GAA Football

Carlow manager Turlough O'Brien recalls his family links with Down

The postcard Joe Lennon sent to Jim O'Brien in 1967
Andy Watters

DOWN were revered in Carlow in the 1960s and Barrowsiders’ manager Turlough O’Brien still has the postcard that Joe Lennon sent to his father Jim just 11 months before he captained the Mournemen to their third All-Ireland title in that decade.

Lennon, who also played in the Sam Maguire-winning teams of 1960 and 1961, was the skipper of the side that beat Kerry to win the 1968 All-Ireland. In October 1967 he wrote to O’Brien’s father Jim to congratulate him on winning the Carlow county championship with his club Eire Og.

“Hearty congratulations on winning county SF championship,” wrote Lennon and, over half-a-century later, the postcard remains a prized possession in the O’Brien household. Carlow face Down on Saturday afternoon and manager Turlough explains how he inherited his admiration for Down football from his dad.

“Down are one of the aristocrats, it’s great having them at Dr Cullen Park and it’s great for us to test ourselves against them,” said O’Brien.

“I would have been a big fan of Down myself over the years. I picked it up from my father – they came from nowhere to wins All-Irelands and, certainly in the past they always played a great brand of football.

“My own club Eire Og was founded in 1958 and my father often told me that they modelled their style of play in the 1960s on that Down team. They wore red and white but they changed to a red jersey and black shorts in 1967 and won a three in-a-row.

“That was all because of the Down team at the time, they were very taken with Down and he passed it on to me as well.

“My father would have been on coaching courses that Joe delivered in Gormanstown and he got to know him at that stage. He sent him that postcard when they won the championship in 1967.”

Cardinal Conway Primate of all Ireland presents the Sam Maguire cup to Down Captain Joe Lennon afther their All Ireland in 1968

O’Brien will have Stevie Poacher in the dugout beside him on Saturday and he is conscious that the Ballyholland clubman – a former Down U21 manager - will have mixed emotions as his adopted Carlow takes on his native Down.

“Stevie is a Down man through-and-through and he will find it strange sitting in the opposition dugout against Down, there’s no doubt about that,” said O’Brien.

“But since he came to Carlow he has been absolutely immersed in Carlow and he is very much a Carlow man now. He is very close to the players, it is a very tight-knit unit and he’ll be doing everything in his power to make sure the lads are ready for the game.

“It’s going to be mixed emotions for him that Down are coming but it’s a game we’re looking forward to.”

The postcard Joe Lennon sent to Jim O'Brien in 1967

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