The Playing Fields of Lorrha
Two events in the past month or so have sparked thoughts of where Lorrha hurlers and footballers practised their skills and completed their preparations for championships and challenges against neighbouring clubs. These events were the death of Mick O'Meara of Blakefield on May 7, 2011 and the official opening of the Lorrha and Dorrha G.A.A. centre by the outstanding Tony Reddin on May 22,
The latter event completed the current development of St. Ruadhan's Park at Moatefield, which began in 1968 when renting the use of the field from Michael Killeen of Abbeyville, who had leased it from the Land Commission.
In 1970 the Lorrha club moved to purchase the field, but the Land Commission were reluctant sellers – they wanted to allocate the club a part of Shaw's Estate at Ballyoughter, Rathcabbin or a field below the National School at Redwood.
The club officials stuck to their guns and brought political pressure to bear on the Land Commission. Eventually five acres were acquired for £650, which amount was collected in one house to house collection in the parish. Trustees were appointed, including Fr. John Cleary, P.P., Paddy O'Meara, club secretary and Hubie Hogan, chairman of the North Tipperary Board, and a perimeter fence was erected. Lane's field in Carrigeen, Lordspark, opposite Lar Gleeson's, was used for 2 or 3 years while Moatfield was levelled.
In the years that followed the field was developed and dressing rooms erected. Two acres bordering the top of the field were purchased from local farmer, P. J. Mannion, for the sum of £7,000 in the nineteen-eighties. Later still further land was purchased across the road and developed into a third playing area, which caters for all sports as it is designated a community field.
Today the facilities available at St. Ruadhan's Park hold their own with the best available in the division and are a credit to the club and a tribute to the dedication and commitment of so many club members over many years.
Earlier Training Venues
The development of St. Ruadhan's Park was the culmination of a long search by the club for a permanent home. When the club transferred to Moatefield in 1968 they moved there from Blakefield, Abbeyville, where they had temporary residence for nearly a decade. This field was owned by the late Mick O'Meara. Many who played there at that period remember that John Joe Egan's dog was outstanding for finding lost sliotars, at a time when sliotars were scarce. In fact the dog was so highly appreciated that a member proposed at a club annual general meeting that the dog be rewarded for his services!
Prior to moving to Blakefield the club had spent some time in Moylan's field at the Pike. It is difficult to establish when they started there but the year 1945 has been mentioned. According to Eugene O'Meara, Fr. Paddy O'Meara was instrumental in moving there because he believed it was a more central place for training purposes. Tom Lambe has a similar story. He is convinced that the team for the 1946 county intermediate final trained in Younge's field, opposite the Nursing Home because Fr. O'Meara thought it was more central for the players involved on the team. They were there for a short time only and moved to Moylan's after that.
Before Moylan's the club was ensconced in Abbeyville from the middle of the thirties.It is generally believed that Blakefield was in use from 1934-45. Eugene O'Meara is certain that Jim Moylan's moor field near Kilcarron was also in use as a training field in the early 1930s for Abbeyville players.
Tom Lambe believes that the 1924 team trained in Reddan's of Cullagh, where O'Briens house is near the Pike. The field is on the opposite side of the road to Moylan's. Tom attended many matches in this field. Mick of the Hill has his memories of this field. He states that John Reddan 'couldn't keep a fence beside the road and he was trying to get rid of the hurlers for years. It was a lovely playing field then. So, when the County Council looked for a site he gave it to them. That still didn't shift the players. So he put horse loads of manure or top-dressing at intervals of 7 or 8 yards apart and never spread them. But the hurlers spread them over a few years! However, you couldn't have a match there so the players moved the Michael O'Meara's field in Blakefield about 1934 just across the road from John Joe Egan's house, a couple of hundred yards beyond the old railway bridge on the Cullagh Road. The club were to give him a half-ton of slag every year. Whether they kept it up or not I don't know. I doubt it. Slag was very cheap then.'
Mick continues: 'They moved down near the Pike again in the middle forties to a field across the road from the old field of John Reddan's to a field of Ger Moylan's, also Cullagh, and that's where they trained for the 1946 intermediate championship, as they had been regraded from senior the year following the bad mauling by Roscrea in 1938, 11-3 to 1-0,. A good few of the seniors had retired.'
Again, Tom Lambe is my informant and he thinks he remembers Con Sherlock telling him that the 1914 team trained in Danny Neill's, right beside the Birr road. Any confirmation?
I have found somebody to tell me where the 1905 team trained! According to Paddy O'Meara the team trained in 'Goosie Island' (O'Meara's of Curragha) just at the top of the New Line road, backing Kennedy's and King's houses. Several senior and junior championship games were played there in the early days of the Association. (This may also have been the venue for the trial game for the North Tipperary team to play South Galway, organised by Frank Moloney of Nenagh in January 1886. This game was played in the Phoenix Park on February 9 and won by North Tipperary. The silver cup they won became the property of Silvermines Parish later.)
Mick O'Meara was at a match in Goosie Island between Lorrha and Borrisokane in 1932. Lorrha had two county hurlers playing that day, Tom Duffy and Mick Cronin. The biggest gate of the championship, £27-10.0, was taken. It amounted to six and a half percent of the total gate receipts of the year by the North board. The 'Private' O'Meara played with Borrisokane that year while his brother Bill played with Lorrha. The final score was 1-6 to 2-2 in favour of Borrisokane. Lorrha got three close-in frees near the end of the game. Mick Cronin took the first two and drove them wide. When the third was given Tom Duffy called the length of the field from his full-back position that he would take it. He came the length of the field but drove it wide and Lorrha lost by a point! The following year Borrisokane went on to win their only North senior championship title.
Other Places Where Hurling was Played
There were other fields all over the parish which were used by locals in the days when transport was at a premium. In the fifties training used to be done in Palmer's field in the front of John Joe Madden's, Grange.
About the same time training was held at Gleeson's Cross. Other places in the Lordspark area were Lane's field, Pat Molloy's field and Houlihan's at Coolross Cross
In the mid-nineteen-twenties there was a parish league and Redwood had a team. The team practised in a field in front of Hogan's house (Cahalan's) in Ballymacegan every Sunday and it was possible to see as many as forty men playing with everything from a hurley to a crooky stick.
Clarke's field, beside Milne's Pub, was the more usual place for practice by the Redwood hurlers Some time in the late thirties a group of lads from Tirnascragh came across the Shannon one Sunday and, after their fill in Milne's Pub, went out to Clerk's field to play Redwood. During the game one of the Tirnascragh players hit Michael O'Meara, who was a clerical student, on the head. There was a bit of a row and the incident put an end to hurling there. Mick O'Meara (the Hill) recalls refereeing a match there in 1941.
Other places used in Redwood were the Shannon Callow down by Crean's and Neill's field at Grange
At Ballincor Loughmane's Field (later O'Donoghue's) was used. Johnny Larkin's field, opposite Curragha Cross, was used every summer for years in the 1940s and 1950s
In the Abbeyville area as well as Blakefield, Tim Heenan's of Lisernane and Quinlan's of Kilgask were used. There was a junior team in Abbeyville in the late 1930s. Paddy Gardiner was honorary secretary. He wrote a letter to Dan Donoghue, Derry, hon.sec. of the Lorrha Club, giving him notice that Abbeyville had acquired the use of Michael O'Meara's field at Blakefield for the following year and wished that the Lorrha Club would procure one elsewhere! According to Mick of the Hill Donoghue broke his heart laughing at the request. He had the letter worn out bringing it around in his pocket and reading it out for everyone. It had no effect whatsoever.
At Carrigahorig as well as (Hough's Field) Sammon's there was Carew's (Kilfada & Kilregane.) Mick of the Hill has memories of games in Carrigahorig. He recalls: 'We would have football games through the winter in our own field in Roughan. We used to play a team from Carrigahorig. We played in a field above the village on the Fortmoy road beside the river. I remember Des Donoghue and Bill Rigney clashed beside the river and Rigney shoved Donoghue into the water, but Donoghue held on to Rigney and pulled him in after him. They both climbed out and shook themselves and played away. Willie Russell, who organised the team, worked at Sammon's Pub.'
Mick O'Meara continues with his memories: 'The first championship match I attended was in Carrigahorig between Lorrha and Cloughjordan in the 1924 North championship. Lorrha won the championship that year. Cloughjordan had black and white vertically striped jerseys, although Fr. White, author of the Kilruane club history, said that the colours were Black and Amber. I told him they were black and white but he wouldn't listen to me.'
There was a team called Ballea in the late 1920s. They used to play a team from Graigue in Walsh's field in Coolross, which Tom Lambe has now. The return match would be in Graigue. Mick of the Hill, along with a few others, walked from Roughan to Graigue for the game. 'When we arrived in Graigue we were told the venue was changed to Derrylahan. So we set out for it and we found it was about a mile up from the road at the back of Duffy's, but we got there. Ballea won and it didn't go down too well with some of the Graigue supporters.'
The oldest reference to hurling in Redwood is taken from a letter to the editor of the 'Irish World', a U.S. Paper, on September 15, 1888. Signed by a Galwayman, it had this to say: 'Many readers of the 'Irish World', residing in this country (the U.S.), can call up pleasant memories of hard-fought games some 30 or 40 years ago between the men of Tipperary and Galway on the verdant sod of Shannon's banks, stretching from Portumna to Meelick, having for a background the ancient Castle of Redwood, standing out in bold relief against the green hillsides of noble Tipperary.' The matches were probably on both sides of the Shannon but we have no information as to the actual field they were played in at Redwood. At any rate the reference suggests there were stirring games there around the time of the Famine. It raises the question of the effect the Famine had in the Lorrha area.
Where championship games were played in the parish
1900 In the early part of the century there was a match in Hoctor's field (now Brown'e 7 acres) in Redwood between Redwood and Portumna. There was a big crowd at it and Jack Lambe, Tom Kennedy, the Creans, Larry Guinan, Paddy and Anthony Sommerville, the Sammons, James Kennedy and the Walshes of Ballymacegan played that day. After the match the crowd went up across Moatfield bog for porter.
There was another game played in Redwood in the twenties when the locals played the Pike in Loughnane's callow field. The field was as bare as a road and it was a great game.
1910 Toomevara won their first North title in 1910, beating Roscrea in the final played at Rathcabbin on October 8. On the same day they defeated Lorrha in the junior final. According to Tom Lambe the field was down Ballyoughter Lane, known as the 'Pea Field' and owned by Issac O'Meara.
1922 Games were played at Carrigahoig in this and other years. The 1922 final between Toomevara and Borrisokane may have been played there in Sammon's field.
Bracken's field in Rathcabbin was used as a venue for interclub games.
The first match Mick O'Meara of the Hill was at was a tournament in Coonan's field in Rathcabbin, now owned by Basil Kelly, on the Bonahum Road.
Coolderry won a set of medals in 1923 in Molloy's field, Rathcabbin
Other matches were played in Reilly's fields opposite Coolross Cross. One such game was played there against St. Vincent's, Dublin on Easter Sunday 1947. There were great expectations for the game but it took place in 'a miniature gale with short penetrating showers' and only 200 people turned up. St. Vincent's won by 2-0 to 1-2 and the Lorrha team was: T. Reddin, J. Brown, D. O'Donoghue, H. Hogan (capt.), J. O'Meara, T. Lambe, E. O'Meara, T. Ryan, D. O'Meara, B. O'Donoghue, M. O'Meara, M. O'Donoghue, P. Guinan, M. Brophy, J. Sullivan. It was Tony Reddin's first game for Lorrha
1932 O'Meara's field near the top of the New Line road was used for matches in 1932-33
1939 and later Mahon's field in Lorrha was used for divisional junior matches. One of my earliest memories of one of these matches, in 1947 approximately, was observing the bundles of the players' clothes placed along the ditch where they had togged out. They were folded tidy and regular and still remain vividly in my mind
1939 Borrisokane defeated Lorrha junior hurlers in Fitzpatrick's field, Abbeyville and Eugene O'Meara remembers the team that lined our for Lorrha that day: Joe Gardiner, Josie O'Meara, Joe Bergin, Matt Cahalan, John O'Meara (C), Peter Coughlan, Hubie Hogan, Ned Waters, Syl King, Johnny Deely, Mick Brophy, Seamus O'Meara, Pat Coughlan, Jimmy O'Meara (D), Billy Abbott.
1941 Lorrha made their first appearance in the football championship against Shannon Rovers in Mike Sammon's field in Carrigahorig. They were beaten by 0-5 to 0-3 after a robust game. On the same day there was a second game between Carrigahorig and Borrisokane, who were much too strong for the home side and won by 3-4 to no score.