Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Thiobraid Árann

Westside column – January 9th 2016

January 7th, 2016

Out with the old and in with the new. A new year dawns and with it comes fresh hopes and anticipation. 2015 won’t tax our hurling memories hereabouts so let’s hope for better fortune in 2016.
Already Michael Ryan and colleagues are up and running with their first outing this Sunday when Offaly visit Templemore for a local school’s fundraiser. An expectant public will be watching for evidence of a new approach.
So what will 2016 hold and are there any helpful omens? I’ve been glancing through the records and years ending in the digit six haven’t been the most auspicious for Tipperary hurling. The Chinese consider six unlucky and if you’re superstitious you might agree in a Tipperary hurling context.
Actually this year will be the centenary of the last time Tipperary won the senior hurling All Ireland in a year ending in the number six. 1916 has other commemorative business to occupy people in the months ahead, but it also marks a famous Tipperary win over Kilkenny – O the pleasure of such recall!
Seamus Leahy tells the story of the 1916 win in a neat piece in the ‘Yearbook’. Boherlahan had county selection following a controversial 1915 county championship. Toomevara beat Boherlahan in the 1915 county series but lost the game on an objection. At that time the county champions selected the county team the following year.
Anyway this Boherlahan selection, led by Johnny Leahy, cut through Kerry, Limerick and Cork in Munster before swatting aside Galway by 25 points to nil in the All Ireland semi-final – how things have changed! The final was delayed until January 21 1917 because of the fraught political situation and only a modest crowd of just over five thousand was able to attend at Jones’ Road.
Sim Walton led Kilkenny’s Tullaroan selection and his battle with Johnny Leahy has become part of hurling’s folklore. It has given us the oft-quoted anecdote where Sim declared at the end “We were better hurlers than ye, Leahy” to which Johnny replied “But we were better men, Sim”. Isn’t the hurlers-versus-men still part of the narrative today? Actually I often wonder about the veracity of these famous jibes that people are fond of recalling; they probably owe more to legend than verifiable history.
Tipperary won by 5-4 to 3-2 and the team was feted on its return to Ardmayle Station the following day. Any chance of a reprise in 2016?
Ten years earlier there was another Tipp win in a year ending in six. In 1906 it was a Thurles selection captained by the famous Tom Semple which swept the boards. The final wasn’t played until October 1907 when the venue was Kilkenny and the opposition was Dublin, a Faugh’s selection.
An interesting snippet from the game: eleven of the Dublin players were native Tipperary men, prompting a press comment that it would have been a Tipperary victory no matter what the result. (Incidentally Liam O’Donoghue’s book on Tom Semple and the Thurles Blues is far superior to most of these tiresome player autobiographies).
Go back another ten years to 1896 and again you see a Tipperary All Ireland win and once again it was against Dublin. This time it was a Tubberadora selection which swamped Commercials of Dublin. In the words of Canon Fogarty’s county history “Commercials offered really but a childish opposition and perished like the flowers of spring before the biting winds of March”.
Those are the only three occasions where Tipperary won in a year ending in the digit six.
In 1926 Tipperary lost a Munster final to Cork after a second replay. The first replay marked the first ever broadcast of a GAA match. Ten years later, 1936, it was Limerick and Mick Mackey who came to town and went to town on Tipperary in a Munster final at Thurles. In 1946 Limerick were once again our conquerors, a sore defeat as we went into that Munster semi-final as reigning All Ireland champions.
Onto 1956 and Tipperary fell to Cork in a Munster semi-final despite leading by eleven points at half time. The tale of woe continued in 1966 when the county’s golden era came to an abrupt end. Despite winning four of the previous five All Irelands the run of success was halted by Limerick in a Munster semi-final.
The 1976 exit is one that I can easily recall. The so-called famine was by then taking hold but ’76 was definitely one that got away from us. We played Cork in a semi-final down in Limerick and lost by a single Seanie O’Leary point. It was a day of painful misses by Tipperary, the most painful of the lot featuring a last minute attack when Seamus Power hit the crossbar. To add to the agony Cork went on to take the All Ireland.
1986 is another painful recall. It was the year the famine reached its nadir. After signs of promise in previous years this was a throwback to darker days. Tony Wall was coach but we fell miserably to Clare at Ennis. It was a really low point and hard to imagine that twelve months later Ritchie Stakelum would be declaring the famine over in Killarney.
1996 contains no fond memories either. Fr. Tom Fogarty was manager but we lost a Munster final replay to Limerick having led by ten at half time in the drawn game. 2006 saw ‘Babs’ Keating’s second coming as manager but there was to be no happy reunion. We lost a Munster final to Cork at the Stadium and then fell to Waterford in the All Ireland quarter-final.
So the sequence of sixes has been unkind for a hundred years now. All of which is very academic, of course, and unlikely to bother Michael Ryan and colleagues. The new manager effectively launches his term at Templemore on Sunday when Tipperary play Offaly in a friendly with the proceeds going to St. Colmcille’s local boys primary school.
One of the first decisions the new manager made was to opt out of the pre-season competition, previously the Waterford Crystal. Since then the tournament has been revamped as a provincial league with all five remaining counties, including Kerry, playing each other. College sides are omitted this time. There was good logic in opting out of the old format though you could argue that the new system ensures four or five competitive games that are likely to be a notch about so-called ‘friendlies’.
There’s a Tipperary interest in Offaly this time, of course, with Eamon Kelly managing and Conor Gleeson coaching. They had their first game last Sunday with a facile Walsh Cup hammering of DIT. Brian Carroll’s announced retirement is a loss to a county whose hurling graph has really dipped in recent years.
It’s going to be quite a short lead into the league this season, which for Tipperary begins on Saturday February 13 when Dublin come to the Stadium for a floodlit opener. I suspect Tipperary are lagging behind other counties at this juncture, many of whom have two months of collective training behind them. It’s going to be a short, sharp intro with Sunday as the launch pad.
The following week the team will play an exhibition game at Holycross featuring a Thurles CBS All Star selection against the remaining Tipp panelists. It’s part of the CBS bicentenary celebrations. After that there’s mention of a game against Mary Immaculate, Limerick, at Boherlahan and possibly another challenge the following week – assuming the weather allows of course.
Speaking of the weather the present spell has turned the county’s U21 hurling into a shambles. County semi-finals are scheduled for January 17 but who knows whether they’ll happen with no divisional final yet complete. I was reminded at the weekend that St. Mary’s, Clonmel, went the 2015 calendar year without playing a match. This was the type of stuff you read about back in history when systems were far less structured and objections and counter-objections an annual plague. The fact that it’s still happening at present is an indictment of the county.
Fogra: I mentioned earlier about 1916 and the commemorations that will take place in the coming months. Well, Boherlahan N.S. is planning a whole school production to recall the events of 1916 and particularly local involvement. They are seeking any material whether local lore, anecdotes, poems, songs, letters, photos etc. which could be of use. You can either bring items to the school or email them to


Our Sponsors