Dublins Des foley

November 8, 2018


16 Feb 2013

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IT is fitting that on the weekend that the GAA keeps the inter provincial series alive, that the Dub Hub salutes Dublin GAA’s greatest ever dual star – Des Foley.

Des was at the height of his fame in the ’50s and ’60s in an age before TV and the internet. But his exploits and the mark he left on those lucky enough to have seen him in action have stood the test of time.

And by all relevant standards, the powerful Foley was a class act as good as the Capital ever produced.

Even to look at him now in old photographs, he could have been a Hollywood leading man as much as he was a sports star.

Playing mainly at midfield – but capable of bolstering the attack, he was one of a handful of GAA players who were capable of drawing huge crowds just to see him play.

His fame was that big. And it is fitting that as we initiate our series of Dub Hub Dublin GAA Hall of Fame Heroes, that we start with Des Foley.

He was born in 1940 and was a younger brother of the great Lar Foley who was a dual star in his own right.

But Des was destined to carve his own niche in the GAA. At 16 he was a Dublin minor when they won the All-Ireland final against Leitrim. And two years later, in 1958, he was the Dublin minor captain when the Dubs beat Mayo in the final.

His club mate Kevin Heffernan would complete a great day for the Dubs and St Vincent’s when he would also skipper the Dubs to Sam Maguire in 1958 and, with his older brother Lar at corner back on the ’58 senior team, it was a special day for the Foley family.

In 1961 Des was the midfield powerhouse when the Dubs caused a sensation by beating a star studded Wexford team in the Leinster final – a feat which stands as Dublin’s last Leinster senior hurling title.

Dublin’s 7-5 to 4-8 win over Wexford had caused a massive stir and the city flocked behind the hurlers in a way that had been preserved for only the footballers before then as this ‘native’ Dublin hurling team had taken on their country cousins and won out.

But a one point defeat to Tipperary in the All-Ireland final would sadly spoil the faiytale in the All-Ireland.

Des and Lar were not the only brothers on the team; there were Dessie and Liam Ferguson and Achill and Bernie Boothman on the Dublin hurling side that have gone down in history as one of the few teams to lose an All-Ireland senior final without conceding a goal.

But in 1962 Des was back making headlines and setting records when on St Patrick’s Day he played for Leinster in hurling and football on the same afternoon at Croke Park in the then Railway Cup inter-provincial finals.

More than that he played a star role in a dual success as Leinster beat Munster in football and toppled Ulster in the football final.

It was a phenomenal achievement and a testament not only to his physical strength and endurance but also his status of the time that Des Foley would even be asked to make such a contribution as back to back finals. All the more remarkable considering  he played midfield in both games in an age where the midfielders were the players who did all the running.

Des finally got the All-Ireland senior medal his talents deserved when he captained the Dublin footballers to a 1-9 to 0-10 win over Galway in 1963.

And he was back as a hurling star in 1964 and 1965, winning two more Railway Cups with Leinster.

Dublin GAA has had many dual stars; in recent times we have been wowed by the skill of Conal Keaney and Shane Ryan in both codes and the potential of Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Eric Lowndes to do likewise.

But there has never been anything quite like Des Foley, who also amassed a phenomenal haul of hurling and football club Championships in a golden age with St Vincents.