The Irish News Archive: Sep 3 1998: Fascinating insight into Ireland star Paul McGrath in 'They Call Him God' documentary

Republic of Ireland team group, minus Terry Phelan. (back row l to r): Roy Keane, Paul McGrath, Packie Bonner, Tommy Coyne and Steve Staunton. (front l-r) John Sheridan, Ray Houghton, Andy Townsend, Denis Irwin and Phil Babb.
The Irish News Archive

PAUL McGrath’s battles with managers, his own mental frailties and the bottle were all extensively chronicled in last evening’s RTE1 documentary ‘They Call Him God’ on arguably the Republic of Ireland’s greatest player.

The 60-minute documentary, which was a collaborative work by Sunday Times sports journalist Dave Hannigan and Colm O’Callaghan, featured interviews with the great man himself as well as fascinating contributions by Alex Ferguson, Jack Charlton, Ron Atkinson and most revealingly Graham Taylor.

McGrath laid his own character bare by discussing openly his four-month spell, in his late teens, at various mental institutions in Dublin.

His childhood years, spent almost exclusively at orphanages dotted around the city where his love of football grew, were recounted with vivid detail and he spoke frankly of his coming to terms with the difference that being black meant.

The centre-half’s fallout with Alex Ferguson is explained while Taylor, the man who rejuvenated the defender’s career at Aston Villa, recounts openly McGrath’s incredible double life of attempting to beat a severe drink problem while still producing majestic displays on a Saturday.


MANCHESTER United Munich air crash survivor Jackie Blanchflower has died at the age of 65 after a long battle against cancer.

The Belfast-born centre-half, younger brother of Tottenham star Danny, won 12 Northern Ireland caps. He made his debut for his country in 1954 in the same side as his brother.

His career was cut short by the 1958 Munich disaster, when United’s plane crashed on take-off, killing eight of the legendary Busby Babes.

Jackie joined United as an amateur in May 1949 and turned professional a year later. He was badly injured in the 1958 air crash which claimed 23 lives in all.

After the crash, he was unable to continue playing and retired in June 1959 to become an accountant.


DOWN will fly to the All-Ireland intermediate camogie final in Cork on September 20.

County team PRO Paul Welch confirmed last night that the team play to fly to Shannon from Aldergrove on Saturday, returning on Monday.

The team made headlines two years ago by becoming the first camogie side to fly to an All-Ireland final. However they lost on that occasion to Limerick.


LONGFORD’S John Bannon has been rewarded with refereeing his first AllIreland senior football final in this year’s clash between Kildare and Galway on September 27.

Both finalists have come under his stewardship already this year.

He took charge of this year’s Leinster senior football final between Meath and Kildare as well as the All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Derry.

Bannon has been officiating at national level for 11 years but had his first outing as an All-Ireland referee in last year’s minor final.

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