Leinster GAA Hall of Fame Award Presentation 2013, Pat Dunney photographed with Leinster GAA CEO Michael Delaney. Photo: John Quirke
It is really very difficult to know exactly where to start when you are talking about Pat Dunney.
The first thing most fans will recall is that Raheens man Dunney, captained Kildare to All Ireland U21 success in 1965.
But there is so much more to a player whose talent was known and recognised, not just within his county, but in his province and in fact throughout the GAA world.
And while from a county football point of view the medals may be somewhat scarce, he played in no less than six Leinster Senior Football finals, losing all six, something he describes as “somewhat harsh and hard to take” he had a lot more success with the small ball game, being a member of Kildare teams that won Junior, Intermediate and Senior ‘B’ All Irelands.
The esteem that Pat Dunney was held in during his playing days can be gauged from the fact that he has five Railway Cup medals to his name.
And while Railway Cup medals may not seem something special to many of the players of today, back in Dunney's day, after an Ireland medal, a Railway Cup medal was next in line.
He has no less than four Railway Cup medals in hurling (and would have had five only for the matter of a suspension that saw him miss out) but he also has in his possession a coveted Football Railway Cup medal, and to book he is one of a very elite group of players that picked up a medal in both football and hurling finals, on the same day, a rare occurrence.
When you consider the calibre of player that lined out for Leinster in the hurling finals during Dunney's time it will give you an inkling of the company he was in.
Players such as Eddie Keher, Kieran Purcell, Mick Jacob, Pauric Horan, Tony Doran, Pat and Ger Henderson, Fran Larkin, Noel Skehan, the elite list in endless but the Éire Óg man was deemed to be such a quality hurler he was in there with them and while he himself says “I think it was just a sympathy vote myself” no player gets that many sympathy votes, as any of those listed gifted players will readily testify to.
Pat Dunney picked up his first medal, in football, U11 for his school, it was the start of an illustrious career.
He puts down his love of hurling to a few who nurtured the game in Caragh, principally, Kilkenny native Tom Johnson along with the famous Jack Sharpe, Paddy Power, Pat Lawlor to name just a few.
Pat played at minor level for Kildare in both hurling and football before graduating to senior ranks of football at 16 and a year younger at hurling.
A Roadstone man for practically all his life, based initially in Allen before moving to Dublin, but as he says himself, he visited all the various plants throughout the country where Roadstone operated.
The first big success that came his away was of course 1965 and that Leinster and All-Ireland winning U21 team, managed by Jim Clarke along with the likes of Sean Duffy, Oliver Reilly, Tom Moore (Rheban) and Pat Dunney of Milltown.
Players on that team, I would have played against at club level all the way up from U14 so we certainly knew one another very well he told the Leinster Leader last week.
“The U21 team was simply one of those things that took flight; at the beginning of the year you would have said Kildare did not have a prayer in winning anything; then it just took off but that often happened with certain teams; suddenly they would just gel, grow in confidence and all that.”
A very talented team that came in for praise from all quarters; a team that played some great football and was highly thought of but as Pat Dunney ironically recalled “probably a team that was too talented; most of the lads were so good they simply did not have to work as hard as players that were not as good and as talented.”
But that group of players never really transferred that talent on to the senior set-up and while they played in many a Leinster final, they never won a Leinster senior final, why?
“Basically” he said “it was a very talented team to such an extent that they could beat most teams with ease but the problem was that when shove came to push we simply had not put that extra bit of work into it and when we came up against a team of equal ability we were simply not ready for them.
“I was probably one of the ones that got the blame for not training but you must remember that at that stage I was playing county senior football and hurling; county U21 football and hurling along with senior football and hurling at club level; but I got blamed for not training, no I will re-phrase that, I was seen as one of the ones who did not train as hard as some of the others.”
The U21 championship only came into being the previous year, 1964, when Laois won the All-Ireland but by that time Pat Dunney was already a member of the Kildare senior squad, hurling and football, so no shortage of games.
Did you find being a dual player that time difficult?
“No, absolutely not, you could play whatever and whenever you liked, remember there were none of the modern day gadgets that are there for kids back then, it was football and/ or hurling and basically that was it.”
Asked who was the most talented, in his view, of that U21 said he immediately replied “not a very fair question” but then added, no doubt, Jack Donnelly.
“Jack was a really, really good player and while a bad road accident curtailed him later, he still came back from that and showed all his talents, a class player.”
In many respects the Kildare senior team, back then, was not unlike the team of recent times, leaving ’98 and 2000 aside, Kildare teams just do not seem to fulfil their potential despite being talented, well prepared and well organised but seem to be lacking in something what was that?
“To be honest I don't know what it is/ was; was it that we weren't hard enough, mentally hard enough; not sure; something small but it was a little bit of a something that was missing; we were always convinced we could win; it was never that we did not think we could win so it wasn’t a mental thing I think; we knew we were as good as anyone else; better than some of them, but if you look back on it every time we went out to play some little thing went wrong (and not the same thing either), there was a this, a that or the other; always something small but at the same time something that made the difference between winning and losing.
“We always said, and believed, our luck would change, would turn, but unfortunately at that time it never did.”
If the medals were scarce on the county football front for Pat Dunney, the same cannot be said on the hurling side of things, not by a long shot as he,and Kildare, enjoyed great success winning a Junior All-Ireland in 1962 again in ’66; an inter- mediate All-Ireland in ’68 and then we won a Senior 'B' All Ireland in 70s.” It was a lot of success for a supposedly non-hurling county in those years, he added.
We did have some great players admitted Dunney, mainly from Coill Dubh, St Brigid's, Ardclough, Castledermot and of course our own lads from Éire Óg but when you had lads like Johnny Walsh, Bobby Burke, Mick Duane, Jimmy Curran, Tommy Carew, Peter Sharpe, to name just a few, there was no shortage of talent.
When it came to club success there are few, if any, with the haul of medals Pat Dunney has in his locker, while he was also on both Kildare Football and Hurling Teams of the Millennium.
Seven SFC medals; ten SHC medals, something similar when it comes to league final wins in both codes but it was in 1964 when Raheens and Éire Óg brought off the double ithat seems to have been the stand-out season.
“That was a great achievement for a small, very small, rural club and it was another great victory, when Pat was, as he describes himself, coming to the near end of his tether, that also stands out.
Raheens won the senior football title in 1981, going on to win the Leinster Club, defeating Portlaoise in the final and while they lost to Nemo Rangers in the All-Ireland semi final early in the Spring of ’82, Pat remains firmly of the belief “if that game had been played in Newbridge we would have won it.”
Raheens were the first Kildare club to capture a Leinster Club football title and while Moorefield have since captured two, in 2006 and 2017, why has success from clubs in the county been so limitd?
Kildare would be regarded, club-wise, as a very strong county; we (Raheens) had been in four or five Leinster Clubs but were never able to get over the line; we lost out to good sides though, such as St Vincent's (Dublin), Cooley Kickhams (Louth); really I suppose we did not take the Leinster Club seriously enough.
“You see winning the Kildare Championship was, and still is, a very big thing for any club in the county and the Leinster Club, at that time, maybe not today, was simply an add-on.
“That has changed in recent times but back then it was all about winning the Kildare championship and everything after that was a bonus.”
Pat’s inter-county football career came to an end in 1979,“when I was dropped off the senior panel” but he remained on laying club until 1985, when at the age of 40 he finally hung up his boots.
At that stage though, while still playing, Pat Dunney had already moved into the administrative side of the GAA, chairman of Raheens while also heavily involved with Éire Óg so it was no accident that he moved up the ladder to become involved at county board level.
If fact more or less from the time he retired he has been involved, and remains heavily involved at county level, he was chairman for eight years, taking over from the late Hugh Campion.
Has much changed at Co. Board level from then to now?
“Back then everything was debated and discussed, that does not happen these days; there were some great characters back then, but they all had one thing in mind, the betterment of the GAA.”
During Sean Kelly's reign as President of the GAA, Pat Dunney chaired a high powered Hurling Develop-
ment Committee (HDC), a committee that had the likes of Liam Griffin, Cyril Farrell, Nicky English, Ger Lough-
nane and more, and it was this committee that recommended to the Association to introduce the Christy Ring and the Nicky Rackard Cups, something that Pat Dunney is very proud of.
“It was not an easy sell, the GAA are very slow to change, very slow to try new ideas, but they did accept our recommendations, thankfully.”
The purchase of Hawkfield was something Pat Dunney recalls as one of the greatest assets Kildare did over the years.
“A lot of that must go to Seamus (Aldridge). We looked at a lot of places but Hawkfield was the most suitable and it really is a tremendous asset and something to be very proud of.”
Will St Conleth's Park development be held up now following all that has happened this year?
“I would expect so, if it could get under way in 12 months time, that would be a bonus.”
And finally what are the views of the experienced Pat Dunney of modern day hurling and football?
“I am not a fan of modern day football; too much of across-the-field play, there are no goalposts on the sidelines.
“As for Kildare, I think the lads are committed but possibly not willing to take the necessary hits; we need to be more aggressive, while we still don't know how to tackle.”
On the hurling front “the game is in a good place, lots of good players and while we are not where we were during that golden few years back in the late ’60s and early ’70s that is because we don't have that calibre of player.”
And the future?
“Every Spring we are all hopeful things will improve, that has always been the way but with a little bit more aggressiveness who knows, teams don't win All-Irelands without being aggressive.”
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