Memories from 1975: Pat Cleary and John Fleming take the first steps to greatness

For old times sake by AOB

They burst on to the intercounty scene back in 1975 when they won the Willwood Tailteann (All Ireland) under 16 softball doubles title and right away it was obvious that Pat Cleary and John Fleming were here to stay. Playing out of Ballyanne Handball Club where the great Dick Lyng was plying his trade helped fuel their hunger and they certainly had the talent to match their ambition. Lyng had been the first player to win All Ireland minor, junior and senior softball singles and his success served as a springboard for those who wished to follow in his footsteps.

Pat Cleary and John Fleming with the late Simmy Cleary in 1975
Pat Cleary and John Fleming with the late Simmy Cleary in 1975

The Ballyanne boys progression up the ladder was swift and by the time they got to senior level they were ready to create their own piece of history. Three successive All Ireland 4-wall (40×20) senior doubles titles came their way in 1982, 83 and 84, along with the special event run in ’84 to mark the centenary of the GAA.  They were simply unbeatable during that period and they later went on to represent Ireland in the men’s Invitational Open Doubles at the World Championships in Melbourne in 1988 where they lost the final to the great American pairing of Poncho Monreal and Joe Kendler.

The enormity of their three in a row achievement can be gauged by the fact that only one pairing, Paul Brady and Michael Finnegan, Cavan have since managed to win three or more successive championships, while prior to Pat Cleary and John Fleming, the only other pairing to do so had been Pat Kirby and Michael Hogan, Clare.