Laochra Gael 2017 – 7 Pat Fox
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Laochra Gael 2017 – 7 Pat Fox

When you were marking Pat Fox,… knew that if you made
any mistake… ..or if you didn’t concentrate fully
for 70 minutes, you were finished. Fox had an incredible first touch. If he had at least a yard
or two of space,… ..he would get the score
almost every time. In 1979, with Pat Fox just 17 years
of age,… ..he played in midfield for
the U-21 Tipperary team… the All-Ireland Final. Tipp were champions on the day. He moved to the full back line
for the next two years… ..and Tipp’s success continued. Tipperary had a great period
of success at that time. They won three U-21 All-Ireland
titles at the time. Pat was moved back and forth… ..but he was back in midfield
for his first Senior match in 1980… ..and in 1981, against Limerick,… ..he was in the full forward line. A knee injury kept Pat out
for a few years. But in 1985, with Pat moved back
to the full back line,… ..Tipp reached the Munster Final
against Cork. A lot of people were talking
about him after that. We thought Tipp had found an
excellent defender. Tipp did not enjoy success
that day. In 1986, Pat was out
with a knee injury… ..and by now he was losing heart. But then Babs Keating
became manager. Every aspect of the preparation
changed… ..and soon Babs asked Pat
a crucial question. And in 1987, Pat was back
in the Munster Final… ..and back in the full forward
line… ..where he was to remain. With a minute left to go,
Tipp were two points down. The replay was also neck-and-neck. And there was controversy
in the second half. Usually a forward knows if the ball
went over the bar or into the net. The All-Ireland Semi-Final
against Galway. Pat’s first time playing
in Croke Park. They were all expecting them to win
the All-Ireland. A lot of people were saying that
Tipperary’s time had come again. But luck had nothing to do
with his second goal. It was a stand-out goal,
a unique style,… ..and the supporters went crazy! They went a step further in 1988… reach the All-Ireland Final. But were they ready for it? There were few matches
when Pat didn’t score… ..but that’s what happened on
his biggest day. Tipp met Galway again in ’89. It was more important than ever… Antrim had beaten Offaly in
the first Semi-Final that same day. What if it was fifteen men
against fifteen men? Who knows?! Antrim stood between Pat
and his heart’s desire: an All-Ireland medal. Tipp got an early goal. Goalkeeper Niall Patterson
made a mistake. I was at the match and I remember
thinking, ‘That’s it now’. That pass, and the score
he got from it,… just showed his breadth
of skill. He was a thorn in the side of the
Antrim defenders. Finally, a taste of All-Ireland
success… ..but would one title be enough? In 1990, Tipp were reigning
All-Ireland Champions from ’89. And by the Leeside, Tipp and Pat Fox
took on Cork in the Munster Final. In the second half,
Pat was taken off. When you have a finisher,
keep him on the field. Because if he gets the chance,
he’ll make the right decision… ..and he’ll do what’s needed. It was very important that Tipp
would win one… quickly as possible. By 1991, there was no-one on the Tipp
team to rival Pat Fox. They met Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh
for the Munster Final. The time was up… ..and we were waiting for Terence
Murray to blow it up. But I was looking at them… ..and I saw Fox standing back
slightly from the melee. He stayed back,
which was a clever move,… ..and I think Seán O’Gorman
was on Fox,… ..and he went in after the ball… ..but it found Fox
and it went over the bar. So, just like ’87,
Cork and Tipp drew,… ..setting the scene for
another epic. I think Fox scored the goal that
triggered Tipp’s comeback that day. But his two comrades in the full
forward line had problems… they prepared to take on
Kilkenny in the All-Ireland. Bonnar and Nicky English
were injured. Therefore, Fox was the last man
standing of the full forward line. He was the only established player
they had in that forward line,… ..No. 13, No.14, and No.15. Pat won the Hurler of the Year
award in 1991. But how would things go in 1992… they faced Cork once more
in the Munster C’ship? I remember watching the match
that day. It was Brian Corcoran’s
first match,… ..and he was marking Pat Fox. You were wondering how that
would work out… ..but Corcoran was a great player
and he was excellent that day. But it wasn’t all over yet for Pat. In ’93, Tipp took on Clare
in the Munster Final. Pat did not start in the All-Ireland
Semi-Final against Galway. It was Pat Fox’s last performance
in Croke Park. And he lost a bit of his speed. Perhaps that made the difference
between the Pat Fox of ’89-’91… ..and the Pat Fox of later years. The defenders were able to
keep pace with him… ..because he had lost a bit of speed. Fox continued to play but he wasn’t
as effective as he had been… ..and I don’t think the team were
as effective as they had been. He knew what to do when
he had the ball. He knew when to pass
or when to go himself. That’s very important for
any forward. In other words, he made the right
decisions at the right time. Any team lucky enough to have
a forward of Pat Fox’s calibre… ..would have a much better chance
of winning a game or a C’ship… ..because he was there.


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