HERE’S a good GAA quiz question for you. Who is the oldest player ever to score a point in the championship at Croke Park?
The answer? Mayo and Garrymore’s very own Billy Fitzpatrick, against Dublin in 1985.
That August, at the ripe old age of 41, the prolific forward replaced Seán Lowry during the course of Mayo’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.
Shortly after his introduction, John Maughan delivered a sky-scraper of a kick-pass in towards the Dublin half. Mayo were chasing the game at that stage and the ball bounced over a defender, falling kindly for Billy Fitz’ in front of the Cusack Stand, 45 yards from goal.
As legend has it, and The Mayo News match report, the Mayo player/selector steadied down and fired over a brilliant score into the Hill 16 end.
The Hill suddenly went quiet. Heffo’s army were rattled and Mayo were just a point down.
Then Balla’s TJ Kilgallon, Mayo’s inspirational captain, powered his way through the Dublin rearguard to send the game to a replay.
“I was very excited to be playing,” recalled Billy last week. “It was a dream come true to play for your county. I think myself and Seán Lowry were the oldest full-forward pairing to play the game,” he laughed.
“We should have won the game to be honest. I remember marking the late Mick Holden that day and he said he hoped the ref would blow it up because he thought Dublin were done. He was a lovely guy.”
Mayo suffered an eight point defeat in the replay three weeks later and that was the end of the road for one of the county’s most consistent forwards.
Time had finally caught up with Billy Fitz’. “The body says ‘no’ and the mind says ‘yes’, but it is time to call a halt,” he was quoted as saying after the ‘85 replay.
Nowadays, the sixty-something Mid West Radio analyst lives in Claremorris and has the battle wounds to show for his any years of club and county service. However, he will always be grateful to Mayo’s manager in ‘85, Liam O’Neill, for giving him the chance to play.
“I’m feeling the pain now to be honest. I have two artificial hips so that shows the scars of battle but I will forever be indebted to Liam for giving me the chance. It meant everything to put on the Mayo jersey so I will always thank him for that. He added steel to that team and it was the start of a great time for Mayo football. The team deserved to win an All Ireland but sadly that didn’t happen.”
And what about the present Mayo team? Have they got what it takes to beat Dublin on Sunday?
“Well, firstly I’d like to wish the lads the best of luck for the game. The team are in a very good place right now and Dublin haven’t performed this year and hopefully they don’t on Sunday. Andy (Moran) is obviously a huge loss but hopefully we’ll get by,” he concluded.