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Aengus Fanning: An appreciation

AENGUS Fanning was multi-talented.

He was a Gaelic starlet who played senior football for Kerry at 17 years of age in 1960 and according to one of his colleagues, could have won as many All Irelands as Mick O’Dwyer if he had pursued that sporting career.

He was also a sublime jazz musician, who, had he devoted himself totally to that discipline, would have become one of the top players of his generation

In his heart though, he was driven by a simple dictate of ensuring that truth was “a public right to know “– hence he chose journalism as his road to travel.

It is an understatement to say he left huge footprints in this profession both as a writer and then as a conductor of the Sunday Independent team where in many cases new courses were charted.

At a time when we entered the EEC in the early seventies, he was Agriculture Correspondent of the Irish Independent. For close on a decade, he burned the midnight oil in Brussels and Luxembourg as ministers brought back untold riches to Irish shores with Agriculture and fishery packages. Invariably, he was first with the news and the analysis of what it meant.

He then became News Analysis Editor of the Independent at a time of great political unrest and his ability both to write clear pieces on the Haughey-Fitzgerald era and his gift of getting other big names to pen their pieces on his page prepared him well for his ultimate job – Editor of the Sunday Independent.

There he bestrode Irish journalism with an intuitive understanding of what was and wasn’t pertinent to Irish people.

He took the Sindo from being an also-ran to become the biggest selling newspaper ever in Ireland, with the potential to make or break political dynasties.

Yet he never changed one bit as his ability took him to the highest echelons.

He was the same Aengus who met me on the stairs of the old Irish Independent in Abbey Street back in 1981 to welcome me on board and tell me he had great Offaly background in his family.

We enjoyed ending up quits over the two years when Kerry beat Offaly in 1981 and Seamus Darby made it 1-1 on aggregate the following year.

Going out of his way to make a young lad part of the big Indo family was typical of the man. He had the human touch which was part of his daily life and which hundreds like me felt by down the years.

My friend Jo Jo Barrett played midfield with Aengus for the Kerry minors in 1960 and today recalled that Aengus scored 2-2 when he was on the Kerry senior team who played in Irvinestown Co Fermanagh – the first time the Kingdom had played north of the border.

“Aengus played with Kerry greats like Sean and Seamus Murphy, Mick O’Dwyer and Paudie Sheehy that day and looked a class act. In terms of Kerry football, definitely, he was one who got away.”

He played a little for Austin Stacks as a midfielder and was surprised when Jo Jo told him in 1961 that he could have played minor again for Kerry. He wasn’t aware that he was still underage.

If he didn’t don the green and gold, he had a burning passion for Kerry football and every summer, his bias grew as his betting on the outcome of Munster finals or the All Ireland series were always on the back of Paidi O Se’s or Jack O’Connor’s teams.

To Anne and his loving boys, our heartfelt condolences.

Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

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