The announcement in October that Pat Fox had been chosen as "Tipperary Person of the Year 1991" by the Tipperary Association in Dublin was received with much satisfaction by the vast number of people in the county. It was seen as a fitting recognition for a player who has given long and sterling service to Tipperary hurling in three decades.
The statement issued by the Tipperary Association said: "His marvellous displays in this year's Munster and All-Ireland hurling finals made him a person apart in the Premier County and a worthy recipient of the Tipperary Personality Award for 1991. Arguably the best hurling forward in 1991, his unique ability to conjure scores led Tipperary to its 24th All-Ireland senior hurling title."
To call this award a culmination is not to imply that Pat Fox is at the end of his days. Far from it! His dedication and commitment are such that one can safely bet that the thirty-year old Eire Og, Annacarty man has a number of years of hurling left in him for the nineties. But, the award must surely be seen as a high point in the recognition of a hurling wizard, who has been honoured in many ways over many years.
He has been the recipient of virtually all the awards that can come the way of a top class hurler. He was awarded the RTE 'Man of the Match' Award for his display in the 1991 All-Ireland. This display, which saw him score five points, was no flash in the pan. He was also voted the Most Consistent Player of the Year for 1991. He has also at different times received the Player of the Month Award, Jury's Player of the Week and the Man of the Match Award. He received two Cidona Awards in 1981 and 1989 and got All-Star Awards in 1987 and 1989. There is probably no greater racing certainty than that Pat will pick up a third All-Star Award this year. Some of his admirers would like to see him end the year with the most prestigious of all awards, the Texaco Award. He is probably a short odds favourite for that also.
Pat's hurling career stretches over three decades and he has won All-Irelands in the seventies, eighties and nineties. Over that time he has played in a variety of positions. When he played minor for the county for the first time in 1978 it was at left corner-forward. Tipperary were beaten 1-14 to 3-6 by Cork in the Munster final. Two other survivors from that team are Bobby Ryan and Donie O'Connell.
Still a minor the following year, Pat played at centre-forward on the team that lost to Cork by 1-8 to 2-4 at the semi-final stage. So Pat came through the inter-county minor grade without a Munster or All-Ireland medal. He had some consolation for these years when he won a county junior hurling medal with Eire Og and an under-21 hurling medal with Cappawhite/Eire Óg in 1977.
Pat came on to the under-21 panel in 1979 and was to be on it for four years and three All-Irelands. A sub during the earlier stages of the championship, he played centrefield against Galway in the All-Ireland final at Portlaoise and won his first All-Ireland in a scoreline of 2-12 to 1-9. Flowery Ryan was his partner and Michael Doyle was at full-forward.
Two more All-Irelands were to follow in 1980 and 1981. The first of these two was won against Kilkenny at Waterford in a score of 2-9 to 0-14. Pat was now at corner back and at full was Cormac Bonnar. Bobby Ryan was centre forward and Donie O'Connell was full. Pat was in the same position in 1981 when Kilkenny were beaten once again at Waterford, this time by 2-16 to 1-10. Bobby Ryan and Donie O'Connell were in the same positions as in the previous year and Nicky English was wing-forward.
To have won three consecutive All-Irelands was a most satisfactory achievement. To throw away the chance of a fourth in 1982 was a big disappointment for Pat. He was again at corner back and the team included no less than eleven of the 1981 All-Ireland winning side. As well, no less than seven players were on the senior team. Plenty of preparation was made for the first championship outing against Limerick on June 25 and all was set for what was thought to be an easy victory. From the beginning of the game problems abounded, especially in attack. Tipperary were behind by 1-6 to 0-4 at the interval and went further behind in the third quarter. By the time they got their act together towards the end it was too late and Limerick ran out easy winners by 2-12 to 1-7.
Pat had already made his senior debut as early as 1979 when he was drafted on to the National League panel and played a couple of challenge games. For the championship in 1980, when Tipperary were beaten by Cork in the Munster semi-final at Thurles, Pat partnered Gerry Stapleton at centrefield.
The following year he played corner-forward on the side that was beaten by Limerick in the replayed Munster semi-final. Michael Maher was a selector that year and maintained it was Pat's best position. One of Pat's older brothers, Kevin, was also on that team. Both of them were on again on the side beaten in the first round of the 1982 Munster championship by Cork. Pat was back at centrefield for this game.
The same year saw the beginning of Pat's knee problem. Playing inter-firm at Cashel he tore the ligaments in his knee and didn't take the proper care of the injury. The result was that he missed out on everything in 1983. He came back as a junior in 1984 and played cornerback on the side beaten by Cork in the Munster final.
Back on the senior side in 1985 he was at cornerback when Tipperary went down by 4-17 to 4-11 to Cork in the Munster final. For the debacle at Ennis in 1986 Pat was a sub and watched their stunning 2-10 to 1-11 defeat by Clare from the sideline.
After the great successes of the under-21 years, Pat must have felt that his chances of senior success were slowly slipping away in the aftermath of the 1986 championship. Little did he envisage the achievements of the following years. The new management took over and things began to look up again.
Pat lacked confidence in his knee and played indifferently in the early stages of the 1986-87 league. He is grateful to Babs for sticking with him and he has missed no championship game since then. Ironically, when he was taken off in the Munster final in 1990 it was the first time ever he was taken off in a championship game, whether at minor, under-21, junior or senior level.
He considers the success of Babs as due to a number of factors. Luck had a part to play in it. So had the Supporters' Club and the money they raised which enabled the players to be treated better, so that they responded better. Babs also brought considerable experience to the job. He has absolutely no bitterness towards Babs for taking him off in that final.
Pat's contribution to the recovery of Tipperary's hurling fortunes has been significant. He got the winning point which put the team into the 1987 league semi-final. He won the Man of the Match Award for his display against Kerry in the first round of the 1987 championship. He got the two points which gave us a draw against Cork in the Munster final. His contribution to our success in Killarney was enormous. In fact, he remembers that game as his greatest and, with this year's All-Ireland, the game that gave him the greatest satisfaction.
The story of Pat's success in the last few years has been well documented. After the defeat in the 1987 All-Ireland semi-final, came the league victory of 1988 and the defeat in the All-Ireland of that year. Against Galway he found Ollie Kilkenny a tough opponent.
He has an interesting comment on all opponents. He reckons he has beaten them all and has been beaten by all. He prefers to mark a hurler that's tough and skilful. This may come as a surprise because many are of the impression that Pat is small in stature. He is, in fact, five foot eight inches and weighs twelve stone. He has a low centre of gravity and is a very difficult player to push out of the way.
What he may lack in height he makes up in skill and aggression. He can fight tenaciously for possession and then has the skill to put it to good use. On the top of that is his enormous experience. To date he has played inter-county hurling for all of thirteen years and has gained a wealth of experience over that period.
Another interesting fact about his playing career is that it has been significantly devoid of injuries. Apart from his knee, Pat has escaped all but superficial injuries. He has never broken a bone and has never had to retire because of injury.
The highpoint of his success was the All-Ireland senior hurling medal in 1989. A player has finally arrived when he has won this honour and all previous accomplishments are mere milestones on the journey. Pat's display may have been overshadowed by Nicky English's 2-12 but his contribution in the four championship games was vital and he was an essential link in a most impressive full-forward line. He shared in the euphoria of victory and the end of the long 18 year famine.
He shared the disappointment of defeat in the 1990 Munster final and the frustration of having been replaced at half-time. However, 1991 was to give him sweet revenge and his brilliant championship campaign was to erase the memory.
His goal in the drawn Munster final was a gem of purest ray serene and a classic example of his opportunism and his knowledge of back play as well as forward play. That goal was part of the 2-12 he scored in the three championship games leading to the All-Ireland when he crowned an outstanding year by adding a further five points and winning the Man of the Match Award.
Equally important for him was to have beaten Kilkenny in a final. The sceptics had said 1989 was no victory despite having beaten Limerick, Cork and Galway along the way. To have added Kilkenny to that list of hurling scalps in 1991 put paid to these petty protestations.
Club and Family
At the time Pat Fox won the 1989 All-Ireland he was one of the few members of the team to be married. In 1985, when he was making his way back from the doldrums of injury, he married Marita Heffernan of Dundrum and she has shared his successes and failures since then. The couple have two children.
Pat himself was the fifth of a family of six boys. His father died earlier this year and his mother is still alive and well. Four of the brothers played on the Eire Og team that captured the west championship in 1981. Pat won a second senior medal in 1986 and has Crosco Cup medals as well. Seamus has an All-Ireland junior medal from 1989 and Kevin has an All-Ireland inter-firm medal.
Latterly Pat has developed an interest in golf and is enjoying the game. It has had one good effect on his hurling because it has improved the flexibility of his right side and given him another option in tight situations.
Pat is shy and unassuming and while glad of the great honour the Tipperary Association has conferred on him dreads the thought of having to make an acceptance speech.
He is also an extremely courteous and helpful individual and everyone who knows him wishes him the best of luck in his hurling and business career.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1992, pp 17-18