Cliftonville Football Club today joined Paddy Madden’s family, friends and loved ones in bidding a heartfelt farewell to our legendary former groundsman, who passed away last week at the age of 74.
Paddy – who was honoured with a minute’s applause prior to the weekend’s fixture with Glenavon – will always be fondly recalled for his dedication to the Reds, for whom he never hesitated to go above and beyond the name of duty.
At this morning’s funeral at St Patrick’s Church, the Club were officially represented by President Sean McClean, Committee members and former office bearers, while supporters accompanied the family in sporting Cliftonville shirts, with Club colours poignantly draped over Paddy’s coffin.
Though unable to attend the service himself, Chairman Gerard Lawlor was keen to pay tribute to a larger-than-life character.
“Paddy loved being a part of Cliftonville FC and the Club loved the wholehearted enthusiasm he gave to his job,” he explained.
“Everybody has a story to tell about Paddy and I’m sure they’ve all been recounted plenty of times in the days since his passing. He served the Club well but was a fan first and foremost, so it was no surprise to see him alongside everyone else in the Social Club straight after a game.
“To Paddy, we give our sincere thanks for not just his efforts as groundsman, but for the smiles he put on the faces of fans of all ages. To his family, we offer our most heartfelt condolences on their loss.”
Jim Boyce, who was Cliftonville Chairman for a significant period of Paddy’s tenure as groundsman, added: “I would like to place on record my own personal thanks for everything that Paddy did for my wife Hazel and I.
“He was the first friendly face that greeted you when you arrived at Solitude and the last to say goodbye when you were leaving. He was an absolute pleasure to have at the Club during my time as Chairman and he will be deeply, deeply missed.”
Born on November 18, 1944, he grew up in Lepper Street in the New Lodge area of Belfast and was a regular at Solitude before he had reached double figures.
Legend has it that, in his youth, he used to leave Cliftonville matches with more money than he arrived with thanks to pocketing tips from other supporters after running errands to the shop on their behalf.
As he grew older, his connection to the Club took on more official responsibilities and it was with great pride that he assumed the role of groundsman, which he held for many years.
Many’s the time he could be spotted frantically trying to drain our infamous old grass surface as kick-off approached on rainy days, while fans who attended the first leg of the Reds’ 1998 Champions League tie with Kosice will never forget the sight of Paddy, with the teams already out on the pitch, marking out the touchlines using what is perhaps most generously described as rudimentary equipment.
Such was his committment to serving the Club he loved that nobody was ever truly able to keep count of the amount of times Paddy would work long into the night and, seeing no sense in returning home for a brief spell before reporting back for duty the following morning, would simply resign himself to sleeping at Solitude!
He will be sadly missed by all associated with the Reds and Cliftonville Football Club extends deepest sympathies to Paddy’s friends and the Madden family circle at this very difficult time.
May he rest in peace.