In this months club focus article, we are in South Tipperary as we take a look at St Marys Hurling Club in Clonmel:
- Club Name: St Marys
- Eircode: E91X2H4
- Hurling: Senior (Seamus Ó Riain) & Junior (A)
- Club colours: Blue and White
- Main Sponsor: O’Sullivan Insurances
- Chairman- : Ger Deely
- Secretary- Brian Moynihan
- email: email@example.com
- Treasurer- David O’Donnell
- P.R.O- Kevin Ryan
Club Social Media details:
St. Mary’s Hurling and Camogie Club is located in Clonmel and has a proud tradition of promoting hurling in the town for almost one hundred years. We are delighted to have this opportunity to share the history of our club as well as looking forward to the years ahead and building on much great recent work.
The club’s finest hour to date came in 1981 with its maiden south senior title, and as we reach the milestone 40th anniversary of this we now reflect on this era of the club in particular, with the old adage going that it was an overnight success that was years in the making, as well as highlighting other aspects and developments in the club.
Brief History of Club
The club was founded in 1929, but found initial success hard to come by, with the club floating around junior ranks for most of it first fifty years of existence. Although the year 1981 stands out due to senior honours, a team sheet for a south minor final win (the first in seven years for the club) in 1974 contains some key names that would go on to eventually form main parts of the win.
The upward curve for the club would continue in 1975, with the minors retaining their south title and our intermediate team beating Moyle Rovers on a scoreline of 1-16 to 3-6 in the south intermediate decider. They then went on to beat Newcastle (South Tipperary Junior Champions) in a play-off for a right to enter the County Junior Championship. This meant the club qualified for the county semi final which was contested against Kilruane McDonaghs in Semple Stadium, with two second half goals by Tony Smith deciding the issue in favour of St.Mary’s on a scoreline of 4-8 to 2-7, a result which meant that a Mary’s team would qualify for a county final for the first time since 1954 when our minor team would go on to suffer a heavy defeat in the decider in Semple Stadium, the same venue slated for the 75 final.
From Micheál O’Meara’s History of South Tipperary GAA:
“The minor hurling championship saw the return to the honours list of St. Mary’s whose young fifteen proved superior to holders Swan in the decider. The Clonmel side’s success was fitting reward for some splendid work among the juveniles in previous years and was as much due to the efforts of club secretary Billy Carroll and his hard working committee as the promising skills of promising players Paudie O’Neill, Tommy Walsh, Timmy Guidera, Jimmy Ryan and the Mullins brothers.
Against opponents Clonmore, and combining many of the youth of the successful minor team of a year’s previously with more seasoned performers, Mary’s would go on to take county honours for the first time in their history with a hard-fought 1-9 to 1-6 win. This win would mean Mary’s joining a south senior division that was being dominated by Carrick sides at the time, notably a Davins side who would win all eleven of their south senior titles in the fifteen year period 1965 to 1979 .A four point defeat in the south semi final to Carrick Swan (who would set up a fourth successive all-Carrick decider) was Mary’s lot in 76 with similar frustration to follow in proceeding years, with the sole Mary’s representation on south final day being referee Billy Carroll for a Carrick Davins win over the Fionn McCumhaill combination in ’79.
St Mary’s 1981 South Champions: 40 Years On
Fortunes would begin to turn for Mary’s with the dawn of the new decade, strong underage hurlers of the previous decade getting to the pitch of the cut and thrust of the adult grade.
1981 would become the crowning glory for this team. The main characteristics of the day are well known by those familiar with the story: A swelter of a day in Kilsheelan, a packed crowd adding to the intensity of the occasion, a late flourish to seal the victory, the influence of former Limerick inter-county star Mossy Carroll just transferred in.
The Nationalist newspaper match report chronicles the ebb and flow of the match day action, a tight affair from start to finish punctuated by key moments, the balance of which were to fall in Mary’s favour- a save by Vincent Mullins, an unerring performance from placed balls by the teenage Willie Peters, the Tommy Walsh goal early in the second half which gave Mary’s the lead for the first time in the game. All of which set the game up to be decided in the closing stages, with the game finely balanced at 1-12 each it was a Willie Peters free followed by a Mossy Carroll long-range effort to seal the day.
Again going back to the Nationalist report, it opened with “A new chapter in the proud history” unfortunately the core of this team would go on to lose three south finals in subsequent years- 82,to St. Augustine’s, a combination of Fethard and Kilsheelan, ’85 where Carrick Swan would take their revenge with a 2-10 to 1-09 victory and finally in 1988, where Killenaule would run out comfortable winners before the club as a whole drifted back.
As St. Mary’s regressed from competing in south titles as the 1980’s wore on to a barren spell in the 1990’s, Mullinahone would become a new force in south senior hurling and St Mary’s would eventually drop from the senior grade in 2002. A frustrating era would follow as a talented group could never muster a south title with fortunes finally beginning to turn with Sean O’Meara as manager, a new core of younger talented players and a first south intermediate title in a two generations in 2011. Mary’s would compete strongly in the grade in the proceeding years, eventually maximising potential with a county intermediate title win in 2017, triumphing in the final against Gortnahoe-Glengoole on a day well- remembered for sterling performances from players such as Jamie and Ross Peters, Jason Lonergan, Seamus Kennedy and Richie Gunne but moreso for the coherent style and team effort apparent in a slick win.
This win was no doubt built on the strong resurgence of teams at juvenile level, the crowning moments being back-to-back county minor A successes in 2015 and 2016, teams that now feed many of our adult teams but are undoubtedly major milestones in the club in their own right, with Matt Barlow’s two goal salvo to down Kiladangan in 2015 followed by a star turn from Niall Hoctor in 2016 to break JK Brackens hearts.
Although progress at senior ranks has been frustrating to date, and we continue to look to the golden generation of 2015/16 to emulate the successful teams of the 70’s as they reach their peak years, the club continues to hope for a second south senior championship and more halcyon days of clashes against traditional rivals such as Carrick Swan.
September 9th 2001 was a red letter day in the club as Donncha Fahy was part of the victorious Tipperary panel that overcame Galway in the All-Ireland final, coming on as substitute in the final and playing an important role as Tipperary withstood a late Galway challenge to win their first All-Ireland title in a decade.
The club would go on to have more representation with the breakthrough of Seamus Kennedy into the county set-up, playing a crucial role in two All-Ireland wins to date in 2016 and 2019 and continuing to be an excellent role model for young people in the town of Clonmel and around the county.
St. Mary’s is privileged to share one of the most picturesque grounds in the county with our sister club Clonmel Commercials, framed by the Comeraghs to the south and South Tipperary General Hospital to the north. The “Sportsfield” has seen many epic duels over the years and has always been in pristine condition, due in no small part to the time and effort of Connie Carroll. In recent years the club has invested in a hurling wall and the re-orientation of the practice field, but like other urban clubs space has become an issue with growing playing numbers and the club is thankful to Clonmel Highschool and Colaiste Cluain Meala for the generous use of their facilities.
To support year-round hurling the Committee are constantly endeavouring to improve the access to suitable grounds and it is no doubt a goal of the club to deliver an all-weather facility over the coming decade.
Club Fundraising Activities
The club are appreciative of the many club members and locals in the town who support the club through membership, regular contributions to fundraising and to those who sign up for the Tipperary Club Draw on a regular basis – all of which are key income streams for the club and we would also like to acknowledge the continued support of local businesses in the town who regularly contribute to and support the club.
Like any club in the current challenging environment, St. Mary’s have advanced several initiatives over the last number of months in order to key a flow of income coming into the club to meet ongoing expenditure. The club are hopeful of launching a club lotto in the near future which will be at the core of fundraising activities going forward.
This summer the club are planning on launching a club lotto which will hopefully prove a substantial and sustainable means of continuing to fund our plans and ambitions going forward.
A focus on the juvenile set up has been at the forefront of our resurgence in rent years. Figures such as Frank Maher (RIP), Brendan Cagney, Jimmy Collins, Kevin Leahy and Noel Buckley helped to re-invigorate the club in latter years coming off a difficult period in the 1990’s which laid the foundations for much of the current underage success.
Although the playing fields and indoor sports halls have been quieter than usual this winter, several of our juvenile coaches did undertake a project in producing a very valuable Player and Coaching Pathway manual for club player development which it is hoped will raise standards and lead to increased enjoyment and player retention as players progress through the juvenile section of the club and into adult ranks.
This has been a significant undertaking by the club and its purpose is to bring strong structures to how we coach our children and how our children develop both in the skills of the game and in their personal development.
This initiative has also led to the appointment of the club’s first juvenile coaching officer to co-ordinate structures and encourage innovative coaching across and through the age grades and builds on much of the latest literature available through Croke Park.
The Manual is also designed to support coaches in their development and to act as a guide to assist them in preparing training sessions and the use of new ideas and methodologies. The pathway is also relevant to the renewed emphasis on camogie n the club. Saturday mornings of late have seen strong numbers and great skill on show and it is something that the club is delighted to promote and be part of in coming years.
Club Stalwart – Billy Carroll
The club has been lucky to be served by many members who have gone above and beyond in serving their club and given up time to the cause of promoting hurling in Clonmel.
However, as can be seen from our history above, Billy Carroll has served in too many roles to mention and been involved with the club for longer than even he might care to remember, representing the club with pride not only on the field and as mentor to many teams, including the latter county wins of 2015, 2016 and 2017, not to recognise his seismic contribution, whilst also serving as Tipperary selector on various Tipperary teams in the 1980’s.
As well as being involved with successful teams, Billy has been an ever-present with teams of various grades and ages and to many is the embodiment of what St. Mary’s means, a longstanding passion and commitment to the great game of hurling.