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'We missed signs and failed to net All-Ireland treble'

 

By Declan Bogue

He has seen too much of life and the world to do regrets, but when it comes to his involvement with the great Down team of the 1960s, Dr Maurice Hayes feels they should have sealed their legacy by capturing three consecutive All-Ireland titles.

Having tasted glory in 1960 and 1961, Hayes believes that Down could have been added to the roster of counties that collected a trio of successive Sam Maguires - Dublin, Kerry, Wexford and Galway.

But having beaten Fermanagh and Tyrone, Down lost the 1962 Ulster final to Cavan in Casement Park.

"That team was good enough for it. We could have done it. The All-Ireland was won by quite a poor Kerry team," he said, before delving into a yarn about that 1962 final when the Kingdom beat Roscommon.

Kerry player Garry McMahon scored after 34 seconds, the fastest goal in a final on the first occasion the showpiece had been televised.

"I was at his funeral, and his son was speaking and he said that he used to take him to the All-Ireland every year," he recalled. "Garry would sit there at the match with a stopwatch. And once 34 seconds was gone he said he was not interested in the game after that! His record of fastest goal would stand for another year!"

Down's weakness that year was burnout, having taken up some of the perks of being All-Ireland champions.

At the time, the invitation for All-Ireland winners to go along and play exhibition matches Stateside was always a constant temptation, with no lack of successful businessmen willing to fund the ventures. Teams could only resist as much as young men who wanted to get a look at America would allow them.

A punishing schedule in 'developing' GAA areas of the US - outside the New York and Boston strongholds - left the team exhausted by the time they made it back prior to the Ulster and All-Ireland title defence of 1962.

"We had gone to the United States, which might not have been the brightest idea in the world," said Hayes. "But we were driven to it because we had refused before. We were asked to go to areas outside of New York and their season was May and June.

"We thought we could do it. The mistake we made was we were back home and people were saying we were living it up in New York and not training. We were training away, but we needed a rest after playing two matches a week for weeks.

"We should have seen the signs. It would have been nice to be a three-in-a-row team."

The 1968 team that went on to win Down's third title was a 'final kick' from that generation, believes Hayes.

"Joe Lennon was still there, Dan (McCartan), Sean (O'Neill), (Paddy) Doherty…" he mused.

"Pat Rice was on those teams. Nice fella. I lost sight of him for a while. Then his club had a party for him when he turned 70 or whatever. I went along and said, 'Pat, where have you been all this time?'

"He replied he was out in Iraq building palaces for Saddam Hussein. A firm called Mivan were doing the fitting out."

Belfast Telegraph

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