One of the great sporting heroes of my teenage years passed away last week. Danny Flood was one of several young Athy men who lined out with the Kildare County Senior football team during the 1950s and 1960s. A towering figure over 6 foot tall with the physique to match, Danny manned the full back position on the county team for a period of 10 years from 1954. His first game as a Senior Kildare player was against Wexford in a National League game played in Ferns on 10th October 1954. Ten years later he made his last appearance on the county team, this time against Meath in a game played in Croke Park on 7th June 1964.
Danny was a key member of the county team during the course of the 1956 Leinster Championship when the Shortgrass county won the Leinster Championship for the first time in 21 years, only to lose to Cork in the All Ireland semi-final. I remember those matches and the enormous goodwill that victory in the Leinster Final of 1956 generated amongst young and old alike within our local community. Daniel Flood, a local man from Leinster Street, was assuredly Athy’s footballing hero after the success of the 1956 Kildare team.
As a young teenager I have vivid memories which I have never lost of a giant of a man whose spectacular fielding of the ball on the full back line was hugely impressive. Equally impressive was his athleticism which seemed magnified by his huge frame and the energy with which he defended the Kildare goal. I recall a match in Geraldine Park where the Kildare defence led by Danny were defending the goal nearest to the dressing rooms. I was on the terrace looking across to the goal and can still see Danny charging from the penalty area across towards the side line where the ball was being gathered by a member of the opposing team. When he was a few feet away from his opponent Danny launched at his opponent and sent him sprawling over the side line. It had all the hallmarks of a foul, but I cannot recall if it was given as such. What I remember is the athleticism of the man who appeared to me as a giant of a player.
Youthful memories accumulated when one is 13 or 14 years of age always tend to magnify and unintentionally perhaps distort. When I was a young follower of G.A.A. matches I looked upon Danny Flood and his county colleagues such as Seamie Harrison and Larry McCormack as a generation ahead of me. Now that I have gathered in the years I find to my amazement that as a young teenager of 14 years of age I was watching and admiring Danny Flood, a young man of just 22 years of age. The age gap between us was a mere 8 years.
Danny Flood died last week, his wife and one son having predeceased him. He retired many years ago as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Irish army and lived just outside Kilkenny city. He is survived by a daughter and four sons. My sympathy goes to his children and to the members of his extended family.
With the passing of my footballing hero of 60 years ago I am left with memories which can no longer be diluted or exaggerated. They remain fashioned by six decades of intermittent recall to remind me of a time when Gaelic football and footballers were an important part of a young lad’s life. Thanks for the memories Danny.