Meeting Big Pat Jennings


The year was 1985. I was employed by Fords at Dagenham and I happened then to be player manager of a departmental football team.

It was a Sunday morning and as usual my team was playing a league game at the Ford Sports Centre, Rush Green in Essex. We were allocated one of the pitches adjacent to the main arena. On that day, the Arena itself was the venue of a Cup Final. This game featured representative teams from Ford plants at Halewood and Swansea. The day’s Guest Celebrity to present the Trophies was our own Pat Jennings.

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Newry Mitchels GAC

The John Mitchel Gaelic Athletic Club in Newry was formed by a group of enthusiasts back in the late 50’s.  Gerry Brown of Clanrye Avenue, a Physical Education teacher at the Abbey Grammar was its first Chairman and under his expert guidance the new club attained immediate success with a number of notable championships.

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Peter McParland & Great Newry Sportsmen

Peter McParland, Pat’s great predecessor on the international soccer stage, has a park in the area (Barley Lane) named after him.  Older folks will remember his incredible exploits in the greatest F.A. Cup final of them all!  Captain of his international squad, Danny Blanchflower admired him greatly, considering him an outstanding ‘outside left’:  of his team-mate and role model, Peter Doherty, an inside forward, Blanchflower said

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Down, Down, Armagh

When Armagh won the All-Ireland two years ago, in the midst of my delight I shed a silent tear for Cardinal Tom and his own ‘team’ mate, my Uncle Jamesy, who would have given anything to witness such an event during their lives.
Would this side go on to become one of the ‘great’ Gaelic teams?  It was while awaiting an answer to that beguiling question that I delayed adding the team to this Characters list.  I waited until today to decide.  When Armagh took the Anglo-Celt Cup at Croke Park today, defeating Donegal with their best display of football yet – not excluding their 2002 victory – they earned that mantle.
There are a few games yet but now I am confident that Armagh will win its second crown before the summer is out and join the great Ulster teams of the recent past, the inimitable Down side of 1959-1968 being the first of living memory.  We all remember men like James McCartan, Dan McCartan, Joe Lennon and Paddy Doherty who not only won titles but changed the nature of the game in the process.
The successful Down team of 1991-1994 may not quite have reached the same dizzy heights but won two All-Ireland titles on the way.  Among this side’s great and well-remembered characters were James McCartan, Paddy O’Rourke, Greg Blaney and Ross Carr.  That Paddy and Ross are still highly involved in managing current Down sides speaks highly of their commitment.  
Today Joe Kernan gave a number of subs a run-out and they excelled.  There is strength in depth.  I am confident that Armagh will take Sam again in September and that future generations will remember the names of today’s Armagh team.  For the record then, today’s starting line-up was
P Hearty: F Bellew: A Mallon: K Hughes: K McGeeney: A O’Rourke: P Loughran: P McGrane: P McKeever: T McEntee: O McConville: S McDonnell: R Clarke: D Marsden
(If you don’t know what Christian name each initial stands for, you’d better learn!  Everyone else does!!)