August 02, 1991
Tipperary's Pat Fox
Tipperary' s Fox is a rare predator
We have heard it said time and again that Tipperary's favourite son Pat Fox is the forward feared by most defenders. He has fantastic energy and commitment, according to one observer, covers loads of ground, and is capable of leaving opponents dead through sheer ability and pace.
That statement will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen him play in recent years, and even more enthusiastic critics have compared him to the Jimmy Doyle's and Liam Devanneys of an earlier generation when the Premier County won five All-lrelands during an eight year period from 1958 until 1965. The Eire Og Annacarty man, who was 30 this month, has spent almost the last eleven years in the blue and gold jersey despite numerous injuries in the mid-eighties, but it was his performance in the 1987 championship which suddenly launched him into the forefront of public attention and acclaim.
And last Sunday week he buried the idea that Tipp were a spent force when he scored the best goal of the afternoon and without exaggeration, the best hurling that has been played since their breakthrough five years ago. In fact it was on his shoulders that the responsibility rested, especially with Cork in the drivers seat and leading by what looked an unassailable margin. Following a long delivery after a rampaging move Pat found himself in space near goal and could scarcely believe his luck as the ball flew past Ger Cunningham. It was there and then that he was seen at his very best and he has now brought his tally to 2-12 in the three championship outings.
Subsequently, Cork ran out of ideas and energy after this invaluable score and Tipp, with their morale justifiably sky high, mounted that final hectic assault to take their 34th provincial senior title. Now they seemed to have weathered the worst and Bobby Ryan, who along with Donie O'Connell were colleagues of Pat Fox on the 1978 minor team, Declan Carr, Joe Hayes, John Leahy, Mick Cleary, Fox and company have the skill, technique and guile to go all the way. This was hurling that Tipp folk practiced in bygone days and the crowd loved every moment of it.
In his young days Pat Fox arrived at a time when the Premier County were going through a lean period and most people were singing the praises of Cork who took three successive Munster minor titles on the trot from 1977 to 1979. However, he made a rare final appearance at right-corner-forward in 1978 but a team, captained by Donie O'Connell, were beaten narrowly by 1-14 to 3-6. Little did he know, however. that success was only around the corner and in the subsequent three seasons he was the proud holder of a hat-trick of All-lreland Under-21 medals. All three Munster finals of that period were closely contested between themselves and Cork with Tipp getting the closest call in 1979 when a 1-13 to 2-7 separated the sides.
At the time he played in a variety of positions including left-corner-back, half-back and midfield but he always delivered the goods and gave a real tour-de-force on a good few occasions. Consequently, Tipperary followers were quite rightly looking for a senior breakthrough at the turn of the 'eighties but it never came despite the fact that the county paraded some fine individuals like Pat Moloughney, Dinny Cahill, Jim Williams, Jim Kehoe. Gerry Stapleton. Pat Fitzelle and a number of others.
Pat Fox made his debut alongside Gerry Stapleton at midfield when Tipp faced up to Cork in the championship of 1980. Certainly, there were no signs that the Reds were going to win early on but all hell broke loose midway through the second half when first Tom Cashman goaled and with John Fenton and Ray Cummlns in magnificent form, the champions raced away to a fairly comprehensive 2-17 to 1-12 victory. The following year Pat was joined on the team by his brother Kevin and Tipp made a miraculous comeback after being thirteen points down at one stage to force a draw with fiery Limerick at Thurles. However, despite numerous switches and three substitutions in the replay at the Gaelic Grounds, Tipp again fell by the wayside and were beaten by 8 points.
After another defeat by Cork in 1982 when Kevin Fox lined out at right-half-back and Pat at midfield, Tipp did not fulfil the expectations raised by the success of the under-21 teams and more particularly since they had won the 1979 league title with a significant victory over Galway. Around that period Pat Fox suffered a severe knee injury that put him out of intercounty action for almost two years. He made a brief return at corner-back for the 1985 championship but remarkably Cork's winning sequence continued that was until the Summer of 1987 when finally a new era dawned on Tipperary hurling after 16 long years in the wilderness.
In the Munster semi-final of that year Tipp looked superbly equipped to take on the sternest of challenges that Clare could mount but it took seven brilliant points from the stick of Pat Fox to finally salvage a draw - made possible by a late Gerry McInerney goal. Pat was again in scintillating form in the replay and with Nicky English and himself running up a total of 2-11 between them a rout took place as the 4-17 to 0-8 scoreline showed.
Now the fairytale story was just around the corner as Tipp prepared for another final with Cork in their own Semple Stadium. At the time people argued that there were still some rough edges in the team despite the massive 21 points victory over Clare but in a sensational finish they came from two points down to snatch a well earned draw with Fox, scoring nine minors including the equalising score. After the replay that Tipp won in extra time by 4-22 to 1-22 in Killarney, it took their followers weeks to get their breath back after an absorbing contest that left both spectators and players physically and mentally drained.
On top of that Pat Fox's lethal finishing had been one of the features of the day and a number of the points (11) he scored were right out of the top drawer. Tipp's subsequent All-lreland semi-final battle with Galway ended in a disappointing 3-20 to 2-17 defeat but Pat brought his total to 2-35 for the series with two cracking goals including an expertly taken penalty on the stroke of half time. In fact he could have had a third early on but John Commins brought off a magnificent save that probably went a long way towards helping Galway to victory. Throughout the league campaign of 1987/88 Pat Fox, who holds two All Star awards for 1987 and 1989 really took on the opposition with confidence and assurance and as well as winning a long-awaited medal at Offalys expense in Croke Park, he ended up with the phenomenal tally of 6-40 for the entire series.
Later that year he again played a major role in helping Tipp to regain the provincial crown but had to wait until 1989 for that cherished 'Celtic Cross' when Tipp finally put away the hardy men from Antrim. On the day the Premier County would not hear of defeat and the odds were stacked against the Northerners from the word go. Ciaran Barr's side predictably disappointed after their great win over Offaly but the blue and gold were in a different league and their 4-24 to 3-9 victory speaks volumes for itself. Nicky English, Declan Ryan and Pat Fox gave near flawless exhibitions of forward play by contributing 4-17 between them and secured some great scores even under increasing pressure.
Last year Pat Fox again suffered from a recurring knee problem and only played for 35 minutes in the Munster final when Cork shocked their arch rivals. Now his county take on the wily Cyril Farrell and his team of maroon hopefuls and this could be a different kettle of fish altogether because little is known of the Tribesmen since sensationally losing last years All-lreland to Cork.
The one thing going for this Tipperary team, however, is their great never-say-die spirit and they have shown it against Cork when they were in arrears by seven points twice at Pairc Ui Chaoimh and nine in Semple Stadium. Once they can find their feet and continue where they left off in Munster then I feel they will march on to their 3rd final in four seasons. On the day Pat Fox will improve his scoring average, that's for sure, and if fortune does favour the brave, then surely he deserves to have his efforts rewarded with another All-lreland medal.
Taken from Hogan Stand
2nd August 1991
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