Sunday 21 April 2019

The greatest sporting coach of all time

Paddy Clarke, who passed away last weekend, was way ahead of his time as a mentor and guide, having learned his trade from some of the best managers in the world. Hubert Murphy looks back on the life and times of a true genius on the soccer and GAA fields

Paddy celebrates victory over Offaly and winning Division 2 in 2000
Paddy celebrates victory over Offaly and winning Division 2 in 2000

You get NOWT for being second.'

How many times Paddy Clarke must have recalled that comment down the years, because it could have been made by him.

It wasn't. It was a famed outburst in that broad Middlesbrough accent from legendary Leeds manager Don Revie from years gone by.

But the Paddy Clarke - Don Revie link was very real. At a time when most coaches in this country were content to follow and listen, Paddy Clarke was inspired to lead.

He went to Leeds and met Revie and learned from the master.

He went to Liverpool too and got guidance from Huddersfield's Ian Gteaves when Mick Fairclough was there back in the 70s.

Such a grounding would lead to a glittering career, when he took average teams to be winners - never content to be second.

It was in the 1969/70 season that Paddy, a former Drogheda reserve team keeper, teamed up with Christy Early to coach the Drogheda North End under 16 and 17 teams to Drogheda league titles, Damien Berrill and Noel Lynch leading them with great confidence.

A year later, he trained the Drogheda Youths to the FAI Cup and in May 1972, they retained it, a Liam O'Neill goal giving them a 2-1 win over St John Bosco. It was another triumph for Paddy, He was assisted that day by Eamon Reay and Joey Rock lifted the cup. They'd reach the final again a year later with an extraordinary bunch of players.

In December 1973, he left his role as assistant manager and trainer at Drogheda AFC.

He had become disenchanted with the game, claiming that there was too much interference in League of Ireland football for his liking.

Then 26 and a dispatch clerk with Cement Ltd. he said it had become too much. 'I felt I was doing too much work, training the youths and reserves five nights a week. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I devoted to the firsts and Tuesdays and Thursdays with the youths. Saturday evening was given over to the reserves match and my Saturday nights were spent contacting youth players, as well as spending the week-ends getting first aid equipment.

'It was a case of early rising on Sundays to look after the youths and then Sunday evenings were taken up with the firsts. It became clear to me that my week was being devoted entirely during my supposed leisure hours, to soccer and I was having no social life. It was at this stage I decided to call a halt,' he stated at the time.

When word broke he was leaving soccer, the GAA came knocking, several clubs coming to him.

Paddy felt that his greatest contribution to the soccer scene locally was the weight-training room which he introduced to the Lourdes Stadium in the early 70s, as he believed that it helped build up the strength and stamina of the younger players.

He was always keen to keep abreast with new ideas and training routines and Les Crocker of Leeds United became a friend.

It was as a result of advice from Les that Paddy introduced many innovations to the Boyneside club. He also brought the youth team to England twice and feels that they learned a lot of their tips. By 1974, he had made the move to Mattock Rangers (involved with them for four years) and in 1975, guided the Meath minors to the Leinster Final. Pat O'Neill's new ideas brought him in with Mick O'Brien.

Paddy loved to pass on what he learned and he was involved in coaching courses up and down the country.

Coaching roles always arose, the Louth under 21s in the mid 80s and Stabannon Parnells in 1989 to name but two.

He was in charge of Louth from 1997 to 2001 and success again came, an All-Ireland 'B' championship success in 1997 and a National Football League Division 2 title in 2000.

He was much in demand by clubs after that and had the unique achievement of winning club titles in Louth (Stabannon Parnells and Mattock Rangers), Meath (Kilmainhamwood), Monaghan (Castleblaney Faughs), Cavan (Kingscourt Stars) and Dublin (St Brigid's).

His St. Brigid's of Blanchardstown side won the Leinster Club SFC in 2003.

Ireland International Rules manager Brian McEniff saw Paddy's ability and he was his assistant in 2000 and 2001.

Away from the playing pitch, Paddy was an expert stats man - his records of Louth games and players impeccable.

Paddy lived at Cooperhill, Drogheda and formerly of St Mary's Villas. and was beloved husband of Annette, loving dad to Shane, Caoimhe and Ciáran and devoted grandad to Susannah and Isabella. Brothers Michael, Billy and Mal, sisters Judith and Mary and other relatives and friends.

Reposing at his home from 1pm until 9pm on Tuesday. Removal on Wednesday morning at 10.30am, arriving to St. Mary's Church, James Street, for Funeral Mass at 11 o'clock. Burial afterwards in Calvary Cemetery. No flowers or Mass cards, please. Donations, if desired, to The Paddy Clarke Remembrance fund for young footballers.

Drogheda Independent