Tom Lambe (1918-2016)

Appreciation, Nenagh Guardian, Dec 2016

The death last week of Tom Lambe severs another link with the great Lorrha senior hurling team of 1948 that won the North divisional title that year before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill in the county final.

My earliest memory of the man goes back to a summer's day in 1948 or 1949 when I was bringing home a load of turf from Redwood bog.  I had a full load of black, stone turf and I was sitting on the top of the creel driving the horse and following my father who was on the front load.  As we were passing Lambe's, or Bill Kennedy's house as it was still called, Tom came out and stopped us.  He had a hurley in his hand and handed it up to me: 'Take that, it should suit you', he said, or something to that effect.

It was the first decent hurley stick I ever had.  It made a strong impression on me because I can recall the occasion nearly seventy years later as vividly as on the day.  I can see us stopping, Tom coming out and reaching the hurley up to me.  I don't remember what went before or after, the filling of the load in the bog or throwing it into the shed later.  It was a special moment in my life and the sun was shining also.

I suppose it wasn't only the hurl that made the occasion special but the man from whom it came.  Tom was a special player on that Lorrha team that won the county intermediate title of 1946 and was regraded senior.
Promising at an Early Age
According to Eugene O'Meara, who was a few years younger than Tom and attended Lorrha school, Tom was the star hurler in the parish as a juvenile. He was head and shoulders over all around him and dominated the middle of the field. There were no interclub juvenile competitions at the time and Lorrha didn't enter a minor competition until 1941. The result was that Tom had no platform outside the parish to show off his hurling skills.
Tom went to primary school at Redwood Castle, where the school was located at that time and his passing sees the last of the pupils of that school to die. The school was abandoned in 1926 for a new one at Kilmurray, which was situated halfway between the Castle and the current school.
He remembered the teachers as being fond of the stick but hurling made him forget the worst aspects of life as a schoolboy. There was a bit of a field in the front of the school where the boys played at lunch time and after school as well. They organised games among themselves. Tom remembers the great amount of talent at the time with the Sullivans, Kennedys, Brownes, Lambs and Guinans. They had no difficulty getting a team together. Major (He wasn't a real major but given the title because of his fine physique) Sammon, a farmer up the road, who had much more interest in hurling than in farming, used to come to the school to referee their games. Games were also organised with the other schools in the parish and played on a Sunday afternoon. Tom recalls that they beat Rathcabbin and Lorrha schools for three years running. They had to negotiate a venue for the games with some farmer, usually halfway between the schools. Paddy Sullivan's field in the Lordspark was a venue for one of the games with Rathcabbin. They had no jerseys to wear and used a variety of hurleys, from crooked stick to the real thing.
Also an Athlete
Tom was a noted athlete as well. Like many in those years he took up cross-country running during the winter. There’s a lovely picture of him with the Lorrha cross-country team that became the county champions in 1944. He was lean and fit and remained so to the end of his life. When he turned 90 years he complained to me that he had pains in his legs and when I said to him that he shouldn’t expect anything else at his age, he didn’t agree. He was always fit and agile and saw to reason why he shouldn’t continue so.

Tom played senior hurling with Lorrha from 1938 to 1951. Ironically he got a call-up for the county trial the same year and went to Ennis for a match against Clare, but was never called off the bench. Seven-a-Side tournaments were all the rage during his hurling years and he was always an automatic choice on the Lorrha side.

As well as being a good hurler, Tom had a high level of fitness that resulted from life on the farm but also a life style that excluded smoking and drinking. He was always lean and hard, a formidable opponent and a courageous player, who stood back from nothing.

Tom was one of the 1948 team to live to a great age. Tony Reddin passed away in March 2015 at 96 years. Billy Hogan will be 94 next birthday. Eugene O’Meara will be 95 next year and the oldest of them all, Michael O’Meara, will reach the century the next birthday he celebrates!