Paddy McGrory – One of the Originals

Paddy McGrory - One of the Originals

Paddy McGrory – One of the Originals

Paddy McGrory who passed away on 28 December 2006 was one of a number of men from Derry who helped to establish Finn Harps as a force in the League of Ireland.  Paddy scored Harps second goal in League of Ireland football and was one of only two players who played in both the first game and the 1974 FAI Cup Final victory.  The following article dates from February 2004 and was conducted by Bartley Ramsay.

Paddy McGrory although he is a Derry man and continues to live in the Maiden City considers himself a Harps man and still is a supporter of the club till this day.  As he says himself “it was a coincidence that I started playing for Harps and I remember playing in a Summer Cup competition in Ballybofey one night and the ball went into the river.  I remember thinking at the time that this is some pitch the ball is away into the river.  Little did I know that I would spend the best days of my life up there.”

It was thanks to Brian Wright that Paddy ended up in Ballybofey “I had fallen out with Jimmy Hill the Derry City manager, he wanted me to play on the wing, however, I always wanted to play as a defender and I told him so. Anyway, there was one day in the town I met Brian and asked him what he was up to and he said “did you not here there’s a football team starting up in Ballybofey.”  So I asked him was there any chance of getting up there, and he said yes Raymond McFadden drives a minibus up to Ballybofey for training, so I joined them and Patsy asked me to sign and I said “no bother I’ll sign and the rest is sort of history.”

Paddy goes on to relate “when I first signed for Harps I was an amateur and then one night at training Patsy said to me out of the blue ‘I want you to sign that form’, we were sitting in the minibus and I said what is it, he said to me it is a form, anyhow I signed it and little did I know I was signing a professional form.”  However, he goes on to say “I didn’t care at the end of it all.  It was a great time, the spectators were great, big crowds and everything, and everywhere you went in Ballybofey people made you welcome.  Even now I have good friends in Ballybofey like Drew Brogan and Fergus McNulty, that is what I liked about Ballybofey, the people were so close to you.”

Talk of his manager at Harps Patsy McGowan and he has this to say “You have to give Patsy credit, he took a team out of nothing and we were only in the League three years (72/73 season) and we had a chance of winning it.  We went down to Limerick in the Markets Field and on the same day Waterford were at home to Cork Hibs.  We had to beat Limerick and hope that Waterford would do us a turn.  We went in at half time 2-1 up and found out that Waterford were getting beat 3 goals to nil.  That was terrible, you know Waterford would give anybody a game on their day, at the time they were one of the better teams in the League.  Patsy was a wee bit hot at times and he would say things in the heat of the moment but he was alright.”

Talk of memorable games brings us to Harps first trophy in 1972 the Dublin City Cup and Paddy laughs “the worst photograph of my life was taken that night.  I went in to take a shower and they called everybody to take a photograph and I wasn’t the biggest person on the team.  I came out and wrapped a towel around me, you would have thought I was a from Bi-Afra, the ribs were hanging out of me.”  Paddy continues on and talk turns to the 1974 FAI Cup Final “when you play the match, you want to win and we were lucky enough to win that day.  After it was over you had a chance to sit quietly and think about it, but do you know Tony O’Doherty said of that day ‘We didn’t win the cup.  Oh we won it we were on the pitch but we didn’t win the Cup.  People like Terry Harkin, Eunan Blake and the other boys who didn’t play in the Final but played in the other games all played a part.’   Winning the Cup was fantastic, and the scenes when we got back to Ballybofey were something else.”

Paddy remembers his favourite match as a Dublin City Cup match against Bohemians in 1971.  “I was marking Mick Martin who was on the verge of going across the water then.  I usually got the job of marking one of the danger men in the other team.  Anyway this day Nicholl gave me the ball and the whole thing opened up for me and I remember running down towards the net.  Mick Smyth, the Bohs goalie came out and I side footed the ball past him.  It is also the goal that gave me most pleasure.”

Talk then turns to players he played with and against and he plumps for another Derryman Brian Wright as the best player he played with.  “Without a doubt it was Brian Wright, I say it to everybody.  You know at Derry I played with some great players Ronnie and Dougie Wood, Jimmy McGeough, but Brian Wright he had a great footballing brain.  I have a lot of time for Brian.”   As for the best player he played against “Off the top of my head it would be Danny Hale.”  Paddy goes on to relate this story about Brian Wright “We were playing Dundalk one day and we were doing well and Brian went over to take a throw in over beside the dug out.  Anyway Patsy says to him ‘I’m thinking of making a change’, so Wright replied ‘you would need to Pasty were playing useless’, then Patsy says to him ‘well come on you off then’.  Well Brian is sitting in the pub that night and he couldn’t believe it and he came saying ‘He took his senior pro off, he took his senior pro off’. “

The story continues on and thoughts to turn to the late Fran Fields.  “I had great time for Fran, without him there would have been no Finn Harps.  I recall a night I stayed in his house and June, his wife said to him, Fran what is that cheque you signed there for?  Fran replied oh that is to pay the players tomorrow, of course June asks will you get that back and Fran replies of course I will.  You know Fran never got it back.  It was boys like Tom Furlong, Michael Kelly and Fran who kept Finn Harps going.  They were fantastic to Finn Harps.”

When asked as to why he left Harps, he is equally honest. “I got hurt against Shamrock Rovers in February 1975, I went in for a tackle in the box and I was in agony, pure agony. Anyway Patsy asked me to go out to the wing and make a nuisance of myself but I couldn’t even kick the ball.  I had torn the ligaments in my knee.  I went up to Bobby McGregor in Belfast and he started to put them right for me.  Anyhow with the season over I went off on holiday and probably came back overweight.  I came back training and trained as best I could but I wasn’t in the team.  Then one day when I went to get my wages Patsy said I am not paying you when you are not in the team, so anyway we fell out over that and I left Harps.”

Paddy retains fond memories of Finn Park and he is not the only one “After I had finished playing I was up in Ballybofey one night and a woman said to me ‘Paddy, you disappointed us a few times, but you gave us more glory and we had more good days than bad days.’ You know that was nice not only to be remembered but also that she enjoyed her memories.”

He finishes on this line “I count myself lucky that I played for Finn Harps, I enjoyed every moment of it.”

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