Leinster final. "That was a great team effort. Wexford were a different proposition to Kilkenny and it was a psychologically harder game. We were just delighted to win", states Joe.
The brothers all agree that the absence of politics in the picking of the team has accelerated Offaly's progress towards the ultimate hurling honour. "It's just a team effort now. We have a great spirit. Eamonn Cregan is doing a good job", says Johnny. Joe points out that Cregan, being an outsider, is "above politics with no preference for clubs or players as used to be the case. He has brought in his own PE trainer, Derry O'Donovan, who made the players realise that they must work hard to succeed". Billy also points out the importance of the programme set up by O'Donovan and delights in the fact that there are no individuals in the team, "which used to be the way not so long ago" the selectors, Paudge Mulhare, Andy Gallagher, Mick Spain and Pat McLoughney also receive deserving praise.
Joe asserts that he never put much thought into the fact that he had two brothers on the team with him. "We're just one of 15, and although there's no doubt that it's an honour, it's not something I like to dwell on". Billy is of the opinion "that it's a great help. We know one another's game. Having said that, the other three forwards are just as effective".
The Dooley's plump for Limerick to come through from the other semi final while nothing that Antrim should not be written off. Neither of them are making any rash predictions about their impending clash with the Tribesmen either. "They hurled us off the field in the Under 21 final in 1991 and about 10 of that team are on the Senior panel, so we owe them a beating. Galway are fierce strong and will probably be favourites". "Bar the League final they haven't been beaten by many teams in the last 12 months. We are training well but it will be a tough game". Billy promises that "we'll give it our best shot and that's all you can do at the end of the day. We'll hold our heads up high whatever the outcome because all of us will have done our best".
So that's what the sons of Sean and Betty Dooley of Clareen think. The last word goes to Joe, who has gone through a broad spectrum of experiences in his career. "Whoever wins the All-Ireland will deserve it because we've all been waiting a few years for one (with Antrim hoping to break their duck). Victory for Galway, Offaly, Antrim or Limerick will bring great excitement with it". And you can be sure that the Dooley sharpshooters of the Seir Kieran's club will be doing their level best to gun down any opposition that confronts them, starting with Galway in an effort to bring that excitement o the supporters of the Faithful County.
Written by the Hogan Stand Magazine
5th Aug 1994
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