April 30, 1993
Former Dublin hero Paddy Holden (right) with another great Justin McCarthy.
Sixties star no 6. Dublin's centre half back was a complete footballer. Injury in 1963 final was a bad blow
There are two qualities which team selectors normally look for in a centre half back. One is the ability to defend and the other is to get to the midfield breaks before the centre half forward. It is a key position and a team will seldom win anything unless it's no. 6 is a very capable footballer. The onus is often on him to prevent the attacks from building up and to keep the half back line on its toes. Attacking centre halves were quite rare until about thirty years ago but Paddy Holden's astuteness in delivering marked him out as one of the new breed. He was fast and could read the game well. What separated him from many of his contemporaries was his intelligent use of the ball, not a particular hallmark of previous centre halves. Had the Dublin team of his era won a couple more All-Irelands, there is little doubt that the stalwart Clan na Gael defender would have had strong claims to be included in the 'Team of the Century' named in 1984.
In 1963 Paddy won his only All-Ireland senior medal when Dublin beat Galway by two points, 1-9 to 0-10, in the final. But he missed out on most of the game having received a nasty head injury in the opening half. He was replaced by Paddy Downey, but the fact that he missed out on so much of a memorable occasion has always been a source of major disappointment to him. Unfortunately, he did not get a second chance. Paddy Holden was born in Cabra and attended the local St. Peter's School. There was an underage club in the area, St. Finbarrs but Paddy joined the Clan na Gael unit, based in Ringsend at an early age. He had played for St. Peter's School against St. Josephs (Joey's) of Fairview in the then prestigious Sweet Afton Cup but he recalls that the mighty Joey's beat them by a point. The Sweet Afton Cup was the primary schools competition and in those days, it was a much sought-after trophy.
Clan na Gael provided young Holden with plenty of football. "You would often have three games at the weekends, at minor,junior and senior level. There was no shortage of games." His dedication to training meant that he was well able to perform in so many games, and he remembers that his stamina was never a problem. "As a kid I used to run from Cabra to the "Fourteen Acres" in the Phoenix Park where our games were played and run home again after the game." Paddy's performances for Clan na Gael soon brought him to the notice of the county selectors and he was full back on the Dublin team that won the All-Ireland minor crown in 1958 when Mayo were beaten in the final. Des Foley was Dublin's minor captain on that occasion and there were great celebrations in the capital when, less than two hours later, Kevin Heffernan stepped forward to be presented with the Sam Maguire Cup.
Promotion to the junior team followed but Paddy was deprived of a second All-Ireland medal by Fermanagh in 1959. But the Dublin senior selectors were charting his progress and he made his senior debut in the National League against Roscommon in the autumn of '59, wearing the no. 5 jersey. But he was being groomed for the no. 6 position and by the time that the 1960 championship came around, he was close to being the established centre half back. Offaly had made the Leinster breakthrough in 1960 and the emergence of Down from Ulster drew huge crowds to Croke Park. Dublin had to take a back seat in 1960 and '61 as the two newcomers battled it out for championship glory.
In 1962, Paddy won his first Leinster senior football championship medal when Dublin got the better of Offaly by 2-8 to 1-7. However, Kerry proved too strong in the All-Ireland semi final. Another year, another championship. In 1963 the Dubs were well beaten by Galway in a divisional final of the National League at Croke Park. Their prospects for championship glory looked bleak indeed.
But after they had scored a narrow victory over Meath in the first round, they began to improve and although Laois ran them to two points in the Leinster Final, they retained the provincial crown with a degree of ease. Down stood between them and a place in the final. A huge crowd of over 70,000 turned up at Croke Park in comparison to the 37,000 which attended the other semi final between Kerry and Galway. There was two minutes remaining to the interval when Paddy Holden initiated the move which produced Dublin's first goal. He found John Timmons who passed on to Mickey Whelan. Gerry Davey was next in line and he gave it to Brian McDonald. McDonald's shot struck Leo Murphy before ending up in Patsy McAlinden's net. Dublin led by 1-5 to 1-2 at the break. Such was Paddy Holden's dominance over James McCartan that the Down mentors switched the great Glen man to full forward. Gerry Davey got Dublin's second half goal but the game will always be remembered by Dublin supporters for the outstanding performance of Paddy Holden and his two half back colleagues, Des McKane and Mick Kissane.
Some GAA commentators, of the younger variety, believe that the Dublin team of the seventies brought the metropolitan supporters to Croke Park in bigger numbers than ever before but the '63 team also attracted massive crowds and the attendance at the final was the third highest ever to attend a game in Croke Park, over 87,000. Leo Hickey, Lar Foley and Bill Casey was the Dublin full back line while Paddy was flanked by Des McKane and Mick Kissane. Des Foley captained the side and he was partnered at midfield by John Timmons. Brian McDonald, Mickey Whelan and Gerry Davey formed the half way forward line and inside them Simon Behan, Des Ferguson and Noel Fox completed the attack. Galway looked the more impressive outfit throughout the first half, but their forwards, under constant pressure from the Dublin defence, recorded twelve wides in the opening period and it was during one of the early encounters that Paddy Holden received the injury which necessitated eight stitches over his right eye. It was a severe blow to the player himself, but also to Dublin's prospects. Galway led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half time, but nine minutes after the resumption, Brian McDonald floated a sideline kick across the mouth of the Galway goals. Simon Behan rose highest and his blockdown was met by Gerry Davey who fisted it to the back of the net. With five minutes remaining and Dublin clinging on to a two point lead, hearts travelled rapidly to mouths on Hill 16 as, for a moment the referee looked like awarding a penalty to Galway. However, the relief was evident when, having consulted his umpires, he re-started the game and Dublin became All-Ireland champions for the seventeenth time. The switch of Mickey Whelan to partner Des Foley at centre field was generally deemed to be decisive and the will-to-win displayed by the 1963 Dubs was undoubtedly their greatest asset. "Not being on the field for the final whistle was a huge disappointment and the injury certainly took away some of the thrill, but yes, I'd have to say that it was the highlight of my football career." One suspects that the Grounds Tournament victory over Kerry in '63 was also a huge thrill for Paddy and his team mates. Dublin stormed back from a seemingly impossible position and, inspired by Lar Foley, overcame the Kingdom in the dying seconds.
Paddy Holden played with and against many of the great footballers of the sixties. James McCartan of Down, Jack Kenna of Laois, Donie O'Hanlon of Offaly, Mattie McDonagh of Galway, Eamon Curley of Roscommon, Tom Long and John Dowling of Kerry, Jim McKeever of Derry, Sean O'Neill of Down, Sean Murphy of Kerry, Paddy McCormack of Offaly, Noel Tierney and Martin Newell of Galway and of course, Mick O'Connell. There were no All Star awards as we know them today during Paddy's career but there was an awards scheme known as the Cuchullain All Stars and Paddy was selected as centre half back on three occasions, '62, '63 and '64. And his talents were given special recognition when he was invited to America, along with Christy Ring for a series of exhibition games. He was selected for Leinster for five successive years and he won two Railway Cup medals. In 1962, he was the only non-Offaly player in the Leinster defence. In the same year he helped Clan na Gael to win the Dublin senior football title for the first time since the late 1930s. He continued to play with the club until 1973.
For a time Paddy was involved, along with Mickey Whelan and Gay O'Driscoll in a sort of former players branch of the Dublin Supporters Club and he still follows the fortunes of the nineties Dubs. He lives in Sutton with his wife Gertie, where he is a member of the local golf club and has represented Sutton in inter club competitions. The couple have three daughters. He has no regrets about his football career or his involvement with the GAA. "I enjoyed it all. I've mentioned the great names that I played against but I also played alongside some marvellous Dublin footballers, the Foley brothers, Mickey Whelan, the late John Timmons, Cathal O'Leary, Marcus Wilson, Jim Crowley and the late Ollie Freaney. Football prepared me well for life. Team sport is a great discipline and every kid should be involved. It's a great character builder." Paddy is a director with the successful Tedcastle's Oil company.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
30th April 1993
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