Wednesday 17 January 2018

Foley's 1970 Final was controversial

Clem's family thank St Finbarr's and hero Connie

TOP referee, Clem Foley, took charge of the 1970 National Hurling League final at Gaelic Park, New York. Cork beat New York.

Clem was attacked as he left the field. He sustained a broken jaw.

At home in Whitehall, Clem's son Dave (14) was listening to the match on the radio.

"The referee has been assaulted," declared Michael ó Hehir. Clem ran in to tell his mother.

A few days later, Michael ó Hehir and the GAA's Director-General, Seán ó Siochain, went straight to the Foley house from the airport to explain what happened.

Meanwhile, over in the New York Hospital, a man came in to see Clem and introduced himself. It was Connie Neenan, who worked for Waterford Glass in America.

Connie paid for Clem's surgery. It cost $2,000. Subsequently, the men began to exchange letters.

"I was only a child at the time but I remember those letters coming through the letter-box," recalls Dave.

"When Clem died, I discovered the letters. They were so well written.

"Connie is an iconic figure at St Finbarr's in Cork.

After Clem died, Dave decided to go to Gaelic Park. "I had never been there. I thought it would help with the grieving process."

He met some people on the trip, including Fergie Hanna, who wrote a book on the history of the GAA in New York, 1914 to 2014.

"It deals with the 1970 incident and there's a picture of Clem in the book," explains Dave, who recently went with members of his family to Cork to make a special presentation to St Finbarr's.

They presented Finbarr's with Connie Neenan's letters, Fergie Hanna's book and a specially made hurley from Dave's son, Colm, a hurley maker (65hurls.com).

"It was a thank-you to St Finbarr's on behalf of the Foley family. We got a lovely welcome."

Several of the St Finbarr's players that played in that 1970 final in New York attended. They included Gerald McCarthy, Tony Maher, Charlie McCarthy, Charlie Cullinane and Seamus Looney.

"As a child, I was in awe of all those players. It was great to meet them, especially Tony Maher, who, as a corner-back, was a role model for me because that's the position I played."

Dave played hurling for Dublin at minor and U21 level, and he'll always have a place in his heart for the kindness of the late Connie.

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