*Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
Pat Harrington came to Lisdoonvarna in 1969 when he took up his first teaching appointment at Mary Immaculate secondary school.
A native of Bandon in Cork, he transferred to St Breckans in 1972 and over the past fifty years he has played a huge part in the development of the North Clare club.
A dual player with Bandon and the divisional side, Carbery, Pat initially thought that he would be able to continue hurling in Cork while playing football with the North Clare club but he was informed that such a scenario would not be possible.
His transfer to St Breckans was seen as a major coup for the Lisdoonvarna club as he was a prominent senior club player in Cork at the time. His services have proved to be invaluable to the Clare club, both as a player and mentor.
A year after joining the staff at Mary Immaculate school, Tom Tarpey joined the staff and he was instrumental in the formation of the St Breckans club. A native of Galway, he influenced the club to opt for the Galway colours of maroon and white.
While the Cork native and Tom Tarpey did invaluable work for St Breckans, their work in promoting football in the school proved particularly important, not just to St Breckans but to the clubs in North Clare.
Having helped the club to a number of successes at junior level in the seventies, Pat stepped back from playing in the early eighties. However he was persuaded to return to the playing fields and in 1985 he played in and managed the club side that reached the Clare senior final where they lost to St Josephs Miltown.
He coached club teams to success at under 14, under 16, minor and under 21 A levels. Many of the players involved in these successes were on the senior side which contested the county final in ‘85.
“If we had been able to hold on to all of these players I believe we could have made the breakthrough at senior level but within twelve months of that final three quarters of the panel had emigrated to America and Australia,” Pat reflected.
“The importance of promoting football in schools cannot be stressed enough. There was no football in Mary Immaculate school prior to 1970 when Tom Tarpey and myself got it started. In the early nineties we put in a huge effort and we had our first Munster success in 1997. At the time the club were playing underage competition at A level as were St. Fachtnas who were drawn from Kilfenora, Ml.Cusacks and Ballyvaughan. Playing at A level was a huge help to the school team”, Pat explained.
Interestingly, when Ballyvaughan progressed through junior and gained senior status, they did not have underage teams representing the club. Pat believes that “they got to senior level on the back of their lads playing football with the school”.
He believes strongly that the successes enjoyed on the inter county front is in no small part due to the work that is done in the promotion of the games in schools.
Pat retired from teaching thirteen years ago but he continued to help with the coaching and preparation of the various teams at Mary Immaculate college. “Brian Conway who replaced me on the teaching staff at the school, takes charge of the football teams in the school now. The majority of the players in the present club senior team which reached the county senior semi-final last year, have come through the school. Their football has benefited hugely from playing with the school and meeting top class opposition from other counties. There was always big numbers at training and great spirit in school teams”, said Pat who continues to attend school games.
Pat had a special word of praise for the work put in by the late Frank Sheedy in the promotion of football both for the school and for the club. “He was a great clubman who went to every school game. He was one of my selectors with every team I was involved with,” concluded the Cork native.