Mooney’s glory years Spur him on for more

IN April 1980 in his first week as Ham&High sports editor Pat Mooney strode into his boss s office and asked if he would pay for him to go Italy for the day

Ben McPartland

IN April 1980 in his first week as Ham&High sports editor Pat Mooney strode into his boss's office and asked if he would pay for him to go Italy for the day.

The 26-year-old had just covered his first Arsenal match - the first leg of the European Cup-Winner's Cup semi-final against Juventus and he thought it would be best if he was allowed to go to Turin for the return game.

His boss Gerald Isaaman, one of five editors Pat has worked under, agreed and the young Irishman from County Kildare never looked back.

On Saturday he was invited to Tottenham's FA Cup tie against Reading as a special guest to celebrate, slightly belatedly, his 25th anniversary of working for the Ham&High.

He was joined in the executive box by his wife Cathy and his son Darragh, who along with his other son Neil have supported him over the years.

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And on the day he was handed £500 worth of sports vouchers by Ham&High editor Geoff Martin while Spurs legend and TV pundit Clive Allen presented Pat with a commemorative team shirt from the club's 125th anniversary with the name Mooney and the number 25 on the back.

He said: "It was a nice touch and the whole day was really enjoyable. It was strange watching the match from somewhere other than my usual seat in the press box."

Pat, a life-long Manchester United fan, has spent exactly half his life working at the Ham&High, covering Tottenham and Arsenal as well as local sports clubs.

He said: "It is amazing how quickly the time has gone. What has stayed with me through that period is the enthusiasm and passion which you have to have, otherwise it becomes a chore, which it certainly has not been."

Arguably his greatest achievement was to persuade his bosses to put the sport on the back page, instead of inside the paper.

Over the years he has managed to double the amount of coverage dedicated to sport and gained the Ham&High such a strong reputation for its football reporting that he was given press passes to two World Cups - Italia 90 and USA 94.

Sport was in Pat's blood from the start and he was a decent footballer himself - turning out for the Dublin side Bohemians and later Wood Lane FC in England.

But his proudest moment on the pitch came in Gaelic football when he won a Leinster Under-21 championship medal, playing for County Kildare in front of 55,000 fans at Dublin's Croke Park.

He said: "I haven't been quite good enough to make a living at playing sport so reporting on it is not a bad second.

"I have always had an ambition to write and sport was very close to my heart and it seemed like an ideal combination."

During his time at the Ham&High Pat, who previously spent six years at the Harrow Observer, has covered the comings and goings of 13 Spurs' managers - and five at Arsenal.

He fondly remembers the days covering Arsenal when they had a huge Irish contingent, including Liam Brady and David O'Leary, and the days when managers would make time to talk to him.

He said: "The first manager I dealt with at Spurs was Keith Burkinshaw, who was arguably their best since Bill Nicholson. I came to an agreement with him that I would pick up the phone at 9.55am each Thursday for a story and for the best part of eight to 10 years I was able to do that.

"We built up a good relationship and he trusted me and would give me numerous exclusives - like the time he dropped Steve Archibald for disciplinary reasons. That story scooped all the nationals. But getting access to managers these days is almost impossible."

But for Pat it has not just been about the big names and the big games.

He said: "The prime function of a local paper is to report on local clubs. This was something very close to my heart from day one.

"I think we have managed to get a pretty good mix."