Opening of St Ruadhan's Dressing Rooms - Tony Reddin
Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
It's an honour for me to be asked to say a few words about Tony Reddin at the opening of these impressive clubrooms. The fact that he will do the honours of the official opening is only right and fitting as no man or woman has put Lorrha on the map as much as he has.
From the time he arrived in Lorrha in February 1947 he got involved with the Lorrha club and he was a great addition to the senior hurling team that got to the county final in the following year. That was a great team with some outstanding talent around the field. We lost one of them recently with the demise of Mick of Blakefield.
Tony brought to the team his excellent goal-keeping talent and everyone on the team came to admire it and have confidence that he would never let them down. One of his greatest displays was against Borrisoleigh in the North Tipperary final of 1948. On a wet and miserable day he defied the best that Borrisoleigh could throw at him between the posts. The famous Kennys tried their best to breech his lines but he defied them all and Lorrha won. In his presentation address after the game Monsignor Boland described Tony's display as 'surpassing anything he had ever seen.'
This and other displays did not go unnoticed outside Lorrha and Tony was drafted into the county team at the end of the year. He went on to play for Tipperary for eight years and won many honours especially the three-in-a-row All-Ireland titles in 1949, 1950 and 1951.
These were dismal times in the country and hurling was a major escapism from the poverty of so many existences. It wasn't expensive to play the game and once you had the hurl and the gear, there were endless free nights' entertainments. Identification with club and county was strong and anyone growing up at the time got a huge lift from the success of Lorrha in 1948 and of Tipperary in subsequent years.
Heroes were important and Tony was the stuff of heroes. I have already mentioned his epic display in the 1948 North final. Another epic was with Tipperary in the Munster final against Cork at Killarney in 1950. The overflow crowd of 55,000 encroached on the field surrounding Tony's goal during the last ten minutes. Tipperary won and Tony had to survive by escaping the field in a clerical hat and coat after the final whistle.
These stories kept us alive and added to the status of Tony as a local hero. We were proud to be Lorrha men and when Micheal O Hehir read out the names of a Tipperary team before a Munster championship game and started off with: Tony Reddin, Lorrha, our hearts swelled with pride and importance. Lorrha was no longer an anonymous place, lost in the bogs of North Tipperary, but the place where the greatest goalkeeper of them all hailed from.
Radio did wonderful things. It is impossible to picture the world as it was then, so used have we become to multiple TV channels and numerous radio stations and to the huge coverage of all games today. Then it was one-radio, one match a week and little in between. But it did give the lineout and Reddin was always the first man for Tipperary.
On this day I want to refer to another aspect of this great man, his professionalism. Today it is common for professional players to spend hours practising and training for a sport. Tony was a perfectionist when it came to preparation. He was always fit and kept himself well. He didn't drink nor smoke. He trained for the position of goalkeeper as much as if he were a centrefield player. Running cross-country, jumping over hedges and ditches and building up his arms made him the strong player he was. But, he also prepared himself meticulously. The story of him practising against a rough stone wall is indicative. And, there were a lot of rough stone walls around! Could there have been any better way of sharpening up the reflexes, as he dived left or right to grab the returning ball.
Whenever I see a soccer player trap a fast ball still with his foot, leave it dead, I think of Tony. He had that sensitive touch, allied with the titling of the hurley's face at an angle, which enabled him to kill even the fastest ball dead so that it rolled down into his hand. No man is born with such skill. It can only come from endless practice and hours of work.
Tony was recognised in his time as a great hurler and he has been remembered as such since then. He was the choice of the people of Ireland when they picked the Team of the Century in 1984 and he was chosen again on the Team of the Millennium. His place is secure in the history books. There must be wonderful personal satisfaction in being thus remembered. He has been the recipient of so many awards and honours and to me and to all of us here absolutely deserving of so much.
This evening we honour him in his adopted club is asking him to officially open these clubrooms. Some day they will be called after him but for the moment because of his wonderful health and longevity cannot be. But, there is no rush, Tony, and we hope you can be with us for many years to come and make the century.
Two years ago his native Mullagh honoured him with a plaque on the clubhouse of his native club. I hope that in the very near future we can see a full size statue of him erected somewhere in the parish, something similar to the statue of Christy Ring that stands in the front of the sportsfield in Cloyne. Tony deserves such an honour. Such a statue would show him in goalkeeping mode, hurley held firmly across his body, his sharp eyes searching for the ball and his whole frame ready to clear it down the field. Such a statue would keep his memory before our minds and fill us with vicarious thrills.
Go raibh míle maith agaibh.
Opening of St. Ruadhan's clubrooms, Moatfield, Lorrha, May 22, 2011