Saturday 25 May 2019

Traffic congestion and parking problems are first things noticed by returned emigrant Paddy Gavin

HOME on holidays in Drogheda is former professional footballer Paddy Gavin. Originally from The Mount, Sunnyside, Drogheda, Paddy left the town in 1953 to play football for Doncaster Rovers - and incidentally, has received a copy of The Drogheda Independent each week sent by his only sister Peggy!

With his two brothers Eddie (Ned) and Jimmy, Paddy played first for Naomh Mhuire (from 1943-48) where they won the Under 17 Drogheda Street League, and the following year with Wolfe Tones Monors when the team won the Louth Minor Championship against favourites Ardee.

In the same year Paddy played centre field with Louth Minors against Dublin and lost. A few months later he played with the Louth Senior team against Kildare at Newbridge where they won. He scored 1 goal and 6 points making him ‘the man of the match’. ‘Full credit goes to team mate Terry Doolan for his support and encouragement through the game,’ said Paddy.

After leaving St. Mary’s School on The Hill at the age of 14, Paddy worked for James Murphy Drapery & Shoe store in West Street.

Paddy was invited to play soccer in Oriel Park, Dundalk where he had spectated many times in the company of his father. He spent one season on the Reserve team before breaking into the First team at wing half.

In 1950 Dundalk won the Leinster Senior Cup against St. Patrick’s Athletic at Christmas. The following year they won the FAI cup against Cork after a replay with Paddy playing right half. At this time Paddy was serving his time as an apprentice joiner in Dundalk.

After being moved to left back in 1953 things picked up even more. ‘I settled in right away and felt very confident,’ said Paddy.

He was selected to play for the League of Ireland team against the Irish League and against the English League teams, with both games in Dalymount Park. In the latter, he marked the famous Tom Finney, right winger, and came through the game with credit. So much so that Doncaster manager Peter Doherty wanted to sign him up straight after the game.

Having refused the offer to turn professional with Doncaster Rovers, Paddy eventually took his father’s advice to give it a try and so he took the boat to England in 1953.

‘I have no regrets,’ said Paddy who settled down and played seven successful seasons with the English Division II team in the pre-Premier League days. ‘These were the best years ever for Doncaster,’ explained Paddy. ‘We were in the top of Division II and played against teams like Liverpool, Aston Villa, Leeds Utd., Notts Forrest, Southampton, etc.’

Whilst in Doncaster, Paddy stayed in digs sharing with Harry Gregg - one of the Busby Babes - the famous goalkeeper who played first with Doncaster before transferring to Manchester United. He was later to survive the Munich Air Disaster.

With another medal under his belt from Doncaster Rovers beat Sheffield United in the Sheffield County Cup, Paddy was selected to play for Ireland B against Romania in Dalymount Park in 1956.

That year he went to Lillisall where he completed a coaching course qualifying as a soccer coach, but never used his skill as he retired from football in 1959.

Recently two former team mates, Ray Hamilton and John Mooney, passed away. ‘The funeral was a very sad occasion, but at the same time, it was great to meet up with former players from the 1950s,’ said Paddy.

In 1958 Paddy married Maureen Massarella from Doncaster. Maureen is a niece of Ronnie Massarella, manager of the British Show Jumping team. Her Italian-Engish family owned the Mr. Softie icecream company, selling it to Lyons in the 1960s.

They have two children - son Paul who is married to Anne and they have two children Camilla and Regina; and daughter Lisa who is married to John and has a son Louis. All the family lives nearby. On retirement from soccer Paddy worked in his father-in-law’s ice cream business for five years prior to its takeover, then bought two grocery stores which he ran until his second retirement three years ago at the age of 68.

‘I loved the business, but my son said that I had worked long enough and now I am glad that I took his advice. Paul now runs the business.’ Paddy is still occupied managing family properties, and spending time with his grandchildren.

Since retiring, Maureen, who works as a Justice of the Peace, and Paddy are more involved with their church and their community, running the parish 200 Club, St. Vincent de Paul and flower arranging taking up a lot of time. They also enjoy travelling and visit Drogheda regularly. Still keeping fit, both Maureen and Paddy work out in the gym three times per week.

‘I still have an interest in football and attend as many of Doncaster Rovers home matches as possible. As we live quite to both the football pitch and to the racecourse I also enjoy a bit of racing,’ said Paddy. ‘It’s always nice to come back to Drogheda to see my brothers Eddie and Jimmy and my sister Peggy. There have been many changes in Drogheda over the years - the most noticeable being traffic and parking problems.’