One of the many fascinating topics dealt with by J.J. Kennedy in his forthcoming history of the West G.A.A. Board, is the succession of goalkeepers from the division who gave sterling service to Tipperary from the late fifties onwards. They included Terry Moloney from Solohead and Arravale Rovers, Donal O'Brien from Kickhams, John O'Donoghue from Arravale Rovers, Peter O'Sullivan from Cashel King Cormac's, John Farrell from Kickhams and John Leamy from Golden-Kilfeacle.
Terry Moloney made his debut in 1959 at the tender age of nineteen. He graduated from minor ranks, having played in goals for the county in 1957 and 1958, winning an All-Ireland in the former year. He was also sub-goalie to John O'Grady on the senior team in 1958. His first senior championship outing wasn't an auspicious one as Tipperary went down to Waterford in the Munster semi-final at the old Athletic Grounds in Cork. It wasn't so much the defeat as the size of it, 9-3 to 3-4! One of the newspaper reports of the game said that 'Poor goalkeeping, allied to weak covering by the fullback line, contributed greatly to the concession of so many goals.'
Moloney, however, retained his position and made amends in the 1960 championship. In the first round against Limerick he was reported as fit, eager and able. For the semi-final against Waterford he conceded two goals but brought off some fine saves. In the famous Munster final against Cork at Limerick, before a record crowd, he gave a sound, at times brilliant display in goal. In the All-Ireland defeat by Wexford he had a capital hour with several spectacular saves to his credit. He continued to play in the Oireachtas and league but he was dropped for the 1961 championship.
His successor, Donal O'Brien, got his chance in the league final against Waterford in May 1961. The reason for the replacement was that Moloney had suffered a knee injury. O'Brien, who was twenty-two years old, had been showing his prowess as a goalkeeper during 1960 with some fine displays for Kickhams. He had been understudy to Moloney all through the 1960 championship and he was now to relegate Moloney to the substitute's bench. O'Brien holds the perfect record of never losing an intercounty championship match. In 1961 he played against Galway in the Munster semi-final, (Galway having won their one and only senior championship game in Munster that year by beating Clare). This was probably the worse game O'Brien played for Tipperary, conceding five goals. According to one report he 'looked a bit leisurely1 on the day. It was a rare off-day for the player. He came back with a bang against Cork in the Munster final, erected a 'closed door' sign for the hour and made a few superb saves from Ring to keep a clean slate. He also played soundly in Tipperary's 'skin of their teeth' victory over Dublin in the All-Ireland.
At the end of the year the G.A.A. columnist, Culbaire, had this to say of his year: 'O'Brien's part in this title win has been no small one and he should fill his responsible berth for the foreseeable future.'
He had an equally successful year in 1962. He played three championship games, against Limerick, Waterford and Wexford. The first two were easy victories. The All-Ireland final was a difficult one and Tipperary eventually won by two points. After one error from a long-distance shot by his Wexford namesake, Jimmy, O'Brien gave a very sound performance, saving raspers and so, after six championship games, O'Brien had two All-Ireland medals. Soon after his second All-Ireland he emigrated to England and later to the U.S. His place was taken for one year by Roger Mounsey of Toomevara.
This year was but a short break before another West goalkeeper came on the scene, John O'Donoghue. He had succeeded Terry Moloney as county minor goalkeeper and had guarded the posts in 1959 and 1960, having the bad luck of losing two All-lrelands. He won a Harty Cup medal with the Abbey School in 1959 and played with U.C.C. By the time he came on the senior team in 1964 he was an experienced player and he was to remain there for seven seasons, 1964-1970. (Interestingly, as he finished with the small ball he started a new career with the big ball and kept goal for the county footballers for six seasons, 1970-75.) He was part of what is regarded as the greatest team ever put out by Tipperary, the 1964-65 All-Ireland side, O'Donoghue was to win two All-Irelands, lose two in 1967 and 1968 and win a third as a sub in 1971.
He was eventually replaced by fellow-West man, Peter O'Sullivan, his understudy for a couple of years, in the second half of the Munster final against Cork at Limerick in 1970. Peter made some spectacular saves that day and established himself in the position. O'Sullivan had come through the minor ranks, playing on goals for the team that lost the 1961 All-Ireland. The following year he was on goal for the county intermediate side beaten by Cork in the championship. He won the All-Ireland in the grade the following year and won the first under-21 All-Ireland in 1964. So, he had plenty of experience when he took over as senior goalkeeper. After winning the All-Ireland in 1971 it seemed as if a long innings stretched into the future for him. However, an unfortunate work accident, in which he was engulfed in flamable, line painting fluid, in 1972 brought his county goal-keeping career to an untimely end.
He wasn't the last of the goalkeepers from the west. There were a number from the north division, Tadgh Murphy, Seamus Shinnors and Pat McLoughney, before the western interest came to the fore again in the person of Kickhams, John Farrell. He had a brief innings, playing on the side defeated by Cork in the first round of the 1982 senior championship at Cork. Earlier he had played on goals for the minors in 1979 and the under-21 side in 1981 and 1982. He had also a U.C.C. dimension winning a couple of Fitzgibbon medals under Fr. O'Brien. After the 1982 championship he continued to play during the league but constantly changing fullback lines during the period undermined his confidence and John Sheedy was the selectors' choice when the 1983 championship came around. Farrell ended up in England, whereto his work with Larry Goodman took him, and he later played with London.
John Leamy was the last goalkeeper from the west to feature in despatches. He was the substitute keeper on the successful 1989 and 1991 teams, serving as understudy to Ken Hogan. Earlier, he won a minor All-Ireland as keeper on the successful 1982 team, and also on the successful under-21 team three years later. He completed the 'grand slam' when he won a junior All-Ireland in 1991, an achievement not many more in the county can claim.
Any treatment of goalkeepers from the West division, who gave service to the county, has to include Cappawhite player, Willie Barry, who was sub to Tony Reddin on the victorious 1949 team. The tradition of goalkeeping in the family lived on in Willie's son, Mike, who played on goals on the Cappawhite minor and under-21 teams, which won county finals in 1965, and in Willie's grandson, Richie, who guarded the net on the Cappawhite under-21 team, which won the county title in 2000!.
County Tipperary Supplement, The Examiner, March 20, 2001