Purcell, Patrick (Puirséal, Pádraig) (1914–79), sports journalist and novelist, was born 5 December 1914 in Carrigeen, Mooncoin, Co. Kilkenny, one of three children of Richard Purcell, schoolteacher, from Ballyouskill, Ballyragget, Co. Kilkenny, and Anastasia Purcell (née Doyle). He was educated in his father's school, Carrigeen national school, and subsequently in Mount Sion Christian Brothers' school, Waterford, and St Kieran's College, Kilkenny. In 1933 he attended University College Dublin (UCD), where he graduated with first-class honours and a Master of Arts (MA) in English literature (1937). While at UCD he played both hurling and football for the college and was auditor of the Literary and Historical Society. He also wrote for a number of university publications and edited UCD's English Digest. After university he worked for a period with Cahill's, the Dublin publishing house, and during the 1940s he wrote four novels, the best received of which was the first, Hanrahan's daughter (1942), a romantic tale of hurling in his native county. The novel was translated into several languages and was particularly popular in the US, and this was followed by a trilogy of novels: A keeper of swans (1944), The quiet man (1946), and Fiddler's Green (1949). His novels were characterised by a simple but elegant prose style, and chronicled Irish village life in the ‘Kickham–Sheehan tradition’ (Irish Times, 5 Apr. 1991). In 1950 he founded the Gaelic Sportsman (later the Gaelic Weekly), a weekly newspaper concentrating on Gaelic games and activities, and, writing under the pen name ‘Moondharrig’, he contributed to it an extensive history of the early years of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), in a series which underlined his unrivalled knowledge. He was widely known in his journalism as Pádraig Puirséal, but published his novels as Patrick Purcell. After a brief spell with the Irish Independent he joined the Irish Press (1953) as a sub-editor, rising to features editor before joining the sports department as GAA and coursing correspondent in 1970. He remained on the selection committee for the All-Star awards from its inception in 1971 until his death.
Puirséal's journalistic output was considerable. He remained a contributor to the Gaelic Weekly up to its demise under the pen name ‘Rambling Rory’, and wrote a ‘Dublin letter’ for the Kilkenny People for almost thirty years. In addition to his other duties as an Irish Press correspondent, he wrote a regular Friday column called ‘All in the day's sport’. For a number of years he also contributed to a weekly programme on Radio Éireann. Puirséal's journalism reflected his deep love and respect for Gaelic games and traditional Irish life, and while he was always passionate, he was never partisan, particularly in matters relating to his own county. He had a tremendous interest in, and encyclopaedic knowledge of, other sports, and supported the voluntary removal of the GAA's ban on the playing of foreign games, which he saw as unnecessarily divisive. In March 1979, a few months before his death, Puirséal was presented with the MacNamee Award by the GAA's communication committee for his report on the previous year's All-Ireland football final between Kerry and Dublin. That game also marked the one hundredth All-Ireland final that he had attended. He died 6 September 1979, and is buried in Mount Jerome cemetery, Dublin. He had been due to retire at the end of 1979; his last article for the Irish Press was a posthumously published review of that year's All-Ireland hurling final, which he had watched on television.
Puirséal was a keen supporter of camogie, rarely missing a final, and married (1943) Limerick-born Agnes Hourigan, who wrote on camogie for the Irish Press, was a president of the Camogie Association of Ireland (1976–8), and won an All-Ireland medal with Dublin in 1938. The trophy presented to the winners of the Third-Level Colleges Division 2 camogie championship is named the Purcell Cup in her honour. They had one daughter and three sons. A book, The GAA in its time, based on Puirséal's research and articles about the history of the GAA, was published posthumously (1982), and was edited by one of his sisters, Mary Purcell (qv), a noted scholar, catechist, and writer of religious biography. He also compiled, with his friend David Guiney (qv), The Guinness book of hurling records (1959).