Sunday 18 August 2019

Dublin legend Anton O'Toole passes away, aged 68

Anton O'Toole of Dublin. Photo by Sportsfile
Anton O'Toole of Dublin. Photo by Sportsfile

Frank Roche and Ger Keville

DUBLIN legend Anton O’Toole, one of the most iconic footballers on the team led by Kevin Heffernan to All-Ireland glory in two different decades, has passed way after an illness.

O'Toole (68) won four All-Ireland SFC medals in a decorated career that coincided with the remarkable transformation of Gaelic football in the capital. 

He had first broken into the senior set-up in 1972 at a time when Dublin football – and supporter interest – was at a low ebb.

Anton also played on a Dublin U-21 team managed by the late Eugene McGee. He was on the 1972 side with two more future 'Heffo's Heroes' in Robbie Kelleher and David Hickey.

"We were beaten in the first round by Meath. No wonder, with that talent, I never got a job with Dublin again," McGee once ruefully remarked.

That all changed with the arrival of Heffernan in the managerial hotseat. O'Toole won his first Celtic Cross when Dublin defeated Galway in 1974 – Heffo's maiden campaign – and followed up with further All-Ireland triumphs against Kerry in '76, Armagh in '77 and again, after a six-year hiatus, against Galway in '83.

On the latter occasion, he was one of the 'twelve Apostles' still on the pitch after three Dubs were sent off but the remaining dozen held for victory over 14-man Galway.

A hugely talented forward, O'Toole was widely known by his evocative nickname, 'the Blue Panther'.

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He played in six consecutive All-Ireland finals from 1974 to '79 and two more in '83 and '84. The latter defeat to Kerry would prove his Sky Blue swansong.

His career haul also included eight Leinster SFC titles and two National Leagues along with three All Stars in successive years, from '75 to '77.

O'Toole subsequently managed Templeogue Synge-Street.

Tributes have been paid to O'Toole on social media with former Dublin star Eamon Fennell saying: "I was very fortunate to have met Anton O'Toole lots of times over the last few years. Like the rest of the lads from the 70s, he was a gentleman. They helped shape the culture of today's @DubGAAOfficial team and Anton was a huge part of helping shape that #RIPTheBluePanther."

Close friend and Sunday World reporter Roy Curtis penned a fitting tribute. "A father of the city, Anton O'Toole, passed away.

"A hero who became a fast friend, a wise and kind big brother.

"That apple-cheeked smile, like his deeds, will live forever.

"The Blue Panther, he was Dublin in the rare oul' times.

"Rest easy Tooler. You are loved."

Vinnie Murphy added: "RIP Anton, you were one of us, maybe the best of us. A gentleman you will be missed."

GAA president John Horan said: "The Dublin team of the 70s was responsible for breathing new life into the GAA in the Capital. That team created a surge of interest and popularity in Gaelic games in Dublin that has gone from strength to strength right through to the present day.

"Anton O'Toole was an integral part of that iconic team. A great player, a great sportsman and a great ambassador for club and county.

"He had an army of football admirers throughout Dublin but, also far beyond, and our thoughts are with his family and many friends who mourn the loss of the Templeogue Synge St and Dublin GAA legend.

"Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas síoraí dá anam."

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