Tribute to Alex Whelan Jnr

Alex Whelan, Jnr: An outstanding Footballer who won Leinster Minor and Under-21 Medals 

The late Alex Whelan who died in Sydney on was one of Moorefield’s outstanding players in the 1970s and ‘80s. His name appeared on the scoresheet on numerous occasions and his displays earned him top marks in many games.

As recorded in the Leinster Leader (15 February 1975), he was one of the key men when Moorefield marked their return to Division One football in 1975 with a fine 0-10 to 2-2 win over Sarsfields. 

Despite losing to Ballyteague in a championship replay, Alex was one of the star performers scoring two points. His 0-3 from frees helped the Moores to a good win over St Mochua’s in the senior championship of 1976. However, his 0-4 was not enough in a loss to neighbours Milltown in the next round, 1-8 to 0-10. 

Two points against Round Towers in a drawn game in 1977 and three points in the replay are credited to the Moorefield sharpshooter. In 1980, “Alex Whelan crashed the leather to the net to give Moorefield a well-earned victory and a ticket to the next round”. 

In1983 “Alex Whelan had a brilliant goal to level the scores” before Moorefield won a replay against Kilcock, 2-7 to 0-12. And he followed up with 0-2 in a game that elevated Moorefield to Division One status.

For the next few years, he continued his dedication to and involvement with Moorefield until he emigrated to Australia. 

Club Chairperson, Mick Moloney, paying tribute to Alex said, “He was a brilliant clubman as well as a marvellous player who helped Moorefield club in numerous ways through coaching juveniles, playing at club and county level, and contributing his many professional skills for the development and enhancement of the club facilities. His passing so soon after those of his parents, Alex and Peg and his sister Kathleen is another huge loss to his family. On behalf of Moorefield club, I extend our heartfelt sympathy to his wife, Bernadette, to Jacqueline and Andria, and Richard and Lucas, his grandchildren and his many relatives and friends. May Alex rest in peace after his long struggle with his illness”.

 

Some of Alex’s Intercounty Record

Although county honours eluded him, Alex was an outstanding underage footballer and played his part in the Kildare minor and Under-21 Leinster final victories in 1973 and 1976 respectively. He had a relatively short senior intercounty career which was a big disappointment for him.

1973

Leinster Minor Final: Kildare 1-11, Meath 1-6

All-Ireland Final: Tyrone 2-11, Kildare 1-6

1976 

Leinster Under-21 Final: Kildare 1-12, Dublin 0-9

All-Ireland Final: Kerry 0-14, Kildare 1-3

Senior Games in 1977

February v Meath NFL #13 Scored 0-2

March v Dublin NFL #10 

April v Cork NFL #10 Scored 0-1

June v Kilkenny LFC R1 #10 Scored 0-2

July v Dublin LFC QF Sub 2

 

It is timely to reprint the following article in which Alex recalled his time in Moorefield and his life in Australia.

Moore News met with father and son, Alex Whelan Snr and Jnr while Alex Jnr was on home on holidays from Australia in summer 2018. 

Alex Jnr recalls some Moorefield memories and of his life in Australia.

Going to Australia?

I went out in October 1988 to 35 degrees on heat. Some of my friends there were ex-players and I worked with them at first and then went out on my own as there was plenty of work at time. I played with a Sydney team which won the Australian championship in my first year there. My marker in the final was Seamus Clancy from Clare who won an All-star Award in 1992. The summer lifestyle was terrific, and we were very busy with work. Lots of lads from Newbridge were coming out. The first batch were great before Celtic tiger; they worked well, we got on well and they did well in Australia.

Your playing career?

Before Gerry Moran took over I played minor and U-21. I played my first senior match for Moorefield when I was 16 and my first senior game with Kildare at 18. At 19 I played senior v Kerry in Killarney and against Dublin in Croke Park. But I was dropped against Kerry at U-21. Playing senior was a big eye opener in a quarter-final against Down in National League game. I won a Leinster minor medal in 1973 and an Under-21 in 1976. In a senior game, the selectors brought on one player twice and some of us were left on the sideline and I didn’t play U-21 after that.

I played a little hurling as there was not much hurling in Moorefield until players came from hurling counties – the Whites, Paddy Dooley, Matt O’Shea, Mick Deeley and others. 

My father sent Leinster Leader to me, two a month or so, and I always kept an eye on how the club was going. I knew all the teams coming up: many of them were sons and grandsons of my old football colleagues. The teams are terrific now and it is great to follow their successes on the internet, and to have the dvd of the Leinster final win in 2017.

Coaching Underage in Moorefield 

I started off training underage and got Seanie Whyte, Dessie Garrett, Peter Whyte involved. Martin Phillips organised it later and Gerry Moran then took over and handled all those stars. Every Saturday morning, I went to Eric McDonnell who gave me an order for Coxs Cash & Carry for Tayto and orange – I was like the ‘pied piper’ for the children. 

During my holidays this year (2018) it was wonderful to go to the club on a Saturday morning and see all the coaching activity. My granddaughter who speaks four languages has a Moorefield jersey and wore it running around the club – in fact, her first teddy’s name is ‘Moorefield’. I have been away 39 years and am proud to have kept up my affiliation with the club. 

 

New clubhouse

I loved playing with Moorefield and the team was getting stronger. Everyone was looking forward to the new clubhouse; the team was progressing, and we were all involved in building the clubhouse. I remember the first day we started bricking; about 50 lads were working on the building and we got up to scaffold height on the first day. Some ex-army lads did all the food for the workers, and we had a few drinks in Neesons that night. 

After that work John Cummins got lads to do the floor and lots of lads got involved – all getting better and better. We even had a few Sarsfields lads there including Paddy Dempsey! When we were putting the floor down there were about 50 lads tapping nails. We put down the lines of boards and cramped them. I put down marks for expansion and saw those marks 20 years later during renovations when the skirtings had been taken off. I knew the facilities would be great, and in good hands with the people involved, but my mind was in Oz. 

Comparing players?

It is difficult to make comparisons between past and current players. With the same fitness levels, you can’t make comparisons but players from previous times would be up there with them in skill and fitness relative to their training. I trained hard and did 10-mile runs on my own every second night to build up stamina. I could train with good players. Nowadays food, nutrition, strength and fitness, etc., all help to develop talented players. Standards are all relative to their own era. 

Your work in Australia and emigration now?

I am a carpenter by trade and after getting well established in Sydney I set up on my own. I refurbished about three one-off houses a year in good areas for families buying up in suburbs. I gave many Moorefield lads a start for a week and held on to the best of them in several trades. It has all changed as it is very expensive to get a visa now. The dynamic now is in big builds and one-off houses are rare enough. There is always work if you want it. In summer-time, we would go to the beach at 5.00am and have coffee at 5.30 as the sun came up. It was the same in winter, but it was very cold.

Ireland v Australia International Rules?

Yes, it is a fantastic game. Jim Stynes from Dublin was a very big man, a great player who was very formidable, and could go up and down the field with lads hopping off him. He is the only non-Australian to win the Brownlow medal. They loved him; he played 240 games in succession without a break. I didn’t play Aussie Rules which is a very physical game. A Gaelic player must think differently and change his mindset in Aussie Rules, especially in the grab and hold tackle, shouldering, movement, etc. There are some fantastic players, but I have not been involved in a club in Australia for a few years. 

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