Absent Friend - Paddy Morgan
edited: Sunday, March 04, 2007
By Paul Francis Mc Cann
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Posted: Sunday, March 04, 2007
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Another angle to a man with a cue .
I had heard about this world champion snooker player called Paddy Morgan who came from Belfast in a place called Ardoyne . The next thing I heard was that he was living in Sydney somewhere and so I decided to try and make contact with him and see if he wanted to share some of the things he remembered about Belfast and what he has done since arriving in Australia .
I put the word out on the ever successful Irish grapevine and before long I had made contact with Paddy . We talked and talked and Paddy Morgan began to put the pieces together about his affiliations with Ardoyne .
As we spoke he never realised just how big a part of his life Ardoyne had been . He had good friends there like Liam Trainor , Rinto McLaughlin , Eugene Mullan and Dessie O’Kane . They all went to the same school together . St Gabriels Boys Intermediate on the Crumlin Road.
Paddy loved playing Gaelic Football and had a trial for Belfast Schoolboys in 1957 . He soon fell in with a crowd of Ardoyne lads . Sammy Kennan , John O’Halloran Framkie Woods , Sammy Graham and Mickey Mc Fall .
They often broke windows at school , accidently he tells me . Once they even got caught and the teacher asked them to pay twenty five shillings to fix it and to this day he is not sure if anyone ever paid for it .
Some of his teachers were Mr Mc Keown the English teacher , Mr Daly who did religious instruction Mr Mc Guinness the music teacher and Paddy Stockman the Irish language teacher who made every one write on their books Do Cun Gloire Se Agus Orrora Na h-Eirainn which means For the glory of God and the honour of Ireland . Brian Moore was the vice principal and was also the man who was responsible for starting up the St Gabriels Gaelic Football team . One day in the English class Mr Moore called Paddy out into the corridor and asked him if to assist him with putting together a functioning side at St Gabs . Paddy was honoured and really enjoyed the rest of his his school years at St Gabs .
He had pretty good eye ball contact with the GAA but at 13 another game entered his life . A white ball lay waiting on the soft green felt cushioned around a slate based table . The game of billiards with cannons and cues and in offs was calling him . Six empty pockets became the main event now and Paddy was hooked on snooker and billiards . It became the only thing Paddy wanted to do in life . He played every day in an old tin hut near St Patricks church . At that time St Patricks had one of the best snooker teams in all the land . It was here that Paddy met his coach and friend Tom McCann .Tom lived in Ardoyne on the front of the Crumlin Road opposite the Holy Cross Church . It was in the nineteen thirties when Tom put a very young Paddy Morgan under his wing . Paddy owes a lot to Tom for his unique way of coaching and for passing on to him the techniques and skills of the game .
Paddy had a gilt edge about his play and soon began to rack up trophies in his cabinet at home . He played for St Patricks Parochial Club . Their club house was in North Queen Street and this is where many of his titles were won . Paddy won four British Boys and as many youth titles along with the same number of all Ireland titles . There were many great tin hut players like Eddie Sharkey, Pat Flynn , Con Nesson ,Billy Loughlan , and Rinty Monaghan who went on to claim a world boxing title .
Paddy had his best year as an amateur in 1967 winning tow All Ireland titles and a collection of other trophies when he player for Nortonville in the Markets area of Belfast .
In 1968 he played for the old St Marys club . The captain of the teamwas Pat McAfee from Ardoyne . Pat always played with his hat on . A real fashion setter . There were a crew of local characters who spurred them on with each game they played . A local identity Stitch Mc Coy and Paddy were delegated to look after the country clubs when they visited . Pat Mc Afee allowed Paddy and Stitch to have a decent meal in the club house as they entertained the punters in the town . Eventually when the treasurer of the club got the bill for the meal he nearly had a fit .Needless to say the free lunch ticket stopped soon after . Some of the other players in the team were Tommy Holland , Francie Mallaghan and Sean Mc Avoy . Another great man with the cue from Ardoyne was Bobby Gillespie . Bobby always played with his coat on . Paddy often wonders how good he would have been if he had taken it off . Paddys old school teacher Mr Moore was also quite a talented player . In Paddys professional career he had come across him and many other players form Ardoyne .
In 1968 Paddy represented Ireland in the World Amateur Snooker Championship which was held in Australia . Some people helped Paddy to get down under . The likes of Jimmy McLaughlin who handled all the publicity and Brendan Lowry who held with the raising of funds . Paddy says he ios forever indebted to them for all they did . Paddy reached the semi-final of that competition . He returned back to Australia in 1970 and went professional in 1972 when he was playing in the final of the world open billiards . He was receiving letters and telegrams all the way from Ardoyne . People sending ther best wishes . Paddy sdays he has never been able to thank all those people who sent him good luck wished and cards . Anyway Paddy took the professional billiard title in 1972 and was unchallenged for 13 years .
Paddy tells me that the snooker tables that are placed in the Shamrock Clun in Ardoyne are the same tables that were in the old original tin hut in the early days of his career .
Some of the people Paddy was playing were Alex Hurricane Higgins from Belfast and Steady Eddie Charlton from Australia .
Paddy also drove the buses for the Ardoyne Bus Depot and every morning all his friends would wait on the corner until they saw his bus coming and then they would all jump up and down waving their arms in the air . When Paddy pulled up they would all run upstairs on the bus with out paying .
Paddy says I only wish we could bring back some of the times we spent growing up in Ardoyne . The people of Ardoyne have such a tremendous hospitality and I tell you says Paddy it makes me proud to have come from there .
Paddy now lives in Sydney ,and enjoys his lifestyle down under .
He goes back to Ireland often to visit his old coach Tom McCann .
By Paul McCann
Web Site: Poems
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