Magical Maurice provides highlight

Your first ever newspaper?

The then Cork Examiner. I started in the proof-reading department in 1962, straight from school and joined the reporting staff two years later. My first All-Ireland final report was between Kerry and Derry minors the following year and I reported on 81 All-Ireland senior finals in hurling and football.

What was your finest achievement playing GAA?

I played junior hurling and football with Douglas up to the time Sunday reporting put a stop. I only recall winning a City Division ‘B’ football medal against St Finbarr’s (playing at full-forward).

Most memorable match covered?

That’s not an easy question to answer, considering the length of my career. There were ‘memorable’ occasions when counties won their first All-Ireland titles, the Cork/Kilkenny 1972 hurling final was a classic encounter, Offaly’s late-late win over Limerick in 1994 was dramatic, but I’d say that Offaly footballers denying Kerry five in a row in 1982 was probably the most memorable.

The one moment in football you would put on a DVD?

Stephen Cluxton’s winning score in last year’s All-Ireland final comes immediately to mind, as does Conor Gormley’s block on Steven McDonnell which guaranteed Tyrone their first All-Ireland in 2002. But I would nominate Maurice Fitzgerald’s brilliant kick from the sideline in the 2001 All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin in Thurles which earned Kerry a draw. Talk about pressure!

Best venue?

Undoubtedly Croke Park, which developed into a world-class stadium of the type I experienced when I first reported on an International Rules Test in the MCG in Melbourne. But, Fitzgerald Stadium and Nowlan Park were always favoured venues.

Your best ever scoop?

That would be for the sports editor(s) to adjudicate on. Mickey Ned O’Sullivan honoured me with an exclusive when he retired as Kerry manager in 1992. Nationally, a decision to appoint a recognised Cork coach as manager on an All Stars trip was controversially rescinded. I managed to get hold of two Central Council minutes naming him and the eventual manager. More recently, we had an Irish Examiner scoop when (on a day off) I got the story that the ex-presidents vetting motions for Congress 2005 had given approval to the motions which led to the ‘opening up’ of Croke Park (after similar motions were ruled out of order the year before).

Biggest mistake?

Apart from errors in player recognition in scoring here and there and publishing the wrong result of an All-Ireland football semi-final (in terms of what the winners scored), I learned an important lesson in 1973 — after an NFL quarter-final between Kerry and Derry. Two Derry players were sent off and I wrote that the second was dismissed ‘for retaliating’ against a named Kerry player. I didn’t see the incident but was told the wrong version of what happened. The following day the Kerry player phoned me and expressed his annoyance. The moral of the story is never write about anything you haven’t witnessed.

Best ever teams (club and county)?

I would rate Nemo Rangers as the ‘best’ club team because of their feat in winning seven All-Ireland club titles in four decades — having six before Crossmaglen captured the first of their six in 1997.

Best pre-match grub?

Langton’s in Kilkenny.

Worst press box welcome?

Can’t recall having a bad experience anywhere, but I clearly remember the difficulty covering an Ulster championship match in Breffni Park in 1993 (Donegal were defending All-Ireland champions), when I couldn’t get either a seat or a programme. Nowadays it’s much more regularised.

Favourite radio/TV commentator?

I’m invoking the Fifth Amendment here because I don’t want to fall out with any of my friends! But, outside of the GAA, I did have a favourite — the late Bill McLaren whose rugby commentaries on the BBC were magical.

If you could introduce one change to improve PR between the GAA and press what would it be?

In retirement, I’m naturally out of the loop. But I do know that access to players after big games is a bug-bear with most journalists. The days of being allowed into dressing rooms are long gone, but it’s understandable because of the explosion of media outlets from my early years.

One sporting event outside GAA you would love to experience?

I’d like to see Munster beating Leinster in a Heineken Cup final in the Millennium Stadium.

Last book read?

The Club, by Christy O’Connor.Riveting!

Your most prized GAAmemorabilia?

I have a sliothar given to me by the above-mentioned Christy O’Connor when I interviewed him after St Joseph’s, Doora-Barefield won the 1999 All-Ireland club final. But, what I prize most is a framed certificate presented to the GAA correspondents at the time of the Centenary celebrations in 1984.

Advice to any would-be GAAwriter?

Be moderate in your criticism of players — there’s a right way and a wrong way — and don’t judge refereeing performances on the strength of a small number of decisions (unless of course they are real clangers).

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