Borrisoleigh's Three County Senior Titles in the Eighties

County Hurling Final program, October 18, 2009


On this day we honour the Borrisoleigh teams who became county senior hurling champions in 1981, 1983 and 1986. The eighties were a great time for the club and when they won the county final in 1981 they were returing to the winners enclosure in senior hurling for the first time in twenty-eight years.

There were seven teams in the North senior hurling championship in 1981 and it was run on a league basis with six games for each team and the top four qualifying for the semi-finals. Borrisoleigh defeated Kilruane-MacDonaghs by 2-12 to 2-7 at Nenagh on August 8, and Roscrea defeated Lorrha by 3-10 to 2-10 at Borrisokane on the day after. In the final at Nenagh on September 27, Borrisoleigh toppled the champions, Roscrea, on a day when the ball was thrown in by the famous Tipperary full-forward, Martin Kennedy. 

Already the quarter-finals had been played at Thurles on August 30. Borrisoleigh defeated West champions, Eire Óg by 2-19 to 1-7, and went on to overcome Moycarkey-Borris by 1-15 to 3-8 in the semi-final at Templemore on October 4. Roscrea came through on the other side of the draw so that the two sides met in the final at Thurles on October 25. Borrisoleigh repeated the North result, on a scoreline of 1-14 to 0-12, to take their first county final since 1953.

The victorious side was: Owen Walsh, Michael Ryan, T. F. Stapleton, Timmy Stapleton (capt.), Timmy Delaney, Gerry Stapleton, Francis Spillane, Timmy Ryan, Pat Ryan, Brendan Kenny, Bobby Ryan, Noel O'Dwyer, Michael Coen, Tommy O'Dwyer, Pat Kavanagh.

Great Euphoria

There was tremendous euphoria in the parish as a result of the victory and one of the biggest ever receptions was afforded to the team on their return to the town. However, the jubilation of the victory came to an abrupt end at Waterford six days later when they were beaten by Mount Sion, 2-12 to 0-12, in the first round of the Munster club championship.

Borrisoleigh appeared to be returning to their old ways in 1982 when they were defeated in the first round of the North championship by Silvermines. However, they returned to the kind of form, that had brought success in 1981, the following year. Seven teams affiliated in the 1983 North championship with the semi-finals played at Nenagh on July 24. Lorrha defeated Kilruane-MacDonaghs by 2-9 to 2-8, and Borrisoleigh defeated Eire Óg by 2-15 to 1-10. In the North final at Nenagh on August 14, Borrisoleigh defeated Lorrha by 1-11 to 2-6.

In the county quarter-final at Holycross on August 28, Borrisoleigh were convincing winners over Eire Óg, Ballingarry on a scoreline of 1-14 to 0-6. Because of the re-development of Semple Stadium, it wasn't possible to play the semi-finals or finals there, and Borrisoleigh were severely tested before defeating Moycarkey-Borris by 1-13 to 1-12 at Cashel on September 25. The final was played at the same venue on October 30. Their opponents were Loughmore-Castleiney and nine members of the respective panels were members of Templemore C.B.S. All-Ireland Colleges champions team in 1978. The former school colleagues were rivals at Cashel and Borrisoleigh triumphed by three points, on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-11.

The winning side was as follows: Owen Walsh, Mick Ryan, T. F. Stapleton, Timmy Delaney, Richard Stakelum. Gerry Stapleton, Noelie Maher, Timmy Ryan, John McGrath, Philip Kenny, Bobby Ryan, Aidan Ryan, Mick Coen, Timmy Stapleton, Noel O'Dwyer (capt.)*.

*Frank Spillane was team captain but didn't play on the day because of injury. Vice-captain, Noel O'Dwyer, substituted on the field but Frank came in to receive the trophy from county chairman, Mick Frawley, after the game.

Beaten in Replay

The winners were better prepared for the Munster club championship on this occasion. They had a bye in the first round and defeated Patrickswell by 2-6 to 0-11 at Kilmallock in the semi-final. In the final against Midleton at the same venue two weeks later, the Cork champions grabbed a draw with a 65 in the last minute of the game on a scoreline of 1-12 to 3-6. Borrisoleigh lost the replay by 1-14 to 1-11 on December 4, although leading by four points with a number of minutes to go.

Local poet Gerard Ryan celebrated Borrisoleigh's county final victory:

Once more the premier trophy returns to Borris town.

The vanguished have retreated, the victors won renown,

But all combined in sportsmanship a heritage to uphold,

A Gaelic pastime to renew, its pleasures to unfold

On wards, onwards men of Borrisoleigh, to the year of '84

Help restore Tipp to its rightful place, standard-bearers as before.

There was little joy for Borrisoleigh in 1984. Eight teams affiliated in the North senior championship and were divided into two groups with the top two in each qualifying for the semi-finals. Borrisoleigh failed to qualify. Nine teams affiliated in 1985 and were divided into two groups. Borrisoleigh qualified for the semi-final but were badly beaten by Kilruane-MacDonaghs.

Backdoor Entry

Borrisoleigh came back with a bang in 1986. Matters didn't look so good earlier in the year when they were defeated by Kilruane, 1-15 to 0-7, in the semi-final of the North championship, played at Nenagh on July 26. It looked as this was the end of the road for them once again. Kilruane went on to defeat Toomevara in the championship final.

However, Borrisoleigh had been runners-up in the Hogan Cup, which had been given a new status that year of allowing the winners to play the runners-up in the championship for the right to represent the division as the second team in the county championship. As Kilruane were championship and league winners, Borrisoleigh gained the right to play-off with the runners-up in the championship, Toomevara. The game was played at Roscrea on August 24 and resulted in a comprehensive win for Borrisoleigh of 3-19 to 2-9.

Borrisoleigh went on to defeat Carrick Swan by 3-17 to 5-3 in the county quarter-final at Boherlahan on August 31. They beat Holycross-Ballycahill by 3-10 to 1-7 at Templemore on September 14. Their opponents in the final at Semple Stadium on September 28 were Kilruane, who had defeated them twice already and were definite favourites to do so again, On one of the warmest days ever for a county final, the game was gripping all through but Borrisoleigh were the faster, hungrier and more determined team and won by 0-14 to 0-7, a big reverse on the results in the earlier matches, 0-14 to 2-6 in the North league, and 1-15 to 0-7 in the championship. Philip Kenny was the star of the success, scoring six points in all, and many gave great credit to trainer, Paddy Doyle, for Borrisoleigh's improved performances during the year. The mascot of the Borrisoleigh team, a cock, was in attendance, under the charge of Shane Tierney.

The team was: Noel Maher, Francis Spillane, Timmy Stapleton, Mick Ryan (capt.), Richard Stakelum, Gerry Stapleton, Bobby Ryan, Timmy Ryan, Francis Collins, Aidan Ryan, Noel O'Dwyer, Conor Stakelum, Michael Coen, Philip Kenny, John McGrath.

All-Ireland Glory

Borrisoleigh had a bye to the semi-final of the Munster club championship. They played Claughaun at Limerick on November 16 and won by 2-10 to 1-9. Their opponents in the final, played at Limerick on November 30, were Clarecastle. In a very disciplined performance they defeated the Clare champions by 1-13 to 1-9, to take their first Munster club title. The champions continued their good work into the new year with a 3-16 to 3-8 victory over Ballycastle-McQuillans at Thurles on February 8. The final was played at Croke Park on March 17 with Borrisoleigh gaining victory by 2-9 to 0-9 over Rathnure. 

The winning side was as follows: Noel Maher, Francis Spillane, Timmy Stapleton, Mick Ryan (capt.), Richard Stakelum, Gerry Stapleton, Bobby Ryan, Timmy Ryan, Francis Collins, Conor Stakelum, Noel O'Dwyer, John McGrath, Mick Coen, Philip Kenny, Aidan Ryan. Sub: Brian Kenny for Timmy Ryan. The other members of the panel were John Glasheen, Philip Delaney, Pat Ryan, Seamus Devaney, John Joe Maher, John Ryan, Joe Loughnane, Timmy Delaney.

Longest-Serving Member

Noel, or Noelie, Maher, who was a member of the three victorious county teams, is the longest serving senior hurler in the club. He came on the senior panel at the age of seventeen years and finished at forty-two years, a total of twenty-five years, two more than Noel O'Dwyer. During his career he played in goals for six years and outfield for eighteen years until his retirement in 1994.

He captained Borrisoleigh in 1987 when they won the Yoplait All-Ireland Hurling Sevens. Currently he is in his tenth year as secretary of the club.

The Borrioleigh Cock

The cock is synonymous with the Borrisoleigh club and occupies a prominent place on the club crest. There are a number of stories as to its origin. One is that on achieving unity in 1948 the Borris and Ileigh players were so proud that they would strut confidently, regardless of the opposition, on to the playing field like bantam cocks. Others point to a much older origin to the days of the faction fights. In the glory days of the early fifties Paddy D'Arcy of Ileigh used to sell the team colours on match days and he used to have as his 'assistant' the cock, resplendently dressed up in the club colours. With his business for the day complete, Paddy would attend the match parading around the field with the proud and colourful cock by his side.