As a young boy growing up in Glenflesk, county Kerry, there was nothing that stirred Pat O’Donoghue more than the sound of boot on leather.
Hailing from the Kingdom, Pat was hooked on Gaelic Football right from the start and his love for the game endured until his recent passing.
“It lifted your heart to hear the ball being kicked in the glens and mountains,” Pat told me.
“There was a certain ring out of it. When you’d hear that ring, your heart would give a leap and you were straight for the field.”
Pat’s was a life less ordinary, so much crammed in from his birth on October 20th, 1928 until his much-mourned death in March.
Pat is survived by his wife Una (nee Farrell), a native of Laytown in county Meath, sons Paul, Pat, Sean, Donal and Ronan, and daughter Majella.
Pat was predeceased by his third son James, who died tragically in 1995.
Pat passed on his love of Gaelic Games to his children and in the family sitting room on the Golden Road in Cashel, countless medals adorn the mantlepiece.
Behind each medal is a story and Pat was immensely proud of his own sporting achievements while on duty with An Garda Síochána in county Louth.
In 1958, Pat won an Old Gaels competition with the Oliver Plunketts club in Drogheda and a year later, he was a Cardinal O’Donnell cup winner in the Wee County.
One of Pat’s clubmates was the late Peadar Smith, a member of the Louth team that won the 1957 All-Ireland senior football championship.
And in 1959, both men played key roles for Oliver Plunketts in a famous Louth club football tie as reigning county champions at the time, Roche Emmets, were dethroned.
Pat was confident in his own ability as a footballer and he recalled: “The first match I played in Drogheda, I was playing centre field on a wet, drizzly day.
“When it was over, I had scored two points. I found out that I had played against a guy called Judge, a member of the Louth squad that won the All-Ireland. I didn’t know who he was – or care! But maybe if I knew, I mightn’t have played half as well!”
Pat had marked Jim ‘Blackie’ Judge in that club game, a man held in high regard in Louth football circles.
But even though he was away from his native Kingdom now, Pat still made it his business to travel south for Munster finals.
“I’d sit into a car and I could land below in Cork,” he explained.
“If I didn’t get a drive back or meet someone, I’d go back by train the following day. I’d always keep in touch with home and I travelled back on occasion to play a few matches with the club.”
Pat also recalled the magic of the 1937 All-Ireland senior hurling final, played in Killarney. Tipperary hammered Kilkenny by 3-11 to 0-3 and Pat remembered: “That was the first game of hurling that I saw – one of the only All-Irelands played outside of Croke Park.
“Some people in Kerry had never seen hurling and the crowd that descended on Killarney that day was huge.”
Pat was now hooked on hurling too and after moving to Cashel in 1963, it wasn’t long before Pat was involved as a selector with various teams, both hurling and football.
He had joined An Garda Síochána in 1955, stationed first in Letterkenny in county Donegal before transferring to Drogheda, where he served for seven years. He met Una there and the couple married in 1963, before moving to their new home in Tipperary.
Pat was no stranger to rubbing shoulders with people of influence and in 1961, he was on duty in Drogheda for the royal visit of Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.
In earlier years, Pat had worked with CIE, alongside the grandfather of Kerry football star Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper, and one of his colleagues in Drogheda was Kevin Harrington, uncle of international golf star Pádraig Harrington.
The huge crowds that flocked to Cashel for Pat’s funeral in March were a testament to the high esteem in which he was held, among those who knew him intimately and those who knew him on even a fleeting level.
Pat’s service to the GAA in Cashel was rewarded in 2006 when he received a Sean Laochra Gael award and he was also an honorary life member of Cashel King Cormacs.
During a spell as a security man, Pat also worked in Ballydoyle but his love for his family and sport superseded all.
It wasn’t unusual for Pat to stop in at the old Cashel CBS playing fields to watch a match in progress on his way home to the Golden Road.
He was always looking the next big talent and compiled a personal list of ‘players to keep an eye on’ for the future.
Pat was also a great storyteller and perhaps it is apt to finish this piece with one of his favourite.
One night in Cashel, Pat was on duty with a colleague when his trained eye spotted something on Boherclough Street at 3 am in the morning.
“I thought I saw movement going into Copperfield House,” Pat said.
“We stopped right in front of the gate and as I hopped out of the car, this animal hopped out of the hedge.”
Pat and his colleague followed a deer up the main street of Cashel before taking a right turn onto Friar Street.
And Pat laughed: “He went up past the church, out towards the hurling field and there was a pond there at the time.
“The deer took a run at it, jumped into the air over the pond and ended up safe.
“It was remarked in the local council chambers later that if a deer couldn’t come into Cashel without being observed, well then the Guards were doing their job!”
Sleep well, Pat. It was an honour to have known you and we have no doubt that you’re passing on some football tips to the greats in Heaven.