A Tipperary Stalwart - Michael F. Cronin
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1983, pp 44-45
One of the stalwarts of the Tipperary All-Ireland Hurling team of 1930 was Mick Cronin of Lorrha, who died on 11 January, 1982 after a short illness. He was eighty years of age having been born in Lorrha on 26 September 1982. Seventeen years previously his father, Felix, had come to the parish as a National Teacher, all the way from Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry, where his parents had the Post Office. Three years after arriving at Lorrha Felix married a girl called Mary Dalv from Kenmare and they had ten children, eight boys and two girls. Mick was the seventh son. One of his brothers, Felix, became a Major General in the Irish Army. Another brother, Tom, lost his life in a shooting accident while out fowling. Two other brothers made their names on the hurling field: Gerard hurled for Clare and played against Mick;. Phil played for Dublin.
Mick was educated in his father's school and went to secondary at De La Salle, Waterford. After completing the secondary course he transferred to the Teacher Training College. He got a fine gold medal in recognition of his position as De La Salle Hurling Team Captain, 1922. (Incidentally, Rody Nealon holds a similar medal for occupying the same position four years previously). On completing his teacher training he got a job at Lorrha and succeeded his father, almost immediately, as Principal. This was a controversial appointment as the practise was for a teacher to need five years teaching experience before he could become Principal. At any rate the Manager ignored the controversy, claiming that Mick was the best man for the job. The result was that when Mick Cronin retired in 1969 he must have been the longest serving National School Principal in the country. Later, he studied for his B.A. by driving to Galway after work with, among others, Jack O'Donovan of Toomevara. He was conferred in 1932 and received his Higher Diploma in Education the following year. He received an M.A. in 1935. He was also a fluent Irish speaker.
Mick Cronin doesn't seem to have hit the headlines in hurling until 1926. After the disruptions of the War of Independence a reorganisation meeting was called in Nenagh in March 1922 and he was in attendance. He appears on the Lorrha team in 1923, captained by Tom Duffy, and they give the 'Greyhounds' an annoying hour before being defeated by a goal. The following year Lorrha won the North final by a large margin over Neangh but Cronin's name does not appear nor on the North selection that took part in the Divisional Championship that year. Similarly, in 1925, his name does not appear on either the Tipperary Junior or Senior teams. His name appears on the selection for the All-Ireland Junior Hurling semifinal at New Ross on 12 December 1926. When the team arrived for the match the previous day they were given a civic reception and, after beating Wexford 5-3 to 1-1- they were entertained to dinner on Sunday evening when the guest speaker was Alderman Corish, T.D. Tipperary played Galway in the final at Thurles the following March. The selectors met the previous month to select the team and, among other things, heard the Rev. Chairman draw attention "to the rule which prohibited betting on the field and it was decided with the cooperation of the civic guards to take drastic action against offenders". Because of the similarity of colours Tipperary changed jerseys for the match, which they won 6-2 to 2-3. Galway supporters for the game came by motor-buses which were a novelty in Thurles at the time.
In the following year Mick Cronin graduated to the senior ranks and we read of him playing in the League campaign. (The League began the previous year and it was played over the year with the first games in Spring and the remainder after the championship was completed. There was no knockout section like there is today). Tipperary beat Kilkenny, Limerick, Cork and Clare in the opening rounds. In June we read about Cronin travelling to London with Tipperary to play Cork. In the same month, in the first round of the County League, Lorrha beat De Wets by 13 points to 5 and the mainstays of the victors are Tom Duffy and Mick Cronin.
This run of successes came to a halt in the first round of the championship when Tipperary went down to Limerick, 3-4 to 3-1. Cronin played centre-forward. Tipperary won the League that year by beating Offaly and drawing with Dublin, who were also in the running and were All-Ireland champions. This match was regarded as the 'final' even though Tipperary still had to play Galway and Laoise. The match against Dublin on 16 October created great excitement. In a preview to the game the 'Tipperary Star' had the following to say about Cronin: 'M. F. Cronin, Lorrha: plays on the 40 yard mark, a position which he filled with credit in all National League and other games during the past season. A fast and accurate striker he is always safe for a record when in possession'.
A week after the game with Dublin, Lorrha had a great victory over Roscrea in the North Championship, 7-2 to 2-3. According to the report: 'Cronin got down to play a good game (second half) and his continuous appearances from nowhere saw him score goal after goal for Lorrha'. In that year 1927 Mick Cronin also won a Great Southern Railway Cup medal with Munster.
In 1928 Tipperary won the first round of the championship against Limerick, getting four goals 'in a dash' in the second-half. Mick Cronin got Tipperary's final goal which gave them a victory of two points. In a poor display in the second round at Thurles they were beaten by Clare. In the following year Tipperary reversed the verdict in the first round against Clare but went down to Cork at Cork in the semi-final. According to "Carbery": 'The hurling was fierce but not foul, a struggle without poisoned gas. Men crashed into one another. One, two, three, four men went down in sequence. Virile manhood was manifested in all its power and glory. Willie Gleeson, the referee, knew his men well and let them flake away. . . . ' Some of the greatest tussles then and again were between Mick Cronin and Jim Regan, (also recently deceased, R.I.P.)
1930 was the highpoint of Mick Cronin's hurling career when he won an All-Ireland medal. While his Junior Hurling All-Ireland medal was won on 13 March the first round of the championship in 1930 was on 13 July against Waterford at Dungarvan. Tipperary lead at halftime and early in the second half a scuffle took place between the two captains and referee, Sean Og Murphy, sent both off. The Waterford captain refused to go and the crowd invaded the pitch. After order was restored the game was about to restart when Waterford suddenly left the field. According to the report on the game 'Cronin was also in fine fettle and, up to the time when he was forced, through an injury, to retire, was responsible for much of Tipperary's lead'. Tipperary were awarded the game.
Clare were favourites for the Munster final, having disposed of Cork but Tipperary were triumphant by 6-4 to 2-8 on a day that Cronin had a particularly fine game especially in the second half. It was a victory for 'the old dash of Tipperary'. In the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway at Birr there was a continuous downpour. Tipperary won well and Cronin, who had a good game throughout, 'scored a beautiful goal from an awkward angle'.
The final was against Dublin with John Joe Callanan captain. Before 22,000 people 'it was a fiercely contested struggle, grim and determined hurling rather than brilliant or classic'. "The forward line had a stiff proposition to tackle. Kennedy, Callanan and Cronin were well marked and the result was that a considerable number of their efforts went wide." Tipperary won 2-7 to 1-3. There was great and widespread jubilation. The team got an invitation to visit the United States. Cashel poet, Francis Phillips, composed a poem for the occasion, the last stanza of which went;
Some thought that Knocknagow was gone
And ashen handles stout and strong,
That brawn and bone lived but in song,
Like tales of Ghost and Fairy.
'Me Sowl' we're there like Slievenamon,
The Tipperary team eventually went to the U.S. on 8 September, 1931. Mick Cronin played in the League games at the end of 1930 and the beginning of 1931. We find him playing with the National University selection against the All-Ireland champions in April 1931. He played in a tournament in London in May and had 'a rattling good game' against Cork in the League on 31 May. He won the first round of the championship against Limerick. Early in June he won a Thomond Feis medal against Cork. (This was his third medal in this competition, the other two having been won in 1927 and 1930). Before the semi-final of the championship against Cork on 26 July, the following portrait of Cronin appeared in the Tipperary Star'. It gives a good picture of the man at his prime.
'Michael is the son of a Kerryman and a cousin of Jerry Beckett, Cork, the famous sprinter. Michael first made his appearance on the 1926 Junior All-Ireland team and since then his head of bushy black hair has been conspicuous in all Tipperary's outings. He played with the inter-provincial team in 1927. Michael's position is centre-forward behind Kennedy. He is noted as a tough hurler and has probably broken more enemy hurleys than any other man on the Tipperary team'.
Sadly for Michael Tipperary were beaten 3-5 to 2-3 before a record crowd. Mick Cronin was one of the panel of twenty players, Captain Johnny Leahy, County Chairman, Fr Meagher and Diocesan Examiner Fr Lee, who made up the Tipperary party for the U.S. Tour, which was to last almost nine weeks. All efforts to secure permission from the Department of Education to travel failed but he went anyway. Thirty-five thousand people saw the first game in New York and, for the second, before twenty thousand 'On the Irish (sic) forward line Cronin and Callanan were well in the spotlight'. At Chicago 'Michael Cronin had the scoring honours for the visitors registering two goals'. And in the final game at New York 'Leahy, Treacy, Kennedy and Cronin were dominant'. Mick Cronin continued to play for Tipperary until 1935, with the exception of 1932 when Toomevara had the selection and picked eleven of their own team, excluding Cronin among others. In 1933 Tipperary were beaten by Waterford in the championship and by Cork in 1934. He continued to play for Lorrha until 1938.
He was also an outstanding handballer. In fact all the eight boys of the Cronins were keen exponents of the game. They had fierce contests at the local alley before large crowds. There is mention of his name at a meeting held during the second half of 1921 to revive and reorganise handball in North Tipperary. Rody Nealon told me that whenever he met Cronin at Nenagh it was always to the alley they went where they spent hours at play.
Mick was also a delegate from Lorrha for many years in the twenties and thirties to Divisional and County Conventions. In 1932 he was appointed a delegate to the All-Ireland Congress. In the voting at the County Convention he got the sixth highest vote and was elected. At the North Convention in 1930 he was appointed a referee though I'm not sure if he used this new qualification too often.
Many times he was requested to become a selector in his club but all requests were in vain. He went to matches, formed his opinions and recognised what talent was available and was always willing to share his point of view if he were asked for it.
After his playing days were over he continued to attend matches. But as time went on his attendances were fewer, not because of any declining interest but because of his new interest in politics. He was one of the early members of Clann na Poblachta and fought two elections on their behalf. He did very well in 1948 coming close to election an, less well in 1954. He was first elected t, the County Council in September 1951 and remained a member until 1967. He was well got by all who knew him in politics and was noted for his loyalty. He was a member of the Library Committe and the Vocational Education Committee. His family- he married Madge Hoctor of Sharragh in 1938 and had three children, Clare, Felix and Mairead, who was tragically drowned in 1954- relate how avid a reader he was and how he enjoyed his membership of the Library Committee. He was a great racing enthusiast with a day at the races his idea of relaxation.
Mick Cronin was a man we all looked up to. He was an outspoken man who feared neither friend or foe. He was also a well-informed man whose opinion was respected not only on the subject of hurling but on a wide variety of subjects. Two incidents are related of his outspokenness on the American Tour. One related to Fr Lee, who was inclined to upbraid the players occasionally about their behaviour in public places. He was taken to task by Mick Cronin. On another occasion a cup, won in Chicago was presented to Phil Cahill because it had been sponsored by his brother. When the team got back to their hotel Cronin called them together and had the cup presented to the rightful man. He was a very strong hurler who gave his all to to the game. Whenever Lorrha were in trouble with G.A.A. officialdom or had an objection to make Mick Cronin was called in to present their case. We were all aware that it would be presented well because he was a very able man. We all believed, and rightly, that he could hold his own with anyone and that, if anything was to be gained, he would get it. May he rest in peace.