Surely the best-known Drom Inch man must be Tommy Butler! If for no other reason, he was our sole All-Star in 1978. Or, that he was the only Tipperary man to win the RTE Goal of the Year Award. It may be that the present generation have heard of no other Drom Inch county senior hurling players.
Perhaps people have forgotten about a great predecessor of Tommy's, Seamus Bannon, who won senior All-Irelands in 1949, 1950 and 1951. Another great Drom Inch man was Mick Kennedy, who starred on the great Limerick team of the thirties. In the same decade Phil Farrell was on the Dublin winning team of 1938 and, in the previous decade, Tom Barry of Dovea won two All-Irelands, also with Dublin, in 1924 and 1927. Coming nearer to the present Tommy's brother, Eamon, captained the county intermediate team to victory in the 1971 All-Ireland. On the same team was another brother, Seamus, and two clubmates, Oliver Quinn and Jim Carey. On today's team for the replay of the quarter-final is Pat Looby, who has the distinction of winning a minor All-Ireland in 1976 and an under-21 in 1979. In all not a bad record for a parish of eleven hundred people.
It coul be said that the Butler name is synonymous with Drom Inch. With six boys in the family, and they all hurling, it was bound to be so. All six brothers were on when the club won their first senior mid-final in 1974. (The date was September 9 and, coincidentally, they won their second on September 9, 1984.) That was a great victory for the club but Tommy remembers a victory over Borrisoleigh the previous year with even greater delight. They had been beaten by Thurles Sarsfields in the mid-final and went out the following Sunday against Borrisoleigh in the county championship without much hope. At half-time they had even less hope and it continued so into the second half when Drom Inch were twelve points down. Then things began to change as they started to score goals and they continued scoring to the consternation of Borrisoleigh to go home winners by a goal. Bonfires were lit in the parish that night in celebration of this victory over the neighbouring giants. It didn't matter, as Tommy said, that they had won nothing at all. Instead they had achieved the impossible.
Tommy went to school to Templemore C.B.S. And the high point of his hurling career there was to win three competitions, the Croke and Kinane Cups and Corn Phádraig, in 1968. He was captain of one of the teams. The next year he did the Leaving Certificate. 'That was the year the papers were stolen and we had to repeat the examination.' He went to work in Drombane Creamery soon after and has been there since. An Inch man, he is married with two children and lives near the Ragg.
He doesn't like admitting it but he got fourteen trials for the county minors in 1969 and failed to make the team! He remembers counting up the number for his father. However, it may have been the selectors were at fault because he proved his mettle the following year by making the under-21 team and he retained his position in 1971 and 1972. These weren't the most successful years but he did win a Munster medal in 1972 only to be beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final at Nenagh.
Tommy's career on the county senior team stretches from 1974, when he came on against Limerick in the last match of the league, to 1980. They weren't the best of years to be on the Tipperary senior team. He missed a League medal in 1975, when Galway defeated them in the final at Limerick. He won one eventually four years later, when Tipperary reversed the 1975 result. In between there wasn't much to shout about in the line of victories. There was a Railway Cup medal in 1978 at wing-forward and an All-Star Award at number 11. Probably his greatest display was in the Munster championship of 1976, when he got the better of John Horgan, until the latter was taken off.
A Club Man
Tommy is, above all, a Drom Inch man with a long number of years of service to the club: he first played senior with them in 1966! He came in as a replacement goalkeeper against Thurles Sarsfields that year. He believes that the present team has something that previous teams hadn't, a faith in themselves. He is unreserved in attributing this to their trainer, Brother Daithi Fitzgerald, a Doon man teaching in Thurles C.B.S. Allied to that is a commitment that gives an hundred percent turnout for training. Br. Fitzgerald has been with them since May and has changed their traditional training to concentrating on man-to-man combat for ball possession. Everything in training revolves around these tussles for the ball. Another inspiration has been their new curate, Fr. Ryan from Newport, who played a couple of games until injured earlier this year. He is full of enthusiasm and has inculcated it in the team.
Success hasn't been confined to the seniors this year. In minor and under-21 hurling and in junior football the club is also having a successful run. Though the parish is small it has two playing pitches. One is near the Ragg and it's in the hands of the club since the thirties, but has never been developed: 'I suppose we've always been hoping to get one nearer the cross.' This is the field the seniors train in. There's another field in Drom and more underage games are played there.
Tommy is quietly confident that Drom Inch will win today's replay. 'We played way below our best in the drawn game and were still too close to the exertions required to win the Mid the previous Sunday.' In that Mid final Tommy was the hero and he was again the toast of the parish with his equalising point against Éire Óg last Sunday. There is no doubt that his contribution with be crucial to today's outcome.
County Senior Hurling semi-final progam, Sept. 30th, 1984