Thursday, 28 February 2013

Jimmy Smyth: A Hurling Giant

I—and, I feel certain, many others—will have been greatly saddened to learn of the death of former star Clare hurler, Jimmy Smyth.

Jimmy Smyth in action against Wexford in 1953
Jimmy was one of the all time greats. He had a unique record in minor hurling with Clare. He first played on their county minor team at fourteen years of age and played for a further four years afterwards. He won three Harty Cup medals while playing at mid-field with St.Flannan's College, Ennis, and went on to win All-Ireland college titles with the school in the same years. He won eight Railway Cup medals while playing with Munster between 1952 and 1965. He also won five Clare senior hurling titles with his club Ruan. Jimmy first played for the Clare senior hurling team when only seventeen years of age. He was a member of the Clare junior hurling team beaten in the All-Ireland final by London Irish in 1948. From that time until the mid sixties he was a star performer on the Clare senior team. In a Munster senior championship match against Limerick, played at Ennis in June 1954, he put up a championship record score of 6-4. In the same year, he won an Oireachtas medal with Clare, beating Wexford in a replay.

In the GAA magazine, Gaelic Sport, of January 1973, Jimmy—then an executive officer at GAA headquarters—had a long chat with Owen McCann. I will quote some of the comments he made:

Having been a contemporary of some of the biggest names in hurling, he had no hesitation in putting one above them all—"Christy Ring, whom I regard as the supreme artist". He rated Eddie Keher as the outstanding man of the previous twelve years, and made former Tipperary ace, Galway-born Tony Reddan, the best goalkeeper.

As a forward, Jimmy came up against many great backs. He recalled wistfully the skills of Matty Fouhy and Tony O'Shaughnessy of Cork, and John Doyle and Tony Wall of Tipperary. Dan McInerney—a team mate of his in the Clare side—he puts in a special class as one of the greatest leaders Clare hurling has ever produced. McInerney played at full back of course.

Jimmy had a high opinion, too, of Ray Cummins, Cork: "One of the great full forwards". After much thought and consideration, he came up with his top eight hurlers:
1. Christy Ring
2. Nicky Rackard
3. Eddie Keher
4. Jimmy Doyle
1. Pat Stakelum
2. Bobby Rackard
3. Jimmy Finn
4. Mick Roche
On the club theme, he made the point that: "Like most inter county players, I gained more satisfaction from playing with the club than the county".

May the green sod of his beloved Ruan rest lightly on this noble son of Clare.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Thomas Francis Bourke

Thomas Francis Bourke was one of the outstanding orators of the Fenian movement in America. In an accent which remained distinctively Irish—though he had left his native Fethard, Co.Tipperary at the age of seven—he could speak at length at a moment's notice without preparation or notes.

He was a skillful debater too and, without taking notes, could quote statements of opponents and demolish their arguments with considerable skill.

Unlike many of the American Fenians who enlisted on the Northern side, he fought on the Southern side in the Civil War. He was working in New Orleans when hostilities broke out and, though his family lived in New York, he felt that his duty lay with the state where he was working. He was only twenty at the time and he admitted afterwards that he was not entirely capable of thinking for himself on the matter—and anyway, he explained, he did not think the war would last very long.

He came to Ireland to take command of the Tipperary Fenians in 1867 but, it seems, he had little hope of success though he felt honour-bound to fight. He was captured and, having been sentenced to death, delivered a speech from the dock which was stirring in it's spirit and eloquence.

Released after four years, he was deported to the United States where he was welcomed by President Grant—a factor which was widely noted and resented in the British press. He was born on December 10th, 1840. S.J.L.

Window on 1934: Cashel Council

The following report issued on July 14th 1934:                                  
Cashel Council—Fine Gael Chairman Elected 
At the first meeting of Cashel Urban Council, Mr. C. O'Connor (F.G.) was elected Chairman by 10 votes to 8 for Mr. F. Phillips (F.F.). Mr. T. Doherty (Independent) proposed Mr. C. O'Connor for the position. Mr. T. Dunne seconded. 
A poll was taken with the following result: 
For Mr. O'Connor: Messrs P. Devitt (N.W.), J. Eakins, J. Ryan, P. Purcell, R. Price, T. O'Connor (S.W.), T. O'Connor (East), T. Doherty, and chairman (10). 
For Mr.Phillips: Messrs J. Feehan, F.Phillips, P.Phillips, M.J. Davern, Mrs. Mary Davern, T. Dunne. M.F. Maher (7). 
The Town Clerk had just announced the figures, 10 for O'Connor and 7 for Phillips, when P. Casey (F.F.) arrived. 
Chairman to Mr.Casey—The vote has been taken and your name was called and you were marked absent. In the circumstances I don't think I would be right in ruling against admitting you to vote now. I think that Mr.Casey is entitled to vote. I will ask Mr.Barry's (solr.) opinion. Mr.Barry said I think you can take him. Mr.Casey then gave his vote in support of Mr.Phillips. 
The result was then declared—Mr.O.Connor: 10, Mr.Phillips: 8 
The voting followed political lines. Nine F.G. members voted for Mr O'Connor with the addition of Mr. Doherty (Independent). For Mr. Phillips (F.F.), the voting was five Fianna Fáil members, two Labour Councillors (Messrs Dunne and P. Phillips) and one independent (Mr. M.F. Maher).

Friday, 15 February 2013

World Hurling Championship 1950

With their 1950 win over the All American stars at Gaelic Park, New York, Tipperary hurlers added the world championship to their many laurels. Tipperary had won the All Ireland senior hurling championship—defeating Laois by 3-11 to 0-3 at Croke Park—on 4th September 1949. Tipperary won the game at Gaelic Park by 1-12 to 3-4.

Six players figured in the Tipperary scoring as they outplayed and outran their American rivals to lead by 1-7 to 1-1 at halftime; but Terry Leahy was outstanding for the Americans with two goals and one point. Excitement reached a high pitch and had the 30,000 crowd on their toes in the closing stages as John Kennedy goaled with time almost up, making the score 15-13 and America striving mighty hard in a thrill-a-second finish. Tipperary held out gallantly to notch a really hard earned success.

The teams were:

A. Reddan
M. Byrne

J. Finn
A. Brennan

P. Stakelum
Young Irelands, Dublin
J. Doyle

T. Doyle
S. Bannon
Young Irelands, Dublin
P. Shanahan
Young Irelands, Dublin
E. Ryan

P. Kenny
M. Ryan

M. Maher
S. Kenny (Capt)

J. Kennedy

P. Leamy
M. O'Rourke

T. Flynn
P. Murphy

J. Smee (Capt)
J. Looney

P. Naughton
P. Grimes
S. Cowen
T. Leahy

S. Gallagher
D. Doorley

J. Kennedy
B. O'Donoghue

S. Kelly

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Mick Mackey and the Throw-in

Tommy Doyle was a renowned Tipperary hurler in the late thirties, forties and early fifties, winning five All-Ireland senior medals. The following is an extract from a book produced in his honour, A Lifetime in Hurling:
"What was the best club game in which you have ever played?" is a question I was often asked. I should say the most memorable, from every point of view, was that between Thurles Sarsfields and Ahane at Newport in May, 1947. To beat Ahane we knew we had to pull something special out of the bag. Of course any team that included the Mackeys had to be respected. As the parish priest, Fr.Ryan, threw in the ball to start the game, Mick Mackey called out: "Take it easy, boys, this is not the real throw-in". Some of the less experienced players on our team, falling for the gambit, stood and stared as Mick snapped up the ball and raced through unchallenged for the opening point.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Phil Cahill: Hurling Stylist

The following article was written by Bob Stakelum of Ballycahill, Thurles in the match programme for the mid-Tipperary senior hurling final between Holycross-Ballycahill and Moycarkey-Borris played at Semple Stadium, Thurles on 29th September 1991:
Phil Cahill (Holycross/Ballycahill) 
During our early years we heard of the hurling skills of Phil Cahill. There are many alive to-day who saw him hurl and all maintain that he was a better hurler than Christy Ring or Mick Mackey. He may not have had their strength, but for pure hurling skill, he was supreme. Those who saw him play tell of his bursts of speed down the wing, his ability to lift the ball while travelling at full speed and strike it over the bar without handling. It is related that on one occasion the angle was so narrow that the ball clipped both uprights on its way over the bar. 
Unfortunately in that era, good hurlers were tightly marked and often received severe punishment. Phil Cahill suffered many serious injuries and unfortunately, it must be said, that many of them were received in club games. Greatness was not appreciated by lesser lights. Still he never flinched and came back after every injury to play magnificently for club and county. 
He made his first appearance for the county when Clare was defeated in the first round of the 1923 Senior Championship, but surprisingly was not selected for the Munster Final when Tipperary lost out to Limerick. He regained his place for the 1924 championship and played in all championship games until the end of 1931. His final appearance was in 1933 when Waterford defeated Tipperary in a first round replay played in Davin Park, Carrick-on Suir. 
During his career, he won two All-Ireland and three Munster Senior championship medals, one National League award and four Railway Cup medals. In 1928 he was selected on the Ireland team that played in the Tailteann Games. County championships were won with a Mid (Boherlann) selection in 1922, with a South selection (Boherlann) in 1924 and with Moycarkey-Borris in 1932 and 1933. 
Many compliments were paid to him by sports writers. "Carbery" (P.D. Mehigan) said of him that "for a decade or more he charmed us with his speed and artistry". "Green Flag" of the Irish Press described him as one of the greatest stylists hurling has ever produced. 
The Tipperary Star has this to say: "His artistry with the camán was superb and he can certainly be classed as one of the truest and sweetest hitting hurlers that Tipperary every produced. When he struck the ball, a score was almost a certainty and he had an uncanny gift of knowing where the posts were without ever having to look". 
Dinny O'Gorman claims that Phil Cahill and Paddy Phelan were the greatest hurlers he has seen—and he has seen a lot!
P.S. Bob Stakelum hurled for his club, Holycross-Ballycahill, in the forties and fifties. He was a member of the Tipperary senior hurling selection that won their third All-Ireland in a row in 1951 beating Wexford 7-6 to 3-9 in the final. Dinny O'Gorman, mentioned in the article, played his club hurling with Holycross-Ballycahill. He won a senior All-Ireland with Tipperary in 1937 when they defeated Kilkenny in Killarney by 3-11 to 0-3. He played with Tipperary minor hurlers for three years; winning the All-Ireland against Kilkenny in 1930, losing to the same opponents the following year, and captained the winning team against Kilkenny in 1932.