RTÉ Group Soccer Correspondentremembers his friend and colleague Pat McAuliffe and how the player, referee, and broadcaster always brought joy on and off the pitch.
When he heard the plan Pat was all over it.
Having endured enough slagging in Dublin from my Orwell teammates about Cork a trip to Leeside was planned to show these Southside sophisticates what proper football and a proper city was like.
A weekend away was painstakingly arranged and once Pat McAuliffe was persuaded onto the Local Organising Committee the entire affair ran like clockwork with time added on for stoppages and injuries.
We managed to book the train ourselves but after that, it was all Pat.
We stayed in the wonderful Moores’ Hotel on Morrison’s Island and was it a coincidence that ‘Ian Moores’ was once Pat McAuliffe’s D.J. pseudonym? I think not.
Instead of playing on a soggy strip of wasteland this junior club from Templeogue got to play in Turner’s Cross, a place where Pat McAuliffe could almost call home. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
Pat was a constant and reassuring presence at The Cross as a reporter but also equally familiar as a classy centre-forward and, of course, as a referee.
On this particular trip, he managed to combine all of the above.
Friday night consisted of a trip to a brewery for a ‘civic reception’ followed by a guided tour of Cork’s hottest spots. Pat was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable music fan.
Pat had already reported on and refereed a couple of games that evening and was eagerly looking forward to the same again the following day.
He organised the gear, the opposition, the nets, and the refs, and played for both sides that Saturday.
Later that night in Moores’ Hotel, Pat introduced us all to Brendan O’Carroll, now famous for being herself in Mrs Brown’s Boys, who had been performing a gig in the city that evening.
Brendan and his crew shared with us their passionate love of football and as we chatted long into the night, the seeds of a plan began to bear fruit.
Brendan said he would love nothing more than to get the boots on and play a game of ball but the rigours of touring life had made it impossible.
“What time are ye heading back to Dublin?” enquired Pat before discreetly making a few calls.
While Turner’s Cross was not available at such short notice, Pat did manage to secure a pitch and an opposition in Shanbally in Ringaskiddy for a Sunday morning match that, considering the lateness of the night before, might well have been Brendan O’Carroll’s best comedy performance before his Mrs B was created.
All of that was pure Pat; sport, drama, and entertainment all wrapped up in boundless energy and enthusiasm.
It wasn’t always easy to keep the sunny side up, even if Pat’s penchant for wearing sunglasses was legendary.
When RTÉ Cork Local radio closed down, it was a tough time for people like Pat, who faced a future of uncertainty.
I remember talking with him at the time and advising him to make himself indispensable as a freelance so that it would be impossible for RTÉ in Dublin to ignore his talents.
He had by this stage broadened his journalistic horizons and was producing reams of faultless copy for this paper and for the Echo as well.
He had already laid the groundwork for this approach by proving his credentials across many sports. His professionalism and versatility meant he was equally comfortable across rugby, athletics, and GAA, as well as soccer.
Pat combined great knowledge with a sensitivity and an empathy towards players, coaches, and athletes that showed a deep understanding of their world.
It was a respect that was mutual.
The tributes being paid to him by sportsmen and women, coaches, and administrators is testament to that.
On a personal level, I cannot get over the shock of hearing the news of his untimely passing.
I have never been to Turner’s Cross or the RTÉ studios in Cork without receiving the warmest of welcomes from the big man along with a ‘stat’ I hadn’t yet come across.
Pat was always generous and unselfish in sharing his knowledge.
He always called me ‘TO’D’ and when our Tim came along, he delighted in referring to him as “TO’D 2” and always asked after the family by name. We shared many great nights of sporting drama at home and abroad, where our philosophical discussions ran deep.
Pat had a unique voice and an innate understanding of the business of broadcasting no doubt hewn from his early days as a radio ‘pirate’ and as a jobbing disc jockey.
He never lost the childlike enjoyment of the wonder of sport and the communal joy that Cork City, Munster, or the Cork Camogie team could bring.
Pat is back in the dressing room now, called ashore far too early, but you can take it from me he is fully prepped and ready for the post-match interview.
You had a great game, my friend, well played.
To his brother Matthew and to his partner Christine may I extend my sincerest condolences.