Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Danny Flood

For ten years from 1954 Danny Flood, formerly of Leinster Street, was full back on the County Kildare Senior Football team.  A towering figure over six feet tall with a physique to match Danny manned the full back line with a succession of footballers amongst whom for a time was the legendary Pa Connolly. 

My memories of Danny Flood, the footballer, are a mixture of pride and admiration for a sportsman whose achievements on the football field were not always marked with the success they deserved.  As a young fellow Danny played soccer for Athy AFC and apart from his participation in street league games organised by Athy GFC he did not play on any underage Gaelic football team.  When the time came to join a Gaelic football club he joined Castlemitchell Club with his friend and near neighbour Peadar Dooley.  Wondering why somebody living in Leinster Street would do that I was amused to be told ‘it was safer to play with Castlemitchell than against them.’ 

Danny played intermediate football for Castlemitchell and soon caught the attention of the county selectors resulting in trials for the senior county team.  His first match for the county was on 10th October 1954 when Kildare defeated Wexford in a national football league game played in Ferns.  Thereafter Danny was an almost constant choice for the County Senior team, occupying the pivotal role of full back where his height, strength and fielding skills brought him many plaudits. 

Talking to Danny I was surprised to learn of the special place the two matches played against All Ireland champions Meath in 1955 had in his footballing memories.  I expected the 1956 Leinster Final in which Kildare won the Leinster title for the first time in 21 years to be foremost in his memories.  However, it was the drawn Leinster championship game against Meath on 29th May 1955 and the replay which were perhaps his greatest sporting disappointment.  That first game in the second round of the 1955 Senior Football Championship ended in a draw with the All Ireland champions Meath scoring 3-4 to Kildare’s 2-7.  The newspaper reports the following day praised the Kildare full back Danny Flood ‘who had a great game in Kildare’s defence’.

The replay two weeks later, again played in Croke Park, also ended in a draw but in extra time the All Ireland champions overcame Kildare by 1 point.  M.V. Cogley in the Irish Independent reported ‘there were no weaknesses in the Kildare defence with Miko Doyle, McCarthy and Flood lasting the pace better than their colleagues.’

The following year brought the Kildare team’s greatest success of the 1950s when overcoming Wexford in the Leinster final.  As he recalled that day Danny is quick to acknowledge the huge part played by Seamie Harrison of Monasterevin.  ‘Seamie won the Leinster final for Kildare that day’ claims Danny. 

Two years later Kildare had the opportunity to win the National Football League title when they played Dublin before a record crowd in Croke Park on 18th May 1958.  Unfortunately Kildare lost that final but on the following day John D. Hickey of the Irish Independent reported ‘the good name of football, most grievously besmirched in some recent matches, was completely redeemed at Croke Park.’  Kildare, he claimed, had every reason to feel proud of their efforts and he singled out Kildare’s full back for particular praise.  ‘Danny Flood, I unhesitatingly name, Kildare’s most valiant performer.’ 

If Kildare’s long standing opponents Meath gave Danny one of his most treasured memories of his footballing days it is perhaps appropriate that his last appearance in the Kildare jersey was against Meath at Croke Park on 7th June 1964.  After 10 years playing senior football for his county Danny retired from the county team.

Despite his high profile as a county footballer Danny’s sporting career was not confined to Gaelic football.  I was intrigued to learn that he played rugby for two years for Athlone while stationed in the local Army Barracks.  He was on the Athlone rugby team which won the Connaught Junior Cup in 1959 and the following year was on the team which lost to a Galwegian team in the final of the Seniors Connaught Cup.  Another sporting victory which fell to Danny was as a member of the Western Command basketball team which won the All Ireland Army Basketball Championship. 

Danny started his club footballing career as an intermediate player with Castlemitchell and later played senior football with the Dublin team Clanna Gael.  He lined out with Athy seniors for one season in 1958/’59 and also played for a time on the Curragh Army team.  Danny Flood, a footballing giant, was one of several young Athy men who graced the Kildare county senior team in the 1950s and 1960s.  On the pitch in Croke Park on the day of Danny’s last game with the county seniors was a young Mick Carolan who would go on to represent his county until 1974.  The mantle was passed that day from one Athy man to another, and the Athy connection with the County Senior team which went back over the years through Tommy Mulhall, Cuddy Chanders, Paul Matthews and many others would continue to our own time.

In the history of Gaelic football in County Kildare the name of Danny Flood will always be writ large.

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