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21st August

posted 21 Aug 2014, 13:52 by Denis Floyd   [ updated 21 Aug 2014, 13:56 ]

Pat Duffy
1959 - 2014

Many members of Newport GAA Club did not fully realise or appreciate the calibre of person they had captured when Pat Duffy was appointed Club Coaching Officer in January 2013. A native of Dublin, a graduate from Thomond College,  PE teacher in Cabra,  lecturer at UL, prolific writer on coaching and physical development – this summarises his career up to the early 1990’s, but he was to go on to become an internationally renowned authority on best practice in coaching.  After eleven years as director of the National Coaching & Training Centre in Limerick, he took on the role of chief executive of Sports Coaching UK in 2003. He served as Chairman of the European Coaching Council, was Vice President of the International Council for Coaching Excellence and was chief technical advisor to South African Sport. In 2009 Pat was appointed Professor of Sports Coaching at Leeds University, to where he commuted regularly from his home in Birdhill until his untimely death on 10th August 2014.

Pat Duffy’s involvement with Newport GAA Club was all too short, but despite his serious illness, his influence was profound. The challenge for current and future members is to implement the template which he set out.

Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a anam uasal agus go dtabharfaidh sé sólás dá chlann.

                                                                                        CLG Tulach Sheasta

The following eulogy was delivered by Liam Moggan at Pat Duffy’s funeral mass in Birdhill Church on 14
th August:


A little while ago I heard Fr. Harry Bohan recall how an old priest once told him that ”it’s hard to speak at a man’s funeral, if you’ve never stood in his kitchen”. Well I can tell you now that it’s also hard to speak at the funeral of a close friend whose kitchen I stood and sat in many times.

Pat was an outstanding orator. He was able to put clear order on the words he spoke. So today to help me keep some kind of shape on the words, I’ve put them on paper.

I first met Pat in Thomond College in Limerick a little shy of 40 years ago this month. Early In the first term of my third year notices appeared on the corridors of the college. They posed a question about the presence or otherwise of an Athletics Club. They were followed by invitations. Those with an interest in Athletics were asked to attend a meeting in the Lecture Theatre. These notices were unsigned.

For those of us who held, what we felt, were important positions within the then Athletics Club these notices created quite a stir. Of course we attended the meeting, full of youthful fire and curiosity.

Shortly after the appointed starting time of the meeting, an until then silent, first year student went from sitting amongst us to stand and take a position at the top of the Lecture Theatre. He introduced himself. He had our full attention. That was the first time I met Pat Duffy.

That day Pat challenged us to have a greater presence on Campus, to be a better club, to be more visible, inclusive, more helpful, more welcoming and to spread our wings to embrace all of the students in the College. You can imagine our reaction, us experienced grown-up second, third and fourth year students not just of PE but of life!

Of course we listened to Pat that day. We listened not because we had to. We listened because what he said made sense. He spoke words that got clogged up in our minds. He described a place that was better for all of us.  And without knowing it then we went on to listen to and listen for Pat from that day onwards.

Think for a moment of the type of character that could do that, the type of young man that could invite, introduce, set-up, challenge, inspire and lead others ; a young first year student with that kind of confidence, togetherness and I’d have to add, courtesy. For that’s what Pat did that day and went on doing thereafter.

He led others. He inspired others. He invited, introduced, challenged and led people so that they could do things and become better for themselves.

Pat was a pioneer. He helped open new lines of thought, new activities, new methods, new technical models, new ways of doing things. Pat was the living description of the word pioneer.

There are many other words I could use to describe Pat. However unlike most of us who live our lives in a series of short stories that seldom connect or never manage to fully get finished, Pat has left an extraordinary print on many good things that impact on many of us every day.

Let us remember that it was Pat who wrote the policy documents that steer our approach to all levels of sport in Ireland. It was Pat who introduced a new, effective way of coaching coaches, of teaching PE and of training people who work in the Health and Fitness industry. It was Pat who was responsible for a completely new way of supporting our international athletes. It was Pat who became one of the world’s leading influences on all that is good in sports coaching.

Of course others were involved in these projects. Pat was first to say that and to acknowledge each and every one, by name, always and ever. I have purposely left out names because in his generosity to credit others the light did not always shine on Pat as it should have done. He did not always get the recognition he deserved. He was the master collaborator. I think of Pat often as like a character in a play; someone who stays in the shadows and leaves the spotlight to others.

In the early days of NCTC, Pat invited many of the leading people in the world of Coach Education to Limerick. These impressive people were impressed with Pat. They shared the same language. They held a similar vision. They challenged each other from the same base.

Pat was our home base; to see him, hear him, watch him conduct himself as he did, gave us belief. He filled us with confidence. He fuelled us with energy and passion and drive to make things happen.

That’s one way Pat did so much, achieved so much. He helped make all those lucky to be around him, better for being around him. For that we are eternally grateful.

I think many of you here today will remember a time when Pat asked you to do something that frightened you. He had a knack of doing that. He’d ask you to do something, he’d leave you to sweat over it and he’d support you every step of the way irrespective of outcomes. Pat believed in people, he believed in process and he landed those beliefs right back on your lap.

Many people are wired to see a problem to every solution. Pat was the opposite. Pat saw solutions. He thought of things we never thought about. He thought of ways of making those things real. He was a visionary blessed with a vocabulary and delivery style that allowed us see the pictures he described.

Pat was a worker. He got his Masters, then he got his PhD. Professor Patrick Duffy travelled far without ever using titles. Most times he travelled a road never travelled. He was persistent, humble, polite and fiercely loyal.

Despite his busy schedule Pat could make time appear still. He gave you his full attention. We listened to him that first day in Thomond College as only we knew how. Then Pat demonstrated the art of active listening at levels we never knew existed.

While Pat travelled and was away from home for long periods he never forgot home. Family and place meant everything to him. I heard him many times in many places tell stories of Deirdre and his children.

Sean, Liam, Aislinn, Niall and Leah  - at times, like all children you may have felt a little embarrassed when Pat singled you out for praise. Dads do that without meaning to embarrass. But I say to you today that Pat spoke of you often and he recalled your achievements, incidents and stories to many people all over the world. He was very proud of each of you and he loved you all very much.

Deirdre you are wonderful.  You have been strong, caring, kind, loving and generous. You were great for Pat, a solid support, a loving home-based rock of stability and love. You helped shape him and we have all gained from the love you have provided and the sacrifices you made when Pat was away. You have been especially magnificent in your strong, gentle, easy, caring, loving qualities during these last difficult months.

Patrick stayed with his mother in Dublin many times before flying to Leeds. And in his mothers’ house Pat was always Patrick. I extend my sympathy to you, Maureen and to Pat’s brothers Brendan, Kevin and Martin, his sister Stephanie and other extended family members.

Death ends a life not a relationship. We will remember and talk of Pat forever. He will pop into our thoughts in the days and years to come. When we need it, Pat will offer guidance by the example, brilliance, vision and work ethic he lived during his life.

Pat loved this story; in late August 1977 Pat and I went cycling in France. In June of that year three friends of ours, all students at Thomond College went on a tour of Europe in a bright green Renault. They went as far north as Norway and drove to the sun spots of southern Italy and Portugal. Of course in those days before email and mobile phones we lost all contact over those 8/9 weeks.

Being a raw culchie cycling France with a cultured French-speaking Dub like Pat, I pretended there was a chance we’d meet ‘the boys’. Pat dismissed this as pure nonsense. So as you would or at least as I did, I went on about it every day. On our second last day on a remote road in the Loire Valley I saw the ‘the boys’, up the road, driving towards us in the bright green Renault. Photographs were taken and a great story became embedded to history.

I loved watching Pat tell that story. I like it all the more now for two reasons ; firstly because Pat went on to make the world a smaller place and to connect people in all sorts  of special ways and secondly because Pat had the habit of turning up, unexpectedly, just like  ‘the boys’ and just when you needed him most.

Pat loved life; he loved living; he loved scones with loads of butter and jam on them; he demolished ice-cream, he enjoyed the group Chicago and particularly their song ‘25 Or 6 To 4’, he simplified difficult concepts into neat boxes on flipchart paper, he loved gardening, he enjoyed all sports, he could talk knowledgeably about anything.

It is no exaggeration to say that Pat Duffy was one of the greatest Irishmen of our time.

Pat started many presentations with a slide of a young girl on a tricycle. He called her Hope. He used the image to describe a future where her happiness, health and full development were properly provided for. I like the concept of Pat looking down on us now, watching, minding, protecting. So I will conclude with a poem called ‘The Dead’ by Billy Collins.


The dead are always looking down on us, they say

While we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich.

They are looking down through the glass bottom boats of heaven as they row themselves slowly through eternity.

They watch the tops of our heads moving below on earth,

And when we lie down in a field or on a couch,

Drugged perhaps by the hum of a long afternoon,

They think we are looking back at them,

Which makes them lift their oars and fall silent and wait,

Like parents,

For us to close our eyes.


Pat will be sorely missed and never forgotten. Farewell, Pat.


Miles to Run and Promises to Keep

Liam Moggan