GAA Football

Barney Carr, manager of Down All-Ireland winning sides of 1960 and 1961, passes away aged 98

Barney Carr guided Down to All-Ireland glory in 1960 and 1961. Picture Mal McCann.
Andy Watters

BARNEY Carr, manager of the great Down sides that won the All-Ireland twice in the 1960s, passed away yesterday at the age of 98.

The Warrenpoint native was at the helm of the history-making team of 1960 that beat Kerry 2-10 to 0-8 and took Sam Maguire over the border for the first time. The Mournemen repeated the feat the following year when over 90,000 people (a record attendance that is unlikely ever to be surpassed) watched them beat Offaly.

Kevin Mussen, captain of the 1960 side, said yesterday: “Barney was a good fella.”

The Clonduff clubman added: “He did what he had to do very well and he was a good, straightforward man, a very decent fella. I knew him for years and years after that because he was an Education Welfare Officer and he would have visited my school (St Patrick’s PS, Hilltown) and I would have been talking to him.

“We would have wandered back talking about things and comparing it with our day.”

Barney Carr’s father had played for Down once in 1914 but his own connection with the GAA didn’t begin until the St Peter’s club was formed in Warrenpoint in the winter of 1931 when he was nine-years-old.

His uncle and brothers played for the club but Barney’s interest remained with soccer until 1940 when, after players from a Welsh Regiment (stationed near Newry during World War 2) team insisted on calling him ‘Paddy’ throughout a summer league game, he decided to switch codes and begin playing for St Peter’s.

He made his debut against Glen that same year and St Peter’s won the junior championship in his first season. He progressed to the Down minor team and first lined out for the Mourne senior team in 1943.

“I was a reasonable footballer,” he said in an interview with RTE in 2011.

He won senior championship medals with St Peter’s in 1943, 1948 and 1953. With Down he won the Dr McKenna Cup in 1944 and played until the end of the 1952 season. Down didn’t reach an Ulster final until 1958, the year Barney became a member of the county board.

In 1959 he became the first ‘named’ manager of a county team and Down were Ulster champions for the first time that season. In 1960 they went a step further by winning the All-Ireland – becoming the first team to bring the Sam Maguire over the border – and Down retained their crown the following September.

“They were wonderful years,” said Barney.

“1959 was the big breakthrough. To beat Cavan then was like climbing Everest – very few teams in Ulster had beaten Cavan over those years. That Ulster final was a wonderful game of football, it stands out. They were great teams and it was a great performance from Down. Cavan were humbled and I was the hero of the hour!”

As an admirer of the peerless Real Madrid teams of the 1950s, which included Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas and Argentina’s Alfredo Di Stefano, Carr encouraged his teams to throw off the shackles of the traditional systems and pass the ball creatively. His innovative methods worked.

“I tried to transfer that game to Gaelic Football,” he said.

“The players wouldn’t have been aware that I wanted them to be Puskas but we had a couple of Puskas’s – (Paddy) Doherty and (Sean) O’Neill. The players cottoned on to it and they were all natural footballers, we had no passengers.

“We played a type of game that hadn’t been seen before and it was wonderful. When I think of the half-forward line – O’Neill, (James senior) McCartan and Doherty – there had never been anything like them before and all six forwards were up to that level.

“I would have like to have done a three in-a-row but that doesn’t often happen.”

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GAA Football