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  • Tuesday March 8th, 2011 @ 21:49

Sadness At The Passing Of A Football Legend

There was great sadness in Coolock recently following the death of local man Paddy ‘Ginger' O'Rourke, a renowned footballer who won a host of honours in the League of Ireland in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Northside People editor Pat O'Rourke pays a special tribute to his father

I HAD an inkling my father was a famous footballer when I was about six-years-of-age.

On Sunday afternoons he used to bring me on two buses from Coolock to Inchicore to see his beloved St Patrick's Athletic in action at Richmond Park.

He had retired a few years earlier after winning a number of major honours in the game including two league championships (1955 and 1956) and two FAI Cups (1959 and 1961) for St Pat's.

In an illustrious career, Ginger, as he was affectionately known, also won ‘B' and Junior caps for Ireland and was a member of the full international squad for a home game against Poland on October 5 1958.

As soon as we arrived in Inchicore, fans would stop him to shake his hand and have a chat. I used to fret that I might miss the match by the time he finished talking to everybody.

And post match, it would be hard to get him home because whatever pub he was in (usually McDowell's!), the football banter continued late into the night with former team-mates and fans.

One of my father's proudest moments came in September 2009 when St Patrick's Athletic launched the Harry Boland Hall of Fame as part of the club's 80th anniversary celebrations.

He was among the first 10 inductees, which included other former St Pat's greats like Paul McGrath, John McDonnell, Shay Gibbons and Paul Osam.

As my two uncles – Tommy ‘Longo' White and Christy Fitzgerald – also played in the same St Patrick's Athletic team as my father, football dominated our household as you can imagine. There was no escape!

While Paddy was very modest about his achievements, he would often regale us with stories of the great players he played with and against, the big cup finals he was involved in and playing in front of large attendances at the likes of Richmond Park and Dalymount.

As Father Frank Duggan said so eloquently at his funeral mass, Paddy was always keen to give something back to the game he loved.

While England were winning the World Cup in the summer of 1966, our family were settling into our new surroundings in Coolock, and it was five years later that my father, along with the late Billy Judge and Father O'Farrell, formed St Columban's Football Club.

During a long association with the club, my father managed a number of successful teams and was always on hand to give advice to young players, including myself, who wanted to learn more about the beautiful game.

Right up until his death, my father was still travelling across the city to watch his beloved St Pat's and was looking forward to seeing the Super Saints in the new campaign starting in March.

At the beginning of every season, he would be hoping they would break their FAI Cup jinx.

As diehard supporters of St Pat's will know all too well, the club, despite winning a number of league titles, hasn't won the FAI Cup since 1961 when they defeated Drumcondra 2-1.

As well as the football, my father also enjoyed a bet on the horses.

Unfortunately, he could never replicate his success on the pitch in his local Paddy Powers. However, he did have a big win one day on a horse called ‘Typhoon Ginger'.

It is somewhat ironic then that his last bet was on a horse called Stadium of Light, the nickname for Richmond Park, the ground he graced with such great distinction.

Rest in peace Paddy ‘Ginger' O'Rourke, you've earned your place in that great soccer pitch in the sky!

* The O'Rourke family wish to sincerely thank all those who sympathised with them and offered support following Paddy's death, and in particular St Patrick's Athletic Football Club.

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Founded in 1929 the 'Saints' are the current FAI Cup holders and play in the Premier Division of the SSE Airtricity League at Richmond Park, in Inchicore Dublin 8, Ireland.

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