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<span class="postTitle">It's a Long Long Way to Tipperary</span> Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 12th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty, August 24, 2014, pp 54-58

It's a Long Way to Tipperary

Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 12th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty, August 24, 2014, pp 54-58

We're all familiar with this marching song that became such a hit in the First World War and that the young soldiers of the Connaught Rangers sang as they headed to the Western Front in August 1914. It was to become one of the defining symbols of the war.

What isn't so well known is the name of the man who wrote it five years earlier, Harry Williams, from Warwickshire, who was born in Erdington, Birmingham in 1873 and spent his childhood living in pubs run by his parents, Henry and Mary.

As a schoolboy he fell down the cellar steps in one pub, breaking both legs and putting him in a wheelchair. Unable to play in the streets with his friends, Harry developed a talent for songwriting. Then, at around the turn of the century, he met a man called Jack Judge at his brother's pub, The Malt Shovel, in Oldbury, West Midlands and they began writing songs together.

As a team they wrote about 32 songs in total. Jack was a great singer and Harry was a musician. One of the songs was a ballad, It's a Long Way to Connemara, which Jack regularly performed at concerts. However, it was to be another three years before the song took final shape.

A keen gambler, Jack was set a a five-shilling challenge to compose and perform a song within twenty-four hours at the New Market Inn in Stalybridge, Cheshire. The smart Jack simply changed 'Connemara' to 'Tipperary', winning the bet and delighting his audience with the catchy 'new' song.

Bert Feldman, a London music impresario, heard about the song and within months had released the sheet music with a small but important change. He told the pair that Tipperary wouldn't be a hit unless they made it into a marching song and added an extra 'long'. The change was made, the song was published and the rest is history.

 

The Connaught Rangers

A Connaught Rangers captain, Dryden, is reputed to have heard an itinerant busker playing the song in Galway and encouraged his troops to sing it during marches. On August 13, 1914, Daily Mail journalist, George Curnock, stood on the steps of the Hotel Metrople, Boulogne to watch the British troops march past on their way to the front. The Connaught Rangers sang a song he had never heard before and, in addition to its rousing tune and the pathos of its words, undoubtedly what fixed the song in his memory was the words of a French soldier's widow, who had stood silent beside him from the beginning of the parade.

As the troops marched past singing It's aLong Way to Tipperary, the widow turned to Curnock and asked him what they were singing. He explained and translated the words for her and she replied emotionally: 'Oh! The poor boys! . . . A long, long way' . . . they do not know how long is the way they are going . . . how long – how long!' No doubt the poignancy of the words caused her to think of her late husband's death and the fact that many of these brave young men would undoubtedly soon join him.

Other soldiers in the war carried the song home with them and it became widely popular around the world. Harry Williams and Jack Judge earned £1,680, the equivalent to more than £150,000 today, from sales of Tipperary in the 12 months after its release.

Harry eventually became sole rights holder. Jack was a gambler and owed money to Harry and rather than pay them he gave away his rights to Tipperary. When Harry heard of the success of the song he donated £1,000 to the Great War Injured Beneficiary Fund.

 

Harry Williams' Role Restored

However, when Harry died from pneumonia at 50 years in March 1924, his role in one of the nation's most famous songs all but died with him.

His great-niece, Meg Pybus, has spent a lot of time in restoring Harry to his rightful place as the writer of the song. According to her his part in the song was quickly forgotten about. Jack took all the credit for writing it and it became his song. Because he sang it everybody just assumed that he wrote it too.

Meg eventually decided to launch a campaign to have Harry's part in writing Tipperary officially recognised. Together with her family they put together an enormous amount of material and sent it to the Imperial War Museum. Having studied it the Museum wrote letters to Harry's family saying they recognised his role in the song. It was in 2012 that the family got formal recognition that he wrote the song. Before them he was just recognised as the rights-holder.

It's a Long Way toTipperary is now the longest-earning song in musical history, even raking in cash from ringtones and YouTube. Though copyright expires seventy years after a composer's death in Britain, Meg Pybus still receives a one-eighth share of the royalties, about £4,000 a year.

The royalties come from all over the world. According to Meg the rights passed on to her grandfather when Harry died, then on to her mother and her sisters, and now through to the cousins. The cheques come every six months. 'It's everything from ringtones, cruise ship performances, YouTube and jukeboxes. The individual amounts are absolutely tiny, but when they are all added up it comes to quite a sum.'

 

Place of Origin

Arguments continue over where the song was written, with the residents of Honiley, where Harry lived with his parents in the Plough Inn, and Oldbury, where Jack Judges's brother owned the Malt Shovel at loggerheads to this day.

According to Meg, her grandfather and other relatives always said it was the Plough Inn. Harry lived there from 1900 until he died. She states that his name is on all the original sheet music, so there is no doubt about it. Jack Judge's family claim it was written by him in the Malt Shovel but, as far as Meg is concerned it was in the Plough. She remembers going to her grandfather's house as a child and Tipperarywas always being played. 'I grew up with the song.'

The Plough Inn was renamed The Tipperary Inn in Harry's honour in the 1940s and remains a shrine to the famous song to this day.
The final word goes to Meg: 'It's a terribly sad song in many ways, given the connotations attached to it nowadays. It's a strange story, because if it wasn't for that bet in Stalybridge or the outbreak of war, the song would never have become popular.'

The song's enduring popularity is reflected in the fact that in the last 100 years it is estimated that three million copies have been sold in the USA and another five million around the world.

 

It's A Long Way To Tipperary

Chorus
It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long, long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know.
Goodbye Piccadilly,
Farewell Leicester Square,
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart lies there.
Up to mighty London came
An Irish lad one day,
All the streets were paved with gold,
So everyone was gay!
Singing songs of Piccadilly,
Strand, and Leicester Square,
'Til Paddy got excited and
He shouted to them there:
Chorus
Paddy wrote a letter
To his Irish Molly O',
Saying, "Should you not receive it,
Write and let me know!
If I make mistakes in spelling,
Molly dear", said he,
"Remember it's the pen, that's bad,
Don't lay the blame on me".
Chorus
Molly wrote a neat reply
To Irish Paddy O',
Saying, "Mike Maloney wants
To marry me, and so
Leave the Strand and Piccadilly,
Or you'll be to blame,
For love has fairly drove me silly,
Hoping you're the same!"
Chorus

<span class="postTitle">A History of Hurling: Our National Game</span> Talk given at hurling seminar in Muckross Schoolhouse, Killarney on April 26, 2014

A History of Hurling: Our National Game 

Talk given at hurling seminar in Muckross Schoolhouse, Killarney on April 26, 2014

 

This the title I have been given for this talk but it's such a broad subject that I have to limit myself to a selection of significant developments in the course of that history, developments which changed its course. And, even though most of you are interested in the cut and thrust of the modern game and the prospects of your favourite county in the 2014 championship, I believe you may be also interested in how we got to this stage.

The game is arguably the oldest field game in the world and as such is a national treasure and should be protected and preserved in the same way as World Heritage Sites of cultural and physical significance are identified and protected by UNESCO.

Michael Cusack was one of the first to recognise the decline in the game of hurling and the need to protect it in the 1880s. He may have been late coming to the realisation but once he did he made a huge effort to revive a dying game.

The earliest recorded reference to the game of hurling stretches back to the Battle of Moytura in 1272 B.C. No information exists on the kind of game played at that time or if it had any similarity to the modern game. The earliest references we have come from Medieval sources but they are not specific to hurling. They refer to field games of the stick and ball variety and probably contain within them the origins of hurling.

 

What do the sources tell us about the field games played?

The Táin Bó Cúailnge saga refers to the exploits of Cuchulainn on his way to Emain.  He uses a lorg áne, which means a 'driving-stick', which has many similarities to the shepherd's staff. Later it is referred to as a cammán. It appears as if any kind of timber could be used for the driving-stick or cammán.

Balls are often mentioned in the medieval sources and the materials used were wood, leather and hair. A curious practice of removing the brains of slain opponents, mixing them with lime to harden them, and forming balls for use in games is a regular feature of the saga literature.

The settings for medieval field games were usually the neighbouring greens of a fort or enclosure. Assemblies and fairs were also frequent settings for the games. Strands were also used and Ventry features in one account.

The game that Cuchulainn played is described as cluichi puill, or the hole game. The hero stands at one end of the field defending a hole into which the boys attempt to cast or strike their 'thrice-fifty' balls. Reads more like golf than hurling.

The duration or completion of a field game is never stated. In some cases it appears that the game lasted until a goal was scored. But that had its drawbacks as one 'driving contest' mentioned lasted an agonising three days and nights, as neither side was able to score a goal.

The game was predominantly played by young men and boys. When a boy was fostered between the ages of seven and fourteen years he was provided with a cammán. References to games suggest numbers as high as 100-150 playing, or maybe as many as turned up. Cuchulainn comes up against 150 opponents.

Finally, the game was well protected by the laws. Injuries received in games could not be prosecuted. However, hurlers sometimes annoyed the public. St. Fechín of Fore was disturbed at his prayers by the noise of children 'driving' on the nearby green. Frustrated, the saint approaches the boys, telling them to go and drown themselves in the lake, whereupon their souls would be free to ascend to heaven!

Some kind of  hurling game developed from the medieval  and by the eighteenth century it had taken some recognised shape. However, our knowledge of the game is not very specific. The game was adopted by the plantation owners towards the end of the seventeenth century and they gave it the leadership and protection it required. An example is the Cosby family in Co. Laois.

 

A Hurling Landlord

The Cosbys were an Elizabethan family that settled in Stradbally, Co. Laois in 1563.  The first of the line was notorious for his cruelty to the Irish. A descendant of his was Dudley Cosby, who died in 1729. His son, Pole, wrote thus about him in his autobiography: ‘He danced on the ropes as well as any rope dancer that ever was. He was a fine tennis and five player, a most extraordinary fine hurler and very fond of all those things, and practised them very much when he was young and able.’

Dudley Cosby and Nicholas Purcell of Loughmore would have been contemporaries, and the distance between Stradbally and Templemore is not very great. It is conceivable that they had a contest between their estate teams, with a hefty wager on the winner!

This period is known as the Golden Age of Hurling, which may come as a surprise to many, but it didn't last and its decline was rapid

 

Decline in Hurling

Hurling began to decline towards the end of the 18th century and gathered pace during the following century. The cause of this decline had to do with the changing relationship between the landlords and the people, which led to the former abandoning their patronage of the game.  There were a number of reasons for this development.

It was part of a European phenomenon of the abandonment of popular culture by the nobility.  One commentator describes it thus: ‘The nobles were adopting more ‘polished’ manners, a new and more self-conscious style of behaviour, modelled on the courtesy books . . . Noblemen were learning to exercise self-control, to behave with a studied nonchalance, to cultivate a sense of style and to move in a dignified manner as if engaging in a formal dance . . . Noblemen stopped eating in the great halls with their retainers and withdrew into separate dining-rooms . . .  They stopped wrestling with their peasants, as they used to do in Lombardy, and they stopped killing bulls in public as they used to do in Spain. The noblemen learned to speak and write ‘correctly’ according to formal rules and to avoid technical terms and the dialect words used by craftsmen and peasants.’

Mixing with retainers in a game of hurling was no longer possible; even riding up and down the playing field wielding a whip during the game,  keeping the yokels in check. was no longer the done thing. Placing wagers and sharing the barrel of ale after the game would be completely detrimental to the new image.

Another reason for the change was that such gatherings for games of hurling, as advertised in the newspapers, might be suspected of seditious undertones in the changing political climate of the last years of the century,  This had come about as a result of Whiteboy activity and later the United Irishmen and the Rising of 1798.  The developments in Wexford and the south-east destroyed the political relationship between landlord and tenant and they also led to the great slaughter of thousands of men of hurling age.  The Act of Union and the Napoleonic Wars altered the way of life of many landlords, turning them into absentees and bringing to an end the great days of barony hurling and landlord patronage.

 

Further Decline in 19th Century

The decline mentioned above continued into the 19th century.  There was the continued withdrawal by the landlords from social involvement with their tenants and the common people, covering the areas of language, manners, attitudes and pastimes.  The expanding  population began to seem a threat to the security of the landlords.

Another factor was the spread of Sunday observance.  Gradually the Catholic Church adopted the sabbatarianism of the Protestant churches and began to frown on games on Sunday as something frivolous and a waste of time as well as being occasions for drunkenness, debauchery and sin. As a result the clergy, who might have taken on the leadership role abandoned by the landlords, left the people to fend for themselves.

The Great Famine was a disaster for the national pastimes. The decline in national morale and the destruction of rural society in many areas caused a dramatic decline in traditional pastimes.  Twenty years after the event, one commentator recalled the effect of the Famine on the ordinary people: ‘Their ancient sports and pastimes everywhere disappeared and in many parts . . . have never returned.  The outdoor games, the hurling match . . . are seen no more.’

Emigration added to the plight of the game so that by the last quarter of the century hurling had almost disappeared.  This was one commentator’s description of the state of the game in 1883: ‘The most of the hurlers are now beyond the Atlantic wave and the remainder go whistling vacantly around the roads at home. Our schoolboys have permanently settled down to cricket, and our farmers’ sons no longer interest themselves in the rounding of the boss or the feel of the hockey.’

 

The Popularity of Cricket

In his letter accepting the invitation to become a patron of the new Gaelic Athletic Association, Archbishop Croke  expressed his fear of the spread of ‘such foreign and fantastic field sports’ as lawn tennis, polo, croquet, cricket and the like’ in Irish life. For him these imports were taking over from ‘our own grand national sports.’

In his book on cricket in Tipperary, Patrick Bracken, provides plenty of evidence that Croke’s fears were not fanciful but that cricket was the leading sport in terms of playing numbers from the late 1860s to the early 1880s. The spread of cricket was to be halted by the Land Wars, the absence of a league structure but most importantly by the foundation of the G.A.A.

The first cricket club was formed at Carrick-on-Suir in 1834 and it was followed by other clubs in Nenagh, Clonmel, Templemore and Cahir. At this stage the game was very much a minority one between British settlers, landlords and the army, but it was to become much more popular from the 1860s onwards.

Bracken shows that Tipperary had at least 29 teams in 1868 and the number was to reach 43 by the middle of the 1870s. Schools took up the game and many of the rural teams were typically tenant-farmer based. This successful development of the game was to be halted by the efforts of the Gaelic Athletic Association to restore ‘our own grand national sports’ and the introduction of the G.A.A. ‘ban’ in 1902 was to be the death knell of cricket.
 

The Perilous State of Hurling

Michael Cusack was the man who better recognised the perilous state of the game of hurling than anyone else at the end of the 19th century. Born into an Irish-speaking family in Carron, Co. Clare in September 1847, he grew up to be a strong athletic young man and played most of the sports of the day.  He became a teacher in Dublin and later opened his own school, the Civil Service Academy in Gardiner’s Place. He was to make an impression on the young James Joyce, appearing as ‘the football fellow in the knickerbockers’, in Stephen Hero, as ‘Michael Cusack the Gael’ in The Portrait of the Artist, caricatured with the figure ‘The Citizen’ in Ulysses and referred to as ‘Sir Micholas de Cusack’ in Finnegan’s Wake.

From his participation in Irish athletics he came to deplore the exclusiveness which debarred workmen from competing.  As a result of meeting Pat Nally, a leading nationalist and athlete, Cusack set out to reform Irish athletics.  Later, he was to turn his mind to hurling. ‘In my dreams I was living with the men of Erin of pre-christian times.  In spirit I hunted and fished with Fionn’s invincible hosts from Antrim to Kerry. I hurled with the Fianna of sixteen centuries ago from Tara to Killarney. I resolved to bring back the hurling.’

In December 1882 he founded the Dublin Hurling Club. Hurling, of a sort, had been played in Dublin for some time.  There was even and Irish Hurley Union in the city which had at least 14 clubs.  But Hurley was not Hurling. It was a refined version of the ancient Irish game that persisted in scattered area throughout the country.

Increasingly, Cusack came to the conclusion that Hurley was no substitute for the real thing. His first effort to revive true Irish Hurling by founding the Dublin Hurling Club, failed. His second attempts, with the Academy Hurling Club and the Metropolitan Club, were more successful.  The Metropolitans became a great success and Cusack, who had formed the club ‘to test the pulse of the nation’ stepped up his mission to revive the hurling.

Cusack was a late comer to hurling, even though he would have been familiar with the game from his birthplace in Carron in north Clare. However, by the time he came to teach in Blackrock College in 1874, he had become an avid fan of cricket. He wrote once that cricket helped to pass away the dark days of winter by dreaming of the wonderful six that he had hit in mid-summer, and of feeling pride at having walked to the crease, the forlorn hope of their parish, before saving the day with a memorable performance.

He wrote of the advisability of setting up cricket clubs in every parish in Ireland. For Cusack this was not simply a matter of boys getting exercise to enhance their health – it was a matter of ideology. He wrote in July 1882: 'You may be certain that the boy who can play cricket well will not, in after years, lose his head and get flurried in the face of danger.'

His second love was rugby and following the setting up of his Academy to prepare students for taking civil service and other public examinations in 1877, he founded the Academy Football Club and affiliated it to the Irish Rugby Football Union for the 1879-80 season. Cusack was club secretary, trainer and played in the forwards. In a review of the first year he referred to himself as 'a sterling lover of the game.' He continued to play rugby until 1882.

Cusack was very much the all-rounder, playing handball and rowing as well. He also took part in athletic events and was successful at weight-throwing.

 

Bring back the Hurling

By the beginning of the 1880s Michael Cusack had also embarked on a career in journalism, as a letter-writer, reporter, columnist, editor, owner and historian. He produced an enormous body of work, most of it of a brilliant quality.

He wrote columns in the Home Rule journal, The Shamrock. As late as the autumn of 1882 he was offering boys advice on how to clean a cricket bat using linseed oil and how to store it for winter..
By the time winter had passed, however, cricket was gone from Cusack's column to be replaced by a plea for the revival of the game her termed Ireland's 'national pastime' – the game of hurling'.

I'm not going into the reasons for Cusack's Damacine conversion except to say that it may have been influenced by the changing political and scoial climate of the Ireland of the early eighties. Specific reasons put forward include the Industrial Exhibition of Irish goods in 1882, which suggested a new economic future for Ireland. A second was the launch of the Irish-language publication, the Gaelic Journal, by the Gaelic Union, of which Cusack had become a central figure. This led then to the establishment of a hurling club by Cusack in December 1882.

 

The Metropolitans v Killimor

One of the few places in the country where the game of hurling had survived was Killimor in south Galway.  The earliest set of hurling rules to have been adopted was at a meeting of the Killimor club in February 1885, even though there is a good argument that they were in existence since 1869. When Killimor heard of the revival of hurling by Cusack's Metropolitan Club, they issued a challenge to play them. A cup was put up by the people of the town and the Fair Green in Ballinasloe was chosen as the venue.

An advertisement in the Western Star screamed: ‘Hurling! Hurling! Revival of the National Game’.
The match was arranged for Easter Monday, April 13, 1884. The Midland Railway issued return tickets to the Metropolitan players and their friends to Ballinasloe at single fares, which was revolutionary at the time.

Before the game started the Killimor captain, F. W. Lynch, and the Metropolitan captain, Michael Cusack, settled the rules of the match.  They agreed to play for four half-hours, no tripping or wrestling to be allowed. The winners were to be the team that scored the greater number of goals during the period. 

The match wasn’t a great success. A big crowd turned up, which constantly encroached onto the pitch. In spite of the agreed set of rules, the game was a disappointment and it came to a premature end when Killimor scored a goal. 
 
According to the report in the Western Star ‘Mr. Cusack lost all heart in the business, and before the second goal was played off stated that his men were not able for the task, but hinted in the blandest manner possible that his opponent’s play was too rough, which not one but himself evidently could see, even most of his own men wished to play out but to no use. . . . Mr. Cusack could not be induced to go on, evidently thinking that it would look better before the public to draw off than be beaten badly. . .. ‘ The Galway men claimed victory and this was honoured by bonfires and lights all the way from Ballinasloe to Killimor.

 

The Need to Control Irish Athletics

Following his experience at Ballinasloe Cusack came to realise the need to standardize the rules of play if hurling were to be revived.  During the months following the game Cusack argued the need for a new body to govern Irish athletics and wrest them from the control of the Amateur Athletic Association of England. He also saw the need for support from leaders of church and state. In   anonymous (but clearly from Cusack’s pen) articles in the United Ireland and the Irishman on October 11, 1884, entitled ‘A Word on Irish Athletics’ he argued the point that the social and political development of a nation depended on the cultivation and preservation of its games.  Irish athletics were in the hands of people of anti-Irish outlook, who excluded the ordinary person from the sport. Since the best athletes in the country were nationalists, they should take control of their own affairs.

 

Maurice Davin

One of the people who responded to the article was Maurice Davin of Carrick-on-Suir.  He agreed with the views expressed in the article, stated that Irish football and hurling deserved public support and was willing to help any development to revive both games under new rules.
 
Davin, who was a farmer, was Ireland’s most famous athlete at the time. A ‘big reachy man’, black haired with a full auburn beard, he stood over six foot tall and weighed 15 stone.  He had dominated Irish athletics during the 1870s.

Born in 1842 his first love was boxing but he soon abandoned that in favour of rowing on the river Suir and taking part in regattas. At the age of 29 years he began to devote his spare time to weight-throwing, which included shot putting, hammer-throwing and slinging the weights.

His brothers, Tom and Pat, also excelled in athletics and in the ten years between 1873 and 1882 between them they won a total of 26 Irish national titles and in each event that they contested they set new record figures with one exception.  They also represented Ireland in athletic meets with England and Maurice was a victor on a number of occasions.  His standing in Ireland as an outstanding athlete had the added prestige that came from having defeated Englishmen.

In his reply to Cusack’s ‘Word’, Davin called for proper rules for football and hurling – ‘I would not care to see either game now as the rules stand at present’ – and noted that there was still a strong residual love of traditional forms of athletics: ‘for one bystander who takes off his coat to run a footrace, forty strip to throw weights or try a jump of some kind.’

 

The Choice of Thurles

When Michael Cusack decided to call a meeting for the revival of Gaelic pastimes his first choice wasn’t Thurles. Early on he decided against holding it in Dublin and considered Cork as a possible venue.  Then Loughrea became his preferred choice.  He had got to know of the strong hurling tradition in south-east Galway from his early teaching days in Lough Cultra school not far from Gort.  An indication of the persistence of the game there was the existence of a set of rules, the Killimor Rules, which dated back to 1869.  On the basis of the strength of the game in the area Cusack brought his Metropolitan team to Ballinasloe for a challenge with the local side.

During this visit he got to know the sterling qualities of the Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Patrick Duggan. Later, in August 1884, when the idea of the new organisation was forming in his mind, he realised that its success would depend on powerful patrons.

Dr. Duggan was then 71 years of age and had already offered his resignation to the Pope because of his rather poor health.  However, he was delighted to hear of the founding of the association and promised to do all he could to promote its success. But, he declined to act as patron and advised Cusack to ask Dr. Croke, Archbishop of Cashel, ‘a fine Gael, young, vigorous and energetic’ to become the first patron of the new body.  And so, Cusack came to Thurles and the rest is history.

I am not going to talk about the foundation meeting saince most of that information is reasonably well-known.

 

A Brash and Opinionated Man

Michael Cusack was the man mostly responsible for the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association. Without him the Association would never have come into existence. Once he ‘discovered’ hurling at the end of 1882 his mission became to re-establish the national game.
His ‘conversion’ to the game was unheralded and complete.

He was a well-known and prominent figure around Dublin through his sporting endeavours and also through the success of his Academy in Gardiner Place, which he set up in 1877.  This became an immediate success in preparing boys for the civil service.  Interestingly, in the light of later events, one of his students was Thomas St. George McCarthy.

But Cusack was more than a successful sportsman and educator. According to historian, Paul Rouse, he ’had already cultivated an idiosyncratic appearance that allowed him to stand out from the crowd. He walked through the city in heavy working boots, a blackthorn stick swinging from his arm, and with a heavy frieze coat covering his heavy-set, broad-shouldered frame.  His full black beard was beginning to streak with grey. Overall, he was remarkably proud and self-conscious of his appearance, which seems not so much to have been a mark of eccentricity but a statement of defiance.  He gloried in the idea of his distinctiveness, the idea that he was a singular man, of singular beliefs. And he used the rapidly developing world of the Dublin press to broadcast these beliefs.’

Cusack was also a noted journalist and contributed to papers on a wide range of issues.  He used the press to propagate his opinions on athletics and also to promote the revival of hurling.  Once the G.A.A. was founded he used his journalistic skills to build a momentum in favour of the new association.

The founding of the G.A.A. was the high point, the outstanding achievement of Michael Cusack’s life. Unfortunately everything was downhill after that. An opinionated and combative individual he was incapable of diplomacy and in his personal and journalistic statements preferred the bludgeon to the sword.

He fell out with Archbishop Croke and Michael Davitt and alienated virtually every section of the G.A.A. within eighteen months of its foundation.  Eventually he succeeded in having himself ejected for the organisation. Following his ejection the owner of the United Ireland, which had been a major platform for Cusack’s view, William O’Brien, dispensed with his services.

Following this setback Cusack founded the Celtic Times in January 1887. The masthead read ‘Let native industries, literature, arts and pastimes flourish.’ The paper covered every aspect of Irish life but the new Gaelic Athletic Association was its major focus.  Sports coverage was a new phenomenon and the Celtic Times carried many match reports from around the country. Cusack also used its columns to attack those he regarded as the enemies of the association and those who had caused him to be ejected. Unfortunately the paper lacked backers and folded in January 1888.

Cusack’s final sixteen years are rather sad. He earned a precarious existence from journalism and teaching, in contrast to the £1,500 a year he was reputed to be earning at the time of the foundation of the G.A.A.. His wife, Margaret Wood, died from TB in 1890 and one of his daughters, Mary aged  8 years, a month later. The rest of the children were scattered to relatives and two of his sons to an orphanage in Glasnevin. Perhaps to overcome his frustration Cusack occasionally went on heavy drinking bouts.  He was also prone to anti-semitism.  He died suddenly on the 28th of November, 1906 and is buried in Glasnevin cemetery.

 

The Democratisation of Sport

The main business of the new association was the revival of hurling and the invention of Gaelic football. Even more important was the democratisation of the new sport. Prior to the foundation of the G.A.A. participation in sport was elitist, a pastime for the upper and leisured classes.  In fact many sports denied participation to anyone who worked with his hands.  All this was to change and change utterly with the opening up of athletics, hurling, football, handball, rounders, etc to all comers. The humblest man in society had an equal right with the landlord to participate.

No wonder then that the G.A.A., in Cusack’s description, ‘spread like a prairie fire’. The Irish national pastimes were opened up to the massive ranks of the previously disenfranchised.  This led to the huge proliferation in the formation of clubs soon after the foundation of the G.A.A.

 

Big Sports Meetings

During the early years the G.A.A. was essentially an athletic body, promoting big sports meeting throughout the country. The first of these was in Clonmel in February 1885 and following that there was a succession of very successful and well-attended meetings around the country. Field events, which weren’t given the same recognition under AAA and IAAA rules, came into their own. The competitive aspect of these meetings appealed to people as local heroes came into their own and received the recognition denied them in the past. There was enormous enthusiasm, because the great majority of those participating were doing so for the first time.

 

The Parish Rule

One of the great strengths of the early association was the Parish Rule, under which players were confined to their parishes for playing purposes. The parish was a unit its inhabitants could identify with.  This territorial identification, as well as being a great bonding force for club teams in the early years, was to be strengthened when neighbouring parishes, and later counties, were pitted against each other.

Dr. Kevin Whelan has drawn attention to this phenomenon by quoting the painter Tony O’Malley, who contrasted the tribal-territorial element in Irish sport with English attitudes. ‘If neighbours were playing, like New Ross and Tullogher, there would be a real needle in it. When Carrickshock were playing I once heard an old man shouting, ‘Come on the men that bate the procters,’ and there was a tremor and a real fervour in his voice. It was a battle cry, with the hurleys as the swords, but with the same intensity.’ Whelan continues: ‘Similar forces of territoriality have been identified behind the success of cricket in the West Indies and rugby in the Welsh valleys.’

This territorial allegiance was reinforced by the adoption of club colours, often drawn from the old faction favours.  Clubs and counties have become so identified with their colours that one couldn’t imagine Cork without their red jerseys or Kilkenny in anything but their stripey black and amber.  The colours seem to tell one something about the team and give a shape and attitude to the players in them.  The same colours, while giving a feeling of identification to followers of the team, can also excite feelings of fear, antagonism and even hate in the minds of their opponents.

As well as some of the colours being inherited from the days of the faction fights, an occasional faction slogan has been carried over too. ‘If any man can, an Alley man can.’ ‘Squeeze ‘em up Moycarkey, and hang ‘em out to dry.’ Lingering animosities can sometimes surface in surprising ways: it is not unknown for an irate Wexford supporter to hurl abuse at Kilkenny, recalling an incident that occurred in Castlecomer to indignant United Irishmen in 1798: ‘Sure what good are they anyway? Didn’t they piss on the powder in ’98?’

 

First Inter-County Hurling Match

Inter-county matches didn’t take place until 1886 and one of the first was played in the Phoenix Park between North Tipperary and South Galway on February 16, It reflected the advent of authoritative rules for hurling and that the games could now be organised at a wider level. Prior to this time all hurling rules were local and prevented the game being organised outside a local area, unless there was agreement between the two teams on the rules.
(The match is regarded in some quarters as the first unofficial All-Ireland final. At any rate the cup is the oldest G.A.A. trophy and is to be found in Lár na Páirce, Thurles.)

 

The Rules of the Game

Before the game between North Tipperary and South Galway could take place in the Phoenix Park in February, 1886, the teams had to meet and agree a set of rules. Similarly when Cusack took his Metropolitans to Ballinasloe the previous February, the sides had to settle on the rules for the encounter and we saw that Cusack was none too pleased at the way Killimor interpreted the rules.
Massive variants of the rules of the game were in existence and the only set of rules written down were the so-called Killimor Rules of 1869.

We don't have very accurate information on the nature of the game played before the foundation of the G.A.A. We do know that when landlord played landlord during the 18th century, whoever conceded venue was given the position of referee and he rode on horseback by the side of the contest, breaking up any fights with his whip.

One of the first things the new association had to do was to agree on a set of rules for the game and Maurice Davin was given the task. This decision was taken at the second meeting at Cork on December 27, 1884 when a motion in Bracken's name was adopted requesting the president and honorary secretaries to draft the new rules.

It is generally accepted that Davin was the draftsman. He was a recognised expert on the rules of track and field athletics but his main concern was to extablish definite rules for the traditional Irish sports of weight-throwing and jumping and the field games of hurling and football.

The speed with which Davin produced the rules was a reflection on his suitability for the task. As Seamus Ó Riain says in his biography, 'Davin was well-equipped by temperament, experience and interest to undertake the task. He had supported the call for a code of rules to govern Irish athletics while still actively participating in competition and the rules of the Carrick-on-Suir Amateur Athletic, Cricket and Football Club, of which he was chairman, reflect his insistence on the maintenance of order and control in all its activities.'

In drafting his set of rules Davin came down on the side of simplicity, confining his set to just twelve. He was criticised for being short in detail but the simpler they were the greater chance they had of being accepted. They were adopted at the next meeting of the association at Thurles on January 17, 1885:

1. The ground shall, when convenient, be 200 yards long by 150 yards broad or as near that size as can be got.

2. There shall be boundary lines all around the ground at a distance of at least five yards from the fence.

3. The goal shall be two upright posts twenty feet apart with a crossbar ten feet from the ground. A goal is won when the ball is driven between the posts and under the crossbar.

4. The ball is not to be lifted off the ground with the hand when in play.

5. There shall not be less that fourteen or more than twenty-one players a side in regular matches.

6. There shall be an umpire for each side and a referee who will decide in cases where the umpires disagree. The referee keeps the time and throws up the ball at the commencement of each goal.

7. The time of play shall be one hour and twenty minutes, Sides to be changed at half-time.

8. Before commencing play hurlers shall draw up in two lines in the centre of the field opposite to each other and catch hands or hurleys across, then separate. The referee then throws the ball along the ground between the players or up high over their heads.

9. No player is to catch, trip or push from behind. Penalty, disqualification to the offender and a free puck to the opposite side.

10. No player is to bring his hurley intentionally in contact with the person of another player.

11. If the ball is driven over the sidelines it shall be thrown in towards the middle of the ground by the referee or one of the umpires, but if it rebounds on to the ground it shall be considered in play.

12. If the ball is driven over the end lines and not through the goal the player who is defending the goal shall have a free puck from the goal. No player of the opposite side to approach nearer than twenty yards until the ball is struck.The other players to stand on the goal line, but if the ball is driven over the line by a player whose goal it is, the opposite side shall have a free puck on the ground twenty yards out from the goalposts. Players whose goal it is to stand on the goal line until the ball is struck.

13. N.B Hitting both right and left is allowable.

In the course of time the new rules brought order and control into an unruly game. Their dissemination and acceptance were facilitated by a number of positive factors. They were published without delay in the national newspapers. They were also printed in booklet form and became available to clubs for a small price. Davin and Cusack attended games explaining the rules and seeing to their enforcement.

Seamus Ó Riain gives another reason: ' Club officials sought clarification of the rules in letters to Cusack ot to the newspapers, which created a lively debate as to the merits of some of the measures adopted.'

One of the big advantages of the rules was that they were not set in stone. Provision was made for changes at the annual convention in the light of the experience to be gained.

 

Implementation of the Rules

Some of the early games of hurling were prone to violence and pitch invasions. The decisions of referees were often contested. Teams occasionally walked off the field in disagreement with decisions. Since all games were played on Sundays, to accommodate the vast number of players who were workers and it was their only day off in the week, the claim was made that the ‘Lord’s Day’ was being desecrated for the benefit of publicans only! There was even the suggestion that games were reviving faction-fighting.

One of the most unusual of the new rules was that wrestling was permitted. Two players came into contact and immediately got into a physical tussle. Only one fall was allowed. If the players attempted a second fall on the same occasion, the referee intervened. While the players were wrestling in remainder of their teammates got on with the game.

 

The Hurling Counties

Twelve teams entered the first All-Ireland hurling and football championships in 1887. These teams included Clare, Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Galway, Wexford, Limerick, Tipperary and Dublin, most of the counties we assosiate with hurling today.

Not all the teams played in that championship. Waterford were unable to field a team. Cork didn't take part because of a dispute in their county final between St. Finnbarrs and the Nationals. Dublin looked for a postponement of their game with Tipperary because a number of their players were on holidays but the application was refused. Limerick were drawn to play Meath, but the latter didn't field and they were drawn against Kilkenny, after the latter got a walkover from Cork . However, two Limerick teams arrived for the fixture. Menbers of the Central Council couldn't sort the matter out and Kilkenny were given a walkover.

Omissions from that list are Offaly, Laois and Antrim.

What I want to concentrate on in this talk now is the strength of the game of hurling within these counties. The nine that entered the first All-Ireland, and the three others mentioned, would be referred to today as the hurling counties. However, the strength of the game in these places varies substantially as we are only too well-aware.

Before I deal with the three strong counties, I want to make some comments on the other hurling counties. In no apparent order I am going to start with Wexford.

There is a romance about Wexford hurling which commenced with the glorious years of the fifties and got a further injection with their All-Ireland win in 1996. They have made an impact on the hurling world much greater than the number of All-Irelands won

 

Larger than Life Wexford

The names of the players who won the first All-Ireland for Wexford in 1910 are inscribed in stone in Castlebridge cemetery.  The county hasn’t won many All-Irelands – five in all since then, 1955, 1956, 1960, 1968 and 1996 – and are way behind the big three, Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary, on the hurling roll of honour, but the impact the county has made in its hurling victories is much greater that the number of honours achieved.

The huge impact made by the county is best illustrated by the drawing power of the team. In the 1955 final against Galway, 72,854 turned up, the eighth largest attendance at a final. In the league final the same year against Tipperary, the attendance of 45,902 constitutes a record.  The record for a hurling All-Ireland, 84,856, was set in 1954, when Wexford went down to Cork, and the second biggest crowd on record, 83,096, attended the 1956 final when Wexford beat Cork.  The fourth and fifth largest crowds were in 1960, when Wexford beat Tipperary, and 1962, when Tipperary defeated Wexford.

The Wexford team of the fifties had something special to offer. Physically they were big men, but allied to their size was a high level of skill. They were noted sportsmen, renowned  for performances that sometimes approached chivalry.  Many of them revealed qualities of leadership that set them apart from the rank and file of humanity.  There was a romance, an energy and an excitement about them that made them larger than life. They appeared to step out of the pages of a heroic past of myths and legends.

Wexford hurling dominated the mid-fifties. In Leinster they challenged Kilkenny for supremacy by winning their first three-in-a-row title 1954-56. They appeared in three All-Irelands during the same years winning two in 1955 and 1956. There was a universal welcome for their victory over Galway in the 1955 final, not because of any anti-Galway feeling but rather because of a belief that after so many disappointments and near-misses, Wexford hurling deserved its day in the sun. The homecoming for the heroes lasted a week in the county.

The All-Ireland champions followed up by defeating Kilkenny in the Oireachtas final. Wexford players, nine in all,  backboned Leinster in defeating Munster in the Railway Cup final on St. Patrick’s Day 1956 before a record crowd of 46,000 spectators. Sensationally they came back from 15 points in arrears at the interval to defeat Tipperary in the league final in May. The 1956 All-Ireland final was postponed for three weeks because of an outbreak of polio, otherwise the attendance might have beaten the 1954 record. Wexford overcame Cork in a tremendous game. At one vital stage of the game Christy Ring raced to goal for a certain score but his shot was stopped by Wexford keeper, Art Foley, cleared up the field where is eventually arrived to Nicky Rackard, who finished it to the Cork net. Ring, who was going for his ninth medal, was so impressed at the tremendous save that he shook Foley’s hand, After the game Wexford were not to be outdone in their appreciation of Ring’s brilliant performance.  Ring was seized by Bobbie Rackard and Nick O’Donnell and carried shoulder high from the field, a memorable event in a day of memories.

The greatness of Wexford was recognised abroad the following June when they travelled to New York to play Cork in the Polo Grounds.  Over 30,000 turned up at the venue to see them register another victory, defeating Cork by 7-15 to 5-5.

The problem for Wexford has been that they haven't reached such heights again, with the exception of 1968 and we got  a brief glimpse under Liam Griffin in 1996. They have reverted to their pre-fifties days, when they won one All-Ireland. However, because they set the bar of achievement so high during these golden days, it has become the norm for Wexford hurling and the county is constantly failing to live up to it.

 

The fate of Limerick has been similar

The thirties are remembered as the period of Limerick’s greatest hurling era  During this period Limerick played in five All-Irelands, winning three. Two of these victories were over Kilkenny, as also were two defeats.

Limerick Dominate the National League

Limerick reigned supreme in the National League.  In fact the great Kilkenny-Limerick rivalry could be said to have started with the National League final of 1932-33, which the Noresiders won decisively by 3-8 to 1-3. Following this defeat Limerick were to record five consecutive victories, while Kilkenny had none.

In the last of these in 1937, Limerick ran riot against Cork, winning by 11-6 to 5-1. Cork, with Jack Lynch as captain, conceded four goals in a devastating eight-minute spell in the first half and thereafter ‘were swept aside in a tidal wave of green shirts.’

Limerick are the only county to win five National Hurling League titles in successive years. Four players participated in all five finals, Mick Kennedy (Young Ireland) captain, 1934, Timmy Ryan (Ahane) captain, 1935, 1936, Mick Mackey (Ahane) captain, 1937, 1938, Jim Roche (Croom).

Jubilee Champions

Limerick won the 1934 final which was referred to as the Jubilee All-Ireland as the G.A.A. celebrated fifty years in existence. Instead of meeting Kilkenny, their opponents were Dublin, who had beaten Kilkenny in a replayed Leinster final. Limerick had to overcome Clare, Cork, Waterford and Galway to reach the final. Limerick trained as never before for the final and came to Croke Park in the peak of condition. Dublin proved a formidable opposition and came from five points down, levelling the game with a last-minute goal. For the replay Limerick invited the Cork trainer, Jim Barry, to help them in their preparation. The sides were level at half-time and Dublin went into a three-point lead during the second half.  However, great play by John Mackey turned the tide in Limerick’s favour, and great goals by Dave Clohessy – four in all – ensured a Limerick victory by 5-2 to 2-6.

An elated Limerick captain, Timmy Ryan, received the cup from Dr. Harty, the patron of the G.A.A.
Never was a demonstration of such size seen in Limerick as the one that greeted the hurling heroes on their return to the city the following evening, when an estimated 30,000 people crowded the route from the railway station to the Imperial Hotel in Catherine Street.

 

A Bandage on the Good Knee

Before the 1936 championship Limerick did a tour of the United States, their exploits on the hurling field attracting great interest across the Atlantic. The team played three games, winning the magnificent Reeves Trophy ‘the most expensive and artistic ever presented for international Gaelic competition.’ In their final game they won the Limerick Club Cup.  The sports writers gave the game the usual colour treatment: ‘It is no game for a fellow with a dash of lavender in his makeup.  A good hurler must be at all times ready to stop, pick his head up from the field of battle, slap it back into position and resume the fray without once taking one eye off the player he’s assigned to watch and the other of the enemy’s goal.’

Limerick had a bye to the Munster final and they were in super form against Tipperary at Thurles on August 2, winning easily by 8-5 to 4-6. This game was Mick Mackey’s first as captain and it inspired him to a leader’s role in which he scored 5-3, some of the goals being gems of the rarest kind. Mackey had injured one of his knees on the American tour and expected to be a target for some of the Tipperary players.  To mislead his opponents, he put a bandage on the good knee before taking the field!

Limerick were superb against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final, winning by 5-6 to 1-5, and limiting their opponents to a single point in the second half. A record crowd of 51,235, even beating the record for the football final, was present for the game.

 

Outstanding Ahane

Five of this great Limerick team, John and Mick Mackey, Timmy Ryan, Paddy Scanlan and Jackie Power, came from Ahane, one of the greatest forces in club hurling at the time. Between 1931 and 1948 the club won fifteen county Limerick senior hurling championships, and to this must be added five football championships between 1935 and 1939.  The Mackey brothers figured in all of them, a grand total of twenty medals each.  The club participated in many tournaments also: it has been said that they built more churches than any club in history.  Commentatorss have claimed that this involvement in tournament hurling was detrimental to their inter-county record and that but for it they would have won more All-Irelands.

This was a period of triumph for Limerick but it is book-ended by long periods of failure. Prior to the thirties Limerick had three All-Irelands to their credit, the first coming in 1897, when Kilfinane defeated Tullaroan. Limerick then won two in a short period of time beteen 1918 and 1921, when captain Bob McConkey became the first winner to receive the McCarthy Cup. Then came the great period of the thirties to be followed defeat rather than sucess during the folowing decades, with the exception of 1973.

I haven't time to talk at any length of the successes of the other hurling counties. Galway won their first in 1923 and then succeeded three times in the eighties, but it has been a barren period since then.

Dublin have six All-Irelands to their credit but the last one was 1938 and their last appearance was in 1961. There has been a resurgence of the game in the city in the last number of years but not enough meaningful success to promise a bright future.

Waterford made their first final appearance in 1938, won  for the first time in 1948 and had a second victory in 1959. They had a team capable of challenging the best in the years 1957 to 1965. They returned again as a force in the late nineties and into the noughties but they haven't made the breakthrough required to recognise them as a strong hurling force.

Offaly arrived in 1980 and won four All-Irelands over two decades but the game appears to have reverted to the kind of challenge the county offered before the breakthrough

Clare in an interesting case. They came in the mid-nineties with great excitement and expectation, winning two All-Irelands, and should possibly have won three. They haven't disappeared into the sunset, won the All-Ireland last year and are one of the strongest contenders for All-Ireland honours currently.

I come finally to the three counties that have won 90 of the 126 All-Irelands played, Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary. The strength of the game in these counties is reflected in the fact that they have won All-Irelands in every decade since the first All-Ireland.

 

The Strong Hurling Counties

There is one exception, Kilkenny, who didn't win their first All-Ireland until 1904 but then made up for the delay by winning seven between then and 1913. One of the reasons for the long delay was cricket.

Acording to Michael O'Dwyer, who has done a study of the game in the county, cricket was by far the most popular game in the county not much more than a hundred years ago. Hurling was nowhere. Cricket had spread beyond the big houses to be played in every town and village, by labourers and peasantry alike. At its peak in 1896, there were 50 teams in Kilkenny, even though the G.A.A. was well up and running.

By contrast, in a county that would one day dominate the game, hurling was in a decrepit state. In 1887 an envoy despatched by Michael Cusack's journal noted that the game of hurling in the city drew no spectators, 'proving what little hold the G.A.A, has taken in Kilkenny'.  Worse than the lack of spectators however was the quality of play. 'The hurling of both teams was, we believe, the worst and most spiritless ever witnessed on an Irish hillside,' lamented the writer. 'It would break the heart of a Moycarkey or Galway Gael to witness such a contemptible perversion of the grand old dashing game.' Might I add that it would now break the hearts of the same people to see how good Kilkenny are today!

In contrast to Tipperary, where cricket was also strong and had been associated with the bigger towns, army garrisons and big houses, cricket in Kilkenny had put down roots in the general farming community and the nationalist appeal of Gaelic games was slower to catch on.

But hurling did catch on and once the county began to win it never got out of the habit. The result has been that since the first decade of the twentieth century, Kilkenny have won All-Irelands in every decade, with peaks of brilliance after the first great flourish, in the thirties, the seventies and the brilliant noughties.

 

Cork

Cork's success at the game can also be found in every decade. They had their first three-in-arow in the 1890s, a great period at the end of the twenties, the only four-in-a-row in the early forties, another three-in-a-row inthe mid-seventies and their successes have continued into the noughties.

Tipperary have also featured in every decade with Tubberadora's great achievement in the second-half of the 1890s, the three-in-a-row in the early fifties and the brillinat period during the sixties.

Success has dried up for the county in the last number of decades during which they have fallen well behind Kilkenny and Cork in the roll of honour though they have been successful twice in the noughties.

 

The Big Question is Why!

Why has hurling failed to spread to the other counties and who has its success been so prominent in the counties of Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary, who between them have won two-thirds of the All-Irelands played.

Traditional skills were already in existence

In Tipperary the presence of Archbishop Croke

National Movement and IRB more entwined with hurling

Importance of leadership, Big Mikey Stapleton, Tom Semple, Dan Breen

Quality of leadership, Sim Walton, Jamesy Kelleher

Number of senior clubs in county

Lack of county unity among clubs in Galway, Clare, Kerry.

 

Why didn't it Spread to other counties?

A highly skilled game needing endless practice

Traditional shills were honed on the crossroads where coaches figure today

Opulent farming class with leisure

 

Experience of dominance in other countries

Perhaps it's like the English Premiership that there are only a few meaningful contenders for top honours annually and that, as in the case of hurling,  Kilkenny, Cork and Tipperary are regular contenders with an occasional new contender making an occasional appearance.

Italy Serie A football - Juventus 29, Inter Milan 18, AC Milan 18
Scotland football - Celtic and Rangers 99 titles combined
Spain football - Barcelona 22, Real Madrid 32, next 9.

US sports are quite democratic as they have a salary cap in each of the 3 major sports - baseball, football, basketball. 

Australia is the same.

Other sports like rugby league, rugby union, cricket, sailing, hockey tend to be dominated by a small number of teams but that's a function of those sports not really being played on a global basis

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Some Notable Managers</span> February 2014

Some Notable Managers

February 2014

 

Jim 'Tough' Barry (1891-1968) Cork

Jim 'Tough' Barry was known as a trainer rather than a manager but he had all the functions and characteristics of the latter. His 'managerial' career lasted from 1926, when he came in as assistant trainer to Pakie Mahony on the Cork senior team, to 1966 when he helped to return Cork to All-Ireland glory after twelve years in the wilderness.

The attribution 'Tough' in his name suggests something of a big, commanding figure, but Jim was the very opposite, a tidy man. His nickname came from a boxing career in which he was a useful bantamweight, a skill he used in exhibitions for the Arms Fund after 1916. He was a very active sportsman and, as well as boxing and hurling, which he played with Blackrock, he excelled at watersports and was springboard diving champion of Ireland for four years. He also won many swimming races. He was a member of the Neptune Club and played water polo with Dolphin. He was a referee and was in charge of the 1945 All-Ireland minor final.

He also possessed a beautiful tenor voice, which he put to use in the chorus of the many travelling companies which came to Cork. He also sang solo in many places including London with the Carl Rosa, Moody Manners and O'Meara opera companies. In the early days of the cinema he sang the 'Persian Love Lyrics at the interval in the Palace Theatre, Cork.

During his period with Cork he guided the team to thirteen All-Ireland titles, four during the 1926-31 period, five between 1941-46, three between 1952-54 and the comeback title in 1966. He is credited with bringing a forward-thinking and holistic approach to preparing players. A tailor by profession, he visited workplaces to talk to employers on behalf of his players. He demanded proper meals for his squads after matches and was renowned for having them perfectly prepared for the biggest games. The secret of his success with so many teams was in the way he managed to gain the affection and respect of all the players under his charge. The atmosphere at his training sessions was relaxed and his contacts with players spiced with humour. His great experience and personal achievements helped to instill confidence in his players. On top of everything he had a wide knowledge of the game and his sideline moves were often sufficient to turn defeat into victory.

Jim 'Tough' Barry suffered a stroke in October 1968 and died in the South Infirmary a few days later.

 

Paddy Leahy (1891-1966) Tipperary

The term "manager" as it is used today wasn't used in Tipperary or elsewhere during Paddy Leahy's lifetime. But in the exercise of personality over a team it was he who came nearest to the modern definition of the word. First as a selector, then as chairman of the selection committee, his influence over Tipperary senior teams extended into three decades and was unprecedented.

Born in 1891, he grew up with the GAA, his father having played in one of the county's first county finals. His local townsland, Tubberadora, became nationally-known by winning three All-Ireland titles in 1895, 1896 and 1898. Fierce local rivalries were harnessed in 1912 by the founding of the Boherlahan Hurling Club at a meeting attended by Paddy, and which saw his brother Johnny elected club captain.

A natural citeóg with wrists so powerful that all his life he had difficulty in finding a watch-strap to fit, he had won two junior All-Irelands before, in 1916, under the captaincy of his brother Johnny he won his first senior medal against Kilkenny when, in answer to the Kilkenny captain's post-match comment: "We were better hurlers", the Tipperary captain replied, "But we were better men!" He would win another in 1925, after he was prevented by the Civil War from fielding in a game that was lost to Kilkenny in 1922.

His appointment as county selector in 1949 began a trail of victory for Tipperary that was to end only with his death in 1966. It was marked by eight all-Ireland titles, nine Munster championships and eleven National Leagues. With each year his influence grew and he was widely regarded as the man who dominated not only the picking of teams but the deploying of Tipp's forces during games.

His departure led to a dramatic decline in the county's hurling success.

It is generally accepted among the surviving members of the teams of Tipp's glory period that his status among players was unquestioned. He never indulged in table-thumping speeches in the dressing-room but there was a personal relationship with every player and there was a moment for each when there was the hand on the shoulder and it behoved him well to take heed of the advice given.

He enjoyed a lifelong friendship with opponents of his own hurling days and with Mick Mackey and Christy Ring and other stars of other counties. But his great idols were the men he shepherded to so many victories for the Blue and Gold. In his Pantheon there was never a goalkeeper like Tony Reddan, a centre-back like Tony Wall or a forward like Jimmy Doyle.

Perhaps nothing so underlines the difference in the role of manager today from that of Paddy Leahy's day was that during the years when he was guiding the county's fortunes on the field, he was also the county's representative on the Central Council of the GAA. And he was nearly 75 when he was forced by his final illness to relinquish both portfolios.

 

Father Tommy Maher (born 1923) Kilkenny

Fr. Tommy Maher, often referred to as the Godfather of Modern Hurling, was born in Thomastown in 1923. He went to school in St, Kieran's College and later returned there as a priest and teacher. He also became heavily involved in coaching the college senior team.

But this was to happen later. While home for the summer holidays from Maynooth in 1945, he played some good hurling with his club, Castle Rovers, and was drafted into the county team for the All-Ireland against Tipperary, his first and last game in the Kilkenny jersey.

What his short spell as an All-Ireland panellist had shown him was how primitive and unco-ordinated the training was. 'Surely', according to his biographer, Enda McEvoy, 'he concluded, there had to be more to training than this delirium of effort for its own sake. Surely there had to be room for thought, for logic, for imagination, for the cultivation of science, for the identification of problems, for the improvement of weaknesses and for the coaching of skills.'

He got the opportunity to put his ideas into practice when he returned to St. Kieran's as a teacher in 1955. As with the county, the game of hurling was at a low ebb in the college and he set about getting things right. Success came quickly with the All-Ireland Colleges victory in 1957 a day on which, in the words of his biographer, 'he demonstrated that the small things were the big things, that success in hurling was about mastery of the basic skills, that practising the skills was not only desirable but crucial and that practice – proper practice – could mean the difference between victory and defeat.'

Later in the same year he was drafted in to the Kilkenny senior hurling team as coach. Over the next twenty-one years he would preside over an era which saw the county win fourteen Leinster finals and seven All-Ireland titles.

He soon discovered that nobody had ever put any effort into coaching the players in skills or methods or combination play. He drummed into their heads the importance of thinking about what they were doing. He emphasised the need of putting the opposing team under pressure by constantly chasing and harrying them. He had specific instructions for players in every position. Communication was vital, not only between coach and player but between the players themselves.

And there was much more that helped to transform Kilkenny hurling and make it the powerful force it was to become. Fr Tommy Maher was a man before his time and for all time.
 

Michael 'Babs' Keating (born 1944) Tipperary

Probably one of the most colourful managers of the modern era, Michael 'Babs' Keating had a varied and distinguished managerial career after he retired from a playing career that brought him significant success in both hurling and football. A person capable of the pithy comment, which landed him in trouble on occasions, he generated substantial media publicity.

His first intercounty job was in charge of Galway in 1978-79 and had mixed results. Losing badly in the National League final, Galway bounced back to defeat Cork in the All-Ireland semi-final, only to go down to Kilkenny in the final.

He was with Tipperary from 1986 to 1994 and was a major influence in bringing the county back from the hurling wilderness. He was responsible for revolutionising the role of managers, giving them a much higher profile. In fact he became the centre of media attention for the county. He also looked after teams in a holistic manner not known before. He recognised the commercial value of intercounty players and dragged the county system into the commercial age. Most notably he gave supporter clubs a status and a place in the county system and used them to extract finance in a way not available before. He expanded the support base of teams and made hurling an attractive game to follow.

During his period with Tipperary he brought the county its first All-Ireland in eighteen years and won a second in 1991. He won five Munster finals and two league titles but the general consensus appears to be that with the talent available, the team should have won more. Particularly galling for supporters were defeats in 1990 and 1992.

After a year away from inter-county management, he returned for two years with Laois, 1995-1997 but, following some success in the National League, the county failed in the championship in both years.

After resigning from the Laois job he took on Offaly in 1997-1998 and tried to introduce a stricter training regime, which wasn't well received by some of the players. Matters came to a crisis after defeat in the Leinster final by Kilkenny and some derogatory remarks by Keating of the team's performance. He resigned from the position and the team went on to take the All-Ireland under new management.

He returned to the Tipperary job once more for two years in 2005 in an attempt to revive the county's flagging fortunes. There was little success and two controversies when he dropped both Brendan Cummins and Eoin Kelly during the 2007 championship. The defeat by Wexford led to his resignation.

Whereas Babs Keating's success rate with teams may not have been the greatest, the ideas that he brought to the job of manager in the G.A.A. context will ensure his a place in the history of hurling.

 

Justin McCarthy (born 1945) Cork

Justin McCarthy started training Passage at the age of twenty-two years in 1967 when he was injured and unable to hurl. He remembers writing notes on players, listing their good and bad points. He picked up ideas on training from listening to others, thought a lot about the game and had a passion for hurling.

He was already keen to learn more and started attending the coaching courses at Gormanstown at the end of the sixties, initially as a student and later as a teacher. Among other things he learned the importance of communication. He put major emphasis on the fundamentals of the game, on hooking and blocking, on striking on either side, on having the player's equipment properly prepared and suitable. He was also a stickler for time and organisation around training sessions. He always expected the highest standards, which some players were unable to meet.

He broke new ground when he went to Antrim in 1970. He was still a trainer as the word 'coach' hadn't yet entered common parlance and 'manager' was still a foreign word, associated with games like soccer. He had his first major achievement when Antrim won the All-Ireland intermediate championship in 1970.

He continued the learning process, listening to team mentors in dressingrooms and picking up a lot. His next 'training' job was with Cork in 1975. He was part of the panel but when Willie John Daly retired, he was asked to take over the training. Cork won in Munster but were beaten by Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

His life has been devoted to coaching and management since then. The list of teams includes Seandún, a city club he got to the Cork senior semi-final, Clare for four years at the end of the seventies, which resulted in two league titles and two near misses for Munster finals, Cork in 1982 and in 1984, when they won the centenary final at Thurles, 1985, when they lost to Galway in All-Ireland semi, Cashel for their first county title and near miss for All-Ireland Club, bringing Dunloy to an All-Ireland Club final, Waterford from 2001-08 and three Munster titles, including their first title in thirty-nine years and a National League, Limerick for two years, and he's currently coaching Ballyroe.

This has been an extraordinary journey bringing to gospel of hurling to a large number of clubs and counties and wishing to be remembered for the contribution he made to the game. Achievements have been important to him but everything he has done in this area has been to make players better hurlers, teams more successful combinations and hurling one of the greatest sporting experiences in life.

 

Liam Griffin (Born 1945) Wexford

Although he had quite a short managerial career, Liam Griffin, made a big impact on the management of teams and continues to be an important voice in the development of the game through his position in the media.

He started his club hurling with Rosslare and, after moving to Clare, joined Newmarket on Fergus with whom he won senior hurling titles in1967, 1968 and 1969. At the intercounty level he played minor, under-21 and intermediate with Wexford, winning and All-Ireland at under-21 level in 1965, and beaten in the intermediate All-Ireland in the same year.

He had an early interest in coaching but mostly at juvenile level and completed a diploma in sport psychology in the early nineties. Having failed twice to take charge of the Wexford minors he was put in charge of the senior team at the end of 1994 after the earlier favourites withdrew from the race. The county hadn't won a Leinster title since 1977 or an All-Ireland since 1968.

However Griffin had a different perspective on Wexford, having been brought up at a time when the county was successful. In fact in 1965 Wexford had contested the four hurling All-Irelands. If Wexford were successful at that period there was no reason why they shouldn't be once again.

His first season was anything but successful. In spite of introducing a strict diet and training regime, Wexford were beaten by Meath in the National League. Having stripped captain, Liam Dunne, for playing a club game before the Leinster semi-final, they were beaten seven points by Offaly.

Matters changed dramatically in 1996. The manager made wholesale changes to the team and enforced a new training regime. He began to work on the minds of the players, some of whom had become fatalistic and accepting of the state of Wexford hurling. He used Clare's example in 1995 of a county not accepting defeat as their lot. His own connection with Clare was very strong, through work and family and their new-found success was very meaningful to him. He got the players to begin believing in themselves as well as coaching them to be better players.

His work paid off and Wexford won their first Leinster title in almost twenty years. They went on to win the All-Ireland, beating Limerick by four points despite being reduced to fourteen men, when Eamon Scallan was sent off before half-time. Wexford refused to panic and revealed the 'character' of the side..

In spite of guiding his native-county to an emotional championship title Griffin decided to retire as manager at the start of 1997 due to personal issues.
 

Eamonn Cregan (born 1945) Limerick

Hurling has played a major part in Eamonn Cregan's life since he won his first medal, at under-16 level, when he was aged eleven years! The game is always on his mind and he is happiest imparting his knowledge to those who are prepared to listen. After a distinguished playing career of over twenty-five years with Claughaun and Limierisk which won him numerous county titles, four Munster titles, one All-Ireland and three All-Star awards, he turned his attention to coaching.

One of his earliest and most pleasant coaching memories is winning a hurling and football double with Claughaun in 1986 as player-manager. He has looked after numerous club teams since then and is currently with Mary Immaculate TC, which he brought to a Fitzgibbon Cup final in 2013 from a total college panel of fifty players.

At intercounty level he first became involved with Limerick between 1986-88 but without any success. He was with Offaly from 1992 to 1996, during which time the county won two Leinster and one All-Ireland titles. Unfortunately for him the latter was at the expense of his native county. He found the Offaly players well developed in the skills of the game and concentrated on making them fitter and introducing more ground hurling.

He returned to Limerick in 1997 and stayed with them until 2002 without achieving any success. He was particularly disappointed in losing the Munster final to Tipperary in 2001 and the All-Ireland quarter-final to Wexford. In 2013 he became coach of the Limerick minor team and finds this role the most satisfying.

As a coach he believes that the basic skills of the game should be learned at an early stage. He is not in favour of omitting any skills, particularly ground hurling, which some managers are inclined to pass over. It allows for fast ball into the forwards, which prevents the backs from settling and anticipating what is going to happen. Too much coaching can confuse a player and prevent him expressing himself. While high catching is important it's not the be-all and reflects on the player's opponent.

 

Cyril Farrell (born 1950) Galway

Cyril Farrell had an early interest in the coaching side of the game and his first county job was with the Galway minor team in 1973. He progressed from there to the under 21 side in 1978, achieving All-Ireland success, following a replay with Tipperary in the final. He moved up to the seniors after defeat in the 1979 final.

It was a case of instant success with the Galway seniors in 1980. The team came to the game on the back of two All-Ireland appearances since 1975 and two defeats of Cork in the same period. On the day they got the best possible start with a goal by Bernie Forde and superb goalkeeping from Michael Conneely. Galway lost the 1981 final to Offaly and the semi-final of 1982 to Kilkenny after which Farrell resigned. He was involved with the minors in 1983 when they captured their first All-Ireland.

He returned in October 1984 and stayed with the team until 1991. This was a glorious period in Galway hurling, during which they reached four consecutive finals between 1985 and 1988. The first two were lost to Offaly and Cork while victory was there lot in 1987 and 1988. The Keady affair contributed to the failure to make it three-in-a-row in 1989.

Farrell's interest in coaching was paramount in team preparation. He believed in developing a pattern of play but not so rigid as to eliminate the individuality of players. Any plan needed to be adapted to the style of players to hand. He also believed that fitness work ought to be completed early in a year in order to allow plenty of time for coaching. Man management was vitally important and is even more so today.

He brought another element to the preparation of Galway teams, a strong belief in their right to win, as well as their ability to do so. Up to his time Galway teams had played very well but didn't win very often. He believed that negative conditioning, caused by on-going defeats, develops into an inferiority complex, which undermines players at crucial moments. The 1980 victory was the first All-Ireland to be won since 1923. Farrell worked on the minds of the players to get them to believe that Galway had an equal right to win as the Corks, Tipperarys and Kilkennys.

Farrell resigned after the 1991 championship in which Galway lost badly to Tippeary in the All-Ireland semi-final. He took charge again for the years 1996-1998 but suffered All-Ireland quarter-final defeats in both years and resigned after the 1998 championship.

 

Ger Loughnane (born 1953) Clare

Although Ger Loughnane was noted as a great hurler in a county that was starved of success, it is for his exploits as manager of the Clare senior hurlers in the 1990s that he is best known. His managerial career began in the early 1990s. Following a short period with the under-21s, he succeeded Len Gaynor as manager of the seniors at the end of 1994.

After a winter of intense training Loughnane's side proved their worth by reaching the final of the National Hurling League. Kilkenny hammered Clare on that occasion but Loughnane stated that Clare would win the Munster final. Which they did, for the first time since 1932, and then went on to win their first All-Ireland since 1914.

Having lost in 1996 to a late Limerick point in the Munster championship, Clare were back in the winners enclosure in 1997, beating Cork, Tipperary and Kilkenny on the way to the All-Ireland final, in which they defeated Tipperary for a second time, following the introduction of the backdoor system.

Clare might have won again in 1998 but a number of things intervened. In an unruly game against Waterford in the Munster championship, Colin Lynch was sent off and received a three-month suspension. In spite of this Clare won the Munster final and met Offaly in the All-Ireland semi-final. The game ended in a draw, the replay in controversy and Clare lost the second replay.

It marked the end of success for Loughnane's side. The manager remained in position for two more years without success. After a few years, Loughnane took over Galway for two years, 2007-2008, also without success.

Loughnane will always be remembered for having made Clare a meaningful contender for All-Ireland honours. From the time he took over as manager he set out to ensure that his players would be at a high peak of fitness when taking the field. This was achieved by an intense training regimen, much of it done in the dead of winter, which had the effect not only of making them extremely fit, but of strengthening their characters also.

Equally important was the work he did on the minds of the players, constantly harranging them never to accept defeat, encouraging them to believe that they were as good as anybody else and inculcating in them a love of winning and the prospect of a triumphant day in Corke Park. In all of this Loughnane was driven by the memory of numerous failures during his playing years with Clare. To win as manager would be some kind of consolation.

 

Brian Cody (born 1954) Kilkenny

After a successful playing career with the James Stephens club and Kilkenny, which included four Leinster titles, three All-Irelands, two National League and two All-Star awards, plus two All-Ireland club championships, Brian Cody turned his attention to management.

He was appointed in November 1998 for a two-year term. Since then he is the most successful manager in the history of the game winning 12 Leinster hurling championships, nine All-Ireland titles and six National hurling Leagues.

It's difficult to decide what makes him such a successful manager. In his autobiography he speaks of respect, honesty and commitment in everyone involved in the team. He denies that he is an 'intimidating, authoritarian figure ruling the Kilkenny dressingroom with an iron fist and a 'no compromise' sign stuck on my forehead.' Instead the dressingroom is a place of equality where everyone is important, even the person sweeping the floor at the end of training, as Cody has been seen to do himself. He believes that 'being prepared to do just about anything is central to running an effective operation where there are no stars and no egos, only a group of people on the same wavelength.'

In fact 'no stars and no egos' has probably kept the Kilkenny team successful for so long. There are instances where players have been dropped for misdemeanors but also for notions about their importance to the squad. Every player, no matter how successful, is only a very small part of something so much bigger.

Cody leads by example and expects every player to give good example. For him there is no arrogance in Kilkenny hurling. The players don't show disrespect to an opponent. They know the standards that must be reached and maintained if they're to get the best out of their careers. Another expectation is that players give the same commitment to the club as the county.

He cranks up the competitive edge in the panel by introducing new players. When this happens older players recognise that new talent is coming along all the time with the sole intention of forcing their way onto the team. It's all very friendly but there is huge rivalry also and Cody acts as a kind of referee between the competing talents with only one duty, which is to put the best panel together. 'The spark of rivalry between established players and newcomers is great for business and helps keep things fresh and challenging, which is crucial in the dressing room dynamic.'

In fact Cody seems to incorporate in his outlook the old virtues associated with the G.A.A. It is an honour to play for your club and your county and you respect that every time you play. You give your best on every occasion and you are unselfish in your commitment. The game of hurling comes first and the manager has made little concession to the commercial possibilities of his success, keeping the players on the straight and narrow for the success of Kilkenny.

<span class="postTitle">A Selection of Great Hurlers</span> February 2014

A Selection of Great Hurlers

February 2014

 

The Captain, Big Mikey (Tipperry) 1870-1947

Big Mikey Maher of Tubberadora was the captain of the three teams that won the All-Irelands in 1895, 1896 and 1898. Christy Ring (Cork) and Drug Walsh (Kilkenny) are the only other hurlers to captain three All-Ireland winning teams.

Mikey Maher, who was born in 1870 was a large man, 6' 3'' tall and 15 stone and he had a large personality to go with it. He was an ideal captain at a time when the team leader was expected to organise the team, arrange the games, agree the travel arrangements and make the switches during a game. He was a born leader and held in deep respect by his players.

A strong rather than stylish player he usually operated at centre-forward and led by example showing great heart and courage in the course of the game.

Big Mikey won two further All-Irelands following his exploits with Tubberadora. He played on the successful Moycarkey team in the 1899 final and on the Two Mile Borris team in the 1900 decider.

When he died in 1947 he was buried in St. Michael's Cemetery, Tipperary. In one of his obituaries he was remembered by those who knew him in his prime as 'Cuchulainn and Napoleon and Matt the Thresher.'

 

Outstanding Captain Jim Kelliher (Cork) 1878-1943

Jim Kelliher of Dungourney, who captained the Cork team to All-Ireland honours in 1902, usually played at full-back but he was versatile enough to feature in other parts of the field as well. He wasn't a big man, 5' 9'' in height, but was always fit and had a good temperament as well. He played for Cork from 1901 to 1912, winning two All-Irelands, 1902 and 1903, but losing four, 1904, 1905, 1907 and 1912 to Kilkenny. He also won seven Munster medals.

Jim Kelliher put Dungourney, which is situated in east Cork, on the map as a result of his outstanding hurling. Carbery, the great commentator on the game, had this to say about him: 'Kelliher had brains, skill, stamina and ash craft in abundance. I saw him play in twenty-six major matches and he never left the field without being the outstanding hurler of the hour.' He placed him centreback in his team entitled 'The Best Team of My Time'.
 

Captain of three, Dick (Drug) Walsh (Kilkenny) 1878-1958

Following in the footsteps of Mikey Maher of Tipperary (Tubberadora) Dick 'Drug' Walsh of Mooncoin was the second hurler in the history of the G.A.A. to captain his county to three All-Ireland hurling successes. 1907, 1909 and 1913.

He is reputed to have got his nickname 'Drug' from a fondness for the sing 'Clare's Dragoons', which he tended to pronounce as 'Drugoons', and his mates christened him 'Drug' as a result, a nickname that stuck but which he disliked intensely.

Born in Mooncoin in 1878 he made his county senior debut in 1904 and was on the successful seven Kilkenny teams that won All-Irelands between then and 1913. He captained Kilkenny on three of these occasions, 1907, 1909 and 1913. His favourite position was centreback. He wasn't a big man but was always fit and wiry. He played for the county from 1904 to 1914 and won seven Leinster medals as well.

Born in 1878, Drug played his club hurling with Mooncoin, winning four county championships in a career that spanned three decades. Following the end of his intercounty career he got involved in training teams and was in charge of the Laois team that won the 1915 All-Ireland.

 

A Distinguished Captain, Tom Semple (Tipperary) 1879-1943

Thurles went through a lean hurling period after winning the first All-Ireland final and didn't get back into contention for hurling honours until 1904. The man responsible for their change in fortunes was Drombane native and captain, Tom Semple. He was a leader in the real sense of the word and insisted on nothing but the highest standards. He used innovative tactics and training methods. The team favoured a ground hurling style. Jack Mockler recounts how training under Semple involved the players lining up outside the Confraternity Hall, marching out to the Ragg, back in again to spend an hour or two skipping, some work on the punch ball and then a practice match!

Semple was handy with the ball in the hand also. He won the 1906 All-Ireland long puck championship, hitting the 9oz sliotar a distance of 96 yards.

Semple, who was born in 1879, retired from inter-county hurling after defeat in the 1909 All-Ireland but continued playing for the Blues until 1912. His record included six county championships in 1904, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1911, four Munster titles (his first Munster and All-Ireland titles were won with Two-Mile-Borris in 1900), and three All-Irelands in 1900, 1906 and 1908. The Munster win in 1909 was followed by defeat to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland.

In recognition of his exploits on the hurling field and his contribution to the G.A.A. as an administrator at all levels from club through to national level, Thurles Sportsfield was renamed Semple Stadium in his honour in 1971.
 

Little Sim Walton (Kilkenny) 1880-1966

Simon Walton (Tullaroan) better known as Sim and familiarly as Little Sim was born in 1880 and died in 1966. He is synonymous with the great Kilkenny period of success between 1904 and 1913 when he was one of four players to win all seven All-Irelands. He was captain on two occasions, in 1911, when no final was played because Limerick refused to agree to a change of venue, and 1912, when he scored the winning goal against Cork in the final.

He was also captain in 1916 when Kilkenny were beaten by Tipperary in the final. Not a big man, Sim weighed about eleven stone and was of average height. He was noted for his sudden bursts of speed and his accuracy and these attributes, plus his outstanding skill, made him a notable forward who could play effectively in the centre or full positions.

His inter-county career spanned the years 1903 to 1919. He won ten Leinster titles and seven county championships with Tullaroan. He was a legendary character and his name evokes greatness and outstanding ability.
 

A Very Special Captain – Patrick 'Wedger' Meagher (Tipperary) 1890-1958

Patrick 'Wedger' Meagher is probably one of the greatest captains who never won an All-Ireland.

Born in Toomevara, he put the Tipperary parish on the map among Irishmen all over the world because of its association with him and the eponymous Greyhounds.

He was involved with horses from an early age and following a success at the local races, in which he made a very strong finish, he was nicknamed 'Widger', transmuted to 'Wedger' through use, after a contemporary County Waterford family of that name noted for breeding and racing horses.

He was dedicated to hurling and became a formidable corner-back. He soon became involved with the re-organisation of the local club and so began the era of the legendary Greyhounds. They won their first county final in 1910 and this was followed by three-in-a-row between 1912-1914, when Wedger captained the team.

It is said that it was his organising ability, enthusiasm and leadership which were mainly responsible for the success of the team in the early years. The Greyhounds were also stimulated by their battles with the Leahy-powered Boherlahan teams of that era for supremacy within the county.

The highlight of his hurling days was victory over Kilkenny at Dungarvan in the Croke Cup final of 1913. It provided the material for the club's national anthem, 'Hurrah for Toomevara'. In the light of later events and the failure to win an All-Ireland it was a bit premature.

While still playing, Wedger became involved in the National independence movement. He recruited, organised and trained the local Volunteers. He took part in ambushes and spent time in prisons in Belfast, Limerick and Wormwood Scrubs.

He was secretary of the north board from 1914-20 and of the county board from 1922 to 1927. He travelled to the U.S. with the Tipperary team in 1926 and returned there in the following year to spend the remainder of his life in New York. He became Sports Editor of the Irish Echo and his column, Games of the Gaels, became famous far and wide.

During the thirty odd years he spent in New York, he made only a couple of visits home. He had married Ellen Whelehan, a near neighbour from Toomevara, in 1926, and the couple had two children. The best man at the wedding was his great friend and rival, Johnny Leahy of Boherlahan. He died in 1958 and was buried far from his native place in the city of New York.

I never will forget the day/ Kilkenny's pride went down

Before the skill of Wedger's men/ In sweet Dungarvan town.
 

Sean Óg Murphy (Cork) 1897-1956

Jackie, better known as Sean Óg Murphy, was born in Cork City in 1897. One writer described him thus: 'He grew up into a sturdy broad-shouldered man of five feet ten or so with a shock of fair hair, which shook as he hurled. He played in many positions before he settled down at full back and adorned that position for the rest of his career. He was not alone a master hurler of left and right but a man of rare judgment and anticipation. In a tight situation he was cool and resolute with sound ball control. His natural strength was immense. He would dash into a cluster of players, stagger friend and foe alike and emerge with the ball. He rarely lifted the ball and he would drive ground balls of great length off either hand. He never crowded in on his goalkeeper. His pluck was almost reckless at times. One day in a Munster final at Thurles, when Cork were hard-pressed, he went in 'late' on a pull and got the full blow which knocked him to the ground and broke four teeth. Like a roused lion he sprang up, spat out teeth and mud, rushed to the goalmouth and cleared the ball to safety.'

He played hurling with his local club, Blackrock, winning county titles in 1913, 1920, 1924, 1925 and 1927. He featured as captain for the last three victories. He was also a footballer of note and played with Nils, winning county junior titles in 1913 and 1914, and senior titles in 1915, 1917 (as captain), 1924 and 1925.

His first All-Ireland final was on a dark rainy day in November 1915, when Cork lost to Laois, and he retired from playing following an injury in the 1929 Thomond Shield competition. In between Sean Óg won six Munster titles and three All-Irelands. He won his first All-Ireland in 1919 and two more in 1926 and 1928 as captain. He captained Munster in the first inter-provincial competition, when they lost to Leinster in 1927, and captained the province to success in 1928 and 1929. He captained Cork to success in the inaugural National Hurling League in 1926

With the end to his playing career he became involved as a selector. He was already a selector of the successful 1926 and 1928 teams and was also a member of the backroom team on eight more occasions, in 1929, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1952, 1953 and 1955, an achievement unlikely ever to be emulated.

Sean Óg Murphy was appointed secretary of the Cork county board in 1929 and retained the position until his death in 1956. As a tribute to him the trophy awarded the winners of the Cork senior hurling championship is called the Sean Óg Murphy Cup. He was posthumously honoured in 2000, when he was named in the full-back position on the Cork Hurling Team of the Century.

His life is best summed up by a reporter with reference to the 1926 Munster final: 'Here was a leader for you – Sean Óg the captain – a full-back dynamite couldn't move, a hurler who was master of his craft bringing more glamour in its truest sense to the hurling field than any player I have seen up to now.'

 

Garrett Howard (Limerick) 1899-1995

Garrett Howard was one of the Dublin (Garda) team that defeated Cork in the 1927 All-Ireland. He had a varied career that included playing with three clubs, two counties and two provinces during a long and distinguished hurling career.

Born in Croom, Co. Limerick in 1899 he started his career with his local club and won his first county title with them in 1919. Progressing to the county team, he won his first Munster and All-Ireland titles in 1921.

Having joined the new Garda force he moved to Dublin, joining the Garda team, with whom he was to win five county titles in 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928 and 1929. His talent was recognised and he was soon picked for the county with whom he won two All-Irelands in 1924 and 1927. He won a third Leinster title in 1928 before losing to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.

He moved to Toomevara in late 1929 and won two county Tipperary finals in 1930 and 1931.

Transferring to Portroe after 1931, he returned to the Limerick colours becoming part of the great Limerick team of the thirties, winning four Munster finals between 1933 and 1936. Limerick progressed to All-Ireland victories in 1934 and 1936, but lost two in 1933 and 1935, to give him five All-Irelands in all and eight provincial medals.

He also won four National League medals, one with Dublin in 1928 and three with Limerick in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He played in four Railway Cup finals, winning one in 1927 with Leinster, losing two with the same province in 1928 and 1929, and winning one with Munster in 1931. He played on the Ireland team in the Tailteann Games in 1924 and 1928. Having started out as a forward, he settled in as a very accomplished half-back.

His considerable contribution to hurling was recognised in 1982 when he was given an All-Time All-Star Award, which was presented to a former player who, more than likely would have received an All-Star award had the scheme been in existence when he was playing. Garrett Howard died in 1995.

 

Mick Gill – Two All-Irelands in One Year – (Galway & Dublin) 1899-1980

Mick Gill of Ballinderreen, County Galway had the distinction of winning two All-Irelands in the space of three months with two counties. He played his early hurling with his native club and came to prominence with the county team in 1922. His big moment came in 1923 when Galway defeated Limerick in the All-Ireland final, which wasn't played until September 14, 1924. (Limerick refused to play this final until all Civil War prisoners were released and were initially disqualified but were later reprieved.) Galway won by 7-3 to 4-5 in a game in which Gill made a major contribution at midfield with his ploy of lobbing the ball into the square.

In 1924 Gill joined the new Garda force and as such went to live in Dublin, where he joined the Garda club. He was thus qualified to play with Dublin in the 1924 championship and he was on the team that won the Leinster final and defeated Antrim in the All-Ireland semi-final. He came up against his native county in the All-Ireland, which was played on December 14, just three months after winning the 1923 final, and he won his second All-Ireland when Dublin won by 5-3 to 2-6.

He won his second Leinster medal and his third All-Ireland captaining Dublin, when they defeated Cork in the 1927 final. He won two further Leinster medals in 1928 and 1930.He returned to the Galway colours in 1931 and continued to play with them until 1938, when he retired after sixteen years of inter-county hurling. Gill also lined out in the inter-provincial competition with his adopted province of Leinster. He won his sole Railway Cup medal in 1927, the inaugural year of the competition. He was on the Ireland hurling team in the 1928 Tailteann Games. He won a National Hurling League title in 1929. He enjoyed much success with the Garda club in the Dublin championship, winning six county titles in 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1931.

Mick Gill, whose best playing position was right wind-back, died on 21 September 1980, just one day short of his 81st birthday and just two weeks after the Galway hurlers bridged a 57-year gap to capture their second All-Ireland title.

 

Dr. Tommy Daly (Clare) 1894-1936

There is an iconic picture of the legendary Tommy Daly being shouldered from the field following Clare's dramatic victory over Galway in the 1932 All-Ireland semi-final. It was his nineteenth year of senior inter-county competition..

Born in Tulla in 1894, and regarded as one of the greatest hurling goalkeepers of all time, he went to U.C.D. to study medicine and soon made his name as a goalkeeper with the college team, winning Fitzgibbon Cup medals in 1915, 1916, 1917 and later in 1923, 1924 and 1927. He also won three county Dublin titles with the Collegians in 1917, 1918 and 1919. Later in his life he returned to play with his native Tulla and won a county Clare title in 1933.

He first gained prominence at inter-county level in 1914, when he won Munster and All-Ireland medals with the Clare junior team. Following his exploits with U.C.D. Daly soon established himself as the regular Dublin goalkeeper and played with them between 1917 and 1927. During this time he won five Leinster titles in 1917, 1918, 1921, 1924 and 1927, and four All-Irelands in 1917, 1920, 1924 and 1927.

In 1928 the rule preventing non-residents from playing with their native county was amended. Daly, who was practising medicine in London at the time, declared for Clare in 1930. Daly's delay in returned to Clare is attributed to his reluctance to displace the incumbent, George O'Dea, who had guarded the Clare net since 1918. Clare beat Cork in the 1932 provincial decider, which gave Daly his first Munster medal, but lost the All-Ireland to Kilkenny. This concluded his inter-county career.

He captured a Railway Cup medal with Leinster in 1927, the inaugural year of the competition, and played with Munster in 1933 when they lost to Leinster.

Shortly after his retirement he took up refereeing and was highly respected in his new role. He took charge of the 1935 All-Ireland between Kilkenny and Limerick. Dr. Tommy Daly died in a car accident in Tuamgraney in 1936.

 

Tull Considine (Clare) 1898-1980

Tull, (Turlough Owen), Considine was born in Ennis in 1898, the youngest of a family of eleven. He played hurling and football with the Dalcassions Club, winning county hurling titles in 1914, 1915, 1924, 1928 and 1929, and county football titles in 1913 and 1919. He was on the Clare senior football team beaten by Wexford in the 1917 All-Ireland. For all their matches in the championship, Clare entered the field behind a republican flag bearing the inscription, 'Up De Valera'.

He played senior hurling for Clare from 1918 to 1934 at left corner-forward, winning a Munster championship medal in 1932. He was selected for Ireland in the 1928 Tailteann Games. He was an automatic choice on the Munster Railway Cup teams from 1928-1931, winning four inter-provincial medals.

After retiring from Clare senior hurling, he continued to play with the Dalcassioans, and later to train them. He went on to train the St. Flannan's teams of 1944-1947, which won four Harty Cups and four All-Ireland Colleges titles in a row. Famous Clare hurler, Jimmy Smyth, who was a member of these teams, described Till Considine as being 'years ahead of his time in coaching methods.'
 

Lory Meagher (Kilkenny) 1899-1973

One of the outstanding players on the Kilkenny team during the twenties and the thirties was Lorenzo Ignatius Meagher, better known as Lory, who was born in Tullaroan in 1899. The name Lorenzo had been in the family for generations. Lory's father, Henry Joseph Meagher, was believed to have been at Thurles when the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded on November 1, 1884.

In private Lory Meagher was a shy and retiring man. He spent his whole life working as a farmer and never married. He was known for many years as the most eligible bachelor in Kilkenny. He avoided the limelight and was always wary of journalists. Fame was not for him.

There is a great picture of him talking to Kilkenny goalkeeper, Jimmy Walsh, at the 1945 Leinster final against Dublin. He stands beside the goalpost, wearing a cap and a crumpled 'Columbo' overcoat with his hands in the pockets and a recently lit cigarette in his mouth. He is completely nondescript.

Meagher played his club hurling with the famous Tullaroan club in Kilkenny and enjoyed much success. He county titles in 1924, 1925, 1930, 1933 and 1934.

He made his county senior debut in 1924 and went on to win eight Leinster championships in 1925, 1926, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1935, 1936, 1937. Kilkenny, with Lory on board, also won the 1929 final against Dublin but both teams were disqualified for being late on to the field. Having lost two All-Irelands in 1926 and 1931, Lory won three in 1932, 1933 and 1935, before losing two more in 1936 and 1937. He also won a National League title in 1933. He won two Railway Cup medals, the first in 1927, the inaugural year of the competition, and a second in 1933.

Following his death Lory Meagher came to be regarded as perhaps one of the greatest hurlers of all-time. He was personally honoured by being posthumously named on the Hurling Team of the Century in 1984. His reputation was cemented in 2000 when he was also named on the Hurling Team of the Millennium In 2008 the GAA further honoured Meagher by naming the Lory Meagher Cup, the hurling competition for Division 4 teams, in his honour. Meagher's house is preserved as Bród Tullaroan in Tullaroan, County Kilkenny and is open to the public. This is a 17th century, two storey, thatched farmhouse where Meagher lived with his sisters. Adjoining the house there is an exhibition centre and museum dedicated to Kilkenny's many exploits in Gaelic games. Here one can find a wealth of sporting history with a unique collection of trophies and other mementos of the sport including medals and personal awards earned by Meagher and others.

 

Dinny Barry Murphy (Cork) 1904-1973

One of the outstanding hurlers on the Cork team at this time was Dinny Barry Murphy, who was born in Cloughduf in 1904 and initially played junior hurling with them and won an All-Ireland junior title with Cork in 1925. He played senior with Blackrock in 1927 and won a county title. The following year Cloughduf and Bride Rovers combined to form Eire Óg and won the county championship. Murphy played with Eire Óg until 1932 when he transferred to St. Finbarr's and played with them until 1936. He resumed with Cloughduf in 1937 and won county junior and intermediate title in successive years, 1940 and 1941. He played senior hurling once again in the 1942 championship, his last playing season.

Lightly built, Dinny Barry Murphy played at right wing-back and was regarded as one of the greatest hurlers of all time. A piece of doggerel from the period captures something of the man:

Dinny Barry Murphy, boy,

Great hurler, boy!

Hed'd take the ball out of your eye, boy,

And he wouldn't hurt a fly, boy!

He played senior hurling for Cork from 1926 to 1935, during which time he won four All-Ireland titles, 1926, 1928, 1929 (as captain), 1931. He won National League titles in 1926 and 1930. Playing in the inaugural Railway Cup provincial championship in 1927 was the first of eight successive appearance he made for Munster, winning five, 1928, 1929 1930 (as captain), 1931, 1934. He was a sub on the successful 1935 team and won his sixth medal. He represented Ireland in the 1932 Tailteann Games.

 

Timmy Ryan (Limerick) 1910-

Born in 1910, Timmy Ryan first came to notice in 1929 when he won a county junior title with Ahane in 1929. Graduating to senior ranks he was on the Ahane senior side that won its first county title in 1931, went on to win seven in a row between 1933 and 1939, and seven more in a row between 1942 and 1948.

He first came to prominence with Limerick in 1930 and won the first of five Munster titles in 1933. The others were to follow in 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1940. His first All-Ireland was won as captain in 1934, the Jubilee Year of the Association, and two others followed in 1936 and 1940.

His big regret was losing the 1935 final to Kilkenny. With time running out and Kilkenny leading by a points, Limerick were awarded a free and the referee, Dr. Tommy Daly, informed Timmy, who was captain, that it was the last puck of the ball. Timmy, who used to share the free-taking with Mick Mackey, decided to take it but as he was about to do it, Mackey pushed him aside and said he would take it. He failed to rise the ball, the final whistle was blown and Limerick were defeated. Ryan believed he would have got the point and that Limerick would have beaten Kilkenny in the replay. The memory of the defeat rankled years later.

Timmy Ryan was also a member of five successive National League winning teams in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 1937. He also won five Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939. He won an Oireachtas medal in 1939, the inaugural year of the tournament. He won eight Thomond Shield medals in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1944, 1945, (Limerick also won in 1947 but it doesn't appear that Ryan was on the team.)

Timmy Ryan nickname was 'Timmy Good-Boy' and it reflected the warmth, friendliness and gentlemanliness of the person. He loved the game and held the Limerick record, 45, for the number of senior championship appearance, until it was superseded by Mark Foley in 2009. One commentator paid this tribute to him: Timmy was one of the greatest midfielders the game has known, He was a master of the delightful art of overhead striking and in this facet of the game he was without peer. He was known to have doubled on puck-outs and sent the sliotar over the bar. He was a master of every stroke, He played the sliotar first time as it came to him – overhead, shoulder high, or on the ground. He always felt that too much lifting and handling the ball took away from hurling as a spectacle.'

Timmy spent his entire career in the midfield position and turned in consistently brilliant performances. He was also one of the most sporting players on the field.
 

Mick Mackey (1912-1972) Limerick

Mick Mackey, who was born in Castleconnell in 1912, was a colossus among hurlers and vies with Christy Ring and, perhaps, Henry Shefflin, for the title of greatest hurler of all time. He starred during the golden age of Limerick hurling in the thirties and his personal greatness made a major contribution to the golden age.

He played his hurling with Ahane and the club became famous all over Ireland for its exploits. During his playing years with the club, 1930 to 1948, he won fifteen county Limerick championships in hurling and five in football, and won many tournaments as well.

There was a great concentration of talent in Limerick at the time and it came to fruition in 1932. Mackey was the star of this team of all the talents. His status as one of the all-time greats is unquestionable. In a senior inter-county career that lasted for seventeen years he was the pivotal player around whom success was achieved. He is regarded as the player who perfected the solo run and was reputed to carry the ball in his hand when he had his back to the referee!

During this period he won three All-Irelands in 1934, 1936 and 1940, five Munster titles in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 and 1940. He was also a member of five successive National League winning teams in 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936 1937. He won eight Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1943, 1945. He won an Oireachtas medal in 1939, the inaugural year of the tournament. He won eight Thomond Shield medals in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1937, 1940, 1944, 1945, (Limerick also won in 1947 but it doesn't appear that Mackey was on the team.) Other achievements include an All-Army championship in 1943, two Limerick junior hurling and one Limerick minor hurling championships, and a Clare minor hurling championship.

Mackey was also part of the Limerick team's 31 game unbeaten run between October 1933 and August 1935. This sequence of victories included 8 championship, 13 National League and 8 tournament games, He was selected at centre-forward on the Team of the Century in 1984 and the Team of the Millennium in 2000.

P. D. Mehigan (Carbery) had this to say about Mick Mackey, when he picked him on his 'The Best Men of My Time': 'And the 40 yards mark on my hurling team, surely and without question, belongs to that 'Playboy of the Southern World, - Munster's pride and Limerick's glory – the one and only Mick Mackey! For a combination of skill and power, of brains and brawn, the Castleconnell man, son of the great 'Tyler' Mackey, brought joy and thrills galore to thousands.'

A monument was unveiled to Mackey in his native Castleconnell in May 2013. Before that the Mackey Stand in the revamped Gaelic Grounds was named after him. Fittingly, as no player went past him easily during his hurling days, there is a roundabout carrying his name in the city.
 

Harry Gray( Laois & Dublin) 1915-1978

Harry Gray was born in Rathdowney, Co. Laois in 1915, the year Laois won their only senior hurling All-Ireland. He played hurling with Rathdowney and, later, Faughs, His best position was centre-forward. He played with Laois between 1934-1937 before moving to Dublin, with whom he played until 1947, when he returned to play with Laois for the last two years of his playing career, With Dublin he won one All-Ireland in 1938, one National League title in 1939 and four Leinster medals in 1938, 1941, 1942 & 1944. He won a fifth Leinster title with Laois in 1949. He played Railway Cup hurling with Leinster in 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942 and 1943, winning in 1941.

 

Tommy Doyle (Tipperary) 1915-1988

Tommy Doyle of Thurles Sarsfields was one of the greatest hurlers to play with Tipperary. He enjoyed much success with his club, winning county titles in1935, 1936, 1938, 1939, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1946 and he captained Thurles to his ninth success in 1952.

His first outing with the county was as a minor in 1933, when he won his first All-Ireland medal. He soon graduated to the senior team and won his first Munster and All-Ireland medals in 1937 at Killarney. He picked up a second Munster medal in 1941 in a delayed final. A third Munster and a second All-Ireland followed in 1945.

Four years later in 1949 Doyle was 34 years-old and was contemplating giving up inter-county hurling. On his way home from posting a letter to the county board announcing his retirement Doyle bumped into selector John Joe Callanan, who told Doyle that the regular corner-back was ill, and asked him if he would take his place and mark the great Christy Ring. Doyle agreed and he produced perhaps the greatest display of marking in the history of the game, holding the legendary Ring scoreless through 150 minutes of championship hurling. Tipp defeated Cork and Doyle went on to win a fourth Munster medal. The Munster champions later played Laois and won his third All-Ireland medal.

In 1950 he added a National League medal to his collection. He later won a fifth Munster title and subsequently played in another All-Ireland final. That day Tipp continued their hoodoo over Kilkenny and Doyle won his fourth All-Ireland medal. In 1951 Tipp continued their provincial dominance and Doyle added a sixth and final provincial medal to his ever-growing collection. The men from the Premier County later went on to defeat Wexford in a thrilling championship decider, giving Doyle his fifth and final All-Ireland medal. He won a second National League medal in 1952 and subsequently retired from inter-county hurling. He also won Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1948 and 1950.

Nicknamed the Rubber Man, Tommy Doyle played at left wing-back

 

Paddy Ruschitzko (Laois) 1917 – 2004

Paddy Ruschitzko was born in New York of a Polish father and an Irish mother in 1917. When his father died his mother returned to Ireland and Paddy was reared in Muinebeag, Co. Carlow. Later the family moved to Mountmellick, Co. Laois, where Paddy learned his hurling skills. He later emigrated to England but returned to work at the Irish Worsted Mills in Portlaoise, where he ended up as manager and remained until the firm's closure in 1973. He played hurling with Clonad where the highlight of his achievement was three-in-a-row county senior hurling championship 1946-48. At intercounty level he was on the Laois minor hurling team beaten in by Tipperary in the 1934 All-Ireland final. In 1949 he captained the Laois senior side that caused a surprise when they defeated a powerful Kilkenny side in the Leinster final. Laois defeated Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final but lost the final to Tipperary by 3-11 to 0-3. Paddy played at left wing-back and he is the last Laois player to captain a Leinster title team.

 

Jack Lynch (Cork) 1917-1999

Jack Lynch was one of the great dual players, achieving impressive records in hurling and football.

He played his first hurling with his local club, Glen Rovers, in the Blackpool area of Cork city. He enjoyed early success, winning back to back minor hurling titles in 1933, and 1934 as captain. In the same year he won his first senior county title and it was the first of eight county titles in a row. He lost out on two finals in 1944 and 1945, when he played with Civil Service in Dublin. He finished off his club hurling career by winning a further three county medals in succession in 1948, 1949 and 1950.

At the same time he played Gaelic football with his local club, St. Nicholas, winning two county titles with them in 1938 and 1941.

By the late 1930s Lynch was a dual player with the Cork senior hurling and football teams. In 1939 he became the only player in history to captain both the inter-county hurling and football teams in the same year. That year he won the first of his six Munster hurling titles. The other five were won in 1942, 1943, 1944, 1946 and 1947.

He played in his first All-Ireland in 1939 when Cork lost to Kilkenny, He went on to win five titles in 1941, 1942, when he captained the team, 1943, 1944 and 1947. He also lost the 1946 final.

He won National League hurling titles in 1940, 1941 and 1948.

In football he won two Munster finals in 1943 and 1946. He went on to win a football All-Ireland in 1946, defeating Cavan in the final.

He won seven Railway Cup hurling medals in 1938, 1939, 1940, 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1949. In the 1944 Railway Cup semi-finals, played at Croke Park on February 20, Lynch played in three games on the day. In that year he played his club hurling with Civil Service and turned out with them in the morning, scoring 1-1. He then travelled to Croke Park and lined out with Munster against Ulster in football, scoring 0-2. Afterwards he lined out with the Munster hurlers against Ulster and scored 0-1. He missed out on a Railway Cup football medal with Munster in 1946 because he was under suspension for having attended a rugby match, the final Irish trial at the Mardyke, between the Probables and the Rest. Playing on the Rest team that day was his brother-in-law, John Harvey of U.C.C.

Jack Lynch played inter-county hurling from 1936-1950. He came to be regarded as one of the all-time greats of Gaelic games. His contribution to the game of hurling was first recognised when he was named as the "Hurling Captain of the Forties". In 1981 he won an All-Time All-Star award. In the centenary year of the G.A.A. in 1984 Lynch was named at centrefield on the "Hurling Team of the Century". At the special centenary All-Ireland final at Semple Stadium, he received one of the loudest cheers and rounds of applause when all the former All-Ireland winning hurling captains were introduced to the crowd. Shortly after his death in 1999 Lynch's reputation as one of the true greats of the game was further cemented when he was named on the "Hurling Team of the Millennium".
 

Jim Langton (Kilkenny) 1918-1974

Kilkenny lost a great hurler with the retirement of Lory Meagher after the 1937 All-Ireland defeat at Killarney, but they gained an outstanding replacement in Jim Langton, who made his debut with the county a year later.

Born in Laviston in 1918, he was a farmer by occupation and he played with Eire Óg, winning four county titles with the club in 1939, 1944, 1945 and 1947.

He made his first appearance with the county in 1938 in the replay of the Leinster final, when the selectors retained only six of the team beaten so badly in the previous year's All-Ireland. He wasn't on the original panel but he was so impressive in the preceding junior game against Laois he was added to the substitutes and played well when introduced near the end. Kilkenny lost the game. Langton won the first of his two All-Irelands in 1939. Kilkenny had a tough passage against Dublin in the Leinster final and won easily against Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. The so-called 'Thunder and Lightning' final against Cork is regarded as one of the greatest finals ever played, which Kilkenny won by 2-7 to 3-3, with Langton scoring three points.

There was a long break to his second All-Ireland success in 1947. Kilkenny lost to Limerick in the 1940 All-Ireland, when Langton was captain, couldn't compete because of Foot and Mouth in 1941, lost to Dublin in Leinster in 1942, and sensationally to Antrim in the 1943 All-Ireland semi-final, to Wexford in Leinster in 1944, to Tipperary in the 1945 All-Ireland and to Cork in the 1946 final

When Kilkenny beat Cork in the 1947 final Jim Langton was unable to play because of injury. Kilkenny were beaten by Laois in 1948 and 1949 but qualified for the All-Ireland in 1950 before going down to Tipperary. Laois put paid to Kilkenny's chances in 1951, as did Wexford in 1952. They lost to Galway in the 1953 All-Ireland semi-final and were annihilated by Wexford, 5-11 to 0-7 in Leinster in 1954.

This was Jim Langton's forty-third and last championship appearance for Kilkenny during which he scored 15 goals and 146 points. His seventeen years of service as well as his outstanding hurling ability, probably deserved a greater reward but he was unfortunate that his illustrious career coincided with a low period in Kilkenny's hurling fortunes.

As well as his two All-Irelands his record includes eight Leinster titles, in 1939, 1940 1943, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1950 and 1953. He won Railway Cup medals in 1941 and 1954. His favourite position was wing-forward and was regarded as one of the greatest stylists in the game.

Regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time, Langton was the recipient of the GAA All-Time All-Star Award in 1984 while he was also included on both the G.A.A. Hurling Team of the Century and the G.A.A. Hurling Team of the Millennium.

 

Christy Ring (Cork) 1920-1979

Regarded as the greatest hurler of all time, Nicholas, Christopher, Michael Ring, better known as Christy, was born in Cloyne in 1920. A colossus among hurling greats, he possessed everything from talent and ferocious application to longevity and a string of records. Obsessive about the game, he worked relentlessly to sustain a formidable array of techniques, complemented by great vision and anticipation.

He started hurling in the street leagues in Cloyne, progressed to a county minor championship with St. Enda's of Midleton, won a county junior with Cloyne before finding his true home with Glen Rovers in 1941. He finished his club career with them in 1967, having won thirteen senior hurling championships in 1941, 1944, 1945, 1948, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1954, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1964. In the last year he also added a Munster Club medal.

His inter-county career began in 1938 with an All-Ireland minor medal and he progressed to senior ranks in late 1939, going on to win a National League medal in1940, followed by three other successes in 1941, 1947 and 1953.

The first of his eight All-Irelands was won in 1941 and others followed in 1942, 1943 and 1944 to achieve a unique four-in-a-row. After winning a fifth in 1946, a three-in-a-row was won in 1952, 1953 and 1954. Unfortunately for Ring he was unable to add another All-Ireland during the last ten years of his playing career. The nearest he got to another All-Ireland was as a selector for the Cork team during their three-in-a-row success in 1966, 1967, 1968. Ring's last visit to Croke Park was on the day of the 1978 All-Ireland. He was picked on the Team of the Century in 1984 and the Team of the Millennium in 2000.

In all Christy Ring made 64 championship appearances, which was a record until beaten by Brendan Cummins of Tipperary. His last championship appearance was against Waterford in the 1962 Munster championship. He was a non-playing substitute for the two games played by Cork in the 1963 championship and he was dropped from the panel in 1964, even though he was still willing to play.

Another aspect of Ring's greatness can be seen in his success in the Railway Cup competition. He played for Munster from 1941-1963, winning eighteen medals during that period. The only years he failed to win a medal were 1941, 1947, 1954, 1956, 1962. He gave some outstanding displays during these years, scoring 4-5 of Munster's total of 7.11 in the 1959 final, which coincided with the opening of the new Hogan Stand at Croke Park.

Christy Ring started our as goalkeeper, played for some time as a back and eventually found his true place in the forwards, where he was versatile enough to play in any position. He was the top scorer in the 1959-60 and 1960-61 National Leagues. He won the Caltex Hurler of the Year award in 1959.

Christy Ring died on March 2, 1979. An estimated 60,000 people lined the streets of Cork for his funeral. His graveside oration was delivered by Taoiseach Jack Lynch, who was a longtime hurling colleague at Glen Rovers and with Cork.

Gael Linn made a film of his hurling life in 1964. There is a life size statue of Ring in front of the G.A.A. pitch in Cloyne. The county's second stadium, Páirc Úi Rinn is named after him. There's the Christy Ring Bridge over the Lee. In 2005 the G.A.A. inaugurated a hurling competition, the Christy Ring Cup, in his honour. In 2006 a life size statue of him was unveiled at Cork Airport, ideally placed to welcome home locals and baffle tourists.

 

Jimmy Kennedy (Tipperary) 1926-2007

Jimmy Kennedy was born in Kildangan in 1926. After local national school he went to St. Flannan's College, Ennis, where he won Harty Cup and All-Ireland Colleges medals as well as an inter-provincial title with Munster Colleges. He attended University College, Dublin. As an Agriculture Science graduate he started work with Minch Norton Maltings and later Guinness Maltings. In 1971 he and his family purchased J. K. Moloney drapery business in Thurles and he continued there until his retirement to Puckane.

His first hurling medal was a North junior hurling championship with Kildangan in 1944. While at UCD he won a Fizgibbon Cup medal in 1948 and two Dublin county finals in 1947 and 1948. His prowess with U.C.D. soon brought him to the attention of the Dublin county selectors and he made his debut against Antrim in the winter of 1946. The following year he played with Dublin when the county was defeated by Kilkenny in the Leinster final. He won a Leinster medal in 1948 but lost out to Waterford in the All-Ireland. In the following spring he was captain of the Leinster side in the Railway Cup and this brought him to the attention of the Tipperary selectors.

After a lot of persuasion he threw in his lot with Tipperary for the 1949 championship and during three years amassed an impressive array of achievements. He won three Munster finals and three All-Irelands in 1949, 1950 and 1951, one National League title in 1950, plus a trip to New York, one Railway Cup medal in 1950, one Oireachtas medal in 1949, one Thomond Shield medal in 1951 and three Monaghan Cup medals in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

Jimmy Kennedy was one of the most skillful of forwards. He scored 6 goals and 37 points in the six games of the 1949 championship, 4 goals and 23 points in the five games of the 1950 championship. He was described as the' hurling aristocrat with the immaculate style', who moved with speed and grace.

His form declined during the 1951 championship and he didn't play in the All-Ireland against Wexford. When the twenty-one All-Ireland medals were distributed among the twenty-two on the panel, Jimmy was excluded in spite of the fact that he had played two championship games while five of the subs had played none! Jimmy was understandably upset and retired from the panel. He was twenty-five years of age.
 

Ned Power (Wateford) 1929–2007

There is an iconic photograph of Waterford goalkeeper, Ned Power, making a dramatic catch against Christy Ring of Cork in the 1959 Munster championship game. He was a goalkeeper who guarded the net with distinction and class for the county from 1957 to 1966, winning three Munster medals in 1957, 1959 and 1963 and an All-Ireland in 1959. He won a National League medal in 1963, a Railway Cup medal in 1966 and an Oireachtas medal in 1962.

In his early years he played with Dungarvan. Later with Tallow he won a county intermediate medal and was on the senior side beaten in the 1976 county final. He served as selector on county minor, U21 and senior teams and received the Waterford "Hall of Fame" award in 2001.

In retirement from hurling Power maintained a keen interest in coaching. A teacher by profession in Scoil Mhuire in Tallow, his coaching methods with Tallow GAA saw the club win almost every available county title between 1966 and 1980.

Ned Power died on November 15, 2007 after a long illness. His son, journalist Conor Power, has written a biography of his father.
 

John Doyle (Tipperary) 1930-2010

John Doyle, who was born in Holycross in 1930, stood out as a colossus on the hurling field during a playing period of nineteen years. A versatile back man, he played in both the halfback and the full line during his career. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest hurlers in the history of the game and is one of only a handful of players to have won All-Irelands in three decades. He won 8 All-Ireland medals on the field of play and was the second hurler after Christy Ring to achieve that honour.

He first played hurling with Holycross-Ballycahill and his successes with them included three senior county finals, in 1948, 1951 and 1954. He played with the club from 1947 to 1968.

His first appearance with the county was in the minor championship of 1947 and he won his first All-Ireland medal. He came on to the senior side in the replay of the first round of the 1949 Munster championship and never failed to turn out in a championship game between then and the All-Ireland of 1967. Neither did he ever go off injured. He won 8 senior All-Irelands in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1958, 1961, 1962, 1964 and 1965. National League titles were won in 1949, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965. He won Railway Cup medals in 1952, 1953, 1955, 1960 and 1963. Oireachtas medals were won in 1949, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964 and 1965. He was picked on the Team of the Century in 1984 and the Team of the Millennium in 2000

Possessed of a strong physique and a long stride, Doyle was famed for his dependable close defensive play, marked by his ability to execute long clearances from very tight entanglements in his corner-back position. Individually, his mastery of the shoulder-to-shoulder charge, allied to an above average number of deliveries out of defence marked him apart. Collectively, with fellow inner-defenders, Michael Maher (Holycross-Ballycahill) and Kieran Carey (Roscrea), he completed a very formidable trio as Tipperary's last line of defence for a ten-year period from the late 1950s. Their marshalling of territory in front of goal was famously known as "Hell's Kitchen" because of the often tempestuous nature of the exchanges which greeted the dropping ball arriving from mid-field.

 

Liam Devaney (Tipperary) born 1935

Liam Devaney was born in Borrisileigh in 1935 and started off his inter-county career with two Munster and All-Ireland minor titles in 1952 and 1953. He made his debut with the Tipperary senior team in the 1954-55 National League, and won his first league medal when Tipperary defeated Wexford in the final. Two years later he added a second medal. He won further medals in 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964 and 1965, bringing his total to seven.

Championship success eluded him until 1958, when he won the first of five All-Ireland championships. The others were in 1961, when he was instrumental in ensuring Tipperary's victory against Dublin, 1962, 1964 and 1965. He was on the losing side in 1960, 1967 and 1968 and retired after the last defeat. He won eight Munster medals during these years, 1958, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1968.

Liam Devaney was the most versatile of players and is reputed to have played for Tipperary in every position on the field except full-back. As mentioned above he moved to centreback in the 1961 All-Ireland when Tony Wall retired injured and he excelled in the position. He was most at home in the forwards and outstanding on the wing, where he had the facility to score long range points. He was able to strike the ball well on either side.

His star quality was recognised in 1961 when he was presented the Texaco Hurler of the Year award. His other achievements include three Railway Cup medals in 1961, 1963 1nd 1966, and six Oireachtas medals in 1960, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1968.

He was on the Borrisoleigh team that won divisional and county senior finals in 1953. He won three other divisional medals, in 1955, 1972 and 1973. In spite of many temptations to transfer to Thurles Sarsfields following his move to live in the town, he remained faithful to Borrisoleigh and finished out his hurling days with them in the mid-seventies.

 

Jimmy Doyle (Tipperary) born 1939

Regarded as one of the great stylist in the game of hurling, Jimmy Doyle was born in Thurles in 1939 in the shadow of Semple Stadium. Not a big man he excelled at a time when hurling was a much more physical game and survival depended on your ability to avoid your opponents if you couldn't mix it with them. His ball control was superb and regardless of the speed at which the sliotar arrived to his hurley, he was capable of killing it dead. His delicacy of touch and ability to curve a ball, set him apart from other forwards. A versatile player he could play in the half- or full-forward line. He was named in the right corner position in the Hurling Team of the Century and left corner-forward in the Hurling Team of the Millennium.

While in secondary school he won a Harty Cup medal with Thurles CBS in 1956. Already he had come to the notice of the county selectors and was picked as goalkeeper on the Tipperary minor team, beaten in the 1954 All-Ireland. He played a further three years as a minor and won three All-Ireland medals.

He made his debut with the county seniors in 1957 and played with them until 1973, winning six All-Ireland medals in 1958, 1961, 1962 (as captain), 1964, 1965 (as captain) and 1971. During the same period he lost three finals, in 1960, 1967 and 1968. In all, therefore, he played in thirteen All-Irelands, winning nine. He won seven National League titles in 1957, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1964, 1965 (as captain), and 1968. He also lost three finals in 1963, 1966 and 1971. Doyle retired after the 1973 championship. He had started his career in 1954 as a goalkeeper for the minors and he finished his intercounty hurling as a goalkeeper for the seniors, in the absence of Tipperary's regular goalkeeper, Tadhg Murphy.

His tally of 18 goals and 176 points from 39 senior championship games sets him up as one of the top ten scorers of all-time. He was Tipperary's top scorer until 2007, when his record was surpassed by Eoin Kelly. He won the Texaco Hurler of the Year award in 1965.

He won Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1963, 1966, 1969 and 1970. He captained the side in 1963 and 1966. He was on the losing side in the 1962, 1964 and 1965 finals.

Jimmy Doyle played senior club hurling with Thurles Sarsfields between 1956 and 1975. His achievements at this level are equally impressive. He won county senior titles in 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965 and 1975. He was on the losing side in the 1960, 1968 and 1970 finals. He won a county senior football medal with Thurles Crokes in 1961. Earlier in his career, he won four county minor hurling medals in 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957.

After his retirement Jimmy Doyle spent a couple of years managing the Laois senior hurling team.

 

Eddie Keher (Kilkenny) born 1941

Eddie Keher was born in Inistioge and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the game. His club wasn't very successful but it came from nowhere to win a county title in 1968, to which Keher contributed significantly and the victory ensured that he was captain of the Kilkenny team that won the All-Ireland in 1969.

His natural talent was early recognised when he went to St. Kieran's College and he was a member of the county minor team for four years, winning four Leinster titles but no All-Ireland.

On his last year as a minor in 1959 he progressed to the senior team when he was drafted in for the replay of the senior All-Ireland. Over the next eighteen years he played fifty championship games and established himself as the most prolific scorer in the game. His tally of 36 goals and 307 points stood as the record until it was surpassed by Henry Shefflin. His tally of 2 goals 11 points in the All-Ireland final of 1972 was the record individual score for a final until surpassed by Nicky English's 2-12 in the 1989 final.

Eddie Kehir's achievements include six All-Irelands, 1963, 1967, 1969, 1972, 1974 and 1975, ten Leinster finals in 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974 and 1975. He won National League titles in 1962, 1966 and 1976. Oireachtas meals were won in 1959, 1966, 1967 and 1969.

Keher was a regular member of the Leinster Railway Cup team, making his first appearance in 1961 and winning his first medal in 1964. Others followed in 1967, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977, a total of nine medals, which is a record for a Leinster player.

Keher's outstanding talent was recognised when he was selected for the Texaco Hurler of the Year award in 1972. He won five consecutive All-Star awards between 1971-75. He was named for the left corner-forward position on the Hurling Team of the Century in 1984, and on the right corner-forward position on the Hurling Team of the Millennium.

Following his retirement from playing in 1977 Keher and Pat Henderson managed the Kilkenny senior team in 1979 and won an All-Ireland. Keher took over the team again in 1987 but without success.

 

Eamonn Cregan (Limerick) born 1945.

Eamonn Cregan's county career with Limerick spanned the period 1964-83. He had already won a Munster minor medal with his county in 1963 before graduating to senior ranks. Noted for his skill level, ball control, and scoring ability, he had great mental strength and was an outstanding forward, winning three All-Star Awards in the full-forward line, 1971, 1972 and 1980. He was also a distinguished centre-back as was revealed in the 1973 All-Ireland, when he was moved back to manage Kilkenny's, Pat Delaney. He was a dual player, equally adept at football, which he played at club and county level. He gave it up in 1971 to concentrate on hurling

His achievements include one all-Ireland senior hurling medal in 1973, four Munster senior hurling medals in 1973, 1974, 1080 and 1981. He won a National League title in 1971and an Oireachtas medal as well. While at school in Limerick CBS he won a Harty Cup medal. At the interprovincial level he won 4 Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1973, 1974, 1980 and 1981

With his club, Claughaun, he won three county senior hurling medals in 1968, 1971 and 1986 and four county senior football medals in 1967, 1969, 1970 and 1971.

Following his retirement he went into management and managed Clare, Limerick and Offaly. His most successful stint was with Offaly, taking them to two Leinster titles in 1994 and 1995, plus an All-Ireland in the former year, when Offaly's opponents in the final were his native Limerick.

 

Noel Skehan (Kilkenny) born 1945

Noel Skehan, who was born in 1945, played with the Bennetsbridge club, with whom he won six senior titles in 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1967 and 1971.

He was a talented younger player and was a member of the county minor team in 1962, when he won Leinster and All-Ireland medals. In 1963 he was drafted into the senior ranks as understudy to his cousin, Ollie Walsh. Over the next nine seasons Skehan was a substitute on the senior side, making the occasional appearance and winning six Leinster and three All-Ireland titles. The latter were won in 1963, 1967 and 1969. Three Leinster titles were also won in 1964, 1966 and 1971.

In 1972 Skehan succeeded Walsh as goalkeeper and was to remain in charge until 1985. He won six All-Irelands and eight Leinster titles. His first in 1972 was spectactular when Kilkenny came back from the dead to beat Cork and Skehan was captain of the team. He also won Man of the Match and an All-Star award later.

In 1973 he won his second Leinster only to lose the All-Ireland and other Leinster titles followed in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1982 and 1983. As well as 1972, All-Irelands were won in 1974, 1975, 1979, 1982 and 1983. Four National League titles were won in 1966, 1976, 1982 and 1983. He won four Railway Cup medals in 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1979, out of eight final appearances. Oireachtas medals were won in 1966, 1967, 1969 and 1984.

His high standing as a goalkeeper was recognised in 1982 when he was given the Texaco Hurler of the Year award, only the second time for a goalkeeper to win this prestigious award. His standing is further reflected in his impressive tally of seven All-Star awards, five-in-a-row in 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1976, and two-in-a-row in 1983 and 1983

Skehan has also served as a selector with the Kilkenny senior hurlers under Brian Cody. During his tenure as a selector in the early 2000s, Kilkenny captured back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2002 and 2003. Those two years also saw Skehan guide the Leinster provincial team to back-to-back Railway Cup titles.

 

Tony Doran (Wexford) born 1946

Tony Doran was born in Boolavogue in 1946. He joined the famous Buffer's Alley club and played with them for over thirty years, winning twelve senior titles with them in 1968, 1970, 1975, 1976, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1992. Leinster titles were won in 1986, 1989 and 1993, with an All-Ireland also won in 1989.

At underage with the county Doran won a minor All-Ireland in 1963 and an under-21 medal in 1965.

He made his debut with the seniors in 1966 and won a National League title in 1967. In the same year he won his first Leinster and All-Ireland titles, scoring two goals in the latter match. A second Leinster title was won in 1970 but he had to wait until 1976 and 1977 for two further titles. Unfortunately there were defeats in the subsequent All-Irelands. He had no more success and retired after defeat by Offaly in the 1984 championship.

He won seven Railway Cup medals, five in a row with a great Leinster team between 1971 and 1975, and two further ones in 1977 and 1979. He won the Texaco Hurler of the Year award for his outstanding displays during the 1976 championship. In the same year he won an All-Star award.

Full-forward was his favourite position and poaching goals was his delight. His forte was reaching high for the ball, putting the head down and heading for goal, with the result usually a goal or a free. In forty championship appearances he scored 41 goals and 57 points.

 

Eamonn Grimes (Limerick) born 1947

Eamonn Grimes first revealed his hurling brilliance while a student at Limerick C.B.S., winning three Harty Cup medals in 1964, 1965 and 1966, and adding two All-Ireland Colleges medals in 1964 and 1966.

Grimes first came to prominence on the inter-county scene as a member of the Limerick minor hurling team in 1963. In that year he won the first of two Munster minor medals – the second was in 1965 – but lost the two All-Irelands to Wexford and Dublin respectively. He had no success with Limerick at under-21 level

He joined the Limerick senior team in 1966, playing his first game against Tipperary in the Munster championship on the day before he sat for his Leaving Certificate, and was a regular member of the side, usually playing at centrefield or wing-forward, until his retirement after the 1981 championship. During this time he won an All-Ireland medal in 1973, when he captained the team, and four Munster medals in 1973, 1974, 1980 and 1981. He also won a National League and an Oireachtas title in 1971. He won the first of two All-Star awards in 1973, when he was also named Texaco Hurler of the Year, and he won his second in 1975. Both awards were at wing-forward. He won two Railway Cup meals in 1976 and 1978

He played his club hurling with South Liberties, where he was joined by four brothers, Lar, John, Mikey and Joe. He won the first of four championship medals in 1972, the others coming in 1976, 1978 and 1981. Grimes retired from club hurling in 1986.

 

Frank Cummins (Kilkenny) born 1947

Frank Cummins, who was born at Knocktopher in 1947 and played hurling with his local club and Blackrock of Cork, is widely regarded as one of Kilkenny's greatest players. He was a member of the county senior hurling team from 1968 to 1984, playing in the challenging position of centrefield, where he won all his seven All-Ireland titles on the field of play and an eighth as a substitute in 1967. One measure of his greatness was his achievement in 1983 when, at thirty-six years of age, he was awarded the Texaco Hurler of the Year award.

Following secondary school in Belcamp College, where he played hurling and football and won a Leinster medal in the latter sport, he played junior hurling with Knocktopher, the forerunner of the famous Ballyhale Shamrocks club, Cummins joined Blackrock of Cork with whom he had a very successful career, winning six county titles in 1971, 1973, 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1985, five Munster Club titles (excluding 1985) and three All-Ireland club titles in 1971, 1973 and 1978.

At intercounty level he had no success at minor level and won a Leinster title at under-21 level. He joined the Kilkenny senior team for an Oireachtas game in 1966, was a non-playing substitute when Kilkenny won the All-Ireland in 1967 and found a regular place on the team in 1968. He won All-Ireland medals in 1967 (as substitute), 1969, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1982 and 1983. As well as these years he also won Leinster titles in 1971, 1973 & 1978. National League medals were won in 1976, 1982 and 1983.

Other achievements include six Railway Cup medals in 1971, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1977, Oireachtas medals in 1969 and 1984 and All-Star Awards in 1971, 1972, 1982 and 1983.
 

John Connolly (Galway) born 1948

John Connolly was born in Connemara in 1948. While still young his family moved into Galway city and he played hurling with Castlegar. He was also adept at football and boxing. Also playing with his local club were his brothers, Padraic, Joe, Gerry, Michael, Tom and Murth. John won county senior titles with the club in 1967, 1969, 1972, when the club added Connacht, 1973, when the Connacht title was also won, 1979, when the club won Connaght and All-Ireland titles, and 1985.

Connolly made his debut with the county at underage level but without success and this continued at minor and under-21 level. Called up to senior level Galway were in the doldrums after eleven years in the Munster championship. His first success came in 1975 when he captained Galway to their first National League success since 1951 and won a place in the All-Ireland final, after shocking Cork in the semi-final, although losing to Kilkenny in the All-Ireland .

In 1979 Galway qualified for the All-Ireland again, having shocked Cork once again in the semi-final, but they went down badly in the final against Kilkenny. However, Connolly received his second All-Star award – his first had been awarded in 1971, the inaugural year of the award.

The high point of John Connolly's hurling career was in 1980 when Galway defeated Limerick in the All-Ireland and take their first title since 1923. They qualified for their third final in a row in 1981 before going down to Offaly, who were winning their first, in the All-Ireland. Connolly continued to play until 1984, when he retired. He won a Railway Cup medal in 1980, when Connacht defeated Munster.

 

John Horgan (Cork) born 1950

John Horgan began his club hurling career with Passage West but transferred to Blackrock in 1968. He had a very successful career with the club, winning county finals in 1971, 1973, 1975, 1978 and 1979, plus Munster medals in the same years with the exception of 1979, and All-Ireland medals in 1971, 1973 and 1978, when he was also captain.

Horgan ability was recognised at an early stage and he played on the Cork minor side for three years, winning Munster medals in 1966, 1967 and 1968, plus an All-Ireland in 1967. He was also successful at under-21 level, winning Munster and All-Ireland medals in 1970 and 1971.

He made his senior debut for Cork in the 1969-70 National League, when he won his first medal. He won two further league medals in 1974 and 1981. He won Munster medals in 1970, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979, when he was captain. His four All-Irelands were won in 1970, 1976, 1977 and 1978. Railway Cup medals were won in 1976 and 1978, as well as Oireachtas medals in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

John Horgan was a distinctive player on the field of play with his blond locks of hair waving in the wind as he came out of defence to clear the ball. Corner-back was his position and his ability was recognised in his three All-Star awards in the position, 1974, 1977 and 1978, as well as being named Texaco Hurler of the Year in the last year. He retired in 1981, managed Blackrock for a year in 1982, and came back twenty years later to look after Castlelyons, and later Douglas.

 

Joe McKenna (Limerick) born 1951

Although born in Shinrone, Co. Offaly in 1951, Joe McKenna played his hurling with South Liberties and Limerick. He won his first county senior title with them in 1972. Three more titles were won in 1976, 1978 and 1981. The club also lost Munster Club finals in 1976 and 1981.

Having played minor and under-21 with the county, McKenna joined the senior panel in 1971, though he didn't gain a regular place on the team until after the 1973 Munster final. In that year he won his first All-Ireland, when Limerick defeated Kilkenny, and he won a second Munster title in 1974 before losing the subsequent All-Ireland.

Limerick hurling went into decline after that until 1980, when McKenna won his third Munster final before losing the All-Ireland final to Galway. He won a fourth Munster medal in 1981 only to lose to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. His final success was a National League medal in 1984 and he retired for intercounty hurling in 1985.

McKenna was a very effective full-forward and his talent was recognised with six All-Star awards in 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1981, the last four of which were in the full-forward position.

He also won Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1976, 1981 and 1984.

 

Ger Loughnane (Clare) born 1953

Ger Loughnane was born in Feakle in 1953. He had some underage success with his club but he had to wait until the end of his hurling days to win a county final. Feakle were beaten in the 1987 final but came good in 1988, their first title since 1944. Earlier in his career, he won an intermediate final with the club in 1973. Loughnane also played with Wolfe Tones na Sionna for a couple of years in the mid-eighties.

While in school at St, Flannan's College he won a Munster Colleges under-15 medal but lost Dean Ryan Cup and Harty Cup finals. He was a member of the Clare minor team beaten in the 1971 Munster final and he was to lose finals also at under-21 level in 1972 and 1974.

He made his senior debut with the county in a National League game in 1972 and it was to be the first of over 100 appearances in the competition. He was a key member of the teams that captured successive league title in 1977 and 1978.

He made his championship debut in 1973 and one of the greatest disappointments of his life was the failure to win a Munster title. Clare came very near to doing so in 1977 and 1978, and Loughnane lost three other finals in 1974, 1981 and 1986. He captained the side at Semple Stadium in 1984 on a day when Tipperary needed a last-minute goal by Liam Maher from the rebound of a Seamus Power penalty to defeat Clare by a point.

As some consolation for these disappointments, Loughnane became the first Clare man to win an All-Star award in 1974 and he won a second award in 1978. His outstanding talent was also recognised when he was picked on the Munster team on six occasions, winning Railway Cup titles in 1976, 1978 and 1981. He retired from inter-county hurling in 1987 after 26 championship appearances.

Ger Loughnane made a greater impact on the public as a manager than as a player. He was in charge of the county from the end of 1994 to 2000. His achievements with Clare were historical, bringing them three Munster titles in 1995, 1997 and 1998, and two All-Ireland titles in 1995 and 1997, It is generally accepted that Clare should have gone the whole way in 1998 also. The 1995 Munster victory was the first for the county since 1932. His physical training sessions broke new ground but the work he did on the minds of the players was even more effective, giving them a belief in themselves which helped them overcome the psychological impact of years of defeat. He revolutionised ideas on team training.

Having retired from the management of Clare, Loughnane took over Galway for two years, 2006-2008, but without much success, getting the county to the 2008 final of the National League.

 

Jimmy Barry-Murphy (Cork) born 1954

One of the most versatile of sportsman, Jimmy Barry-Murphy played football and soccer (with Cork Celtic) as well as hurling. He played his hurling and football with St. Finbarr's. After an unsuccessful underage period he joined the senior team in 1972 and, in the light of his later profile for sportsmanship, was sent off and got a two-month suspension in his first year.

In 1974 he won county, Munster and All-Ireland club titles with the club. He had another clean sweep in 1977. In 1980 there was another county and Munster but defeat in the All-Ireland. Further county titles were won in 1981, 1982, 1984 and 1988, bringing his county tally to seven.

He had further success with the club in football. He won a county minor championship in 1971, under-21 in 1973 and senior in 1976, 1979 and 1980. In 1979 and 1980 the club progressed to Munster and All-Ireland titles, giving Barry Murphy the distinction of being a dual All-Ireland club medalist.

He was also a dual player at county level. He first came to prominence on the inter-county scene in 1971, winning a Munster minor football medal but losing the All-Ireland. He was also minor in 1972 when Cork went all the way with Munster and All-Ireland titles. He won a Munster under-21 title in 1974. By this stage he had progressed to the senior side and made a major contribution to Cork's Munster and All-Ireland titles in 1973. He added a second Munster title in 1974. He added a National League title in 1980 following which he retired from inter-county football.

His intercounty hurling career commenced with Munster and All-Ireland minor titles in 1971. He won another Munster title in 1972. In 1973 he won Munster and All-Ireland under-21 titles. He won a second Munster title in the grade in 1975.

In the same year he made his senior championship debut and won a Munster medal. He won further Munster titles in 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, when he was captain, 1983, 1984 1985 1986. He won five All-Irelands, a three-in-a-row in 1976-78, the centenary final in 1984, and 1986. He won two National League titles in 1980 and 1981. Oireachtas medals were won in 1975 and 1985. He also in a dual winner in Railway Cups, winning four football in 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978, and one hurling title in 1981. He retired from intercounty hurling in 1987.

After a successful period of management of the Cork minor hurling team in 1994 and 1995, Jimmy Barry Murphy was in charge of the Cork senior team from 1995 to 2000, winning the All-Ireland in 1999, two Munster finals and a National League. He resumed management of the team in 2012.

Jimmy Barry Murphy was an outstanding player, a forward in hurling and football, and an enormously popular man. His greatness was recognised when he was awarded All-Star awards in hurling and football. His two hurling awards came in 1976 and 1978 and his football awards were in 1973 and 1974. His popularity was reflected in the reaction to the announcement of his retirement from hurling. On 2 April 1987, the announcement, edged in black, was spread across page one of the national newspapers in a style more familiar to the death of world leaders. The first modern Gaelic games superstar had finally retired.

 

John Fenton (Cork) born 1955

John Fenton was born in Midleton in 1955 and is regarded as one of the great Cork players. He started playing with the local club at minor level at the age of thirteen as a goalkeeper but he later made his life at midfield. There was little success until the club won the county intermediate title in 1978. Following on from, that he won his first senior title in 1983, the first to be won by the club since 1916. The club progressed to a Munster Club title before losing to Gort in the All-Ireland semi-final. Further titles were won in 1986, 1987 and 1991. In 1987 Fenton won a second Munster title and Midleton went all the way to win the All-Ireland Club championship on St. Patrick's Day 1988 and give him his All-Ireland medal.

Fenton played with the Cork minors without success. He won two Munster under-21 titles in 1975 and 1976 and, having lost the All-Ireland to Kilkenny in 1975, came good against the same opposition in the 1976 final.

He made his senior debut in 1975 and won a Munster medal, before losing in the All-Ireland semi-final. He found it difficult to become a permanent member of the team and missed out on the three All-Irelands won by Cork in 1976, 1977 and 1978. He won a second Munster in1979 but again lost out to Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. He won a third Munster medal in 1982. By 1983 he had become a key member of the team and won his fourth Munster title that year.

He won his fifth Munster medal and his first All-Ireland in 1984 and was captain of the side as a result of Midleton's success. A sixth Munster title was won in 1985. In 1986 he won his seventh Munster and second All-Ireland titles. He retired after defeat in the 1987 Munster final.

His other achievements included two National League medals in 1980 and 1981, three Railway Cups in 1981, 1984, when he was captain, and 1985, and he also captained Cork to the Centenary Cup victory in 1984.

In retrospect it is difficult to understand why it took Fenton so many years to become a permanent member of the Cork team. Once he established himself he was outstanding, winning five successive All-Star awards between 1983-87 and the Texaco Hurler of the Year award in 1984. He was professional in his approach to training and preparation and his goal from forty-five yards out in the 1987 Munster semi-final is listed as one of RTE's Top G.A.A. Moments.
 

Liam Fennelly (Kilkenny) born 1958

Although born in Piltown in 1958 Liam Fennelly at the age of three years moved with his family to live in Ballyhale and he had a very successful career with that club, which was founded only in 1972 with help from his father. He won his first county medal in 1978 and he added eight more titles during his playing career with the club. These were won in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1988, 1989 and 1991. To these nine county successes were added four Leinster titles in 1978, 1980, 1983 and 1989, as well as All-Ireland titles in the last three years. In the All-Ireland final of 1980 Liam Fennelly had six brothers on the team with him.

Fennelly first came to prominence in the county in the mid-seventies, winning a Leinster minor title in 1976. As a substitute on the under-21 side he won Leinster and All-Ireland titles in 1977

He made his debut with the seniors in 1981 and he played thirty-one championship games until his retirement in 1992. He won All-Ireland in 1982, 1983 and 1992, having the distinction of captaining the team on two occasions, in 1983, when he was the last Kilkenny captain to receive the original Liam McCarthy Cup, and 1992, when he became the first captain to receive the new McCarthy Cup. During the same period he won six Leinster titles in 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1991 and 1992. He won National League titles in 1982, 1983, 1986 and 1990.

His standing as a hurling forward is reflected in his four All-Star awards in 1983, 1985, 1987 and 1992, as it is in his selection at full-forward in the Kilkenny Team of 125 Years, which was picked in 2010.

 

Conor Hayes (Galway) born 1958

Conor Hayes was born in Kiltormer in 1958 and played with the local club. Success came in 1976 when he won his first county senior medal. Other titles were won in 1977, 1982, 1990 and 1991. Connaght titles were won in 1982, 1990 and 1991, but it took until the last year for the club to progress all the way to capture the All-Ireland title, defeating Birr in the final, following a three-game saga with Cashel King Cormacs in the semi-final.

Hayes first came to prominence with the county at under-21 level in the late seventies. In 1978 he won an All-Ireland medal when Galway defeated Tipperary in a replay. In 1979 he captained the side to defeat by the same opposition in the final.

By this stage Hayes had already made his debut with the county seniors and Galway qualified for the 1979 final, following an unexpected victory over Cork in the semi-final. They lost on a day when the Galway goalkeeper had a nightmare performance.

All this was forgotten in the euphoria of going all the way in the 1980 final and hearing Joe Connolly's speech and Joe McDonagh's rendition of 'The West Awake' after receiving the McCarthy Cup. Hayes was in a third final in 1981 but went down to Galway, and the same happened in the 1985 and 1986 finals. The worm eventually turned with victories in the 1987 and 1988 All-Irelands and there should have been a further victory in 1988 but for the Keady affair. Hayes was captain of the side for the three years, an indication of his standing among his fellow players not only as a hurler but as a leader of men. He retired from inter-county hurling following the 1989 defeat.

Hayes won two National League titles in 1987 and 1989. He won four Railway Cup medals in 1980, 1983, 1986 and 1987, when he captained the side. He won three consecutive All-Star awards at full-back in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

Hayes took over the management of the Galway senior team at the end of 2002. There was no success in 2003, a National League title was won in 2004, Kilkenny were beaten in the All-Ireland semi-final in 2005 but the final was lost to Cork, and there was no success in 2006, at the end of which he resigned.

 

Ger Cunningham (Cork) born 1961

Ger Cunningham was born in 1961 and played his club hurling with St Finbarr's. He tasted his first success in 1980 when the club won the county senior title, and he won further titles in 1981, 1982, 1984, 1988 and 1993. A Munster title was also won in 1980.

When he was drafted into the county set-up in the late seventies, he was a dual player and played hurling and football at minor level. He won two Munster and All-Ireland hurling titles in 1978 and 1979. He won an under-21 football title in 1981 and a hurling title in 1982.

Cunningham joined the Cork senior panel as early as 1979 and made his debut in a challenge match in 1980. He replaced Timmy Murphy as first-choice goalkeeper in 1981 and remained so until 1998, playing in fifty championship and one hundred and eleven National League games.

During this period Cunningham won seven Munster titles in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, when he captained the side, 1986, 1990 and 1992, and three All-Irelands in 1984, 1986 and 1990. National League titles were won in 1981, 1993 and 1998. He won Railway Cup medals in 1984, 1985 and 1992.

Following his playing career he served as a selector and goalkeeping coach to the Cork team under managers Donal O'Grady and John Allen from 2003 to 2006. In 2009 he took over the manager's role with Ballygunner.

Ger Cunningham was an outstanding goalkeeper for nearly twenty years and his talent in the position was recognised with three All-Star awards in 1984, 1985 and 1986, as well as the prestigious Texaco Hurler of the Year in 1986.

 

Nicky English (Tipperary) born 1962
 

Born in the parish of Lattin-Cullen in 1962, Nicky English was one of the outstanding forwards to play for Tipperary. He played senior hurling from 1982 until 1996, taking part in thirty-five championship games and scoring 20 goals and 117 points. He holds the modern record for the greatest number scores in an All-Ireland final, 2-12 in 1989. In that year his greatness was honoured when he won the Texaco Hurler of the Year award, as it was in the six All-Star awards he received during his career, in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988 and 1989.

His club, Lattin-Cullen, was a dual club and he won three divisional titles with it, intermediate football in 1989, junior hurling in 1992 and intermediate hurling in 1996. During his time at U.C.C. he won five Fitzgibbon Cups in a row, 1981-85, scoring in all five finals.

His intercounty career commenced as a minor in 1979 and he won an All-Ireland in 1980. He joined the county under-21 side in 1981, winning an All-Ireland in that year., was on the side beaten in the centenary Munster final by Cork at Thurles and was part of the team that came good during the end of the eighties. He won two senior All-Irelands in 1989 and 1991, five Munster titles in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1993, and two National League titles in 1988 and 1994. He won two Railway Cup medals in 1984 and 1985. He won an Oireachtas medal in 1990.

In 1999 English was appointed manager of the Tipperary senior team and remained in charge until defeated in the 2002 championship. The high point of his managerial period was winning the National League and All-Ireland championship in 2001.

Nicky English was one of Tipperary's greatest forwards and his talent was recognised when chosen in the left full-forward position on the Tipperary Hurling Team of the Century.

 

Pat Fox (Tipperary) born 1962

Pat Fox was born in Annacarty in 1962 and he played with the local club, Eire Óg, with whom he had little success until senior level, winning West titles in 1981 and 1986. He started his intercounty career with the Tipperary minors but he had to wait until under-21 level to achieve success. He won three All-Irelands at this level, in 1979, 1980 and 1981. To this can be added two Munster medals. He wasn't drafted into the team in 1979 until after the Munster final. Pat was young enough for under-21 in 1982 when the over-hyped and over-confident side, with eleven of the previous year's panel, threw away a glorious opportunity in the Munster championship outing against Limerick. Pat started off at centrefield but reverted to corner-back and ended up as corner-forward.

Pat had already made his way on the senior panel as early as 1979 in the league and made his championship debut against Cork at centrefield in partnership with Gerry Stapleton. In these years Tipperary were in the doldrums. Because of a knee injury he dropped out in 1983 and played junior in 1984. He was back on the side in 1985 and 1986.

When Babs took over at the end of 1986 Pat was in his plans and he was part of the recovery of Tipperary's fortunes. His first senior success came on the historic day at Killarney in 1987 and he went on to win four more Munster finals in 1988, 1989, 1991 and 1993. His two All-Irelands came in 1989 and 1991. Probably the high point in his hurling was in the latter year. He was awarded the RTE Man of the Match award for his display in the All-Ireland, in which he scored five points. He was also voted the Most Consistent Player of the Year in the same year. He was made Tipperary Person of the Year and he capped the year with the Texaco Hurler of the Year award.

As well as the above honours and achievements, Pat also won two National League titles in 1988 and 1994.He won an Oireachtas medal in 1990. He won All-Star Awards in 1987, 1989 and 1991.

In the 37 senior championship games he played with Tipperary, he scored 13 goals and 98 points.

 

Joe Cooney (Galway) born 1965

Joe Cooney was born in Bullaun in 1965, the tenth child in a family of fourteen. He attended St. Raphael's School in Loughrea. Playing his club hurling with Sarsfields, he enjoyed much success. He won a county under-21 medal in 1984 and five years later won the first of five senior titles. The remaining four were won in 1992, 1993, 1995 and 1997. Connaght titles were added in the same years, and All-Irelands in 1992 and 1993. In the 1989 final which Sarsfields lost to Ballyhale Shamrocks, five Cooney brothers lined out against seven Fennellys!

Cooney first came to prominence with Galway when he won a minor All-Ireland in 1983 against a Dublin team that included Niall Quinn. Three years later he won an under-21 All-Ireland.

He made his debut with the county seniors in 1985 when Galway lost the All-Ireland to Offaly. He lost a second All-Ireland in 1986. Before lining out for his third All-Ireland in 1987, he won a National League medal. He won All-Irelands in 1987 and 1988. A third ought to have been won in 1989 but the Keady affair scuppered Galway's chances. In place of it Cooney had to be satisfied with a second National League title. Galway reached the All-Ireland again in 1990 but lost to Cork.

Galway's fortunes declined after that and, although Cooney continued to play inter-county hurling until 2000, he won nothing more. He played in the 1993 All-Ireland final only to lose to Kilkenny.

As well he won three National League titles in 1987, 1989 and 1996, and four Railway Cup medals in 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1991. His great talent was recognised when he was named Texaco Hurler of the Year in 1987 and he won five All-Star awards, in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989 and 1990, in a long and distinguished hurling career.

 

Liam Dunne (Wexford) born 1968

Liam Dunne played his club hurling with Oulart the Ballagh. After making his senior debut with the club in 1986, he won his first county title in 1994, and went on to win five more 1995 1997, 2004, 2005 and 2007 in a glorious period of club history. Leinster finals were lost in 1994 and 1995.

At county level he played minor in 1985 and 1986, winning a Leinster title in the first year. He was called up to the under-21 team in 1986 and won a Leinster title. He won a second title in 1987.

He made his senior debut in 1988 in the Oireachtas competition, later playing in the championship and made thirty-eight appearances until he retired early in 2004. He had to wait until 1996 for his first success. Under the management of Liam Griffin Wexford captured the Leinster and All-Ireland titles. Dunne won a second in 1997, when the Leinster title was retained. During the remainder of his career Wexford reached the semi-final through the back door in 2003 but no more titles were won and he retired early in 2004. He won a Railway Cup medal in 1993.

Following his retirement he went into management first with the county juvenile teams in 2005 and later with the minor team, for two years in 2007. He took over the Oulart the Ballagh in 2009 and he won three county finals in a row, 2009-2011. He was appointed manager of the Wexford team at the end of 2011.

Liam Dunne was one of the finest players to come out of Wexford and his talent was recognised in three All-Star awards in 1990, 1993 and 1996. In 2004 he released his autobiography, I crossed the Line, in which he revealed his battle with alcoholism.
 

Anthony Daly (Clare) born 1969

Anthony Daly was born in Clarecastle in 1969 and played his hurling with the local club. While at school at St. Flannan's College he won both Dr. Harty Cup and All-Ireland Colleges titles. He made his senior championship debut with Clarecastle in 1987 and won his first county final. He won further titles in 1991, 1994, 1997 and 2003. In 1997 the club also won a Munster Club medal before losing to Birr in a replayed All-Ireland semi-final.

At the county level he featured on the minor and under-21 sides without success and he graduated to the Clare senior team in the 1989 National League, winning a Division 2 medal. He made his championship debut 1990 and made 33 appearances until his retirement in 2000. In 1992 he was appointed captain of the team, a position he held until his retirement. There was no success until 1994 when he won a second Division 2 medal in the National League.

Following Ger Loughnane's takeover as manager, Clare's hurling fortunes improved and Daly won his first Munster title in 1995, followed by the county's first All-Ireland since 1914. Daly added a second Munster title and All-Ireland in 1997. He won his third Munster medal in 1998 and was unlucky not to add a third All-Ireland.

He won two Railway Cup medals in 1995 and 1996, captaining the team in the latter year. He received three All-Star awards in 1994, 1995 and 1998

Following his retirement from playing Daly took over the management of Clarecastle in 2002. This was followed by the management of the Clare senior team from 2003 to 2006. In 2008 he took over the management of the Dublin senior team and was still with them in 2013.

Anthony Day was an impressive wing-back and an even more impressive captain, who led a team of a well-behaved and disciplined bunch of players and gave them an articulate voice.

 

Ciaran Carey (Limerick) born 1970

Ciaran Carey was born in 1970 at Patrickswell and became one of the finest hurlers of his generation, excelling in the centreback position. He won his first county medal as a minor with Patrickswell in 1984, and his first senior medal as a seventeen-year old in 1987. Further medals were won in 1988, when Patrickswell added a Munster Club medal. A third county medal was won in 1990 and this was followed by defeat in the All-Ireland Club final. During the next decade the club were very successful with further titles coming to them in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1997. Two more titles were won in 2000 and 2003 for a total of nine titles.

Carey made his senior debut with Limerick in 1989 and won his first title, the National League, in 1992 A second was won in 1997. He had to wait until 1994 for his first Munster title but then had to endure a heartbreak defeat by Offaly in the All-Ireland. In 1996 he won his second Munster final but lost again in the All-Ireland to Wexford. Carey played a captain's part in the Munster semi-final, when he got the vital score to beat All-Ireland champions, Clare. He captained Limerick again in 2004 but retired before the championship.

Four years after his retirement he lined out for Limerick in the intermediate championship and won a Munster medal. Unfortunately defeat was his lot against Kilkenny in the All-Ireland.

Carey was first selected for Munster in the Railway Cup in 1991. His first success was in 1995 and he made it three-in-a-row by winning in 1996 and 1997. He won his fourth medal in 2001. He won three All-Star awards in 1992, 1994 and 1996, at centreback in 1992 and 1996, and at centrefield in 1994.

Following his playing career he turned to management. In 2007 he guided Limerick camogie to All-Ireland B final. In the same year he managed Tournafulla without success. In 2008 he was appointed to the Limerick under-21 team but he had no success. He became part of the senior management team in 2011.

 

D. J. Carey (Kilkenny) born 1970

Denis Joseph Carey was born in Waterford in 1970. His hurling skills were recognised early on and he won All-Ireland Colleges titles in 1988 and 1989 while a student at St. Kieran's College.

He had further success with his club, Young Irelands. Having won some underage titles as a goalkeeper, he won an intermediate title in 1992 and followed up with senior titles in 1996 and 2002. His last game with his club was a relegation play-off in 2007.

He was already part of the county make-up when he won Leinster and All-Ireland minor titles in 1988, followed by Leinster and All-Ireland under-21 titles in 1990.

He made his senior debut in the 1988-89 National League and from then until his retirement in the early part of 2006 he graced the hurling fields of Ireland with some of the most skillful and stylish hurling ever played. There was one blip in his career during this period, in 1998, when he announced he was retiring at the age of 27 years. Six weeks later, following an avalanche of an estimated 25,000 letters from admirers around the country, he reversed his decision.

Carey's achievements during his career are impressive. They included five All-Irelands in 1992, 1993, 2000, 2002 and 2003 as captain, As well as in these years he won five other Leinster titles in 1991, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2005. National League titles were won in 1990, 1995, 2003 and 2005 and Railway Cup medals were won in 1993 and 1998.

Probably the greatest measurement of D. J. Carey's standing in the pantheon of great players was his reception of the Texaco Hurler of the Year award on two occasions, the first in 1993 when, as a twenty-two year old, he was one of the youngest to receive it, and a second in 2000. Allied to this is his nine All-Star awards, five in a row between 1991 and 1995 and1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002. He played in fifty-seven championship games, scoring 34 goals and 195 points.

 

Johnny Dooley (Offaly) born 1971

Johnny Dooley was born near Clareen in 1971 and played hurling with the Seir Kieran club. He enjoyed some success at underage level before winning four senior championships in 1988, 1995, 1996 and 1998.

His obvious talent as a hurler was recognised at county level and he played minor hurling for three years, winning Leinster and All-Ireland titles in 1987 and 1989. In the latter year he was on the under-21 side that won the Leinster title but lost to Tipperary in the All-Ireland. Dooley won two further Leinster titles at this level in 1991 and 1992 but was unfortunate to lose both All-Irelands, to Galway and Waterford respectively.

Dooley made his senior debut in the 1990-91 National League and won the title with the defeat of Wexford in the final. He lined out in the championship for the first time in 1991. There wasn't any more success until 1994 when he won Leinster and All-Ireland titles, following Offaly's dramatic win over Limerick. Another Leinster followed in 1985 but defeat to Clare followed in the All-Ireland. There was no more success until 1998 when Offaly came through the back door, following defeat by Kilkenny in the Leinster final, got through Clare in controversial circumstances in the All-Ireland semi-final and reversed the Leinster result by beating Kilkenny in the final. It was Dooley's second All-Ireland. There was no more success, although Offaly qualified for the All-Ireland final in 2000, only to be badly beaten by Kilkenny, and he retired prematurely in 2002 following a serious knee injury.

Johnny Dooley was a skillful and exciting hurling and his talent was recognised in three All-Star awards in 1994, 1995 and 2000.

 

Brian Whelehan (Offaly) born 1971

Brain Whelehan was born in Banagher in 1971. After some schooling in Banagher he moved into Birr and attended the local Community School and he was a sub on the team that captured the Leinster and All-Ireland Colleges titles in 1986.

He started playing his club hurling with Birr and his career with them was outstandingly successful. He won twelve county titles in 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Seven of these county titles were converted into Leinster Club titles in 1991, 1994, 1997 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2007. In turn four of these were converted into All-Ireland Club titles in 1995, 1998, 2002 and 2003.

Whelehan was soon recognised at county level and he won two Leinster and All-Ireland minor medals in 1987 and 1989. He was four years on the under-21 team, winning three Leinsters in 1989, 1991 and 1992 but losing all three All-Irelands.

He made his senior championship debut against Antrim in the 1989 All-Ireland semi-final, which Offaly surprisingly lost. He won his first Leinster senior title in 1990 and a National League medal in 1991. In 1994 he won Leinster and All-Ireland medals, when Offaly dramatically snatched the latter from Limerick. A Leinster title was won again in 1995 but there was no joy in the All-Ireland against Clare. There was controversy in 1998 when Offaly lost in Leinster final to Kilkenny but qualified for the All-Ireland against the same opposition and won. Offaly got to the All-Ireland through the back door in 2000 but were badly beaten by Kilkenny. There was no success for Whelehan during the final six years of his inter-county career and he retired in 2006 after fifty-five championship appearances, two All-Irelands, four Leinster titles, one National League, and two Railway Cup medals in 1998 and 2003.

Brian Whelehan's hurling greatness was recognised in 1994 when he was given the Texaco Hurler of the Year Award. Controversially, in the same year he failed to receive an All-Star award. He received four All-Star awards during his career in 1992, 1995, 1998 and 1999, three of them at wing-back and the 1998 award at full-forward. Probably the greatest testament to his standing as a hurler was his selection on the Team of the Millennium in 2000, the only hurler selected, who was still playing.

 

Brian Lohan (Clare) born 1971

Brain Lohan was born in November 1971 and played his club hurling with Wolfe Tones na Sionna. The club won its first senior championship in 1996 and a second in 2006. In 1996 Lohan won a Munster Club medal before going down to Athenry in the All-Ireland final.

During his years at the University of Limerick he captained UL to Fitzgibbon Cup victory in 1994 and was named player of the tournament.

He played minor and under-21 with the county but enjoyed no success. He made his debut with the seniors in the 1993 National League and in the championship the same year. His first success was in 1995 when a very well Ger Loughnane-prepared team defeated Limerick in the Munster final, the county's first success since 1932. Clare went on to take their first All-Ireland title since 1914. After surrendering the provincial crown in 1996, Lohan went on to win his second Munster and All-Ireland titles in 1997. He won a third Munster title in 1998 but events conspired to prevent him winning a third All-Ireland. Lohan continued to play with Clare until after the 2006 championship.

Lohan won Railway Cup medals with Munster in 1996, 1997 and 2000. His talent as a full-back was recognised in four All-Star awards, in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2002.

He went into management following his retirement from playing, managing Patrickswell in 2010 and 2011. He took charge of the UL Fitzgibbon team in 2012.
 

Brendan Cummins (born 1975) Tipperary

Brendan Cummins was born in Ardfinnan in 1975 and as a dual player plays football with Ardfinnan and hurling with Ballybacon-Grange. In 1998 won the first of five divisional intermediate South titles with Ballybacon-Grange. He won further titles in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2012.

At county level he won a Munster minor hurling medal in 1993 and Munster and All-Ireland under-21 medals in 1995.

By this stage he had joined the county senior hurling and football teams and he won his only football medal when the county won the McGrath Cup in 1993.

He made his championship debut with the hurlers in 1995 but had to wait until 1999 for his first success, a National League medal. He won two further league medals in 2001 and 2008.

He won his first Munster and All-Ireland medals in 2001. He collected his second in 2008, and three more in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He won a second All-Ireland medal in 2010. He made his 72nd championship appearance in 2013, his nineteenth season, which would have been 78 but for the six championship games he was dropped for by Babs Keating after the first round of the 2007 Munster championship. The figure still remains a record.

Cummins has lined out for Munster on many occasions in the Railway Cup and has three titles to his credit, winning his first in 1996 and two more in 2000 and 2001. He was on the victorious side in the Waterford Crystal Trophy on three occasions, 2007, 2008 and 2012.

Another achievement of Brendan Cummins has been his success in the annual Poc Fada competition held in the Cooley mountains. After winning the pairs competition with Ian Scallan of Wexford in 1999, he went on to win seven singles titles in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 2011, 2012 and 2013.

One of the measurements of his goal-keeping talent are his five All-Star awards in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2008 and 2010.

 

Henry Shefflin (born 1979) Kilkenny

Henry Shefflin was born in Waterford Regional Hospital in 1979 and is arguably the greatest hurler of all time. He joined the Kilkenny senior team during the 1999 hurling championship and has been a regular member of the team since then. He never failed to turn out for a championship game until 2013, when injury prevented him being picked for the opening game against Offaly. During that period of time he played sixty-two championship games and scored 27 goals and 480 points. He won twelve Leinster titles and appeared in twelve All-Irelands, winning nine on the field of play, the only hurler ever to have done so. He also won five National League titles in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009..

Following his primary education in Ballyhale he went to St. Kieran's College and, after a slow start, made the senior team with whom he won Leinster and All-Ireland Colleges titles in 1996. He went from there to Waterford Institute of Technology and won back to back Fitzgibbon Cups with the Institute in 1999 and 2000.

With his club Ballyhale Shamrocks he won his first medal, a county minor title, in 1997. In the same year he won a county intermediate medal, following which the club was promoted senior. He won his first county senior title in 2006 and went on to win Leinster and All-Ireland titles. The club won a second county in 2007 but Shefflin played no part because of injury. He won county and Leinster titles in 2008. In 2009 there was another county and Leinster success, and a second All-Ireland in 2010.

He first came to prominence in the county at minor level and won Leinster titles in 1996 and 1997. Progressing to under-21 he won Leinster titles in 1998 and 1999, to which was added an All-Ireland in the latter year. He also played county intermediate in 1998 and won a Leinster medal before being beaten by Limerick in the All-Ireland.

As well as the senior achievements mentioned above, Shefflin has won three Railway Cup medals, in 2002, 2003 and 2009. The latter victory was achieved over Connaght and was won in Dubai.

His personal achievements are hugely impressive. He is the holder of eleven All-Star awards, a record. His hurling prowess has earned him the Vodafone, Texaco and GPA Hurler of the Year awards in 2002 and 2006. In the latter year he was also presented with the RTE Sportsperson of the Year award. In 2009 he was chosen number one on the list of 125 greatest hurling stars. In 2012 he became the first person to win the Vodafone Hurler of the Year award for the third time. In the same year in a survey to find the Most Admired Irish Sports Personality he featured in the top ten.

Probably one of his greatest performance on the field of play was in the drawn 2012 All-Ireland final. On a day when it was expected that the younger members of the team would be setting the pace and carrying the day, it was Henry Shefflin who helped Kilkenny to draw and fight another day.

 

Eoin Kelly (born 1982) Tipperary

Eoin Kelly was born in Mullinahone in 1982 and played hurling and football with the local club. His biggest achievement with the club was winning the county senior hurling final in 2002, a first for the club, for which he received the Man of the Match award. He won county intermediate football championships in 2000, 2006 and 2011.

While at school at St. Kieran's College, he won two Leinster Colleges medals in 1999 and 2000, and won an All-Ireland Colleges medal in the latter year. He won a Fitzgibbon Cup medal with Limerick Institute of Technology in 2005 as captain of the side.

His talent was recognised at an early age and he first played county minor as a goalkeeper at the age of fifteen years. He won a Munster title in 1997 and a second in 1999 but failed in the All-Ireland on both occasions. He won Munster under-21 medals in 1999 and 2003 but failed at the All-Ireland semi-final stage on both occasions.

Kelly made his debut on the county senior team in 2000, on a day when he doubled as sub-goalie and forward substitute. In 2001 he won National League, Munster and All-Ireland titles. He had to wait until 2008 for a second Munster title, when he raised the cup in the absence of Paul Ormonde. In the same year he won his second National League medal. He won a third Munster title in 2009 before going down to Kilkenny in the final. In 2010 following defeat by Cork in the Munster championship, Tipperary went all the way to claim the All-Ireland giving Kelly his second title, this time as captain, the first player from South Tipperary to do so. Further Munster titles were won 1n 2011 and 2012. He made his fifty-eighth appearance as a substitute in the 2013 championship at which stage he had compiled a total score of 21 goals and 362 in championship hurling.

Kelly first played Railway Cup hurling in 2001, when he won the title with Munster. He had to wait until 2005 for his next success, and he won a third title in 2007. The final against Connacht was the first hurling game to be played under floodlights at Croke Park.

Eoin Kelly's special talent was recognised early in his career when he was elected Young Hurler of the Year in successive years, 2001 and 2002. He received six All-Star awards during his career, in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2010.

 

Tommy Walsh (born 1983) Kilkenny

Tommy Walsh was born in Tullaroan in 1983 and plays with his local club. While at school in St. Kieran's College he won two Leinster Colleges and one All-Ireland Colleges titles. While at U.C.C. he didn't enjoy any success on the hurling field.

With the famous Tullaroan club he enjoyed much success at underage level, winning A titles at every grade from primary school to under-21 level. Included in these successes was the 1997 Féile under-14 A division All-Ireland win. However, he still awaits his first senior county win.

At county minor level he won a Leinster medal in 2001. He was more successful at under-21 level winning two Leinster and two All-Ireland medals in 2003 and 2004.

He joined the senior panel in 2002, when he shared the county's National League, Munster and All-Ireland titles. His achievements since them have been outstanding. They include eight All-Ireland medals. As well as 2002 he won in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012, eight Leinster titles, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, six National League titles in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2013, and four Walsh Cup medals, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Railway Cup medals were won in 2006, 2008 as captain, and 2009.

Tommy Walsh is the outstanding wing-back in the game at the moment and would be a major contender for the title of all-time great. His incredible ability has been recognised in nine successive All-Star awards in five different positions, an achievement never equalled, in the years 2003-2011 inclusive.

The year 2009 was probably the highpoint of his achievements when he was named the Texaco Hurler of the Year, the All-Stars Hurler of the Year and the GPA Hurler of the Year. In the same year he captained the composite rules game (shinty-hurling) team to victory over the Scots at Inverness.

<span class="postTitle">Final Thoughts as a P.R.O.</span> West Convention AGM handbook, p. 11, December 8, 2014

Final Thoughts as a P.R.O. 

West Convention AGM handbook, p. 11, December 8, 2014

 

Coming to the end of my term as P.R.O of the West Board I would like to express a few thoughts about the position and about my memories of my years holding the position.

J. J. Kennedy resigned as West P.R.O. in December 2004 after twenty-five years in the job. He was succeeded by Leonard Fitzgerald at the 2004 convention and he stepped down at the 2005 convention after only one year. There was no one to replace him so secretary, Jerry Ring, combined the position with that of Runaí. This situation continued for 2006, 2007 and 2008. I was elected to the position at the 2008 convention in December of that year..
 

 

Job Specification

I wasn't handed an extensive job specification with the position. As a person involved in the G.A.A. for a number of years, I had a general notion of the role of the P.R.O. In fact I spent a number of years as P.R.O. of the Cashel King Cormacs club. There  were also publications that could be consulted and seminars were organised occasionally at county and national level on the extent and nature of the role.

I saw my job as twofold. The first and most important was reporting on the games organised in the division. Whereas the practice previously had been to concentrate on adult games, especially senior, intermediate and junior hurling and football, I tried to cover all games organised by the board. This proved to be difficult at times especially when a multitude of minor games were played in one week in the early part of a championship. In these cases I aimed at reporting at a minimum the date, competition, score, teams and who scored.

This comprehensiveness was based on the premise that any game was as important as any other game in the sense that the players were trying their best to win and that victory was important to them as in a much more important fixture. Whereas in the normal course of events, the game might not have merited many column inches in the local newspaper or in the public interest, it was of great importance to the players involved and they had an equal right to see their achievements publicised.

The second reason for the comprehensiveness was in the interests of history. Having written a number of club histories and G.A.A. books in general, I am acutely aware of the importance of accurate and complete information.

One little example will suffice. The 1946 county intermediate hurling final was played in December 1947 at Gaile between Lorrha and Moycarkey-Borris. When I was researching the Lorrha G.A.A. club history, the only report of the game I could find was a six-line account in the Tipperary Star.
That report not only didn't give the teams and who scored, but it didn't even give the final score! All it stated was that Moycarkey were beaten and it took me a long time to discover –  in a speech given somewhere by Hubie Hogan – that the score was 4-2 to 2-4 in favour of Lorrha.

This is where the accurate and complete match report is vital. Admittedly records are more complete today and divisional and county convention reports are wonderful compendiums of match results. Although that is the case the newspaper report still remains important for the clubman or woman researching his/her club past
 

 

Accuracy
 

That is why my mantra at board meetings have been the need for accurate information on teams. Again and again I find out that number 2 is, in fact, number four, eight is nine and vice versa, ten is twelve and it should be the other way around. There seems to be a simple answer to it. Instead of saying in the dressingroom that Fionn and Brendan are the two wing forwards, the mentor gives ten to Fionn and twelve to Brendan. I know that saying this is not going to change anything because so many G.A.A. mentors are careless or lazy and their attitude is that these aren't important things. I say they are, not only for our supporters at the game but for posterity as well.
 

 

Inadequate and Insufficient
 

It is only now, at the end of my term, that I realise that what I have been doing as P.R.O. has been inadequate and insuficient. The simple fact of life is that fewer people are getting their information from newpapers and P.C.s. The vast number of younger people receive their information from Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Everything I have been doing has ignored these outlets of communication. The North division uses them very well. Whoever, therefore, takes over as P.R.O. must be alive to the importance of these media and be familiar and comfortable with them.
 

 

A Website
 

We did discuss the setting up of a divisional website during the year but we didn't progress it. Most clubs have websites and do a good job keeping them up to date. The latter ismost important. A website that isn't updated daily quickly loses visitors and there is nothing as bad as opening a website that was last updated in 2008! One of the first tasks of the new board must be the setting up of a website and then the proper management of it.

Finally, I have enjoyed my years in the position. I have been to every venue  over the years, some more than others, and am well aware of the huge effort made by clubs to improve their facilities. In fact the most of them are very good. A priority for any club that hasn't spectator shelter is to erect one immediately and it doesn't have to be elaborate.

There are wonderful secretaries and P.R.O.s in clubs who have been outstanding in giving me information during my term. I mentioned them in last year's handbook and I want to say a sincere thanks to them all. Without them my reports of matches would have been inadequate and incomplete.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">A List of Schools in the Parish of Lorrha in 1825</span> First appeared in The Lamp, 2014 Edition, p.20 (Lorrha & Dorrha Historical Society)

A List of Schools in the Parish of Lorrha in 1825

First appeared in The Lamp, 2014 Edition, p.20 (Lorrha & Dorrha Historical Society)

 

When researching the article on the schools at Redwood in the National Archives, I came across a fascinating list of persons who ran schools in the parish in 1825.

The list was particularly interesting because the date of the opening of the first primary school in Redwood, 1879, was very late in comparison with the opening of schools elsewhere in the parish and in the rest of the county as well. The National School Act came into being in 1828 and many schools were established during the course of the 19th century. Why was the school at Redwood Castle so late coming into existence?

Maybe is was due to the fact that there were many independent schools already in existence! We do know that a Brian Carroll ran a hedge school at the back of Tom Quinlan's old house near Redwood Chapel in the years before the school at Redwood opened but the House of Commons Commission of Irish Education Inquiry, which was published in 1826-1827 gives us a detailed picture of the many teachers who were running schools in the parish at that time.
 

The List
 

The list is divided into two parts, one for Dorrha and the second for Lorrha. The information supplied includes the name of the Townsland, the name of the Master or Mistress, what religion, if the school were free or a pay school, what the total annual income to the master or mistress from the school and a description of the school house and the probable cost of it.
 

Dorrha
 

In Montorre (sic) Thomas Greelis, a Catholic, ran a pay school, from which he received £7 a year in a thatched house that was worth about £5.

In Armaghanery (sic) Pat Coonan, a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received £10 a year in a thatched house worth about £3.

In Togher Pat Mara, a Catholic, ran a pay school, from which he received £10 a year in a thatched house worth about £3.

In Rathcabbin John Kelly a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received £22 – 15s a year in 'a tolerably good thatched house' worth about £12.

In Bonnham Peter Shea a Catholic ran a pay school from which he received £17 a year in a cow house!

In Two Bushes (sic) Tomothy Moylan a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received £20 in a thatched house worth about £5,

In Coolagown Peter Byrne a Catholic ran a pay school, in which the children paid between one and a half and three pence per week, but his overall income isn't stated, in a very bad thatched house worth nothing.

In Comnegella (sic) Michael Cunneen a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received £20 a year in a thatched house worth about £4.

In Ballycairn Edmund Ford a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received £9 – 4s a year in a structure of 'mud walls covered with rushes'.
 

Lorrha
 

In Curahy Gerald Boate a Protestant ran a free school in a poor cabin. He had an income of about £2 a year from a quarter acre of land.

In Kilcarron the master wasn't yet appointed but the school was worth £20 a year and was held in a 'very good, slated and well-finished house' worth £30.

In Harvest Lodge Matthew Troy a Catholic ran a pay school worth about £10 – 10s in a very good thatched house, which cost about £40.

In Lahinch Thomas Ward a Catholic ran a pay school, in which the children paid from 1s 8d to 7s per quarter, but the yearly income isn't stated, in 'a wretched cabin.'

In Loughglin Pat Smith a Catholic ran a pay school, from which he received about £8 a year in a thatched cabin.

In Moatefield the Miss Clarkes, who were Catholics ran a free school in Moatefield House.

In Kilnacross John Hogan a Catholic ran a pay school worth about £10 a year in a barn!

That makes for a total od sixteen schools in the parish in 1825. It would be nice to think we were unique, the best educated population in the county but it appears there was a proliferation of schools in other parishes also.

Was the failure to set up a primary school in Redwood between 1828 and 1879 an indication that the people were satisfied with the education opportunities they had from these independent masters and mistresses? On the other hand was the decision taken in 1879 due to a decline in the number of inependent teachers, and if so, what were the reasons for the decline?

 

<span class="postTitle">Some Thoughts on the Parish of Lorrha</span> On the occasion of the Celebration of the 'Gathering 2013' at Lorrha, June 19, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Parish of Lorrha

On the occasion of the Celebration of the 'Gathering 2013' at Lorrha, June 19, 2013

 

On the occasion of the launch of the 'Gathering 2013' here, I have put a few thoughts together on the Parish of Lorrha and Dorrha. It's a partial glimpse into the distant past of this ancient place

When I was growing up in this parish it was always known as Lorrha. Then about 1980 – I'm not very sure when – it began to be known as Lorrha & Dorrha for G.A.A. purposes. It may have become the practice in the Centenary Year of 1984, when a banner was produced by the club for the parade of G.A.A. clubs around Liberty Square in Thurles before the county convention. I do know that when the first County G.A.A. Directory was produced in 1989 the club was named Lorrha and Dorrha.

Maybe I was partly responsible myself since I named the club history, published in 1984, Lothra agus Doire 1884-1984 Iomáint agus Peil!

Of course there is a nice balance in the Lorrha and Dorrha name. So many G.A.A. clubs have two names in their titles, though not so much in North Tipperary with the exception of Borris-Ileigh, which incorporates the two ancient parishes in the title of the club. There are many more such clubs in Mid Tipperary where you find Holycross-Ballycahill, Boherlahan-Dualla, Loughmore-Castleiney, Moycarkey-Borris, etc

I hadn't realised that this parish was called Lorrha and Dorrha until I read The Parish Churches of North Tipperary by Willie Hayes and Joseph Kennedy, which appeared in 2007. The authors named this place the Catholic Parish of Lorrha and Dorrha.

Yet, the same authors tell us that the parish includes the three medieval parishes of Lorrha, Dorrha and Bonachum. Lorrha means low-lying or hollow places, Dorrha means oak woodlands and Bonachum means the bottom of the valley. The names tell us a lot about the topgraphy of the area. While we associate Lorrha with St. Ruadhan, St. Brecan is given as the founder of the monastery in Dorrha. Pallas church may have been the ecclesiastical centre of Dorrha.

While the name Ruadhan is occasionally used as a Christian name – and I have a son of that name – I haven't heard anyone with the name of Brecan. Maybe if we knew a bit more about the saint, his name might come into use.

Dorrha and Bonachum were already united into one parish as early as the 16th century and they in turn were amalgamated with Lorrha parish in the early 1700s to form the united parish of Lorrha.

This brings me back to the beginning when I said that I grew up with Lorrha as the name and only later did the parish and the club come to be named Lorrha and Dorrha. I suggest that if we persist with the latter we should really be calling the place, Lorrha, Dorrha and Bonachum!

And when we're on the subject, what about Lougheen? The Lougheen section of the parish of Birr and Carrig should definitely be in Lorrha. How it came to be part of the parish of Birr-Carrig I don't for the life of me know. We are told it was a separate medieval parish and became amalgamated with Birr parish towards the end of the 17th century.

The reason I question its attachment to Birr is because a river, the Little Brosna, is the boundary between Lougheen and Birr. Rivers form distinct boundaries between territories and jurisdictions and were even more important for this purpose in the past. The river in this area also acts as the boundary between the counties of Tipperary and Offaly. How, therefore, did Lougheen, so distinctly cut off from Birr by the Little Brosna, became part of that parish, rather than the parish of Lorrha? Was there a row or a falling out of some sort? A look at the map will show you how naturally at home in the parish of Lorrha, Lougheen would be. Any Lougheen people present who could throw some light on the question?

Then there is the little matter of Lusmagh, the only part of the Diocese of Clonfert that is east of the Shannon. It was incorporated into the parish of Dorrha at some stage and appears so on some 6 inch Ordnance map, according to George Cunningham. St. Dimma has associations there, even though he's mainly associated with Roscrea and he was adopted by the people of Lorrha.

Anyone called Dimma around? On second thoughts it might be better if parents didn't call their sons by that name. The poor devil might get a terrible time at school or on the hurling field.

How many of you are aware that Dimma's well exists in the townsland of Graigue. As far as I know it is on Maher's farm. Eileen Duffy told me that she collected water from it for the late Father Martin Ryan on one occasion. Apparently it is much overgrown now though it is a place of some importance. At some stage St. Dimma, who failed to find a well in Lusmagh came to Graigue and found one there. There is a rock beside the well with the imprint of Dimma's hand on it

Dimma left a book named after him and it can be found in Trinity College, Dublin. It is an eighth century pocket Gospel Book, predating the Stowe Missal, originally from the Abbey of Roscrea, which was founded by St. Cronan. In addition to the four gospels it has an order for the Unction and Communion of the Sick. It has some illuminated initials as well as portraits of the Evangelists.

The experts tell us the work was written by different hands but each of the gospels is signed at the end by Dimma MacNathi. There is a story that he was commissioned by St. Cronan to write out in one day the whole of the text of the gospel book. We read how he set about the task, working incessantly for 40 days and nights until he had finished. Happily the sun did not set for all that period, so that the 40 days counted as but one day.

This Dimma has been traditionally identified with the Dimma who was later Bishop of Connor, who was mentioned by Pope John IV in a letter on Pelagianism in 640, so that would date him. The Book of Dimma would have at first been carried round in a leather satchel or hung up in its satchel inside the monastery cell or scriptorium. Later it was encased in a richly worked cumdach or reliquary case, which remains at Trinity.

The reliquary and manuscript of Dimma were preserved in the Abbey of Roscrea until the dissolution of the monasteries in the sixteenth century when they came into lay hands. Eventually they came into the possession of a Dr. Harrison of Nenagh, who sold them on to a Mr. Mason. He sold on to Sir William Betham and they were eventually purchased by Trinity College in 1842 for £200.

How did these Medieval parishes come into existence?

Prior to the twelfth century the provision of pastoral care in Ireland was at best patchy and disorganised, divided between a secular clergy which served churches predominantly owned by local chieftains and controlled by them, and a monastic clergy supplied by the many monasteries that were spread all over the land.

The old parochial divisions were based on monastic territories. The coarb, or successor of the founder of the monastery, became rector of the parish even though he may have been only a simple cleric or even a layman.

The medieval parish may also have originated in the tuath, the smallest political unit at the time, or may have been co-extensive with it.

With the reform movement in the 12th century a determined effort was made to set up an efficient parochial organisation in the country together with an effective, comprehensive pastoral ministry, supported by a tithe system.

The most significant consequence of the creation of a parish system in Tipperary was the widespread provision of resident priests supported by the payment of the tithe. Although monastic houses came to control the tithes of many parishes, the development of the vicarage system, under episcopal supervision, ensured that livings were provided for resident priests.
The old medieval parish system began to disappear after the Reformation. It was better preserved by the Church of Ireland than by the Catholic Church. Especially during Penal Times many of these medieval units were grouped together into bigger units, sometimes incorporating as many as six or seven medieval parishes. As we said earlier the Medieval parishes of the Lorrha area were amalgamated in the 16th and 17th centuries. This became necessary because of the shortage of clergy.

How did the medieval parishes support their priests or rectors?

A taxation system was imposed on the country during the period 1302-06 and under it every parish was given a taxation rating. While the wealthiest parish may have been assessed at 10 marks, the parish of Lorrha was assessed at 3 marks. Dorrha and Bonachum were assessed at 20s each, which I believe to have been less than 1 mark.

So the parishes were not wealthy and it makes one wonder how any of them could support a clergyman. When one realises that there were monasteries at Lorrha and Dorrha at the same time and the monks had to be supported, it must have been a difficult time for the layman who contributed to the support of his pastor.

So, on the occasion of the Gathering here today it may be of interest to learn that there was a very definite parish structure here long before the Dominicans and the Augustinians founded their monasteries, long before Lackeen or Redwood Castles were built, long before O'Sullivan Beare passed through our parish and long before Martin O'Meara and the rest of us were heard of.

 

<span class="postTitle">Hurling Sevens</span> The Lamp (Lorrha & Dorrha Historical Society, 2013 Edition, December 2013) pp 19-23

Hurling Sevens

The Lamp (Lorrha & Dorrha Historical Society, 2013 Edition, December 2013) pp 19-23

 

The game of seven-a-side hurling was common in East Galway in the nineteen-thirties, forties and fifties, and spilled over into North Tipperary and even South-West Offaly as well. Lorrha teams participated in many of these tournaments in which seven-a-side was the game and played for prizes such as medals, suit-lengths, ten shilling notes and even bicycles!

 

Fifteen-a-side

Today we're mostly used to the game of hurling as fifteen against fifteen, and it has been so as long as anyone can remember. But it's only so for 100 years and what is that in the context of a game to which the earliest historical reference goes back to 1272 BC!

When the G.A.A. was founded in 1884 it was agreed that the number of players a side would be 21, and it would be interesting if we had the minutes of the meeting that decided on that number. Undoubtedly there were people arguing for a much greater number as some would have come from a tradition in which the game played was between parish and parish.

What is interesting is the speed with which clubs accepted the new rules, which were drawn up at the end of 1884, especially those relating to the number of players. The number of 21 lasted only a few years and was reduced to 17 in 1892 and to 15 in 1913.

The value of lowering the number was recognised early on as it reduced the tendency of players to gather in a bunch. As the amount of open space increased with the reduction in the number of players, it became easier to move the ball faster, with the resultant improvement in the quality of the games.

The idea of reducing the number of players still more was discussed about 1970. There was a perception that the game had got dogged and rough and not enough goals were being scored. It was decided to introduce thirteen-a-side in colleges games and the experiment lasted for about three years. It produced a feast of goals as the game was speeded up and with the absence of a full-back and full-forward, it opened up the space in the goal area. Much greater mobility was required by backmen and this tended to reduce the difference between backs and forwards.

After the period of experiment the 13-a-side idea was scrapped. It was never tried at inter-county level. Some experts believed it gave forwards too much power as the extra space was exploited. While the extra goals made the games more exciting, there was another experiment going on simultaneously with the length of games extended to 80 minutes and this in itself ensured plenty of goals. In the first three 80-minute All-Ireland finals a total of 29 goals were scored! Whatever the reasons, the 13-a-side experiment wasn't continued.

 

Seven A-Side

Although 15-a-side became the norm for G.A.A. games from 1913 onwards, another game of seven-a-side has a long history in the G.A.A. Tom Barry, who is the editor of the program for the Kilmacud-Crokes All-Ireland Hurling Sevens, has researched the history of this parallel game in the history of the G.A.A. The first account of a seven-a-side competition he has come across goes back to Kilbeacanty (Co.Galway) in June 1918. Nine teams, six from Galway and three from Clare, took part with Tynagh victorious.

The competition was to raise funds for a presentation to Fr. Michael Ryan, who was about to be ordained a priest and was due to be sent to Australia. The purpose of such tournaments down the years has been invariably to raise funds for church, parish or club causes.

Barry's research has turned up a large number of such tournaments down the years to the 1970s, when the Kilmacud Crokes Club started a national sevens tournament in 1973, with an entry of 21 clubs. This tournament was given official G.A.A. All-Ireland status in the late eighties and celebrated 40 years of success in 2012.

During this period Tipperary clubs have won on fourteen occasions, with Borrioleigh the most successful club with five wins. Other successful clubs were Nenagh Eire Óg in 1996 and 2008, Mullinahone in 2002 and 2005, Roscrea in 1979, Kilruane MacDonaghs in 1984, Portroe 1999, Moycarkey-Borris in 2009 and Kildangan in 2011.

 

Sevens in the Thirties

Lorrha took part on a number of occasions in the Kilmacud Sevens but they had no success. In taking part they were carrying on a strong tradition of teams from the parish taking part in sevens competitions.

Michael O'Meara of the hill has one of the longest memories of one such tournament and it was played in Killimor and he thinks it was over two years, 1934 and 1935.

He's a bit vague as to the lineout but recalls that Tom Duffy was on goals and gave out to all and sundry from between the posts! As well as Duffy, other members of the team were Jack Lane, Jerry Whitaker, Tom Smith (the first year), Son Ryan, Mick Kennedy (of Eglish, later of Ballymona between Ballingarry and Carrig), Mick Hoctor, Mick Cronin and Tommy Burke.

The reason that Tom Smith only played the first year was that he was put off in a match against Knockshegowna and wasn't eligible for the final. At any rate Killimor, Tynagh and Lorrha came through and a draw had to take place to decide on the semi-final. The two Galway teams were drawn out and were none too pleased with the draw. Their semi-final ended in a draw and, according to the Lorrha version of events, it was deliberate. As a result the final couldn't be played until the following year.

Lorrha beat Killimor, who came through in the the replayed semi, by a goal in the final. The winning score was got by Jerry Whitaker. The team received eight medals for their victory and there was a bit of a row about their distribution. The seven members who played got medals and Tommy Burke, who came on as a sub. Tom Smith, who was under suspension, was excluded.

Tom Duffy was notorious for speaking his mind and he was derogatory towards one of the Tynagh players, Jim Power, who won an All-Ireland with Galway in 1923. He let him know that he had won an All-Ireland in a year when he (Duffy) 'and all the good men of Ireland were in jail.'

Mick O'Meara was involved in another seven-a-side tournament at Woodford in 1939 and a photograph of the team exists. With him were Mick Donohue, Michael Hoctor, Tommy Ryan, Joe Gardiner, Tom Lambe, Son Ryan, Joe Abbot

 

A Set of Bicycles

Tom Lambe's memories of sevens tournaments also stretches back into the thirties. He recalls a tournament for bicycles at Loughrea in 1938. Lorrha had a team in it and were beaten in the first round. He recalls that the bicycles, all racers, were on display in the field during the games. He is also of the belief that there was no way that the organisers were going to allow the bicycles to cross the Shannon into Tipperary!

Asked about the nature of the hurling in these competitions, he stated that it could be very rough: 'If you were winning they'd have a fierce go at you but if you were losing they'd be the nicest under the sun!'

Were there many injuries? He doesn't remember many. One was to Ned Waters who got his collarbone broken in a tournament at Meelick in 1940

For him sevens tournaments were all the go in Galway. Asked if it were difficult to pick seven or nine players to represent the club, he said it wasn't, as not everyone wanted to go. He recalls that one of Lorrha's best players, Mick O'Donoghue, would seldom travel.

He played in other tournaments in Tyrnascragh in 1941 and 1942 and remembers being beaten by Mullagh. He believes that the latter, Tony Reddin's home club, had a great team at the time.

 

Playing for Ten Shillings

Eugene O'Meara, who also has clear memories of playing sevens, was one of the Lorrha team that played in the suit-lengths tournament at Portumna in 1948 and was scorer-in-chief, scoring 8 of the 9 points in the final. The ninth was scored by Tony Reddin in a clearance from his goals.. Lorrha beat Kilruane MacDonaghs in the semi-final and Tyrnascragh in the final.

The suits were a magnificent reward at a time, when a new suit was a rare purchase. Lorrha won the suitlengths and the picture of the winning group of players, shows nine in all, as two subs were allowed. As well as Eugene, the other members of the successful team were Jimmy O'Meara, Des Donohue, Mick O'Meara (B), Tom Lambe, Tony Reddin, Billy Hogan, Brendan Donohue, Dan O'Meara.

Tony Reddin recalls cycling home from the final with the suit-lengths draped on the handlebars of the bikes. They did a lot of shouting along the way and stopped off at Sean Grogan's at Grange – he was a tailor – to get their measurements taken.

Billy Hogan wore the suit when he went for his first passport photograph. A picture of Billy in the suit features in my recent publication, 'A Lorrha Miscellany'. On the same day as the final Tony Reddin won the long puck competition with a strike of 106 yards.

Eugene recalls playing with Redwood, in an earlier tournament at Portumna in 1941, when the prize for the winners was ten shillings each. You could get seven large packets of Players cigarettes for it at the time, so it was a very desirable prize. Redwood beat Killimor in the final but the ten shillings each failed to materialise. He believes they had to make do with ten shillings between the lot of them!

Another tournament he played in was Rathcabbin in 1943. It was in connection with acarnival and sevens tournaments were often the highlight of such entertainments. Eugene played with the Lorrha number 2 team and they beat Borrisokane in the final, 'and, I have the medal to prove it!' The medal has his name on it in Irish: 'Eóin Ó Madhra' and also the inscription : 'Rathcabbin LDF 1943'. They took great pleasure out of winning because the Lorrha number 1 team was beaten!

Actually this tournament commenced in 1942 but was unfinished. Michael O'Meara, who didn't take part the first year, remembers it well. Lorrha Number 1 and Number 2 got through to the second round. The latter beat a good Tynagh team that included Connie Boyle, who played inter-county hurling with Galway. The next day Borrisokane were to play Lorrha Number 1 and Lorrha Number 2 were to play Ballinderry. However, both visiting teams had illegal players and weren't allowed to play. The matches were postponed after a few squabbles and rows.

The tournament was finished the following year, when Ballinderry had a proper team entered but they were beaten by Lorrha Number 2. In the second semi-final Borrisokane, who had a very good Seven, including Dinny Doorley, Ted Joe Foley, Dinny Hayes, Son Kelly and two or three of his brothers, many of whom had represented North Tipperary in the Millar Shield competition, defeated Lorrha Number 1, and then Lorrha Number 2 defeated Borrisokane in the final as stated above. The winning team was as follows: Mick Donohue, Matt Cahalan, Seamus O'Meara (R), Eugene O'Meara, Michael O'Meara (R), Billy Hogan and Paddy Sullivan (goals).

Another tournament he played in was at the Banagher carnival in 1943. At that stage he played with Belmont (Offaly), where he worked for D. E. Williams, and he remembers playing Shannon Harbour. Lorrha had a team in it and a team from Eyrecourt was also involved. The games were played in the evenings and Michael O'Meara remembers they would meet at Rathcabbin and cycle to Banagher. Lorrha defeated Carrig in the semi-final and Eyrecourt in the final. Tom Ryan, a county Galway hurler, played with Eyrecourt. Mick Brophy marked him in the final and gave him a hard time. As well as Brophy the other members were Hubie and Billy Hogan, Michael and Seamus O'Meara (R), and probably Matt Cahalan and Johnny Deely.

Eugene has a memory of a parish seven-a-side held in Abbeyville about 1940. He was too young to play, being still in short trousers! About six teams took part and the final was played between Abbeyville and Roughan. The latter had a powerful team and won. The players were Seamus, Eddie and Michael O'Meara, John Deely, Matt Cahalan, Billy Rigney, Mick Donohue and Paddy Sullivan.

It wasn't a Sevens tournament but two of the best games Michael O'Mears remembers were eleven a-side games between Lorrha and St. Rynaghs in the late sixties. The first game was a draw and Lorrha won the replay by two points. Mick Liffey was captain and Liam King and the two Lanes were playing at the time. Podge Mulhare was with St, Rynaghs. Tipperary played Galway in Portumna the Sunday after the replay. Michael met Eamon Lynch a few days after and he said that the county match was only 'pitching pins' compared with the Lorrha-St. Rynaghs game!

 

A Faster Game

The modern sevens game is a much faster game than the ordinary game of hurling. It emphasises speed, accurate striking, maintenance of possession and taking the scoring opportunities offered, in fact, most of the characteristics the Clare team revealed in their recent, brilliant All-Ireland win. The same characteristics are to be seen in that new game, Super Elevens, that was unveiled during the year.

I don't believe the sevens games of seventy or eighty years ago put such emphasis on speed of foot, of hand, of striking, of catching, of scoring, but they were entertaining and they brought a bit of variety to hurlers' lives at a time when there were few games outside of the championship and the occasional tournament.

I'm not sure if the material benefits to be gained in the event of victory were an enticement to take part but, at a time when the material rewards of living in rural Ireland were meagre, there must have been some inducement in a prize of bicycles, which were the main means of transport at the time, or of suit-lengths, when a suit was purchased only on major occasions, or a ten shilling note when it would buy you eleven pints of Guinness!

 

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Mid Senior Hurling Final 1911</span> Clonoulty-Rossmore 13th Vintage Rally Booklet 2013, pp 13-15

Mid Senior Hurling Final 1911

Clonoulty-Rossmore 13th Vintage Rally Booklet 2013, pp 13-15

 

The Mid senior hurling final, between Thurles Sarsfields and Borrisoleigh, was played in Carew's field, Rossmore, on July 2, 1911. It wasn't the first Mid final to be played at Rossmore.. The 1908 final between Thurles and Cashel was played at the same venue on May 16 with Tim Condon of Horse & Jockey as referee. Thurles won by 2-12 to 0-3. Cashel lost in spite of having a very wide pick, as one commentator put it 'from Tullamaine to Tubberadora'. New recruits to the team for the final were Johnny Leahy, Dick Walsh, Arthur and Thady Donnelly, Paddy Dargan, Bill Doyle, Jack Meara, Patsy and Willie Dwyer. It appears that Johnny Leahy played his first senior hurling with Cashel. He was then only sixteen years of age.

This, in fact, was the first Mid final to be played, because the 1907 championship was unfinished and Thurles were nominated to represent the division in the county championship.

But, back to the 1911 final. Six teams affiliated in the championship. In the first round, played at Drombane, Rossmore defeated Holycross by 0-10 to nil. Thurles got a walkover from Boherlahan.

Borrisoleigh defeated Glemgoole by 6-1 to 3-3 at Thurles. In the second round Thurles defeated Rossmore by 5-6 to 1-1 at Borrisoleigh. The final, between Borrisoleigh and Thurles, was fixed for Rossmore.

 

The Venue

Rosssmore was decided on as the venue at the meeting of the Mid board on June 15. The club was represented by Dan and Willie English. There was also a proposal to the meeting that Templemore be the venue. Rossmore won the vote by 9 to 6.

There is another theory that there was a bit of canvassing behind the scenes and that Anthony Carew, who was Thurles club secretary at the time, was behind the motion to get the match to Rossmore, where his father, Patrick, used to own a farm and public house. Sometime before the final he sold both to John Bradshaw of Cappawhite, who came to live there with his son, also John, who married Nora Heffernan of Glenough. The farm had a field suitable for hurling and the pub would come in handy for a crowd at a match.

There was a second game fixed for the venue on the same day, the Mid junior final between Thurles Emmets and Suir Rapparees. The Rapparees were started by Jim Walsh of Camas and included players from Ballydine, Longfield, Ardmayle and Tubberadora.

The referee was Tim Gleeson and he was given charge of the two games. Tim was a Rossmore man, living close to the border with Drombane. He was a National teacher and after some years in Rossmore, moved to Clonoulty. He won All-Irelands in 1906 and 1908 and three Munster finals. He was a member of the Rossmore team beaten by Thurles in the 1911 semi-final. He was treasurer of the county board from 1910-1916

 

Preview of Game

The Tipperary Star gave a brief preview of the game in its edition of July 1. According to it 'Borrisoleigh is a young, most enthusiastic and very ambitions team and as such is keen on practice. They beat Glengoole and Two-Mile Borris along the way and these successes would be crowned by beating 'the Blues'. The team, 'aware that nothing but continual training can bring success, have been working in this direction with such earnestness that several minor casualties have been reported.'

In contrast there was an ominous quiet from the Thurles camp 'which betokens that the team will not lightly enter into the struggle without being prepared to exert themselves with all the great ability which on many a hard-fought field shed lustre on the far-famed 'Blues'.'

 

The Match

There was a very good attendance at the game. There was no advertisement in the Tipperary Star beforehand telling us of the games and the times and the admission prices. It would be exciting to be able to go back in a time tunnel and get a picture of the day in Rossmore. How many people were there? How did they arrive? What was the composition of the crowd? The venue was a bit out of the way for both Thurles and Borrisoleigh. Did many of the patrons patronise Bradshaw's pub at the cross before the game? We shall never know the answers.

The senior game was a poor affair and failed to live up to its pre-match expectations. It was late starting because of the failure of Thurles captain, Tom Semple, to arrive. It appears he was expected but failed to tell anybody he wouldn't be there. Thurles had a problem because they had the bare seventeen players and the absence of Semple left them short, Nobody was forthcoming to take his place until eventually Jack Cahill was pressed into service and, 'though out of practice for years, got through the game with considerable credit.'

Playing against the breeze in the first half, Thurles scored heavily in the first quarter and easily overcame the Borrisoliegh defence to lead at half-time by 6-2 to nil. The second half was uninteresting as Thurles won with unexpected ease on a scoreline of 8-2 to 1-1.

Thurles Emmets won the second game by 4-1 to 3-0. Tim Gleeson gave universal satisfaction with his refereeing of both games. The pitch was in excellent condition and the local club kept good order, 'particularly during the first game'. There's an inference here that control wasn't quite as good for the second game!

The Thurles Sarsfields team was as follows: Hugh Kelly (vice-captain), Jack Moroney, Thady Dwyer, Joe Moloughney, Ned McGrath, Jim O'Brien (Hawk), Mick O'Brien, Tom Kerwick, Andy Callanan, Anthony Carew, Jack Cahill, Jack Dwyer, Paddy Brolan, Tom Mockler, Jer Fogarty, Bill Smee, Mick Hammonds.

 

A Rossmore Man

Anthony Carew was a Rossmore man, who lived in Thurles. The neighbouring big town was a magnet then, as it continued to be later, for good hurlers in surrounding parishes, and Carew was an outstanding hurler and a great scorer of goals as the records of the Blues reveal. He was an agent for Singer sewing machines and he also had a pub at the lower end of Liberty Square. As a young lad he walked on a darning needle, which went up his foot. Later, at the age of sixteen years, he got a severe pain in his knee. There was no relief for it and the doctors decided to open the knee in order to discover the cause. They found the darning needle had made its way up to his knee and removed it to the great relief of the young boy. Carew later became secretary of the county board for the period 1913-1922 and held the position at the time of Bloody Sunday.

Carew was secretary of Thurles Sarsfields for two years before taking up the county position. The famous Croke-Fennelly Cup, which became club property, following three victories in a row, was 'lost' for some time and discovered again in Carew's house following the fire that destroyed his place in January 1930. He believed the fire was started maliciously and took an action against Thurles Urban Council for £800 damages. He lost the case and appears to have fallen on hard times. At some stage he emigrated to Southampton in England, where he died 1943. He was married to Mary Boyle and they had one daughter, Catherine (Kathleen), who married Thomas O'Mahony of Moyaliffe. After his wife's death, Carew married Bridget Greene and she moved to Southampton with him. Following his burial in Southampton, his grave was 'lost' and discovered again some years ago by his grandson, Sean O'Mahony

Anthony Carew was one of a number of Rossmore people who made names for themselves in Thurles at the beginning of the 20th century. Hugh Ryan was another and he became the first chairman of the Sarsfields club. A more famous son of the parish was D. H. Ryan of Park, who worked in Cannocks in Limerick and was one of the founders and members of the Commercials team, who put Limerick on the map when they won the first football All-Ireland. He later came to live in Thurles, opened premises on Liberty Square and contributed significantly to the life of the town.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Fourth Feile Fidelma</span> First posted on the International Sister Fidelma Society website, Sept 2012

Fourth Feile Fidelma

First posted on the International Sister Fidelma Society website, Sept 2012

 

The fourth Feile Fidelma was held in the Palace Hotel, Cashel, Co. Tipperary on the weekend of September 7-9, 2012. It was regarded as a most successful event by the organisers and participants alike and they were unanimous in their opinion that another similar weekend should be held in two years time. This decision will rest with Cashel Arts Fest but the indications are fairly strong that it will be favourable.

The weekend brought together a number of old friends of Cashel, some of whom have attended all the earlier events devoted to the novels of Peter Tremayne, but also an encouraging number of new Fidelma fans. Numbers were down somewhat on previous years but were good in the current world economic climate. In all eight countries were represented.

One of these old friends was Hans van den Boom, the Dutch publisher of Fidelma, who has never missed a Féile. He is a great friend of the event and supplies it with posters and publicity material.
He had a very important announcement to make. His publishing company, Leeskamer, intend to bring out the Fidelma novels in graphic form. The company is already working on the graphics and will publish in three languages, Dutch, English and Portuguese, simultaneously in the new year. This is an exciting new venture and should attract a completely new constituency of readers to the novels.

Another old friend, who attended with a party of four from Argentina, was Maggie Tolderlund. Maggie is the publisher of Fidelma in Buenos Aires and has never missed an event since the first in 2006. Her visit this year was much appreciated in the light of the very difficult economic situation in Argentina at the moment.

Rose Nabholz came all the way from Arkansas for her third Feile. She had to put her two dogs in care while she was away. Rose is a great fan of Kilkenny hurling and was delighted to be here for the All-Ireland final, which was played on the Sunday. Over eighty thousand attended and unfortunately for Rose all her team could achieve was a draw with Galway and they will have to play again on September 30. Rose's disappointment wasn't shared by many because Kilkenny have won so much over the past ten years that the vast number of hurling fans are looking for a change. The game of hurling features in one of the Fidelma novels, A Prayer for the Damned (2006), pp. 126-129.

A first timer to Cashel was Richard M Vielberg of Austin, Texas. He was the winner of a draw among participants who had registered for Cashel by May 1. Thirty-one people had done so and Richard was the lucky winner of a personalized signed copy of the uncorrected proofs of The Seventh Trumpet, published in 2012 and of the Novella, The Snow Wolf, published in 2011. He was presented with his prize by Peter during the weekend.
 

The Speakers

The format of Féile Fidelma is well-established by now. It takes place in the Palace Hotel, which was built in 1730 for the Church of Ireland bishops of Cashel. It became a hotel in 1962 and is an outstanding venue for the event.

The formalities commenced on Friday evening with registration and the distribution of information packs at 6 pm and this was followed by a reception. The formal opening of the weekend took place at 8 pm. The Mayor of Cashel, Dr. Sean McCarthy, who formally opened the event was welcomed by Petronelle Clifton Brown, the chair of Cashel Arts Fest Committee, the organising body of the weekend. The Mayor was high in his praise of the work of Cashel Arts Fest and its promotion of the Feile Fidelma Weekend. He was impressed with its benefits to the economic life of the town. Also in attendance was Councillor John Crosse, chairman of South Tipperary County Council.

The first speaker of the weekend is always the author himself, Peter Tremayne, and his talk is chaired by that great friend of Féile Fidelma, David Wooten, the Director of the International Sister Fidelma Society, who does enormous work in publicising the event. This is not really a talk but a question and answer session. David collects a number of questions beforehand, which Fidelma fans as well as participants at the weekend would like to put to the author. It's a wonderful occasion for establishing a rapport between the writer and his readers. There were some quite tricky questions but Peter answered them all with aplomb and erudition.
The historical background to the Fidelma Mysteries, based as they are in seventh century Ireland, is always treated on the weekend and this year was no exception. The choice of Dr. Damian Bracken of the history department, U.C.C. was an inspired one. He spoke of the conflict between Rome and the early Irish Churches and doing so showed how the superior attitude of the Roman Empire towards peripheral geographical areas was adopted by the Roman Church towards places like Ireland, who were very much on the periphery and liked doing their own thing.

Cora Harrison is a writer who is living in Co. Clare and the author of a crime series featuring a female Brehon, Mara, in the sixteenth century. This is a period in the history of Ireland when the Brehon Law period was coming to an end and English Law was taking over. The Brehon Law still existed in rural areas and the Burren Series deals with the conflict between the old and the new. Cora has seven mystery novels to date in the series.

The third speaker on Saturday was Neil Donnelly, who was returning for a second year. At the previous Féile he dramatized Peter Tremayne's short story, Invitation to a Poisoning, which was presented as a rehearsed reading. This year he spoke of the problems of adaptation especially of works that weren't widely known.

Also returning was Anna Heusssaff and she opened the proceedings on Sunday morning with the provocative title 'Is Fidelma a Real Woman?' She analysed the character of Fidelma and this led to an interesting discussion. The general consensus was that Peter had produced a credible female character with the exception of Fidelma's lack of chat about family and friends.

A new voice was that of Cormac Miller (aka Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin and a professor of Italian at Trinity College, Dublin) who is a crime writer in his spare time and is working on his third novel at the moment. He gave us a comprehensive round-up of 'Some Clerical Heroes and Villains in Crime Fiction.'
 

Critical Study of the Sister Fidelma Novels

The final speaker was the Director of the International Sister Fidelma Society, David Wooten, who spoke about the Society but spent a good lot of time lambasting Headline (Ireland), the publishers of the Fidelma Mysteries, for their non-existent support for Féile Fidelma. He had also some largesse to distribute in the form of book prizes for winners in a quiz on the novels he had set for the participants. The winner was ?

One of the most important pieces of information he had for the audience was the arrival of a major academic work about the Sister Fidelma Mysteries, which was recently published by academic publishers, McFarland & Company Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina and London. Entitled The Sister Fidelma Mysteries: The Historical Novels of Peter Tremayne, is a collection of twenty essays, edited by Professor Ed Reilly and David Robert Wooten. Included in the essays is one on the origin and history of Féile Fidelma by Seamus J. King. The book retails for $40 and is a wonderful addition to our knowledge of the Fidelma Mysteries as well as a very important reference book. An advance copy of the book was presented by David to the author.

The Feile weekend wasn't all work but was leavened by a good amount of social contact and camaradierie. One of the high points of the weekend was the Féile dinner, which took place on Saturday evening and was a most relaxing occasion. One of the features of it was a light-hearted speech by Peter which this year concentrated on slagging off his critics.

Another place which is conducive to bonhomie and good fellowship is the Cellar Bar in the hotel, where Denis Heffernan reigns. Anyone who hasn't met this man will find it difficult to imagine what kind of unique character he is. He is first of all a barman but he is also an entertainer. When his customers have been served he can make his way outside the bar and sing to them from a large repertory of songs. One of his favourites is 'Cashel, My Home Town', his own composition with which he loves greeting and welcoming people to his town. David had this wonderful idea that, after the formal remarks at the official opening were complete, he would have Denis sing his favourite song. But, alas, he found out on arriving to Cashel that Denis was away for the weekend at a family wedding in London. He was definitely missed but promised when he returned on Monday that he would never be absent again for Féile Fidelma.
 

Rathnadrinna

An unusual feature of the weekend was a visit to an archaeological site about two miles from Cashel. Called Rathnadrinna, it is a four-ringed earthen fort, the kind used during Celtic times as a fortified homestead. What makes this one unique is its four rings or banks. Most are only one or two-ringed.

Local archaeologist, Richard O'Brien has been investigating this for a number of years, because there is little or no written record about it. Because of its size it is believed to have been an assembly area or it may have been used for ceremonial purposes. At any rate, Richard started a dig there this summer and he had much to relate when we visited it on Saturday afternoon. 
The interest for Fidelma fans is that it features in four of the Mysteries. It houses a tavern and Fidelma and Eadulf drop in there for a drink on their way back to Cashel. Ferloga and his wife, Lassar, are the proprietors of the tavern. Richard informed us of the purpose of the fort and what his excavations, which have only started, have revealed to date.

It was a beautiful day for the visit, as in fact was the weather for the complete weekend. The sun shone, which isn't a usual occurrence in Ireland with its changeable weather system. In the centre of the fort during the visit the sun was warm, the sky was clear and there was no desire to be anywhere else.

Most of the participants had departed by Monday morning but there were a few who remained around for a couple of extra days, Particularly Peter and David. During conversations thoughts turned towards a potential Féile Fidelma 5 and the kind of topics that could be subjects for talks at the future date. One of the most fascinating was the possibility of a talk on the horse in the Fidelma Mysteries. Fidelma is an outstanding horsewoman and her horse is a special breed imported to Ireland from the south of France. Cashel is in the midst of Ireland's famous horse industry and what a wonderful topic it would make for discussion. Watch this space!.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">The P. & P. B. R. or The Stolen Railway</span> Tipperary Historical Journal 2012, pp. 64-73

The P. & P. B. R. or The Stolen Railway

Tipperary Historical Journal 2012, pp. 64-73

 

It's not often that a railway line becomes more notorious for what happens after it ceases to operate than for anything that happened during its lifetime but such is the case of the P. & P. B. R. or the Parsonstown & Portumna Bridge Railway, which ran from the town of Birr to a terminus on the east bank of the River Shannon at the Ferry about a mile from the town of Portumna.
In 1853 a railway was authorised to connect Parsonstown (Birr) with the main Dublin-Cork line of the Great Southern and Western Railway at Ballybrophy. It was opened from Ballybrophy to Roscrea in October 1857 and extended to Parsonstown in March 1858.

No sooner was this extension opened than landowners and developers began to see another railway possibility stretching towards the river Shannon. One route was through the parish of Lorrha. While such an extension would be a boon to the district of Lorrha, it would also be of more than local value as it would open up possibilities of a large development of goods and passenger traffic on the Shannon. As well it provided for another possibility of a much-needed connection with the Midland and Great Western Company which might be persuaded to extend from Loughrea to Portumna and connect with the terminus east of the Shannon.

However, this was based on the premise that a bridge would be built over the Shannon.

Engineering developments revealed that building a bridge would not be easy. The existing bridge had cost £18,000 to complete, though it had the advantages of the best site and of the approaches and materials of the old bridge it replaced. To construct a new railway bridge would cost much more. One engineer involved alluded to the many engineering obstacles involved: 'Any capital a local company would probably raise would be swallowed up in the forty feet of mud it would have to contend with.'

The alternative route to The Shannon was that proposed by the Midland Counties and Shannon Junction Railway. This envisaged the connection between Streamstown and Clara, which the Midland Company was already bound by Act of Parliament to construct, continuing on from Clara to Meelick on the Shannon. The bridging of the river at this point would be much easier than at Portumna because the rock formation was over ground and the promoters were hopeful that a connection with Loughrea would be made from there. The short connection from Parsonstown to Meelick, connecting with Banagher, would not be a major obstacle.

 

The P&PBR

Following plenty of public debate opinion came down in favour of the Portumna crossing, no doubt helped by the influence of the Marquis of Clanrickarde and others, who were willing to invest their money in it, and an Act authorising the Parsonstown & Portumna Bridge Railway was passed in the House of Commons in July 1861. It received the Royal assent in October.

In an editorial in the King's Chronicle on October 23 the writer informed the readers that the line had already been marked out between the two termini. It continued: 'The next matter to be negotiated and carried out is the purchase of the land from the proprietors, and we feel bound to say that the terms upon which this shall be effected, will be of the highest consequence to the eventual realisation of the project. The construction of railways serves the interests of no class of persons so much as it does those of the owners of lands and therefore it is to be hoped that proprietors of lands to be taken for this railway will deal liberally and encouragingly with the company and accept some part of the payment in shares in the project which must result in enhancing the value of their respective estates.'

There is a report on the Court of Arbitration in reference to the claims made by the proprietors of the land taken by the railway company in the King's Chronicle on June 17, 1863. It appears that the owners of the land were compensated for the property while the tenants were only compensated for inconvenience. The article reports on 'A man named Carroll, who had a small holding near Riverstown, which he holds from Lord Rosse as a tenant from year to year, was informed that he had no valuable interest in the land, but as to the house in which he resides, and which is to be taken from him, he should be awarded £7.10.0 for inconvenience.'

A Mr. Pert, who had a lease on ten acres and a house for a term of twenty years, of which eleven had expired, was given £18 for severance.

Mr. Wilson of Harvest Lodge claimed some level crossings for his convenience and, after a lengthy conversation on the matter, it was agreed he should have them.

Mr. Head of Derrylahan was awarded £294 for land taken from him. However, he failed in another claim. He sought compensation for the proximity of the railway to his mansion but this was turned down because the mansion was a new structure which was built after the decision was taken to build the railway.

The claim of Mr. Stoney of Portland was considered and he was awarded £494 for the land taken from him and for severance.

There were many other lesser claims and it appears that the total compensation eventually paid for land, severance and inconvenience was £4,829-7-6.

The authorised capital for the project was £65,000 in £10 shares, with loans of £21,000. Most of the latter was contributed by the Public Works Loan Commissioners and the Great Southern and Western Railway Company. Most of the authorised capital was contributed by the people of the district, with the Marquis of Clanrickarde of Portumna Castle contributing £10,000.

One of the matters that operated disadvantageously to the raising of money for the project was the location of the terminus on the east side of the Shannon rather than in the town of Portumna. The chairman of the P&PBR board, the Marquis of Clanrickarde, addressed this matter at a shareholders meeting on November 6, 1861, informing his audience they had already 'authorised a survey, estimate and plan of such an extension to be made at a certain moderate cost.' At a meeting of the directors at Portumna on January 7, 1862 it was reported that all the required preliminaries to obtain a bill for the extension of the line across the Shannon had been fully accomplished.

The required Parliamentary cash deposit had been lodged, the necessary plans had been deposited, and all the requirements of the standing orders of both Houses of Parliament had been compiled with. However, at the next shareholders meeting in May 1862 the raising the money hadn't gone to plan and it was decided to suspend development for a period.

 

The Building of the Railway

The twelve and a quarter mile line traversed comparatively easy country from Parsonstown to the Shannon. The biggest difficulties were in crossing the Little Brosna at Riverstown, three cuttings that had to be made, at Killeen wood, east of the Lorrha road at Harvest Lodge, and just east of the terminus at the Ferry, plus some areas of bog that had to be traversed..

The contract was given to Edward Bond of London for £52,500, one-third in cash, one-third in debentures and the balance in shares. The company started work on July 27, 1863, no doubt encouraged by a decision taken earlier by the GS&WR board to purchase or lease the line when it was built.

There was an encouraging report on progress at the half-yearly meeting of the shareholders in Portumna, as reported in the King's Chronicle on November 11. The engineer reported that possession had been given to the contractor of all the lands upon the line, with the exception of a mile in length through the townland of Walshpark. Arbitration hadn't yet been concluded in this case. The permanent fences throughout were almost complete. Considerable progress was reported on the rock cuttings at Killeen, Harvest Lodge and the Ferry. The side ditches and many of the cross drains had been cut through the bogs of Curraghgloss and Portland. The formation of the line between Parsonstown and the River Brosna was almost complete. A large supply of dressed stone had been delivered to the site of the Brosna River waiting for the abutments and piers of the bridge to be proceeded with. The Skew Bridge over the public road at Harvest Lodge was in progress and one of the abutments was built to the required height for receiving the iron superstructure.

However matters didn't go according to plan. After the initial spurt of activity and the substantial progress made as outlined above, difficulties came thick and fast. One of these was a shortage of money which slowed down progress to a trickle. Another was the breakdown of negotiations for the remaining land required by the railway. In fact progress was so slow that in June 1866 an extension of time had to be granted by Parliament. The first contractor having gone bankrupt, the work was taken over by Henry P. Bradley of Liverpool. He too, soon gave up, and the railway was ultimately finished by Daniel Baldwin of Middlesex.

The report of the half-yearly meeting of the shareholders in May 1865 gives an idea of some of the difficulties the project faced. Poor progress was reported because of long delays with the cuttings, particularly at Harvest Lodge and Portland. It was also reported that the Marquis of Clanrickarde had made a large loan to keep the work on the line going. It was indicated that the contractor wasn't pulling his weight and had been before magistrates in Parsonstown, Lorrha and Portumna for failure to pay the workers on time. In an editorial in the King's Chronicle on May 24, it was stated: 'If the men be employed at all, they should be paid regularly and in specie and not by 'dockets' on 'tommy shops.'

Work on the line ceased during 1866 with the result that the county roads, which had been interfered with in the construction, had not been restored. Eventually work resumed in early 1867. The plans for the station house at the Portumna terminus were completed and it was hoped that the laying of the rails would proceed. At the half-yearly meeting of the shareholders in May 1867 the directors were confident that the measures they had taken would ensure the completion and opening of the line 'at an early period.'

It appears that the line continued from the station house to the edge of the Shannon. The line of the tracks and the turntable close to the river can be gleaned from the aerial photograph included in this article. Building the line so close to the Shannon was to facilitate the potential transfer of passengers and goods from barges on the river to the trains. Whether there was any such transfer is difficult to discover. Of course the eventual aim was to take the line across the Shannon by a new bridge, which never materialised, to Portumna and link up with Loughrea.
Eventually the end of construction was in sight. For the meeting of shareholders at the end of May 1868 some dignitaries travelled by train from Parsonstown by the new line to within a hundred yards of the new station house at the Portumna terminus at the Ferry. The cutting here, no more than the station house, wasn't yet complete. The passengers dismounted and were conveyed by other vehicles to the meeting in Portumna.

The engineer's report stated: 'We have the satisfaction to report that the preliminary notice to the Board of Trade for the inspection of the railway will be given in the course of the ensuing week, and we hope therefore to have the line opened for public traffic in July.'

There were further delays and the Board of Trade inspection didn't take place until October 5, 1868, but permission to open was refused because of 'incompleteness of the line.' However, a month later sanction was given, with a 20 mph speed limit until the ballast would be settled.
The line opened on November 5 with the first train travelling towards the Portumna terminus. According to Lorrha native, Kevin Barry, the train driver's name was Hubert Hayden and he was to be a regular driver for the duration of the line. There is a record of his death in the parish on April 30, 1926. Another driver by the name of Hehir was sacked by the company. Apparently after a few drinks at the Ferry one night he decided to take some of his friends for a jaunt on the line. The company heard of the escapade and sacked him.

In welcoming the opening of the line the editorial writer in the King's Chronicle said: 'To the indomitable energy of the noble chairman {Marquis of Clanrickarde} alone we owe the fact that so much has been accomplished. To a less persevering man the difficulties which, almost from the very first, beset the line would have proved insuperable.' Then, as if anticipating some of the difficulties that lay ahead, the writer went on: 'The arrangements which are now made for the running of the trains are not perhaps what under more favourable circumstances would have been made, . . .'

 

Running the Railway

The P&PBR Company had no rolling stock of its own nor the money to provide it so it made an agreement with the Great Southern and Western Railway, which had three nominees on the P&PBR board, to work the line for ten years for forty percent of its receipts. The GS&WR moved its rolling stock on to the line and traffic began on November 5, 1868, with two trains daily each way.

The train times were at inconvenient hours and journeys took about half-an-hour. In 1871 the service was as follows:

Parsonstown, depart 12.29 pm 8.58 pm
Portumna Bridge, arrive 12.59 pm 9.28 pm
Portumna Bridge, depart 06.00 am 1.20 pm
Parsonstown, arrive 06.30 am 1.50 pm

Whereas the service catered reasonably well for a person from the Portumna end travelling to Dublin for a day and arriving back at 9.28 pm in the evening, the resident from Parsonstown, desirous of doing business in Portumna would have to overnight in the town. His train from Parsonstown arrived at the Portumna terminus at 12.59 pm and his only return train departed for Parsonstown at 1.20 pm, giving him a mere twenty-one minutes to transact business, pay a visit or see a sight!

One person who used the service was Walter Kent of Terryglass, the grandfather of Iris Kent-Dyer of Lorrha. He used to walk from his home to the Ferry on a Monday morning to catch the train to Birr, where he worked in Fayle's Hardware. He returned to the Ferry on Saturday evenings and walked home to Terryglass. Later he set up his own hardware business ion Borrisokane.

This poor service led to disputes between the owners and the GS&WR, with complaints about the meagre service and the starvation of the district's chance of development. The P&PBR shareholders had a point but they may have been overly optimistic about the potential traffic. The population of the district of Lorrha was small and not likely to generate much traffic, even if the service was more frequent and less inconvenient. Rathcabbin and Lorrha, mere villages, were the two main centres of population and it was most unlikely that the inhabitants of either place would use the service to travel to Birr or Portumna. Perhaps a stop in the Curragha area might have helped matters.

 

Closure of Line

The line carried on a struggling existence for ten years but on the expiry of the lease in late 1878, the GS&WR declined to renew the agreement. According to them the forty percent of the gross receipts from the line hadn't compensated them. Instead they had been losing £2,000 a year for some time on the transaction.

Marianne Egan, nee Barry, of Portland, an aunt of Kevin, recalled seeing the last train to traverse the line. As a under four-year old she was taken to a prominent position behind their farm by her mother to view it. The only thing she remembered was the smoke which seemed to envelop the whole train.

The company refused to change its mind in spite of several appeals. An appeal to the Government to take over the line also proved fruitless. They did offer the railway to the company for a job's lot offer of £10,000 but the latter refused and the railway was closed to all traffic in December of that year. Making the closure really final was the decision of the GS&WR to remove all its rolling stock and staff.

The Public Works Commissioners, who had advanced £12,000 on mortgage, now took possession of the railway but made no attempt to work it. This decision was based on the knowledge that the line had realised only £100 per mile per annum over its last three years in operation. An attempt was made to sell the railway and the GS&WR made an offer to work the line if transferred to it without charge. The offer was turned down.

Therefore, for five years the railway remained closed but, as it was patrolled by men appointed to keep it in order, it suffered little damaged. Observer in The Irish Press of June 22, 1945, described the scene: 'So there stood the branch line with its sheds, goods stores and its station house with cut stone front and imposing glass verandah, all dressed up and nowhere to go. But, not for long, for the line started to move again, this time in a very mysterious manner.'

Finally in 1883, the Commissioners withdrew their men and posted up notices stating that they would no longer be responsible for the line.

 

Stealing the Railway

The line remained intact for some time. The people awaited its re-opening and treated the permanent way with respect. But gradually there was a change in attitude.

According to one account the inception of the plot to steal the railway originated with outsiders, 'County Galway farmers who, returning from the barley market in Birr, and having to cross the line on their journey home, began the work of pilfering by appropriating to themselves such portable articles as iron bolts, etc.'

The police at Lorrha heard of this and prosecuted the parties suspected. The police were astonished, however, when, on the cases being brought to court with proofs fully prepared, they found that the Government refused to prosecute as the Commissioners had abdicated their responsibility for the line.

One account describes what happened in vivid detail: 'The dismissal of the cases for want of persecution emboldened these Galway men, who did not hesitate to pursue the pilfering process in the most open way. Then the farmers along the line, many of whom had contributed to its original cost, felt that if its material was to be filched away by any one, they undoubtedly had the first claim. They gathered in crowds over every yard of the permanent way, and working day and night soon 'left not a wrack behind.' At first they were satisfied with the wooden material, and stripped of this the line was what the Americans call 'two streaks of rust and a right of way', but in time the rails went, and then the station house, sheds, platforms and all adjuncts at Portumna bridge. The stone bridges under public road crossings could not be touched being under the control of the Grand Jury, who would have prevented any attempt any attempt to rob them.'

 

The Station House

An illustration of the extent of the facilities at the Ferry terminus can be gleaned from the following extract from an advertisement of the proposed sale of the effects in 1880: 'At Portumna Bridge there is a station with booking office, waiting rooms, offices, engine and other sheds, iron crane, cattle pens, turntable for engines, siding for trucks, and the necessary switches, points, etc. A landing stage fronting the Shannon, with crane, turntable, and rails to goods sheds,'

It should of course be remembered that this station was intended to serve not only Portumna and a large area in counties Tipperary and Galway, but also to afford connection with the steamers of the Shannon Navigation, with which a valuable exchange of traffic was hoped for.
But this grandiose scheme for the future came to an end with the disappearance of the station house and its effects, as well as the material on the permanent way. The station disappeared in the course of a single night as the following lines from a song attest:

He came to the bridge as eve was declining
The station was there, safely resting upon
Shannon's green banks, but when morning was shining
The banks were still there, but the station was gone!

Iron founders were predominant in the stealing of the railway, especially the iron rails. There are stories of severe fights among them for the pickings.

 

The Girder Bridge at Riverstown

About the only thing that escaped the general theft was the girder bridge at Riverstown. It was saved through the intervention of one Patrick Ferns. Spanning the little Brosna River at Riverstown it was about to be dismantled by a group of men armed with the required implements. To gain access to the bridge the men had to cross Ferns' lands, which was denied by the owner. The account goes on: 'The police were called but said that they had no power to interfere, and Mr. Ferns, alone and unsupported, asserted his rights as a citizen and an individual and, defying the intending raiders, saved the bridge.'

The Republicans also contributed to the disappearance of the line. A column of them arrived in Portland on July 27, 1922 and blew up the railway weighbridge that evening.
The steel structure that carried the line over the road at Harvest Lodge was still there after the Second World War, and then it was dismantled. Apparently it had become dangerous and an animal had wandered on to it and got killed. In the interests of safety the North Tipperary County Council decided to take it down and compensated the adjoining landowners, Michael Moylan and Con Mahon, for it. It would appear to be the last piece of the railway to disappear.

 

Hopes of Re-Opening the Line

Various efforts were made to re-open the line, most of them on the assumption that its working would be in the hands of the GS&WR. In 1899, under the leadership of two local landowners, Colonel J. F. Hickie of Borrisokane and Mr. W. T. Trench of Birr, an influential public meeting was held at Portumna following which a deputation met Mr. A. J. Balfour, Chief Secretary for Ireland and placed before him the views of the local residents. 'It was pointed out that the present deplorable condition of the railway was due largely to the action of the Loan Commissioners in neither handing over the line to the GS&WR, nor placing it in bankruptcy. Even the latter course would have resulted in the realisation of some of the assets, and might even have led to the re-opening of the line, whereas at that time, through the wanton pillage permitted by the Commissioners, nothing of value was left.'

The Government was urged to make a grant of £12,000 to the GS&WR to re-open the line, the sum estimated by the company to be necessary to put the line in repair. After considerable negotiation and delay the Government agreed but on the company being approached, it raised the ante and stated it wouldn't re-open the line without a grant of £24,000, the sum they now estimated would be the cost of restoring the track. Understandably the Government declined to increase its grant.

And so the matter remained until 1907 when a Viceregal Commission was appointed to consider Irish Railways. This generated enthusiasm once again for the re-opening of the P&PBR railway. A high-powered committee was formed and its representatives, Mr. Trench and Laurence Taylor, presented their case to the Commissioners on April 25 and 26. They presented the history of the railway and the arguments in favour of Government assistance.

The result was a suggestion that the chairman of the Commissioners, Sir Charles Scotter, should be asked to arbitrate between the Government and the GS&WR board in case negotiations were resumed. Nothing came of this suggestion and the 'stolen' railway was left to its fate. With the advent of motor transport for passengers and goods it was most unlikely that any further attempts would be made to re-open it.

Nevertheless, there was further talk on the re-opening of the railway. The following report appeared in the Nenagh News on August 8, 1911: 'Much satisfaction is expressed by the people of the surrounding districts with the near prospect of the disused railway from Birr to Portumna bridge being re-opened, and in a way too that was quite unexpected.' The report continued with a history of the railway and previous attempts to open it. 'Now, however, there is at least a chance of the district reaping once more all the benefits derivable from the line. A syndicate of English capitalists have acquired it from its present owners, the Board of Works, and they intend putting it into working order, and extending it to Loughrea. It has often been said that without such an extension as this it would never pay. The Shannon will be crossed by a new bridge and the Portumna station will be in the town and not where it was under the old arrangement, a mile distant on the Tipperary side of the river. At Loughrea the line will form a connection with the Midland Great Western Railway. Mr. Irwin, the syndicate's engineer, is at present engaged in 'walking the line', and preparing his estimate of probable cost of putting the old line into working order and constructing the new branch.'

In an editorial on the proposal the Nenagh News thought this plan too grandiose and expensive and suggested instead the linking of Nenagh and Portumna and eventually on to Thurles.

A letter on September 1 from Mr. Irwin commented on the suggestion favourably and proposed joining the GS&MR at Cloughjordan as the most likely way. However, nothing came of these plans and discussions.

 

Conclusion

The building of the P&PBR could be regarded as part of the railway 'mania' of the time. In the same year as the company started building the line, 1863, the third greatest annual increase in railway mileage, 143 miles of line, was built. As a result of the new mileage brought into use, the Irish route mileage at the end of the year was 1,741, of which 493 miles were double track. Railways were regarded as good investments and the raising of money for their construction wasn't too difficult. Feasibility studies weren't carried out at the time so that the potential traffic on a line such as Parsonstown to Portumna was never really assessed. The population of Lorrha parish, which was just over 9,000 in the 1841 census, declined to 5,522 in 1851. It is reasonable to assume that it had declined still more by the time the railway opened for business in 1868

It would appear that the promoters saw the line's potential in the connection with the Shannon traffic of goods and passengers, but this was never properly investigated. The other potential was in the connection with the GW&MR through an extension of their line from Loughrea to Portumna. Even had this been built there was the problem of connecting the terminus east of the Shannon with Portumna. This necessitated the crossing of the river and the building of a bridge. It was hoped that the Government would pay for that but there was no guarantee that they would.
There is an argument that the Great Southern and Midland Railway board never wanted the Parsonstown and Portumna Bridge Railway to succeed in spite of their investment of £15,000 in the project. This argument is based on the belief that if the company were serious about making the line a success they wouldn't have had such an inconvenient and meagre service on the line. The argument continues that the company by this policy hoped to reduce the value of the property and then succeed in acquiring it for nothing. The fact that the company later refused to acquire it even with a grant of £12,000 may suggest that it had come to the conclusion that there was no potential at all in the line.

There is one other argument to explain the company's behaviour. Had initial plans come to fruition and the Shannon crossed and the line linked up with that of the GW&MR at Portumna, this connection might have been hostile to the commercial interests of the Great Southern and Western Railway. They may have feared that their rivals west of the Shannon would have been facilitated in drawing off some of the southern traffic to their own main line.

The result of it all is that what is left of the Parsonstown and Portumna Bridge Line is derelict and wobegone. Apart from the 'stolen' aspect of the narrative it doesn't appear to have left many stories in the folk memory. One would have expected that the building of the line would have created an impact on the people, probably one of the biggest engineering projects ever carried out in the parish. The building must have provided unheard-of opportunities for employment, plus compensation to farmers for the land acquired for the permanent way. There are stories of people walking out the line from Birr as it was built in the hope of getting a job and being ready to take over if someone dropped out for some purpose. There are also stories of 'faction fights' taking place as people stole the railway. But, these are few and far between. A search through the 1937-38 Schools' Folklore Collection from Lorrha, Redwood and Gurteen schools reveals not a single mention of the Stolen Railway. Is there some kind of collective guilt at work to explain this loss of memory?

 

<span class="postTitle">Between Lord Hawarden & Dundrum House Hotel</span> Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 12th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty, August 19, 2012, pp 35-37

Between Lord Hawarden & Dundrum House Hotel

Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 12th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty, August 19, 2012, pp 35-37

 

Most readers will have heard of Maude of Dundrum and how he was one of the jury responsible for finding Fr. Nicholas Sheedy P.P., Shanrahan guilty of high treason in 1766, following which the priest was hanged in Clonmel. Maude is reputed to have died from a terrible itch.

When the Dublin-Cork railway was being built in the middle of the 19th century the contemporary Lord Hawarden gave the company 22 miles of free passage through his lands as a result of which the railway line went to Cork via Dundrum and Limerick Junction rather than through Cashel and Mitchelstown. The pay-off for the landlord of Dundrum was a private waiting-room at Dundrum Station and a warning bell in Dundrum House when the train left Gouldscross travelling south or Limerick Junction when travelling north.

By the middle of the 19th century Lord Hawarden, the Earl of Montalt, had an estate of over 15,000 acres. Most of it had been owned by the O'Dwyers of Kilnamanagh until 1651 when it was confiscated by the Cromwellians. Towards the end of the 1870s the so-called Land Wars began when for the first time the authority of landlords to control the land was questioned. At this stage about eight-hundred familes in Ireland owned 50% of the land.
 

Land League

Through the efforts of the Land League, which was formed by Michael Davitt in 1879, and introduced a very effective 'boycott' campaign, and the co-operation with the Home Rule Party under Charles Stuart Parnell the Land Act of 1881 was passed. This gave rights to the tenants for the first time and even though it didn't achieve the main aim of the Land League, which was a change to tenant ownership of the land rather than land reform, it did pave the way to that very end in the Wyndham Land Act of 1903. This facilitated the transfer of land to the tenants through purchase funded by low-interest, long-term Government loans.

These developments plus the fact that Lord Hawarden's eldest son and heir to the estate, was killed in India made him feel less secure in Dundrum and more inclined to see the attractions of a sell-out to the Land Commission, who were willing to purchase estates and divide them up among the tenants under a rental-purchase agreement.

The result was that the Land Commission took over the Dundrum Estate in a deal that was completed between 1905 and 1908. The land was divided into farms of 30 acres, each containing 20 acres of good land and 10 acres of lesser land. Villagers in Dundrum got 3 acres statute measure.

When all this was done the Land Commission found itself with a big house, Dundrum House, with 108 acres and a lesser house, the Rectory, which had been the agent's house
 

Presentation Sisters

At this time the Presentation Sisters at Thurles were looking for more accommodation for their orphanage. This institution had started by a chance development. In 1868 on a fair day at Thurles a small girl had wandered into the Presentation Sisters and her name was Betty Barry. She didn't have much information obout herself and nobody came to claim her. So, following consultation with Archbishop Leahy, the nuns gave her a home and this was the start of a small orphanage because in the course of time the sisters got requests from families to take in more girls and in due course they had a small orphanage. 

Later the sisters fitted out a building as a proper industrial school and the following year had it certified by the Department of Education to accommodate forty-five children. In 1876 a new building was erected to accommodate sixty children and they were to remain there until 1908.
By the time Dundrum House came on the market, the Presentation Sisters had come to the conclusion that their industrial school did not have the necessary facilities for dairy and poultry keeping. Dean Innocent Ryan od Cashel is reputed to have drawn the sisters' attention to the possibilities of Dundrum House as alternative accommodation for their school and the sisters decided to purchase it.

To do so they had to go deeply in debt. The price put on the place by the Land Commission was £4,000. The sisters paid down £1,500 and the remainder of the purchase price was to be met by an annuity such as the other tenants of the divided Estate agreed upon. A determined attempt was made in 1917 to cancel the debt incurred by the purchase. In September of that year 'a grand bazaar and Fancy Fete' was held in the convent grounds in Thurles over a week. It was a great success and realised the fine sum of £1,800.

The sisters arrive in Dundrum on July 8, 1908 and were given a hearty welcome by the locals. Fr. Matt Ryan called to welcome them and the following day Mass was celebrated for the first time in the place. On July 23 the children arrived, having travelled by train from Thurles to Dundrum. They marched in procession from the station, carrying banners, to Dundrum House, where the Te Deum was recited. At the express desire of Archbishop Fennelly, a College of Domestic Economy was also established at Dundrum and it was opened on October 1 of the same year..
 

The Orphanage

While the sisters ran the orphanage, the Department of Education laid down the rules and regulations. It appears that the greatest number of children there at any time was eighty-five. The sisters got a subvention from the Department for the children, which had to pay for food, clothing and other expenses. It wasn't very generous, no more than anything else in the State during the thirties, forties and fifties. At one stage the capita grant was 5/- (25c) per week. So, it wasn't a very profitable operation.

Austin Crowe recalls the time the orphans were in Dundrum. He believes they were aged from about two up to sixteen years and were all girls. They took walks in procession on Sundays and wore uniforms. They held an annual picnic and used to borrow a pony and cart from the Crowes to transport containers of sandwiches to the picnic place. They also had a playground, which was spacious and well-equipped. In general, Austin believes the children were well-looked after. On Presentation Day, November 21, the children used produce a play and present a concert of music and song. The children were usually well coached. The nuns used encourage art and help the children develop their social skills.

I have some memories of my own from the time of the orphanage. I joined the Cashel Lions Club in 1968 and one of the earliest projects I got involved in was our Christmas visit to the orphans in Dundrum. We used show them a film and have a party of goodies and drinks afterwards. My memories are a bit hazy but it was always in the dark of December and I seem to recall that the lights in the building were rather poor. Hopefully we brought some joy to the orphans.

The sisters taught the children a program laid down for industrial schools. We learn that in 1908 the INTO were worried lest the nuns open a primary school at Dundrum and they sent a deputation for Archbishop Fennelly in September, who gave them a promise that there would be no primary school there. Austin Crowe recalls that his mother used to supervise examinations in the school.

The industrial school continued in this way until the 1970 Kennedy Report had a look at the system and recommended that the children be integrated into the wider society. The result was that they started attending the local primary school in Knockavilla and they continued attending until 1974, when a decision was taken to bring an end to the kind of institutional care offered in Dundrum and move the children into smaller living units in Fethard, where they were facilitated by the Presentation Sisters there.

For some years after arriving at Dundrum the parish clergy of Knockavilla acted as chaplains to Dundrum Convent. Rev. James Comerford appears to have been the first chaplain to be officially appointed and he received his appointment in 1914 and was there until 1918, when he died and is buried at Mullinahone. He received £30 per annum plus his breakfast and dinner in the convent.
 

College of Domestic Ecomomy

The Presentation also opened a College of Domestic Economy soon after moving into Dundrum House. It occupied the buildings around the archway to the right of Dundrum House, with the date 1908 on it.

It was run the Department of Agriculture and it taught girls how to run their own homes through teaching farmyard skills such as poultry minding, laundry, butter-making, dressmaking, cooking, etc It catered for girls, who had completed their primary education and they resided in the place. Their accommodation was in converted stables and they numbered about twenty-five to thirty.
At one stage Muintir na Tire used to sponsor Domestic Science courses during the summer holidays at Dundrum House.

Looking at Dundrum House from this distance it might appear that the Presentation Sisters were in a good financial position with income coming from two Government departments and the produce from 108 acres of land. But impressions can be false.

The initial price purchased an empty building and the two separate accommodations had to be fitted out. The conversion of the stables for the College of Domestic Economy also cost money. There were ongoing costs in the maintenance of the buildings.

The Government's subsidies for both schools were hardly sufficient to meet the running costs of the school and the costs of food, and clothing for the orphans.

The farm of 108 acres might appear a valuable asset but it was overstaffed with workers, many of whom were inefficient retainers rather than efficient contributors to the running of the place. It too was probably running at a loss.

The College of Domestic Economy closed about 1969 because it was running at a loss and it was too difficult to keep going. Austin Crowe gives another reason, which may have been contributory. According to him the number of girls attending had declined, with a resulting loss of income. He adds that his belief is that the school was no longer sophisticated enough for the demands of the day.

With the farm also losing money there were several meetings during the early seventies on the future of the place. The closedown of the Domestic Economy school and the changing public attitudes towards the kind of institution run by the Presentation Sisters expedited decision making.

A decision was made to sell and the purchaser was a Dutchman, named Mr. Kalmthcut. The sisters handed over the key to the place on July 1, 1975, having moved the forty orphans still in residence to Fethard for a new kind of living, which was facilitated by the Presentation Sisters in that town. The Presentation Sisters had been at Dundrum for 67 years.

Austin Crowe purchased Dundrum House in November 1978 and opened up Dundrum House Hotel in 1981.
 

Epilogue

A farm manager, Mr Dexter, came to Dundrum in 1750 from England to work for Lord Hawarden. He produced a curious breed of cattle by selection from the best of the hardy mountain cattle in the area to produce the Dexter breed. The smallest native breed of cattle in the British Isles and Ireland,

Dexter are a hardy, dual-purpose cattle, producing excellent beef and milk, an ideal suckler cow for conservation grazing.

After selling Dundrum estate, Lord Hawarden, who was an old man at the time, lived for a while in the estate agent's house, later the Rectory. Before moving he sold off the furniture in Dundrum House and later moved to a house in Kensington. Some of his descendants were MPs. Another descendant, Fr, Maude, is reputed to have become a priest and became a member of Brompton Oratory.lic.

<span class="postTitle">Billy Hogan</span> October 2011

Billy Hogan

October 2011

 

Billy Hogan was 88 years old last February and as he sits in his kitchen in Derry, Rathcabbin he can look back at a life in which hurling played a major part. He isn't fit for any hurling now but he likes to recall the days he played for Lorrha and Tipperary.

He was born at Roden near the Pike on April 18, 1923 to James and Mary Ann , the third in a large family of eighteen children. Maisie was the oldest and Hubie was second. His father died at the relatively young age of 59 years.

Billy went to school in Rathcabbin to Mr. and Mrs. Bracken. The journey was across the fields, usually wet in winter, and the journey took a 'good half-hour'. There was very little hurling at school. In fact rounders was the game they played mostly. He stayed at school until he was fourteen years, having been confirmed in Rathcabbin Church by the famous Dr. Fogarty. Fathers Flynn and Moloughney are the priests he remembers.

Having left school he went working at home on the farm, following the horses and doing whatever tasks required to be done. Later on he worked for McAinches in their saw mill at the Ferry and at a later stage still for Miss Wellington at Derry. He eventually got a job with the North Tipperary County Council and he worked with them until he retired at 66 years of age.

He got married in November 1953 to Mary Ann O'Meara of the Lake, Lorrha, The wedding took place in Lorrha Church with Fr. Paddy O'Meara, C.C. officiating. The reception was held in Kennedy's Hotel, Birr and the couple went to Dublin on the honeymoon. Mary Ann had worked in Dublin before she married. The black and white photographs from the wedding day show a handsome couple.

Prior to getting married Billy had moved out of Roden and following their marriage Billy and Mary Ann moved into their new home in Derry, Rathcabbin, where they reared a family of five children, three boys and two girls.

Hurling Days with Lorrha

Billy started playing for Lorrha at junior level and there is a reference to the team beaten by Borrisokane in August 1940. Billy played at wingback that day, with brother Hubie in the centre. The next reference we have to Billy is in 1944. He played wing-back with the intermediate team that made good progress in the championship before going down to Toomevara.

Billy was a member of the Lorrha team that won the 1946 intermediate championship. They beat Kildangan, Shannon Rovers, Erin's Hope and Eire Óg to win the north final by 5-6 to 3-5. According to the match report the best for Lorrha were Eugene O'Meara, Billy Hogan, Paddy Guinan, Tom Lambe, Des Donoghue and Mick Brophy. The county semi-final wasn't played until November 16, 1947 and Lorrha defeated Galtee Rovers. In the final on the first Sunday of December, the club made history when they won their first county final, beating Moycarkey Borris by 4-2 to 2-4. The half-back line for Lorrha that day was Billy Hogan, Paddy O'Sullivan and Tom Lambe. It was a tough game and Billy had to get a few stitches in the mouth after it.

Up to now Billy played in the backs for Lorrha but in the first game of the 1947 senior hurling championship – Lorrha were promoted from intermediate – Billy is placed at left corner-forward against Borrisokane. There is a fine picture of a successful Lorrha seven-a-side in 1947 that won a suit-lengths tournament. Billy has a picture of himself in the suit won on the occasion.

If 1946 was a major breakthrough for Lorrha in achieving county intermediate honours, 1948 was to be greater still. In that year the club won their first north senior title in twenty-four years and qualified for the county final before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill. The campaign started against Borrisokane at Roscrea and in this game the two Hogans, Hubie and Billy, ' contributed much to the victory.' Playing at wing-forward against Roscrea in the next round, Billy had a fine game. Lorrha defeated Kildangan in the semi-final in which Billy was back at corner-forward, and defeated Borrisoleigh in appalling conditions before 8,000 people at Nenagh. Lorrha defeated Cashel in the county semi-final before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill in the final. This was a poor display by Lorrha. They led only once after four minutes when Billy scored a goal.

There was a lean time for Billy and Lorrha during the following years and not until 1956 did the good times return again. During these years Billy reverted to playing once more in the backs. For the second round of the 1952 championship, in which they were beaten by Kilruane, Billy was playing at full-back. He was also full-back in 1953, corner-back in 1954, centre-forward in 1955. Billy believes he changed back to the backs as a result of persuasion by Mick Brophy, who convinced him that he would make a better back to a forward. At the same time Brophy himself began to try out the forward position after traditionally being in the backs.

Billy won his second senior divisional medal in 1956, playing at left corner-back. After losing the first round of the senior championship to Kilruane, Lorrha came back with a bang defeating Moneygall, Toomevara in the north semi-final and Borrisoleigh in the final. The south champions, Pearses, were accounted for in the county semi-final before Lorrha went down badly against Thurles Sarsfields in the final.

Billy played senior hurling for one more year, turning out for the 1957 championship. Lorrha had victories over Borrisokane and Shamrock Rovers before going down disastrously to Eire Og in the north semi-final by 4-9 to 0-2. It wasn't the finish to a hurling career that one would like. Maybe the defeat made Billy decide to hang up his boots. He was 34 years of age.

Among the great memories Billy has in hurling one that stands out is a match against Roscrea at Borrisokane in 1946. According to his cousin, Noel Morris, Billy was the first man to do a solo run in that venue. He collected the ball about forty yards out from the Roscrea goals and, instead of striking it, took off on a solo run, beating several backs on his way to goal and eventually tapping the ball over the head of goalkeeper, Martin Loughnane, for a great goal. On his way out he received plenty of belts on the arse from the Roscrea backs. During the solo run he recalls Tom Duffy, who was a selector on the day, shouting at him: 'Are you going to go home with the ball, Billy?'

Playing with Tipperary.

Following victory in the county final of 1948 Holycross were given the selection of the Tipperary team for the 1948-49 National League. At the same time the previous year's champions, Carrick Swan, were given the selection of the team to play Cork in the delayed 1947-48 final. Only eight players were favoured by both sides and they included Tony Reddin and Billy Hogan. It does reflect the impact they had made in the 1948 championship.

Billy played against Offaly in the 1948-49 league during October. Tipperary won by 7-6 to 1-2 and Billy, playing at number 15 scored three goals. He was picked for the 1947-48 league final against Cork at Croke Park at the end of October. Cork won after a bad Tipperary display. According to one report 'the redeeming features of Tipperary's display were the splendid goalkeeping of Reddin, the sterling defensive work of Purcell and Devitt and the efforts of Paddy Kenny and Billy Hogan, newcomers to the forwards to break through a rock-like Cork defence.' The Irish Press stated: 'Hogan also caught the eye.'

Billy also scored Tipperary's only goal. According to the Tipperary Star 'The Cork goalie fumbled and Hogan was upon him like a terrier to net.'

Billy scored a further goal in Tipperary's next outing against Clare at Thurles. He was full-forward. (Incidentally, Brendan O'Donoghue came on as a sub in that game.) Tipperary won by 4-12 to 3-4 and Hogan was 'impressive' scoring a goal. Billy was on against Limerick in the next game and against Galway to win the group. He was a sub in the league final against Cork, beating them by 3-5 to 3-2. Billy recalls sitting on the bench that day beside John Doyle, who was winning the first of his eleven league medals. Billy won his lone medal that day and is very proud of it. Mick Moylan came down from Nenagh to present it to him.

In the months preceding the championship Billy seemed to lose favour with the selectors. He played in the Cusack Shield against Clare and in a couple of other tournaments but he didn't make the championship panel. His last outing with the county selection was in the Monaghan Cup on June 5 when Tipperary defeated Kilkenny in London by 5-14 to 2-4. That is another medal he can be proud of. Billy was very proud to play for Tipperary in London and he recalls his brothers, who lived there at the time, coming to support him on the day.

Hurling Skills

When Billy was at the height of his playing career he was a strong and effective hurler. As can be seen in the above account he made an impact as a back as well as a forward. One of his finest displays as a forward was against Fletcher of Roscrea one day when he scored three goals. It was as a forward that the Tipperary selectors picked him and it was in the forward position that he played all his county hurling.
He has the distinction of scoring a goal in Croke Park on the occasion of the 1947-48 National League final. On the other hand he played some fine hurling for Lorrha in the back position and his displays in that position in the 1956 championship were some of his best, even though he was then in the autumn of his career. Eugene O'Meara, who played with Billy over many years and who is a shrewd judge of players, sums up Billy's hurling with the statement: He was a good forward but a better backman.

When his brother, Hubie, took up refereeing, Billy used to act as umpire. Others who used to help out were Mick of Blakefield, Jimmy Kennedy, Sean Ryan of Toomevara and Tom Duffy. One of the most important matches refereed by Hubie was the 1953 All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny.

When he stopped playing Billy tuned his attention to selecting teams and was a selector on the Lorrha senior team for a number of years.

In 2004 Billy was honoured with a Sean Gael award in recognition of his contribution to gaelic games. It was a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much over so many years to the Lorrha club and the county of Tipperary.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Sean (Johnny) O'Meara</span> August 2011

Sean (Johnny) O'Meara

August 2011

 

When one thinks back to Lorrha hurling during the fifties one player stands out as one of the most promising prospects ever to come out of the parish. He wasn't what you might call a big man but because of the size of his thighs, the strength of his body, the level of fitness he exuded and the skill level he brought to the game, he appeared something of a colossus. He covered the field of play from end to end, relieving danger in the backline and contributing to attacks up front. He had enormous energy, could keep going all day and was equally adept at hurling and football. His name was Sean O'Meara, more commonly known as Johnny, and he brought excitement to the game and the promise of success to Lorrha.

Johnny was born in October 1933, the second son of Jim 'the Private' and Margaret O'Meara. Brother, Paddy, was older and Kathleen and Seamus were younger.

He went to Lorrha National School, which his family bought at a later stage and where Paddy and family live today. At that time it was a mixed school for boys and girls with Mick Cronin as principal and holding sway with Miss Flynn and Mrs Mahon . Mick Cronin hadn't long finished playing with Tipperary but there was no hurling in the school. The amount of recreational space for the children wasn't much greater that a postage stamp. Usually at lunch time the boys went down to the local ball alley to play.

Johnny was only about three and a half years old when he went to school. As he describes it he used to sneak off with Paddy, who was a year and a half older. As a result he had to spend a year or two at the other end after completion of sixth class. He used get a chance to play hurling with his brothers and the Darcys in the field in front of the Parochial House. The Parish Priest, Canon Moloney, hadn't much interest in the game but he had no objection to them playing in his field. On one occasion he did get them to pull some weeds.

One vivid memory that Johnny remembers of the Canon was the morning he lost his finger. In the winter he used to take the car up the Line Road for a drive, especially in frosty weather. On this occasion when he turned off the engine the fan belt kept turning. He put in a forefinger to stop it and, off course, the top of his finger was whipped off! Rumours went round that the eminent man could never say Mass again. But, in the course of time, the finger healed and the Canon got over the embarrassment of the episode.

While at school he played for Lorrha for the first time. The year was 1943 and Lorrha entered a team in the juvenile (under-15) championship. They played Shannon Rovers at Kilbarron and were slaughtered. The man in charge of Shannon Rovers was Rev. John Cleary, C.C. and he was to take his team to four divisional titles between 1945-48 and one county title. Some years later he came to Lorrha as P.P. and took the juveniles to three county finals, winning in 1957 and 1958
 

Pallaskenry College

Johnny left National School at the age of fourteen years and went to Pallaskenry Missionary College, as it was then known. He was to spend five years there. During the first year they weren't allowed home and had to work on the college farm during the holiday period. There was no hurling in his section of the college but there was in the agricultural side. Because he was a promising hurler he, and a few of the better hurlers, used to be drafted in to play on the Agricultural College team. Fr. O'Mahony recognised his talents and wanted him to play with Limerick minors but he declined, on the advise of Fr. O'Meara, in the expectation of getting a run with Tipperary. However, nothing came of the latter. One of the things he excelled in while in Pallakenry was running. The prime competition annually was the mile race and he won it three years in a row.

Following his Leaving Certificate there was pressure on him to go the Salesian novitiate in Burwash, Sussex, U.K.. He stayed almost a year but changed his mind and left.

His next move was to Warrenstown Agricultural College in County Meath, where he spent a year. During that time he was part student, part staff member. He played senior hurling with Meath in 1954 and the team had the distinction of beating Carlow and Offaly before going down to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final. Johnny played centrefield and had as his opponents, Mick Ryan and Phil Shanahan of Tipperary, who were playing with Dublin that year. While in Meath he also got a trial for the Meath footballers against Cavan.

Johnny was back home in 1955 and played with Lorrha in the senior championship, losing out to Borrisoleigh in the North semi-final. In the same year he was selected with Tipperary hurlers for the championship, and he was also selected for the Tipperary footballers against Cork but couldn't play because of injury.

Later in the year he took up a job as an insurance agent in Banagher. The deal included a commitment to play with the local club, Shannon Rovers, so he transferred to Offaly. He played in the Offaly championship for two years, reaching the county final in 1957 only to be badly beaten by Drumcullen. At the same time he played football with Cloghan, the football end of the parish, and reached the county final in 1956, only to lose to Tullamore. Johnny, playing at centreback, and Garda Jim Rogers of Wicklow and Leinster, were the two outstanding players on the day.
Because of his commitment to Banagher he missed out of the divisional championship success with Lorrha in 1956. His presence with Lorrha that year would have been a huge asset and, even though the team performed badly in the county final, his addition might have made an impact on the result. He had started playing senior hurling with Lorrha in 1953.
 

Selected for Tipperary

Playing with Meath and Banagher had brought Johnny to the attention of the Tipperary selectors. He made his first appearance against Clare in the 1955 Munster championship, replacing Tommy Barrett at corner-forward. Tipperary were surprisingly beaten by Clare on the day. He played during the league campaign and partnered John Hough at centrefield in the league final at Croke Park on May 5th, 1956 when Wexford came back dramatically to defeat Tipperary after wiping out a fifteen-point half-time deficit. He was dropped in favour of Mick Ryan for the Munster championship semi-final, which Tipperary lost to Cork after leading by 2-6 to 0-1 at the interval.
Johnny was back with Tipperary for the 1956-57 league campaign and played at full-forward on the side that defeated Kilkenny in the final at Croke Park on May 12, 1957. He was in the same position for the Munster semi-final against Cork, a game that was lost by the unlikely score of 5-2 to 1-11.

As a result of his victory in the 1957 National League, Johnny got a trip to the U.S. with Tipperary in October. They played New York in the St. Brendan Cup, played four games in all, including one under lights. He decided to stay on in New York and was to remain for nearly ten years.
It was much easier then to get into the U.S. Up to then one had to apply for residence from abroad, which meant that you couldn't apply while on a holiday, but new legislation came in that year which allowed one to apply while on holiday. Johnny got a job with Johnson Wax as warehouse manager, applied for residence and got it quite quickly.
 

Playing in New York

It was understandable that a player of his ability would start playing there. He played with Cork in football initially as he had got his job through a Cork connection and won a championship with them. Later he played with Kilkenny and won a second football championship. But hurling was his first love and he won one championship with Tipperary in 1962.

Hurling was tough in New York. The smaller size of Gaelic Park provided little escape from vigorous physical encounters. Johnny could well look after himself on the field and revelled in the physical exchanges. However, some of the results were dangerous. He recalls a bad accident in one game. Soloing through in one game he was tripped by a chasing player. When falling his jaw collided with the opposing full-back's knee and it was broken in a number of places. It was one of his worse accidents as a result of which he spent weeks in a Yonkers hospital.

Johnny was part of the New York team which played Kilkenny in the St. Brendan Cup in the Polo Grounds on June 1, 1958. It was the last Gaelic match to be played in the historical ground and Johnny had an outstanding game, scoring 3-6 at full-forward over the hour. It gave him the unique distinction of having won St. Brendan Cups with Irish and New York teams and in consecutive years. He was to win his third later in the year, when New York defeated Wexford by 3-8 to 3-7 in another St. Brendan Cup final at Croke Park. The New York team was a star-studded lot at the time, including players like Ralph Prendergast and Kevin Long from Limerick, Jimmy Carney from Clare, Billy Duffy from Galway, Norman Allen from Dublin, Paddy Bermingham and Mick Furlong from Offaly, Paddy Fleming from Carrick-on-Suir and Paddy Dowling from Cork.
In 1960 Waterford travelled to New York and were beaten by a star-studded New York team on the scoreline of 7-7 to 3-4. Playing at full-forward, Johnny had an outstanding game and scored 3-2 off the great Austin Flynn, before an attendance of 29,000 people.

During his time in New York he made a number of hurling trips to Ireland, either with New York teams for league engagements or to play with Lorrha. For instance he played with the latter in 1965, when they were beaten a point by Kilruane

While in New York he married Peggy Egerton, originally from Oldcastle, Co. Meath, in May 1962. The couple have four girls, Margaret, who is married in the U.S., Marie, who is married in Naas, Olivia, who works in a hotel in Kilkenny, and Valerie, who is attached to St. Anne's in Roscrea. The latter two are twins. All the girls, with the exception of Olivia, have won All-Irelands in athletics and represented Ireland at international level. They were all good sprinters and Marie was a jumper as well. She held the Irish ladies' record for the triple jump at one stage.
Johnny returned to Ireland for good in 1966 and played with Lorrha in the senior hurling championship, winning a divisional title. Playing at centreback he was the central figure in a very effective line of defence, together with Liam King and Michael Gleeson. He was elected captain of the team for 1967 at the AGM later in the year. Lorrha were beaten badly by Moneygall in the 1967 North semi-final. In the same year he played county senior hurling and football league with Tipperary. Lorrha lost out to Roscrea in the 1968 championship. Johnny played at centreforward in 1969, which was the year of the beginning of the open draw senior hurling championship. He filled the same position in 1970. He played wing-forward in 1971. He was in the unlikely position of goalkeeper in 1972 and 1973, and at corner-forward in 1974. He replaced Michael Burbage at centrefield in the 1975 championship. He impressed at corner-forward in the 1976 championship. He was wing-forward in 1977 and centre-forward in 1978. and full-forward in 1979. He doesn't appear in lineouts after that. He appeared as a senior selector in 1980.
 

Also a Footballer

Having started playing senior hurling with Lorrha in 1953, he finished in 1979, a span of twenty-six years, omitting the years with Banagher and the years in New York. He is of the belief that he finished up playing junior hurling with the club and that they were beaten by Ballina. If that is the case the year was 1983 when Ballina defeated them in the quarter-final at Nenagh.

Johnny was also a keen footballer and had got a trial for Meath in that code as early as 1954. He was on the Lorrha junior football team that won the North title in 1966 only to lose the county final to Clonakenny. He won a county junior title when Lorrha went all the way in 1971, and defeated Moyne-Templetuohy in the county final. He was the outstanding man on the field in the North semi-final against Kilruane-MacDonaghs and got the Guardian Player of the Week for his performance. The citation read: 'No one expected top class displays or indeed fully fit teams but one could not help being struck, at the same time, by the fitness of Sean O'Meara, probably the oldest man taking part in that particular game. He was streets ahead of his colleagues and rivals and this fitness played a big part in the manner in which he repulsed several Kilruane attacks in the first half, when the white and black brigade were playing with wind advantage.'

When Johnny returned to Ireland he became sales representative with Johnson Wax and he remained with them until he retired in 1998. Having done so he returned to his first love, insurance, taking up a job with Canada Life, with whom he remained until he suffered his stroke.
Recalling his hurling years Johnny believes that centrefield was his favourite position. He played centreback regularly and in many positions in the forwards. Training was never a problem: he was always the first man to the field and never missed a training session with either Lorrha or Tipperary. In fact he was always running, having participated in sports all over the country from an early age. He took part in the first Dublin City Marathon in 1979, ran again in 1980 and has run once more since then.

Johnny was also involved in G.A.A. administration. He was registrar of the North board for seven years and a trustee of the county board for four years. Refereeing was another part of his life. He refereed at all levels, divisional, county, Munster and All-Ireland levels and had the unique distinction of refereeing five divisional hurling finals in the same year, senior, intermediate, junior, under-21 and minor. He served as Tipperary representative on the Munster Referees Advisory Council.

Comhaltas has long played a major part in his life. Ever since Paddy Madden, Canon Martin Ryan and Peggy Wilde started the Irish nights in the old hall in Lorrha in the sixties, Johnny has been involved. He used to travel from Nenagh with his daughters every Friday night and the entertainment played a major part in his and his daughters' lives. At one stage he was part of a half-set with Bernadette Turner, Tommy and Kathleen Houlihan and they won a number of Munster titles.

Johnny O'Meara has always been a most active man. During his sporting life he achieved a level of fitness that was exceptional in his time, when hurlers and footballers had a much more relaxed attitude to their physical preparedness. He was a robust player who revelled in taking on opponents in physical battle and not many enjoyed coming in contact with him. As a contemporary of his in New York, Johnny Murphy of Cashel, described him 'a man you wouldn't like to run into on the field of play.' Off the field of play the same energy drove him in his job and his recreational activities. He was never the person to loll about but was ever restless for new activities, new challenges. It was ironic, and very very cruel then that he should be struck down by a stroke six years ago which rendered him extremely limited in the kind of physical activity he so enjoyed. In spite of this he will always be remembered as the skilful bundle of energy on the hurling or football field giving his all for Lorrha, Tipperary or New York.

 

<span class="postTitle">The Playing Fields of Lorrha</span> August, 2011

The Playing Fields of Lorrha 

August, 2011

 

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.

 

<span class="postTitle">Mike O'Meara of the Hill</span> August, 2011

Mike O'Meara of the Hill 

August, 2011

 

One of the earliest memories of Mick O'Meara of the Hill goes back to the Civil War that followed the Truce and Treaty of 1921/22. He remembers a troop of Republicans camped in Newtown, Rathcabbin and being fed at their house in Roughan. He also recalls how badly the people took the news of the death of Collins at the time.

A very early memory has his grandfather sitting at the end of the kitchen table: 'I was standing on the rungs of the table gripping the edge with my nose just over it and trying to see what was on it for dinner. There was a big square, willow-pattern dish with a big square of boiled bacon and boiled turnips, and also a large white enamelled dish of boiled potatoes. It was in the early days of the Black and Tans. Three well-built policemen walked in the kitchen door looking for my father, who talked to them for a while and then went into the room. After he came out he spoke to them again and they went away. My father went out after the dinner and I followed him to the field. He picked up an old, used stake and told me he was going down across the fields to meet the Peelers, and that he was going to kill the three of them. He added that I was to run back into the kitchen. I remember running into the house and telling them all what he was going to do. Some years afterwards my mother explained the incident. She told me the policemen came to collect a fine of £3 or, to arrest him in the event of refusal, for not attending to jury service at a court in Nenagh. He paid the fine.'

Mick will be 93 years of age next August and while the body is somewhat laid up due to an injury to his back some months back, his mind is still active and racing with memories. He was the third of six children, three boys and three girls. He was born on August 5, 1917 to James O'Meara of Roughan and his wife Brigid (nee Hough). James was vice-captain of the 1905 Lorrha team that won the first North Tipperary championship for the parish. The midwife had to be brought from Birr to assist the birth but Mick had made his entry into the world before she arrived.

Mick's maternal grandfather, Michael Hough, who was born in Ballymacegan in 1835, had bought the farm in Roughan in 1878. He was twelve years old at the height of the famine in 1847 and had clear memories of it. The family sowed a variety of potatoes called the Riles's, which had some resistance to blight. The grandfather went to a hedge school, which was in the open air in good weather and in a derelict school in bad weather. Each student had to bring two sods of turf daily. He was a decent scholar and could write a nice letter. He had the farm twelve or thirteen years before he married at 56 years in 1891. He remembered the Big Wind on January 6, 1839. They were living in a thatched house on a hundred-acre rented farm in Ballymacegan. They had an old retired ex-sailor working with them at the time and he was pacing up and down the kitchen all night. He kept repeating: 'This bloody shack is going to blow down on top of us. Oh, if I was only on a good ship out on the ocean, I'd be safe'.

Mick went to primary school at Gurteen at the age of four and a half years in 1922. The day he went was Whit Monday and when he arrived there was nobody around. His parents had forgotten it was a bank holiday so he had a free day his first day. The school is called Rathcabbin today. Where the village of that name stands is really two townlands, Gurteen and Derry. The old school was in Gurteen and the new one is located in Derry. According to Mick, Dick Bracken was of the opinion that the name 'Rathcabbin' meant a fort in hollow ground and the fort was located behind Kelly's shop in the village.

The school was a two-storey building, divided into two sections with the girls on the top floor and the boys on the ground and two teachers in each. There was no division in the rooms and all classes had to be taught within earshot of the rest. His teachers were Nora Moran from Redwood, who used to cycle to school every day, and never missed a day, hail, rain or shine, and Richard J. Bracken (1890-1961), a native of Banagher, who had come to the school in 1920 after being in Woodford since 1913, and was in charge of the senior classes. He remembers him as a great gardener and a very good teacher of nature study.
 

Primary School

The two schools were strictly segregated with no contact allowed between the children. The girls got their break at 11 am before the boys and they also took their lunch at a different time.

This strict segregation was implemented until the schools were amalgamated in 1932. This came about as a result of a decline in numbers in the boys' school. An attempt was made in the same year to maintain the numbers in the school by keeping some of the boys, including Mick, back for six months after they reached the age of fourteen. However, this endeavour was given up after a half-year and the schools were amalgamated.

Mick missed no day from school during his first year and won the prize for the best attendance before going home for his summer holidays. The prize was the princely sum of 2/6 (approx. 16 cents), which was riches to a young lad at the time. It was the last year the prize was awarded.
The particular day Mick missed school was in 1922, when Tyquin was shot close to Rathcabbin.

Many of the schoolchildren saw his remains on their way to school where his body was abandoned. (Tyquin, a native of Lusmagh, was the grandson of a Fenian. He joined the Free State army and was shot when he came to Rathcabbin to visit his girlfriend.)

He received his First Communion in Rathcabbin Church. Miss Moran prepared the children and it was all a very serious business. She gave each of them a holy picture in honour of the occasion. There was no such thing as presents of money at the time. He thinks it was Fr. Delahunty who administered the sacrament.

A contemporary of Fr. Delahunty's was Fr. Hayes and Mick has good memories of this priest. He tried to promote the temporal as well as the spiritual welfare of his parishioners. He recalls hearing him preach about the dangers of milking in dirty buckets on one occasion! Fr. Hayes also promoted hurling in the parish and was very involved with the club at North Board level.

There was plenty of poverty around. Mr. Bracken advised all the students that there would be a school photograph next week and everyone was to be properly dressed wearing a proper shirt and collar. One of the boys was asked why he didn't wear a collar – did he not ask his father for one. The young fellow said he did ask his father and Mr. Bracken asked what did his father say? "Pease sir, he said that he's not even able to put a collar on the horse".

Mick remembers getting his confirmation from Bishop Fogarty. He was serving Mass at the time and he recalls that the children came up the aisle in twos to the bishop, who was sitting at the altar. When it came near the end of the line Mick was pushed into it by one of the priests in front of one of the boys, who resented his entry. As he made his way up to the bishop the boy kept pushing him and making him uncomfortable. He remembers it vividly.
 

Dunces' Class

His mother told him that in her time there was a 'dunces' class' at confirmation. The weaker boys were examined by the Diocesan Examiner rather than the bishop, in order to save everybody's blushes. Confirmation used to alternate between Rathcabbin and Lorrha churches, with the examination on the first evening in one and confirmation in the other, and vice-versa.

Mick's memory from the whole experience is that he knew the whole catechism by heart but nothing of the meaning.

Mick played for Lorrha for the first time while at Gurteen school. The year was 1927 and he was only ten and a half years old at the time. An attempt was made in that year to organise an interclub competition for under-16s. There was a trial game between Gurteen and Lorrha schools at Ballincor Cross and Fr. Moloughney, who was the first priest in the parish to own a car, carried eleven of them in the car to the match. Mick scored a goal and was picked on the team to play Borrisokane, but they were badly beaten and there were no more underage interclub games until the end of the thirties.

Because he stayed on for an extra six months Mick was fourteen and a half when he left school. During this period he got high praise for a composition he did on Modes of Travelling. It was posted up in the classroom. The only further schooling he did was to attend Birr Technical School for about eighteen months to study Irish and book-keeping. He used to cycle in two evenings a week but it was tough going and he gave it up after that time. With the establishment of the Free State Irish became a compulsory subject in the primary schools but most of the teachers were untrained for teaching it. They were sent on crash courses but Mick recalls that some of his teachers had to depend on English translations of what they did, pasted into their text books. Because Mick liked Irish he decided to continue studying it for a while after leaving primary school.
 

Working on the Farm

The most pressing thing for Mick was to help out on the family farm. His father died at the age of forty-six and a half years in 1925, while Mick was still at school. His mother was left with six children between one to ten years of age. The oldest boy, Eddie, had gone to secondary school in Birr for two years after finishing in Rathcabbin but was run down and became ill. No sooner did Mick finish in June 1932 than he started work on a cousin's farm for ten shillings (approx. 64 cents)a week. This income was used to subsidise Mick's home farm.

He worked in this way until 1934 when they began to plough more on the family farm. De Valera had introduced two major initiatives to help Irish farming. The growing of wheat was encouraged with a price of 23/6 (approx. €1.50) per barrel for it. As well Dev halved the rent on land that had been purchased under the Land Acts and abolished debts that were over two years old. These developments provided great savings for farmers.

Life was difficult during the 'Economic War'. Mick often walked cattle to the fair in Birr and frequently ended up walking them home again. He sold two cattle very early one day to a fairly big landowner and thought he was made up. This landowner asked him to "look after them for a few hours". The landowner came back several times during the day to inspect the cattle. That evening, he came to Mick and told him he'd been trying to sell them on during the day (hoping to make a quick profit). He admitted he had no money and wouldn't be able to pay for them. Mick ended up having to walk them home again.

But it wasn't all work and no play. Mick used to play hurling while at Gurteen school but there were no underage games organised in the club. When he started playing with the club in 1934 he played junior and they had one outing which they lost. He continued playing junior in 1935 and 1936 and played on the day of the big row at Ballingarry in the match against Borrisokane. He was promoted senior at the end of 1936. He continued playing senior until 1940 when Lorrha were relegated to intermediate. There was little success during these years. There is a club photograph of a 1937 seven-a-side parish league team in which Mick is prominent in the front row.
 

Inter-county Career

There's another photograph of a Lorrha seven-a-side team that played in the Woodford Gold Medal Tournament in 1939. Mick is included and he played so well that he was called for a county trial in Nenagh some time later. He hit great form in the trial. Playing at full-forward he was able to run on to the ball, pick it with one hand and score points over his head without looking. He impressed with the number of scores he got. As a result of this display he was picked to play against Limerick in the Sweet Afton Cup final in April 1940. He scored a goal but had a number of good shots blocked by Paddy Scanlon in the Limerick goal and Tipperary lost. Two weeks later he was picked to play against Clare in the Thomond Feis competition, which Tipperary lost. A week later he was on against Kilkenny in the Monaghan Cup, which was played at Carrick-on-Suir because of the war. Kilkenny were All-Ireland champions but Tipperary won by 6-6 to 4-5. Asked if he still had his medal he said he never got it! Presumably it was given to some other player who lived closer to Thurles as was occasionally the custom in those times!

Mick's displays were good enough to command a place on the bench for the first round of the Munster championship against Cork at Thurles on June 2. Tipperary gave a poor performance and were beaten by 6-3 to 2-6.

Mick was dropped from the county panel after that game and didn't feature again for some years. He was probably a bit green from playing intermediate hurling. Also, as a busy farmer the travel and the late returns from training at Thurles didn't suit him. There was another factor also.

Looking back to those years Mick believes the inter-county scene was too big a thing for him at the time. He lacked the confidence and ambition required to command a place on the county team. Lorrha is a long distance from Thurles, the centre of hurling in the county at the time, and not many Lorrha players made the breakthrough on the county stage. At the local level Mick felt pressurised to perform when selected. While some were quite supportive, others were waiting for him to fail.

He was picked on a North team for the Miller Shield in 1945 but didn't get a county call-up. In 1951 he was invited to play against Galway at Portumna but didn't bother as he was losing interest and was then thirty-three years of age. Had he been a few years younger he might well have made the full-forward position: Sonny Maher was the man in possession and he was ripe for replacement.
 

Mainly a Forward

When Mick started of playing with Lorrha he held numerous positions. We find him in the backline on one occasion, also centrefield, but gradually his ability as a forward was established. He was a natural forward who liked to score goals. He played wing-, centre-, corner- and full-forward but was most at home in the latter position. He had an outstanding shot and the ability to place it in the most effective spot in the goalmouth. Probably one of his greatest displays was in the Limerick LDF area final in 1944. Hubie Hogan, Tommy Ryan and Dan O'Meara were also on the team. He recalls that the full-forward line on the day was Martin Kennedy, Dinny Doorley and himself. They scored eleven goals between them, he himself getting five. He gives all the credit to Kennedy, who was absolutely brilliant: 'He laid on the ball and all I had to do was hit it into the net.' Kennedy said to him after the game: 'I'd love to have you hurling with me in my heyday.' Kennedy was about forty-six years old at the time and had already been dropped by Kildangan and he often told Mick that he cherished that LDF medal more than his All-Ireland medals, presumably because it was his last. Mick often regretted he hadn't someone like Kennedy with him in the full-forward line when playing with Lorrha.
 

Achievements with Lorrha

One of the highlights of his career with Lorrha was winning the 1946 county intermediate championship, the first county final to be won by the club. He played full-forward in the final against Moycarkey-Borris, with Paddy Guinan and Vincent Darcy on the two corners. It was also the club's first major victory since 1924 and after they won the North championship Mick Donoghue turned to him and said: 'We broke the witch's neck at last.'

(An interesting memory from 1946 was a motion to abolish the ban, which was passed at a Lorrha club meeting. Proposed by Fr. O'Meara, C.C., the recently arrived curate, it was seconded by Mick and created headlines in the local newspaper. Some of the more traditional members of the club immediately called a meeting of the club to have the motion reversed.)

Another highlight is the North senior hurling title in 1948 before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill in the county final. Mick was again full-forward with Brendan O'Donoghue and Billy Hogan on the corners. Mick believes the team adopted negative tactics on that day, standing behind their men and re-acting to their opponents' actions rather than going for the ball. Also, he is critical of the referee on the day, Jim Roche (Limerick), who wasn't the original appointment, who appeared to give free after free against Lorrha. The first two balls Mick got in his hand, he was penalised for no apparent reason. As well, Dan O'Meara, who was having an outstanding game on the day, was taken out of the game. Holycross might still have won but it would have been a different game.

Mick continued to play until 1954 without further success and was retired before the club won their next divisional title in 1956. He stayed away from the game for a few years before becoming a selector in 1960 with his namesake, Mick of Blakefield, and Tony Reddin. He was treasurer of the club from 1967 to 1978. During this time the club purchased nearly six acres from the Land Commission at Moatfield. The Land Commission didn't want to give a site in that place and offered a pitch in Ballyoughter, Rathcabbin instead. This was refused. The land had been leased to people before it was divided. Mick Killeen had the portion at Moatfield rented. So, Liam King and Paddy O'Meara, who was club secretary, rented a hurling pitch off Mick Killeen and put up goalposts. They refused to leave it. The Land Commission gave in after some time. The club held a house to house collection in the parish and paid for the land in one go. Later the field was fenced, two dressingrooms were built and the first section of the clubhouse, including toilets and showers as well as a septic tank were completed. It was the first time the club had its own field and Mick was delighted to be involved in the whole endeavour.

Mick's earliest memory of seeing Lorrha play was at Carrigahorig against Cloughjordan in the North semi-final at the end of August 1924. He travelled with his father in a pony and trap. He vividly recalls the Lorrha colours on the day. They were green with a gold sash. Interestingly the players in the 1905 photograph also wore a sash across their jerseys. In contrast there was no sash on the jerseys worn by the players in the 1914 team. Mick has a feeling that Lorrha wore blue before 1924 and then reverted to green and gold. When he started playing junior in the 1930s they wore the sash jerseys while the seniors wore the blue jersey. Then towards the end of the thirties the feeling developed that the blue jerseys were unlucky and that nothing was won with them so they reverted to the green and sash jersey for the beginning of the forties and they won the intermediate in the sash jersey. Extant photographs of 1937 and 1939 seven-a-side teams, however, don't show any sashes. It is impossible to say what colour the jerseys are. There's a 1947 seven-a-side team in what appears to be a new set of jerseys. Eugene O'Meara believes that Fr. Corcoran gave a set of blue and white jerseys to the club in that year and it was the first time they had numbers.

There was a new purpose about Lorrha in 1947, having been promoted to senior ranks. At the AGM of the club in February Fr. Paddy O'Meara was elected chairman, Fr. Comerford and Tom Duffy, joint vice-chairmen and R. J. Bracken as secretary and treasurer. A finance committee was set up and a card drive was organised to raise funds. A match was organised against St. Vincent's of Dublin for Easter Sunday.
 

A Talented Man

Mick married Carmel O'Meara (no relation) in February 1952. They were married by Fr. Michael O'Meara (Carmel's cousin) in Lorrha and Mick moved into Carmel's place in Curraghgloss. For six years beforehand he had been living at Watersons of Lisgreen, which he inherited. They have four children, Gerard, Declan, Emer and Deirdre.

Mick's talents weren't confined to the hurling field. He's a marvellous raconteur and is capable of regaling his listeners with a wealth of stories from a life full of exciting memories. He was a good comic actor and graced the boards in Rathcabbin Hall for many years. He was one of those who started the Rathcabbin Players in 1941 in order to raise funds for a Red Cross branch in the area. 'Troubled Bachelors' was the name of their first production and it was directed by R. J. 'Dick' Bracken, who had a tremendous interest in drama. Others involved in the production were Paddy Corcoran, Paddy Corrigan, Tommy Carroll and Kitty Kelly. In the following years they produced 'Roadside', a very funny play about tinkers and lords swapping places, and 'Still Running', a play about poitín. Later productions included the George Shields classics, 'Professor Tim' and 'Paul Twyning'.

With these productions their fame spread outside the parish and they received invitations to perform in Borrisokane, Cloughjordan and Shinrone. Other productions like 'Mrs Mulligan's Millions' and 'Grogan and the Ferret' followed, all directed by Dick Bracken. The plays were all produced in the primitive conditions of Rathcabbin Hall, working with candle or oil lamp. It didn't cost Mick much thought to make the round trip of seven miles from Curraghgloss to the hall. The choice of play was always made with good clean fun in mind, and all the money made went to such as the Red Cross, the FCA or the G.A.A. club

The plays were produced annually until 1959 when, through a variety of circumstances, the drama group ceased its operations and it was to be nearly thirty years before the smell of greasepaint permeated Rathcabbin Hall again. Mick never lost his interest and when Scór commenced in the early seventies, he became involved with Sheila Dillon in the production and staging of Novelty Acts. Eventually in 1985 he set about reforming the drama group. A number of people like Michael Hoctor, Sheila Dillon and Michael Houlihan rallied around him and the re-birth of the Rathcabbin Players soon became a reality. Mick was now director and under his guidance a number of one-act plays were produced before .'Paul Twyning' and 'Troubled Bachelors' were re-staged.
 

'The Field' in London

Success came quickly and their fame spread once again. Invitations from outside the parish arrived and eventually in 1997 they were invited to bring John B. Keane's 'The Field' to London, an event covered in detail by Gerry Slevin in 'The Guardian'. Not only did Mick produce but he donned the robes of the Bishop in the play and, in addition, doubled up as Dandy McCabe in the absence of Joe Cleary, giving a tour de force performance in two startlingly contrasting roles. The play was produced for two nights to packed houses

One of the most entertaining things he ever did was an act called 'The Blunder Brothers', together with Hubie Hogan, Vinnie Kennedy and Mick Brophy. He believes they could have developed it and, were it today, they might be a leading cabaret spot!

Mick's acting career continued until 2008, when he last appeared on stage as King George V in a pageant built around the people of the parish who fought in World War 1. Five or six years back he helped to form a variety group in Lorrha and produced a number of shows for them, as well as appearing on stage. The group continues to flourish as does the Rathcabbin drama group.
Mick's life has always been full of activity. At the farming end of things he served his time in the NFA and later the IFA. Before that he was involved in the formation of the Young Farmers Club in 1947 and 1948. Elected chairman, the club had an educational purpose and it eventually merged into Macra na Féirme in the mid-fifties. In the early fifties he was involved in the setting up of the North Tipperary Agricultural Wholesale Society, a properly constituted company with shareholders, which aimed to purchase manures and deeds for the members at wholesale prices. It had only a limited success because it depended on cash transactions and cash was in short supply among farmers at the time, who depended a lot on credit from merchants. He was also involved in the ploughing championships and acted as a judge for a good number of years.
Probably one of his keenest interests was the LDF and later the FCA, which replaced it in 1945. He played hurling with them but was a long time member of the shooting team. He joined the LDF in 1940 and continued in the FCA after 1945 right up to 1978. In 1941 Johnny Corcoran and himself won the Irish Press District Shield for .22 rifle shooting and repeated the victory in 1942. They represented the District in an area competition held in Limerick and won. As a result they were picked on the Limerick Area team in the All-Ireland. When the FCA came into existence after the war the areas were changed and Lorrha was in the Tipperary Area. The .303 rifle competition came into being in 1947 and a team of six from the county was entered in the All-Ireland. Mick came fourth in the individual All-Ireland and continued competing at the highest level for many years afterwards.

So, as he looks back on his life from the vista of nine-four years, Mick can be quietly proud of his achievements. Over this long span of years he has entertained a lot of people, whether on the field of play or on the stage in Rathcabbin Hall and further afield. Off both platforms he has entertained people he has met through his lively personality and intelligent mind. He has contributed significantly to the history of the parish and has been, without any shadow of doubt, a huge adornment to the life of the parish of Lorrha and Dorrha.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Mike O'Meara (Blakefield) (1924-2011)</span> August, 2011

Mike O'Meara (Blakefield) (1924-2011)

August, 2011

 

The death took place on May 7, 2011 of Michael O'Meara, Blakefield, located in the townsland of Abbeyville, the parish of Lorrha. Born on January 15, 1924 he was the second oldest of a family of three, with a sister, Mary Jo, and a brother, Bill.

He went to Lorrha National School until he was 14 years of age. A bright pupil he never got a slap from the formidable Mr. Cronin. In later life he regretted he never got a chance to progress to secondary school. While still at school he became an avid reader of newspapers. He used get a penny a day to spend in Tommy O'Meara's shop in the village. Instead of buying the two slices of barm brack that was intended, he spent the penny on the daily 'Independent' and devoured the sports pages.
His passion for the daily read never left him and he consumed an amount of information on other sports as well as G.A.A. So great was his knowledge of information on sporting matters that he was given the name 'Hickey', after the famous G.A.A. correspondent in the 'Independent', John D. The dairy in his house was a storehouse for many old programs and newspapers. In later life, when there was a big expansion in the broadcasting and televising of sporting events, he was known to have a couple of radios and televisions on simultaneously as he followed the progress of numerous sporting events. His memory of sporting matters remained outstandingly good all his life and he was still able to to regale listeners with this knowledge during his later years in the nursing home at the Pike.

Having completed his education in Lorrha National School, he took up farming on the family farm and remained there all his life. He did mixed farming with a special interest in beet-growing.

Mick came on the Lorrha intermediate team in the early forties after playing minor for a couple of years. In one game played in 1943 or 1944 there were four Mick O'Mearas on the team and they had to be identified. Mick got the name 'Blakefield' and he was known by it ever after. He was on the team that won the county intermediate championship of 1946, when Lorrha defeated Moycarkey-Borris in the final, which wasn't played until the first Sunday of December in 1947. He went on to win two senior hurling titles in 1948 and 1956, losing out in the county finals, to Holycross and Thurles Sarsfields respectively. The club should have won another divisional title
after 1948 but failed to do so.

A very skillful hurler, he played at wing-forward, and in the corner on occasions. He was a very fit player and never smoked or drank. He delivered a good ball to the inside line and believed strongly in first-time, ground hurling. He was also a good free-taker.

He continued to play for a while after 1956 and was reluctant to retire from the game. He was a club selector in several grades for a good number of years and gave great service to the club. He was a county intermediate selector in 1952. He was with the Lorrha junior side of 1961 which won the North title and lost to Moyne-Templetuohy in the county decider. He was also a club selector in 1966 when Lorrha won the North senior title.

Mick umpired in ten North senior finals,6 with the late Hubie Hogan, as referee, in 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1957 and 1958 and four when Sean O'Meara had the whistle, in 1968, 1974, 1979 and 1982. He acted as an umpire for a county senior hurling final in 1952 and also officiated in a county senior football final. He umpired, with the late Tom Duffy, Gerry Dillon and Jimmy Kennedy in an All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final between Galway and Cork, played at Birr, with victory going to the Rebels. He also had the honour of umpiring in an under-21 All-Ireland hurling final.
Mick also provided a training field in Blakefield from about 1960 until the club moved to Moatfield later in the decade.

Mick spent the last seven and a half years of his life in St. Kieran's Nursing Home, The Pike, Rathcabbin. He continued to live for hurling and to impart to his listeners a wealth of knowledge on Tipperary and Lorrha hurling from the 1940s up to the present.

His remains were escorted through the village to Lorrha Church by members of Lorrha G.A.A. Club on the evening of May 9. After the funeral Mass the following day he was buried in the adjoining cemetery, where the graveside oration was given by Paddy O'Meara.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Eugene O'Meara(Lorrha) - A Fine Hurling Forward</span> August, 2011

Eugene O'Meara(Lorrha) - A Fine Hurling Forward

August, 2011

 

Probably the first game I ever attended at St. Cronan's Park, Roscrea was on May 16, 1948 for the first round of the North Tipperary senior hurling championship between Lorrha and Borrisokane. On a bright sunny day Lorrha had the wind in their favour in the first half and led by 2-3 to 1-1 at the interval. My father and I rambled on to the field for the break and got into conversation with Eugene O'Meara, who was playing centrefield with Hubie Hogan and had scored a couple of points. The talk was 'Would Lorrha hold out?' Eugene thought the lead was a bit precarious as they were facing the wind in the second-half. But hold out they did and won by double scores, on a scoreline of 4-4 to 2-2.

The victory impressed 'Line-Out', who saw further victories ahead for Lorrha, when he wrote about the game in the 'Midland Tribune'. He anticipated that they would make the final stages of the championship and his words were prophetic. They went on to win the North title and qualified for the county final in which they went down to a rampant Holycross-Ballycahill side.
Eugene O'Meara was a key player in Lorrha'a progress. Although he played at centrefield during the campaign he was a forward of note. At a time when it was possible to cut a back in any ditch in the parish, Eugene had a rare talent, a natural forward, completely at home in an attacking position.

In 1948 he was in his prime at twenty-six years of age, having been born to Patrick O'Meara and Alice Fogarty at Curraghgloss, Lorrha on October 20, 1922. He was the second oldest of four boys and his younger brother, Dan, was captain of the team.
 

Lorrha National School

Eugene was about five and a half years old when he went to Lorrha National School in May 1928. His brother Michael, who was a year older, went on the same day The two-storey building, owned today by Paddy O'Meara, was divided into a boys' and girls' school. It was built in 1835 and the toilet was a hole in the ground at the back of the school. The boys were downstairs and their teachers were Mick Cronin and Nora Flynn. Mick Cronin was a notable hurler and was on the Tipperary senior team at the time. He went on to win an All-Ireland in 1930 and was on the famous trip to the U.S. in 1931.

Eugene and his brothers used to walk across the fields to school, some of the journey taking place along the famous 'Stolen Railway' that used to connect Birr with the Ferry. During his first year he broke his arm in an accident and had his tonsils removed. He was out of school for some time and was held back a year.

It was an Irish-speaking school and all subjects were done through Irish. He recalls that many of the terms he learned in arithmetic, history and geography, were never clear to him in English. He got his First Holy Communion from Canon Maloney (d. 1954) and was confirmed by the Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Michael Fogarty (1859-1955), who was bishop for all of fifty-one years. According to Eugene you needed to be a theologian to get through the catechism examination in connection with the Sacrament of Confirmation. He did the Primary Certificate before he left school in 1937 at the age of fourteen and a half years.

There was no hurling or football in the school. This may appear unusual today especially in the light of the Principal in charge. So, what did they do during lunch hour? They rushed down to the nearby ball alley, which was built into the ruins of the Church of the Augustinian Abbey. The left side wall had been plastered during the nineteen twenties but there wasn't sufficient money to do the right side until the forties. The result was a rough wall but that didn't deter the boys as the place gave them on outlet for their energy.

Eugene must have been a bright boy because he was brought back some time after leaving for a school inspection. This was a three-day inspection by an inspector, Connolly, and Mick Cronin wanted to make an impression. Eugene answered a couple of important question during the examination and justified his recall.
 

Birr Day Vocational School

He continued his education at Birr Day Vocational School. A number of boys travelled to this school from the parish. Others, including his brothers, went to the Presentation Brothers.
Eugene was to spend three and a half years in the school, during which he pursued a commercial course and well as studying academic subjects. He was to leave it at eighteen years with individual certificates in book-keeping, shorthand, etc.

There was plenty of hurling in the school and Eugene revealed his ability early on. He was spotted by the Birr minor mentors, picked on the team and won three Offaly county championships in 1938, 1939 and 1940. He could play with Birr because there was no minor team in Lorrha at the time. He got his place on the Offaly minor team in 1940 but they were defeated by Laois, who won the Leinster championship that year.

Having left school with certs in different subjects there was no job to be had. He went back to work on the family farm and he remained there until July 1943 when he got a job with D.E. Williams at Belmont, looking after accounts for £3 per month and a forty-eight hour week. The money was 'all found' as he had accommodation in a dormitory on the premises. He worked from 9.30 am to 8 pm, with two breaks of one hour and a half-hour.

He stayed at Belmont until 1951 when he went to Naas to work in accounts at Mulvey and Sons. He didn't stay long there, getting a job late in the same year with Irish Tanners Ltd. as senior book-keeper on £8 per week. He stayed until August 1962.

His next move was to Tyresoles Ireland Ltd where he was appointed accounts and credit manager. This company was taken over by Dunlop in 1963 and Eugene stayed with them until 1987, when he retired. During his time with them he was elected vice-president of the Irish Institute of Credit Managers.
 

Playing With Lorrha

Eugene started playing with Lorrha in 1941, when he played junior hurling and football, playing in goal for the latter. The following year he played intermediate with the club and also with the Redwood juniors. He was a member of the LDF from 1941-43, as were many others from the parish, and he played hurling with them. He continued playing intermediate until they won the county championship in 1946. They used to practise in Blakefield. Fr. Jim Clune was the curate to Canon Maloney, P.P. and he had some interest in hurling. He used also play golf.

The intermediate victory over Moycarkey-Borris in 1946 – the final wasn't played until 1947 – was a major victory for the club, the first adult county final to be won. To beat a Mid team made it special. Eugene likes to point out that when he played with Lorrha they were never beaten on Mid soil. As well as beating Moycarkey - and the venue was the old Boherlahan pitch at Gaile, which was as near as it was possible to get to the parish of Moycarkey-Borris, without actually being in it -Lorrha defeated Cashel at Thurles in the county semi-final in 1948, Galtee Rovers-St. Peacauns in the 1946 intermediate semi-final at Thurles and Wild Rovers of Cahir in the 1948 senior semi-final at Thurles.

For some reason – perhaps the lateness of the fixture which was played on the first Sunday in December – there was no report of the match published in any of the local papers. Lorrha won by a goal, 4-4 to 3-4, and there were no celebrations in the parish. Paddy O'Sullivan, who played centreback on the occasion, claimed that there were people in the parish who didn't know for years afterwards that Lorrha had won a county final! Eugene played centrefield with Hubie Hogan.

Going senior in 1947 Lorrha went down to Borrisoleigh in the North semi-final on a day they were short Mick Donoghue, who was suspended and Mick Brophy, who was ill. As well their famous goalkeeper, Tony Reddin, had an off day, conceding five goals. The final score was 5-4 to to 2-3. Eugene was centrefield with Hubie Hogan. Eugene featured regularly on Lorrha seven-a-side teams that played in many tournaments during these years.
 

North Senior Victory

Lorrha had their revenge on Borrisoleigh the following year when the sides met in the North final. It was played before 8,000 spectators in appalling weather. Lorrha were well up for the game but it was Reddin's goalkeeping that clinched the issue. His display will go down in the annals of the parish as the greatest ever of any man to appear in a Lorrha jersey. Also important was an outstanding display by Eugene, who dazzled the opponents with fine solo-running and superb striking. Lorrha led by 4-3 to 0-4 at the interval and held out in the second half to win by 5-4 to 2-5. The Borrisilegh forwards insisted on going for goals against a superb Reddin.
Having beaten Cashel in the county semi-final, Lorrha came up against an outstanding Holycross-Ballycahill in the final but had no answer against a superior team, going down by 4-10 to 2-4. Eugene partnered Paddy Guinan at centrefield.

Eugene was to win another senior divisional medal with Lorrha in 1956. Before that he played hurling in County Waterford. His job with Irish Tanners Ltd. took him to Portlaw from 1951-1962.
He transferred to the local club and played junior hurling with them from 1952-55. During the same period he played with the divisional senior team, Thomas Frances Meagher's, but was unsuccessful with either.

He was back with Lorrha in 1956. The team still had a residue of players from 1948 such as Tony Reddin, Billy Hogan, Hubie Hogan, Mick Brophy, Dan O'Meara, Paddy Guinan and Eugene, as well as a new crop of players. Having come through the loser's group Lorrha defeated Toomevara and qualified to play Borrisileigh in the final. They led by five points at the interval but Borrisileigh scored seven points without reply to go two ahead. Lorrha came back to draw, Borrisileigh went ahead again and in the closing minutes the sides were level. Eugene and Paddy Madden scored twice in the final minutes to give Lorrha victory by 4-8 to 0-18. Lorrha won the county semi-final against South champions, Pearse's, but lost the final to Thurles Sarsfields by 3-5 to 1-4, with Lorrha scoring only a point to 3-2 for Thurles in the second half.
 

No Further Success

Eugene continued to play with the club until 1963 finishing up on goals. He was then over forty years of age. They played Borrisileigh in the first round that year and won by a point on a scoreline of 2-5 to 2-4. However, they went down badly to Toomevara in the next round, losing by 10-6 to 5-7. Eugene decided to hang up his boots. He turned to baseball for a while and eventually played a bit of soccer in the Phoenix Park.

During most of his playing career Eugene lived away from the parish. Belmont was twenty miles from Lorrha, Portlaw was farther and Dublin was more distanced still. These distances made it impossible for him to come training with the other members of the team but being a conscientious club member he did his own training and kept himself well, neither drinking or smoking. He made his own way to games and never claimed for expenses.

Eugene married Grace O'Donnell, the daughter of an Irish Army Commandant stationed in the Curragh Camp, in 1970 and they have two children, a boy and a girl.

He had a brief intercounty career. Following the success of the intermediate team in 1946, Mick Brophy and himself were selected on the county junior team in 1947. They played Clare in the first round of the Munster championship at Nenagh on May 25 but went down by 4-7 to 4-3. Eugene was 25 years old at that stage, in his prime, and it is interesting to speculate had Tipperary progresses would he have made an impact at county level. Having gone senior the same year Lorrha would have needed to be successful in the 1948 county final for him to make a claim at senior level.

Eugene continues to take a great interest in Lorrha and Tipperary hurling. His memory of games is phenomenal and he can list lineouts at will. He may have lived away from Lorrha for most of his life but his interest in the parish remains undimmed.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Tony Reddin</span> Opening of St. Ruadhan's clubrooms, Moatfield, Lorrha, May 22, 2011

Tony Reddin

Opening of St. Ruadhan's clubrooms, Moatfield, Lorrha, May 22, 2011

 

Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It's an honour for me to be asked to say a few words about Tony Reddin at the opening of these impressive clubrooms. The fact that he will do the honours of the official opening is only right and fitting as no man or woman has put Lorrha on the map as much as he has.

From the time he arrived in Lorrha in February 1947 he got involved with the Lorrha club and he was a great addition to the senior hurling team that got to the county final in the following year. That was a great team with some outstanding talent around the field. We lost one of them recently with the demise of Mick of Blakefield.

Tony brought to the team his excellent goal-keeping talent and everyone on the team came to admire it and have confidence that he would never let them down. One of his greatest displays was against Borrisoleigh in the North Tipperary final of 1948. On a wet and miserable day he defied the best that Borrisoleigh could throw at him between the posts. The famous Kennys tried their best to breech his lines but he defied them all and Lorrha won. In his presentation address after the game Monsignor Boland described Tony's display as 'surpassing anything he had ever seen.'

This and other displays did not go unnoticed outside Lorrha and Tony was drafted into the county team at the end of the year. He went on to play for Tipperary for eight years and won many honours especially the three-in-a-row All-Ireland titles in 1949, 1950 and 1951.

These were dismal times in the country and hurling was a major escapism from the poverty of so many existences. It wasn't expensive to play the game and once you had the hurl and the gear, there were endless free nights' entertainments. Identification with club and county was strong and anyone growing up at the time got a huge lift from the success of Lorrha in 1948 and of Tipperary in subsequent years.

Heroes were important and Tony was the stuff of heroes. I have already mentioned his epic display in the 1948 North final. Another epic was with Tipperary in the Munster final against Cork at Killarney in 1950. The overflow crowd of 55,000 encroached on the field surrounding Tony's goal during the last ten minutes. Tipperary won and Tony had to survive by escaping the field in a clerical hat and coat after the final whistle.

These stories kept us alive and added to the status of Tony as a local hero. We were proud to be Lorrha men and when Micheal O Hehir read out the names of a Tipperary team before a Munster championship game and started off with: Tony Reddin, Lorrha, our hearts swelled with pride and importance. Lorrha was no longer an anonymous place, lost in the bogs of North Tipperary, but the place where the greatest goalkeeper of them all hailed from.

Radio did wonderful things. It is impossible to picture the world as it was then, so used have we become to multiple TV channels and numerous radio stations and to the huge coverage of all games today. Then it was one-radio, one match a week and little in between. But it did give the lineout and Reddin was always the first man for Tipperary.

On this day I want to refer to another aspect of this great man, his professionalism. Today it is common for professional players to spend hours practising and training for a sport. Tony was a perfectionist when it came to preparation. He was always fit and kept himself well. He didn't drink nor smoke. He trained for the position of goalkeeper as much as if he were a centrefield player. Running cross-country, jumping over hedges and ditches and building up his arms made him the strong player he was. But, he also prepared himself meticulously. The story of him practising against a rough stone wall is indicative. And, there were a lot of rough stone walls around! Could there have been any better way of sharpening up the reflexes, as he dived left or right to grab the returning ball.
Whenever I see a soccer player trap a fast ball still with his foot, leave it dead, I think of Tony. He had that sensitive touch, allied with the titling of the hurley's face at an angle, which enabled him to kill even the fastest ball dead so that it rolled down into his hand. No man is born with such skill. It can only come from endless practice and hours of work.

Tony was recognised in his time as a great hurler and he has been remembered as such since then. He was the choice of the people of Ireland when they picked the Team of the Century in 1984 and he was chosen again on the Team of the Millennium. His place is secure in the history books. There must be wonderful personal satisfaction in being thus remembered. He has been the recipient of so many awards and honours and to me and to all of us here absolutely deserving of so much.

This evening we honour him in his adopted club is asking him to officially open these clubrooms. Some day they will be called after him but for the moment because of his wonderful health and longevity cannot be. But, there is no rush, Tony, and we hope you can be with us for many years to come and make the century.

Two years ago his native Mullagh honoured him with a plaque on the clubhouse of his native club. I hope that in the very near future we can see a full size statue of him erected somewhere in the parish, something similar to the statue of Christy Ring that stands in the front of the sportsfield in Cloyne. Tony deserves such an honour. Such a statue would show him in goalkeeping mode, hurley held firmly across his body, his sharp eyes searching for the ball and his whole frame ready to clear it down the field. Such a statue would keep his memory before our minds and fill us with vicarious thrills.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

 

 

<span class="postTitle">Tim Crowe (1881-1962) – A Tipperary Hero</span> Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 11th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty

Tim Crowe (1881-1962) – A Tipperary Hero

Clonoulty-Rossmore Vintage Club booklet for 11th Vintage Rally at Clonoulty

 

Tim Crowe trained the Tipperary team on their tour of America in 1926. Forty-five years of age in that year, he carried 44 gold medals won on the track in a green leather belt and wore it on important occasions during the tour. He always slept with the belt under his pillow.
There are numerous pictures of him from the tour, which lasted twelve weeks. In most of them he is wearing the belt of medals and he was a figure of curiosity to most people he met.

This famous belt, which can be seen in Lár na Páirce, Thurles, contains the record of Crowe's athletic achievements throughout Ireland over a period of more than twenty years. The belt, which has suffered the ravages of time and movement, is somewhat depleted today with 33 medals and gaps where at least 9 more once rested. The belt and the attached medals are the work of Tim Crowe himself and an indication of the fine workmanship he was capable of.

Crowe may have been influenced by the Lonsdale Belt, which was introduced by the National Sporting Club, the body that controlled boxing in Britain, in 1909 as a new trophy for the British champion at each weight division. In contrast to Crowe's leather belt the Lonsdale belt was made out of porcelain and gold. Championship belts were also a feature of professional running and walking (known as pedestrianism). The earliest account that mentions a championship belt dates back to a race in London in 1851.

This practice of wearing a belt of medals in public might appear strange today but it wasn't out of place during Crowe's years. Many of us remember our fathers and grandfathers wearing a medal or two on the watch chain. Of course military men always festooned their chests with medals on formal occasions, and still do. So, what Crowe did wasn't extraordinary but perhaps more pronounced than what most people did.
 

Athletic Achievements

The medals represent Tim Crowe's athletic achievements and leads one to the record of the national championships he won. There is a major difficulty here because there is no accurate record of what he won. For example in the report of his death the Tipperary Star said: 'For 15 years he held the senior individual cross-country championship of Ireland.' Terry O'Sullivan in his On the Road column in the Irish Press, sometime in 1951, stated: 'He was never beaten in a cross-country race between 1907 and 1920, won hundreds of prizes for these and uncountable other races, and preserves still a collection of forty-five medals.'

It's very difficulty to establish the authenticity of some of these claims. Two dates are given as the start of Crowe's athletic career, 1903 and 1906. According to the information in the Register of Births in the Parish of Knockavilla and Donaskeigh, Crowe was born in September 1881. He was a half-twin to John and both were the last children to be born to their parents William Crough and Bridget Davern. He had five other siblings, James (1868), Mary (1870), Bridget (1872), William (1874) and Anne (1877). This would have made Crowe either 22 or 25 years old at the beginning of his athletic career. (As a matter of interest the censuses of 1901 and 1911 give Crowe's age as 16 and 26 respectively, which puts his year of birth six years later in 1885!). According to the report on the latter year he won the County Tipperary one-mile championship at Clonoulty in 1906. This victory so impressed members of the Galteemore Athletic Club that he was invited to join. He competed under its colours until 1919, winning many titles from a mile up to marathon distance. He severed his relationship with Galteemore in 1919 and joined Clonliffe Harriers in 1920.
Crowe represented Galteemore in the 5-miles junior championship in the National Cross-Country Championships, held in Clonskeagh on March 2, 1907. As well as winning the team event Galteemore had the first, Crowe, and the second, J. J. Howard (also from Dundrum) in the invividual event. This would be Crowe's first national championship.

In 1908 Crowe represented Tipperary at senior level. The team championship fell through and in the senior individual championship only three started. According to T. F. O'Sullivan's History of the G.A..A., it was won by 'T. Crough, Tipperary,' a form of Tim's name that was occasionally used during his earlier athletic career.

According to the accepted wisdom Crowe won every senior cross-country championship up to 1919, when he had a falling out with the G.A.A.. According to Huckleberry Finn, who wrote contemporary newspaper articles on 'Famous Irish Athletes at Home and Abroad', the reason for the falling out was over a little matter. Apparently Crowe was after running a ten mile marathon and, having started from scratch and doing well as usual, he was let hang around for a few hours waiting for his clothes to be brought up to him from the starting point, which could, and should, have been easily done by a cyclist. Instead he had to run back the ten miles to obtain his clothing!
As a result of this falling out Crowe threw in his lot with the Cross-Country Association of Ireland (CCAI) which was affiliated to the I.A.A.A. hoping to win the cross-country championship of this body and hold an unbeaten record in the two associations. He joined the Clonliffe Harriers and won the junior cross-country championship of Ireland, run at McGowan Park, Belfast. Having won this championship he now decided to go for the senior cross-country championship. Against a top class field of the best CCAI men in Ireland and the best Irishmen in England, Scotland and Wales, Crowe ran an outstanding race and beat them all by 300 yards.

These victories would bring to 15 the number of cross-country championships won by Crowe between 1907 and 1920, if we are to accept the claim that he was unbeaten in the period 1908-1919. But the records don't support the claim and the only definite record we have of senior individual cross-country titles is for the years 1908, 1911, 1912, 1914 and 1915. No race was held in 1909 or 1016. He didn't run in 1910 or 1913 and I can find no record of 1917, 1918 and 1919.
Crowe also won silver team medals in international cross-country championships in 1920, at Belvoir Park, Belfast on April 3, and 1921, Caerleon Racecourse, Newport, Wales on March 19. The break with the G.A.A. facilitated competing at an international level. There was no international competition under G.A.A. rules.

Other national titles won by Crowe under G.A.A. rules include the following track and field: 2 miles 1908, 4 miles 1910, 2 & 3 miles 1917, 4 miles 1919. He also won some road titles, 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles 1919.
 

London Marathon

Probably the race that got Tim Crowe the greatest publicity in Ireland was the Polytechnic Marathon from Windsor to Stamford Bridge, organised annually by the London Polytechnic Harriers Club for the 'Sporting Life' trophy worth £500. Crowe was one of 46 entries, that included one Swede and one Frenchman in the 1921 race and was 38 years of age at the time. He arrived the day before for the race and hadn't the time or the means to prepare for the race that his fellow competitors had.

'No hotels and no masseurs for me,' he used say when telling the story. 'I was my own trainer and I paid my own expenses. On the day before the race I crossed the boat to England and when I arrived in London I hadn't much time to look at the course because I had to go looking for lodgings.'

London was sweltering in a heatwave, which caused a number of the competitors to drop out, but Crowe kept motoring on and was in touch with the leaders for a long time. After 5 miles he was a little over a minute behind the leader, two and a half mins after 10 miles, five after 15 miles and approximately twenty after 20 miles. Then an unfortunate thing happened and he went off course for a while but eventually completed the race in 3-24-35 and seventh place, almost thirty-three minutes behind the winner. (He didn't actually finish the race, running 253/4 miles instead of the 26 miles 385 yards, because he was too far back and the track was crowded when he arrived at the Stadium.)

(The Polytechnic Marathon was one of the most prestigious marathons in the world until the late 1960s. It was won by Denis 'Sonny' O'Gorman, Thurles, in 1959 in a time of 2.25.11. He was honoured with the 2008 Knocknagow Award at the Annerville Awards in Clonmel.)

The picture that emerges of Crowe in accounts written of this event is of a hero, who took on the might of Europe in a foreign city and but for the hand of misfortune on his shoulder, which sent him in the wrong direction towards the end, he might well have come home with the spoils of victory. It is a marvellous picture of a great athlete, overcoming immense obstacles, one of the few to complete the race and disdaining all medical assistance at the end in spite of the sweltering heat.

As one newspaper account put it: 'Whilst the rest of the competitors fell down on the spot and were being fanned, refreshed with water and massaged – or else being carried off on stretchers – Tim trotted away, donned his clothes and straighway set off for a short holiday in France.' This was a lion-hearted hero, to cherish and be proud of and he was placed in the pantheon of the greats of Tipperary, with the likes of Matt the Thresher.

It appears that Crowe stopped competing after 1924. In that year he ran the Templemore to Milestone race for the second time and won it for the second time. Tommy Ryan, who started the Memorial Race in 1986, was fifth. (Crowe's winning time over the 1919 course, which was 3/4 of a mile short, converted to the full 20 miles distance run in 1986 would have still been good enough to place him 9th in that latter race.) There is a reference somewhere of him doing a run-out with Galteemore Athletic Club in 1931 at Thurles Sportsfield. There was also an episode with Arthur Newton, the English ultra distance runner, who was open to challenges from athletes to run him in 50 and 100 mile races during the twenties. The account is vague, the time was the spring of 1928 and it suggests that Crowe travelled to London to meet Newton. It came from the Tipperary Star's Cappawhite correspondent.
 

Crowe and the Olympics

Tim Crowe never took part in the Olympics and there is no easy answer why he didn't. The first Olympics in which he might have competed was in London in 1908. The Olympics at this stage of their development weren't as highly rated as they were to become. In fact the better athletes regarded the AAA championships more highly. Maybe Crowe was influenced by this attitude. There was also the fact that Crowe ran under G.A.A. rules and he and his fellow athletes did not look beyond the bounds of G.A.A. competition. Another factor was that Irishmen who did compete in the Olympics did so under the IAAA, and Crowe didn't come under this umbrella until he joined Clonliffe Harriers in 1919. He would have missed the 1912 games at Stockholm and, as there were no games in 1916 because of the war, had to wait until Antwerp in 1920 for the next games. By this stage he was over the top as an athlete though he could have been a competitor in the marathon. Yet, as his time in the Polytechnic Marathon in 1921 reveals he was way off the pace and would not have been a serious contender for a medal.
 

Sometimes a Difficult Man

Some people found Tim Crowe a difficult man to approach. At first acquaintance he appeared shy and diffident and it was difficult to get him to talk about his athletic past. Writing about him in the Tipperary Star in the seventies, 'Glen Rover' stated that Crowe told him before he died that he didn't care much for newspapermen and less still for some of the newspapers., and the reason was that they hadn't been fair to him in the past. He told 'Glen Rover' that in the old days he had a reputation for being crusty and quick-tempered and impossible to get on with, but he showed that he had good reason for his actions and his attitude. He met a good deal of jealousy and downright unfairness and underhanded treatment and there were times when he felt that he could trust no one. He admitted that he was quick-tempered and likely to be very cross and stubborn and that this turned people against him in the G.A.A. and, at one stage, left him on his own.

There was another reason for Tim Crowe's public attitude. In the days of his prime the G.A.A. and its teams and athletes didn't get much of a show in the newspapers. Admittedly, in time, Crowe did make the headlines but for a long time his phenomenal ability was underestimated. This caused him to resent the newspapers' casual attitude to him and their refusal to pay him the attention he deserved.
 

Ideas about Training

Crowe had fixed ideas on training.. He was convinced that there should be no such thing as an 'off' period for any athlete, hurler or footballer, or anyone whose success depended on top physical fitness. To get the best out of his efforts a man should get to the peak of fitness and stay there all the year round. This may explain why Crowe regularly issued challenges to all and sundry. For instance a picture of him appeared in one of the New York papers soon after his arrival with the Tipperary team in 1926. His belt of medals is emblazoned across his belly and in the caption he issues a challenge to meet any runner his age in a two or three-mile race. Any runner who would like to take him on could reach him at the Whitcomb Hotel.

Another theory he had was that an athlete should accustom himself to running at the same time of the day as the time on which a particular race was to take place.. For instance if a man was entered for a race at 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon he should get into the habit of running the same distance at that time in the days leading up to the race. Crowe held that it wasn't necessary to go the full distance in training and that his speed should be varied, with short fast bursts and slow jog-trots alternating.

At a cross-country meet at Harold's Cross, Dublin in 1915 Crowe expressed another of his running theories in a conversation with J. J. Ryan, Bansha, the man who was to succeed him as the leading cross-country runner in the country.. According to the newspaper report, Crowe said to Ryan: 'Start your race at a hundred yards' pace and keep going until you get out, and when you get your lead you have your race won.'

With the crack of the pistol Mr. J. J. Keane sent off the men in good order. Ryan sprinted gamely until he headed the field of 42 runners and at the half-mile was leading by 50 yards. At this stage Ryan was met again by the old veteran, who said: 'Let up, Jack, you have your race won already.'
He also had particular notions on diet. He claimed that what suited him best was porridge, brown bread, milk and eggs. He ate eight eggs a day and of these two were swallowed raw. He ate little meat. He wasn't a teetotaller but drank little, just a bottle of stout or beer from time to time. He disallowed smoking entirely, holding that cigarettes were deadly to an athlete.
 

Accomplished Musician

Tim Crowe was also an accomplished musician. He studied music under Frank Roche, Kilmallock, a well-known authority on Irish music and a member of a family prominent in nationalist and Gaelic cultural activities. Crowe was also a noted step dancer. He was taught by the well-known Mr. Hourigan of Bansha and he won a number of step-dancing competitions.

He made his own violin, played it and composed his own tunes. He had a book of these airs, written in his own artistic manuscript, and this he prized almost as much as his athletic trophies. It is claimed he won medals for violin playing and for step-dancing at the Thomond Feis in 1922
While he was in the U.S. he contributed to a program of Irish ballads and music on the Municipal Broadcasting Station of the City of New York,WNYC. One of the Tipperary players, James

O'Meara, sang a selection of Irish folk songs in his rich baritone voice and Tim Crowe 'wrested with talented fingers from his fiddle a number of Irish reels, jigs and hornpipes.' The two men repeated the program on Station WOR, Newark the night after.

He tried his hand at writing ballads, at least three of which have come my way. Success to Gallant Tipperary, sung to the air of Success to Dear Old Ireland has the following verse:


Some sing of those of lyric fame
While others praise the glorious name,
And other sing of wild demesne,
But let me sing of Tipperary.
I'll sing of Tipperary's athletic men
Kiely, Davin and Tipperary Tim,
Till echo sound from hill to hill
Success to Gallant Tipperary.

Another ballad is entitled The Final of Munster – Tipperary and Limerick and appears to refer to the 1922 final, played at Thurles on July 1, 1923, which ended in a draw. This was to be sung to the air of Kelly the Boy from Killane. A third ballad he wrote was called The Dear Irish Colleen Waiting for Me.

A Distinctive Figure

Tim Crowe was a distinctive looking figure. It wasn't that he was a big man, in fact people who remember him recall him as being about 5 feet six inches in height with an exceptionally strong pair of thighs. In the pictures that appeared of him in newspapers he cut a dapper figure with his hair parted in the middle and a moustache, wearing a waistcoat. ( Incidentally, it has been pointed out to me that two great, contemporary English runners Walter George (1858- 1943) and Alfred Shrubb (1879- 1964) both parted their hair in the middle and sported moustaches?) The belt of medals girded his belly and his often found with the hands in the trousers pockets, holding back the front of his coat better to expose the medals.

When he was in his cycling gear he wore knee-length knickerbockers with stockings coming up to just under his knees. The chain wheel on his bicycle was bigger that usual which allowed him to travel at a faster speed on the flat but which made climbing hills more difficult. He cut a curious figure on the roads and sometimes a group of cyclists he came across on his journeys would try to pace him but inevitably he overtook them and left them behind. According to a neighbour he had the habit of walking the bicycle out the lane from where he lived to the road and, if he were heading in Ballagh direction, he would continue walking up the hill halfways before mounting.


Tipperary Tim

Tim Crowe had the distinction of having a horse called after him, Tipperary Tim. Bred by John Ryan of Racecourse and rugby fame, the horse was sold to H. S. Kenyon in England and ridden to victory by Billy Dutton in the 1928 Grand National. The race was run during misty weather conditions with the going very heavy. As the field of 43 horses approached the Canal Turn on the first circuit, Easter Hero fell, causing a pile-up from which only seven horses emerged with seated jockeys. By the penultimate fence this number had reduced to three, with Great Span looking most likely to win ahead of Billy Barton and Tipperary Tim. Great Span's saddle then slipped, leaving Billy Barton in the lead. until he too fell. Although Billy Barton's jockey Tommy Cullinan managed to remount and complete the race, it was Tipperary Tim who came in first at outside odds of 100/1. With only two riders completing the course, this remains a record for the fewest number of finishers. At the time of the race John Ryan was travelling to the U.S. on the Cedric liner of the White Star Line. He found himself the centre of attention.

'I was sitting in the smoking room,' he said, 'when a man pokes his head in the door and says: 'Does anybody want to know who won the National?' and I said: 'I do', and he says, 'It's Tipperary Tim, and who are you?' 'I'm his breeder', says I, and then we had a bit of a celebration all around.'

 

Other Activities

In other activities, farming, stone masonry, boot making and repairing, he showed outstanding ability. Tim Crowe was brought up on a small farm at Bishopswood, Dundrum. He was an only child and went to the local primary school. Having left at 14 years of age he learned the skills of stone masonry and carpentry and was regarded as a very handy man with a great pair of hands. He worked as a stone mason locally but also further afield. He made his own violin and worked at jobs in the locality since the farm wasn't sufficient to provide a living.

Probably because of his interest in cycling he set up a bicycle shop at the Village Cross, Dundrum in the forties in a small house which had been previously a forge, run by Jim Crimmins. Here he sold and repaired bicycles at a time when the bicycle was a major means of transport for many people. His shop was choc a bloc with bicycle parts from floor to ceiling.

An incident from that time throws some light on Tim Crowe the man, illustrating the simple side of his character. He hung a bicycle up a tree and called it the 'flying bicycle'. He had the picture taken and it appeared in the newspapers. If it were today one could accept it as an advertising gimmick to draw attention to his business. But, it wasn't that. He expected people to believe it was a flying bicycle!
 

Tim Crowe the Trainer

Tim Crowe travelled to the U.S. In 1926 with the official title of trainer of the Tipperary team. In a report in a San Francisco newspaper the day after the arrival of the party in the city, the following appeared: 'The veteran Crowe, trainer of many a champion hurling team and one of Ireland's foremost exponents of the ancient pastime said he didn't see how his team could lose in such a glorious place as San Francisco. 'Of course,' he continued, 'at home we read a lot about California and our friends here send us your newspapers, which are always interesting, so it isn't like being in a strange place when we come to California.'

There's as good a chance of Crowe having said that as his dog at home in Bishopswood! The reporter obviously had a fertile imagination and never met the man. The only thing correct is that Crowe was the trainer. Why he was chosen as trainer is intriguing, since he does not appear to have had any experience as the trainer of hurling teams, and definitely not of Tipperary teams. It is suggested that he was regarded as an expert on physical fitness and preparation for athletic pursuits and what better man to have in charge of your team on an extended tour!

His choice may also have reflected the long standing connection between athletics and the G.A.A., which was broken with the setting up of the N.A.C.A. in 1922. The year 1926 wan't far removed from the days when athletics and hurling and football shared a common stage at G.A.A. events. There was still a hankering after these halcyon days. As well Crowe and his achievements were well-respected in G.A.A. circles. He was regarded as the outstanding athlete in the county
(As far as is known Crowe didn't train teams. He supported Tipperary and his ballad called Gallant Tipperary testifies to this support and admiration for the county. He also travelled great distances to support Tipperary. These journeys by bicycle were major achievements involving distances as long as 110 miles each way. And, these journeys were done in one day, there and back, no cycling to Dublin on Saturday and returning on Monday! He cycled to the finals of the 3-in-1-row All-Irelands , 1949-51. But he had no involvement with his native Kickhams or any other club teams. In fact he referred to these teams disparagingly as 'pig's head' teams!)

There was another possible reason for his appointment: Tim Crowe could play the fiddle, dance and sing a song. On a long trip like the Tour of America a bit of entertainment was vital and it's significant that Crowe was one of two of the travelling party who was invited to take part on the radio program in New York. There is a story, probably apocryphal, of Tim giving a rendition of When it's Springtime in the Rockies as the train traversed that mountain range on its way to San Francisco!

Tim Crowe is mentioned a number of times in the account of the tour by Thomas J. Kenny. On page 69 we are told: 'We have just passed Laguna Station. Tim Crowe is in humour and treats us to a few tunes on the violin'. Later, on page 71 we read: '7 pm and Tim Crowe is at the violin. His rendering of 'The Blackbird', 'Father O'Flynn' and a few reels has certainly been very fine.'
Crowe's musical talent was put to good use on the SS Cedric of the White Star Line as the party travelled back to Liverpool. There was a 'Grand Concert' in the Third Class Lounge on July 24, 1926. In Part One Tim Crowe gave some 'Violin Selections' and in Part Two he performed a dance. James O'Meara, mentioned above, gave a 'Song Selection' and Rody Nealon sang a song.
 

Later Life

Tim Crowe was predeceased by his wife, who was a Mary Ryan from Bishopswood. The couple had one daughter, Bridget/Biddy, who married Martin Heffernan and lived at Boherlahan. Biddy was also a musician and used to play in Gleeson's pub in Ballagh on Sunday nights.
Tim appears to have been a lonely man with no friends to call on or to visit him. About the only place he used visit was the home of local school principal, Micheal MacCathraigh. He went there about once a month and played the violin on these visits. Occasionally he did a bit of step-dancing. This was an important outlet for Crowe. In this house his talents were greatly appreciated. Micheal regarded him as a great fiddle player and a very good step-dancer and showed his appreciation. This appreciation of his talents and the adulation was helpful and beneficial to Crowe.

Otherwise it was a lonely existence. At some stage Crowe build two huts across the road from where he lived, described by Terry O'Sullivan in his 1951 article as painted 'vermillion and navy blue', and used to spend much of his later years playing the violin alone in it. He used the second for his bicycle workshop after moving from Dundrum. The huts were a tribute to his carpentry skills and caught the attention of people who passed on the road. When he became incapable of looking after himself, his daughter had him removed to St. Patrick's Hospital, Cashel but he wasn't content there and arrived home almost as soon as the people who brought him there.
Tim Crowe passed away in his home on November 11, 1962 at the age of 81 years. Following Requiem Mass at Knockavilla Church two days later he was buried at Clonoulty. The Tipperary Star reported an 'immense attendance of the general public from all stations of life present to pay the last tribute to a departed prince of the athletic world' and it would be right and fitting had this been the case. But the reality was very different. I have spoken to two men who attended the funeral and for one it was a 'small crowd' and the second described it as 'very few' in attendance. It appears that many people had already forgotten the athletic and cycling greatness of a man whose feats had captured the imagination of so many over many decades and who continued to impinge on people's consciousness through his well-publicised bicycle trips following Tipperary to distant places when his competitive days were over.

Tim Crowe remains mostly a forgotten figure. A recent search of Clonoulty Cemetery, where he was buried in 1962, failed to turn up a gravestone to his memory. On September 21, 1986 the Tim Crowe Memorial Race was run over 20 miles from Templemore to Milestone in memory of the 'Twenty Mile Road Championship of Ireland', which was run on the same course on September 21, 1919 and won by Crowe. The race was started by the late Tommy Ryan of Cashel, who had taken part in the original race. In his welcome to all involved, the chairman of the organising committee, Jacksie Ryan of Upperchurch, stated that: 'We intend that his [Crowe's] name and the names of many like him be kept in respectful memory.' Whether it was intended to make the race an annual event I don't know, but it wasn't run again.

However, he is not completely forgotten. Recently [2010] the organisers of the annual 10k Road Race in Dundrum, Crowe's native parish, were presented with the Tim Crowe memorial trophy by Dominic Moore of Upperchurch (who came third in the first running of the race in 1986) to be presented to the first Tipperary athlete to finish the 10k. Perhaps now, rather belatedly, it is time that some memorial, or at least some marker, be placed on the grave of Tim Crowe in Clonoulty Cemetery.