Paddy Buggy, All-Ireland medal winner in 1957 against Waterford, and rising to the highest office of President of the GAA, could not be in Croke Park on Sunday, and it broke his heart, writes Barrie Henriques.
Because of ill health, he was unable to travel, but it certainly didn’t impinge on his enjoying the game on television. Down in Maryville in Ferrybank, Paddy Buggy sat in the silence of his own sitting room and watched, analysed and concluded.
As agreed, we made contact with the great man on our return, and in typical, uncompromising rhetoric, Paddy Buggy gave his opinion based on what was presented by the wonderful world of technology.
“I told you on Saturday night that we would need a fast, winning start against these Galway lads if we were to turn them up,” he opened. “As it happened, it was Galway who made the start, and after ten minutes, we were behind by 1-2 to a single point. After 31 minutes we were behind by 1-4, having scored just four points.
“Our backs were all over the place, and they were shapeless. I saw JJ.Delaney, in my opinion one of the greatest defenders this game has ever seen, out around the midfield area, following Joe Canning. Tommy and young Joyce were spending a lot of time in the full-back line, and Brian Hogan was having his hands full with young Burke.
“Hogan was left terribly exposed, with nobody around to give him a hand, and not the sign of cover in front. At that stage we had only scored three points from play. That was never going to be enough. Our backs were in terrible trouble, and our midfield was non-existent.”
Paddy felt that the concession of frees was anathema to a winning performance.
“When you have such outstanding hurlers, with superb accuracy from placed balls from all angles, like Henry Shefflin and Joe Canning, the last thing you need to do is afford them easy opportunities. Now I didn’t care, in fact, I welcomed every one of the silly frees that Galway presented us with, but it infuriated me to see some of our lads presenting easy frees to the likes of Canning, a superb hurler.
“Canning shot five frees over our crossbar in the first half, and at least three of them were what I call lazy frees. Galway gave away a few stupid frees too, and Henry slotted over three in succession just before half time, and they were valuable to us at the time, because we were six points adrift before then.”
Paddy’s first visit to Croke Park in 1952 when he was a sub on the county senior team.
“You mean you had never been near the place before then?” but I had never been there before 1952
“What is so extraordinary about that,” he asked.
Dublin was a long way from Slieverue in those times, and transport, especially private cars, were not so plentiful. Country people rarely went to the capital in those time, he reminded.
Was he worried at half time?
“Not so much worried as anxious,” he said. “ Our forwards were not functioning as we know them to do. There was no flow to our game with the smoothness that we have admired. Henry Shefflin was carrying us on his back, with little or no help from any quarter. T.J. Reid was very average. Eoin Larkin was no better, and Richie Power and Colin Fennelly were really struggling.
“Cohesion and team-work were missing. We were dropping balls, and missing the pick-up regularly. There was no great unity of purpose in our play. Yes I was terrible anxious as they went in for the break. Henry’s three points between the 33rd and 35th minutes were vital. That’s what I’m saying really. But for Henry we were bunched.”
Surely he must have been impressed in the second half?
“Whatever Brian (Cody) said to them at the break seemed to make a difference. My little notes tell me that the game was tied six times in the second half. But again we were trusting to Henry to work the miracle. In the 50th minute he levelled matters, and four minutes later he fired us in front for the first time in the match, I think.
“I thought we had a great chance of winning from there, because the momentum was with us.”
Niall Burke’s goal in the 55th minute surely gave you cause to worry?
“Ah sure that should never happen,” he said. “Our two defenders got themselves in an uncharacteristic mess, and young Burke skipped in to slam the ball to the net. I’m still going back to the unity of purpose. Those things should not happen with top-class hurlers. But Henry got us back on an even footing with two frees.”
One of those frees was a penalty. Would you have advised to pursue a different ambition?
“No way,” he insisted. “The man himself is the best judge of what is required, and he obviously felt that a certain point was better than a chancy goal. Yes, he was right.”
Paddy was certain, as Shefflin laid the ball off to Colin Fennelly in the 57th minute, that a match-winning goal was about to be fired home. James Skehill made a magnificent save. Chance gone, although Henry slipped the free over the bar.
Had he an opinion on the officiating?
“I thought the referee made a couple of bad decisions on both sides, but he was consistent,” he felt. “I thought that he had a reasonable game. From where I was looking, I felt that he was fairly balanced. There could be an argument made about the last free, but I felt that Richie Power’s free at the start of the second half was equally questionable. These things balance themselves out in the end.”
His final word?
“We need to get to the pace of the game quicker, and we need one or two others to share the work-load with Henry. He is a priceless talent. We should be thrilled to say that we saw probably the greatest hurler ever playing our magnificent national game. It was a pity he didn’t get the ninth medal, but it is not gone yet.”