Death of 1949 Meath hero, Paddy Dixon

Story by Tom Kelly

Saturday, 25th August, 2007 9:00am

THE death occurred on Monday morning of Paddy Dixon, a member of the first Meath senior football team to win an All-Ireland final, in 1949. Aged 84, his death comes just two months after that of his wife Kay, in June.

Mr Dixon was a native of Ballivor, where the family lived before he and Mrs Dixon moved to Kilmurray, Trim, in later years.

He played a crucial role in Meath`s first All-Ireland success as centre-back. Paddy Dixon had a meteoric rise onto the Meath team, starting the summer of 1949 captaining the county juniors before he was promoted to the senior side. At the time, he was reluctant to leave the junior side as he believed it had a better chance of All-Ireland glory.

Under the guidance of Fr Patrick Tully, the Meath seniors defeated Kildare, Wexford, Louth (after a marathon battle that went to three games), Westmeath and Mayo to set up a meeting with old rivals Cavan. Brian Smyth captained the team that year.

Dixon could hardly have asked for a more difficult opponent in the final than the legendary Mick Higgins who was the driving force behind Cavan`s All -Ireland victories in 1947 and `48.

Higgins, a garda, was expected to `make hay` against the young, inexperienced Meath defender. It didn`t turn out like that as a Meath Chronicle report of the `49 final recounts.

Paddy Dixon was the king-pin of the defence. He recalled the headlines afterwards in the Dublin papers: `Dixon policed Higgins`.

The name `Stonewall` was the term used by Micheal O`Hehir to describe Dixon`s performance during the `49 final commentary on radio and the nickname has remained with him since.

He attributed help from `the man above` on that day, when he wore football boots belonging to a former Ballivor and Meath player, Fr Tom Dolan, who was on mission work in Burma.

When the priest returned to Burma after a year`s leave, he gave his boots to Dixon, who promptly discarded the new ones supplied by sponsors, and hoped for divine intervention in Fr Dolan`s boots.

Paddy Dixon went on to help Meath win the 1951 National League `home final` against Mayo. That set up a clash with New York at the Polo Grounds in a match the Royals won by 1-10 to 0-10 with one report in a New York newspaper comparing Dixon to a famous US baseball legend and describing him as `the Babe Ruth of Gaelic football.`

The footballer admitted to being devastated to be left out of Meath`s starting 15 for the 1952 All-Ireland final defeat by Cavan although he came on as a substitute.

Dixon continued to play for Ballivor well into his thirties and won a Feis Cup medal. He has attended almost every All-Ireland final since 1938 when he first visited Croke Park as a youngster with his father Pat.

He married Kay Loughran from Kilmessan, niece of another legendary Meath footballer and hurler, Joe Loughran. She passed away last June. Mrs Dixon always proudly wore her husband`s All-Ireland medal on a chain.

Mr Dixon is survived by his family, Fiona Lawlor, Patricia Dempsey, Bunty Dempsey, Padraig, Fergus, Damien and Elaine Dixon, and 18 grandchildren. In addition to Mrs Dixon, he was predeceased by a grandson, David Dempsey.

The remains will repose at his residence, Kilmurray, Trim, from 4pm today (Wednesday) with removal to St Patrick`s Church, Trim, at 6pm, arriving at the Church at 7pm. Mr Dixon`s funeral takes place tomorrow (Thursday) at 11am, with burial afterwards in St Loman`s Cemetery.

The family business, Dixon Sand and Gravel in Ballivor, will be closed on Wednesday and Thursday and reopen on Friday.