Talented sports writer transformed GAA coverage
Having resumed journalism (minus half a lung and seven ribs), he met his wife Catríona Ó Ruadhain, then working in the Folklore Commission, when she began contributing to a women’s page in the Gaelic Weekly. They married in 1959.
Work took Paddy Downey to the Evening Mail and Sunday Review, and in the early 1960s when the mother publication The Irish Times was anxious to improve its GAA coverage, he was appointed Gaelic Games correspondent (he insisted on the title in preference to the later “GAA correspondent”) in succession to the celebrated Patrick Mehigan (Pat O), who was by then in his 80s.
The quality of his writing attracted new readers for Gaelic games and for the newspaper in what were exciting times for both, with trips to the US for exhibition matches common at the time.
There were fewer national newspapers then, and the Gaelic games correspondents were feted up and down the country. The representative function was taken seriously, with return journeys on occasion taking days as various counties were visited.
As a result he was known throughout the country. He famously survived a heart scare to file a report of a Munster hurling semi-final from his hospital bed.
Periodic attempts were made by other newspapers to entice him away and among the inducements that persuaded him to stay were the granting of a mileage allowance at a time when such expenses were not commonplace and, in the early 1970s, the position of radio critic, which allowed his wide range of interests scope for expression.
When he retired after the 1994 All-Ireland football final, the GAA made a presentation to him. It showed in relief a footballer and a hurler on either side of Paddy Downey, who is sitting at a desk with a quill in his hand.
He continued to attend matches well into his retirement and maintained a lively interest in the games and in particular hurling, which he loved above all sports.
“There is nothing,” he said in a retirement interview with Seán Kilfeather in this newspaper, “nothing to compare with hurling played well. That is skill and beauty: poetry in motion to use the cliché.”
He is survived by his wife Catríona, daughter Margaret, sons Pádraig and John, daughter-in-law Evelyn and grandchildren, Ian and Trevor.