Kilruane MacDonaghs All-Ireland Profiles22 Mar 2011 by Gilbert Williams
Sunday March 16th 1986 was the greatest day in the history of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club when the senior team defeated Buffers Alley in Croke Park to become All-Ireland club champions. When Kilruane made a tame semi-final exit against Lorrha in the 1984 North championship, the omens for the future seemed far from bright. Respectful and sympathetic obituaries were penned in honour of a group of players who had reigned supreme in the late seventies, winning three North and county titles in succession. However, like Mark Twain, reports of our death had been greatly exaggerated and two weeks after the limp display against Lorrha, the All-Ireland Sevens title was captured. A faint chink of light had appeared on the horizon. Later in the year later a special meeting appointed Len Gaynor as trainer/coach, with Billy Shea and Jim Casey completing the management team. In early February physical training began in the Vocational School in Nenagh with Tony Hassett in charge. Tony was a strict disciplinarian and took no nonsense. He pushed us to the limit. Pulled hamstrings, sore quads, or slight tears you did your training. No excuses, no extended rest periods or pit stops as Tony called them.
For the championship a number of experienced players were given new roles in team, moves which helped revitalize their careers. The first round of the championship pitted Kilruane MacDonaghs against Silvermines. The game failed to ignite but MacDonaghs achieved their objective with victory on a 0-13 to 1-4 scoreline. The second round against Lorrha in Borrisokane proved to be a dour and keenly competitive match. The solidity of the Kilruane defence paved the way for victory on a 0-9 to 0-5 scoreline. In the next round MacDonaghs overcame Moneygall on a 3-8 to 1-7 scoreline to book a semi-final spot against Borris-Ileigh. Arctic like conditions caused a last minute postponement of the game much to Kilruane’s and particularly Len Gaynor’s annoyance. Two weeks later MacDonaghs had a trap to line victory on 2-14 to 0-5 scoreline. Kilruane had only one loss in ten meetings against their arch rivals, a sequence that was to extend to only one defeat in thirteen games. The Borris-Ileigh encounter marked the return to the colours of Eamon O Shea. His presence was the spark to ignite the team which fired on all cylinders to produce an outstanding performance in atrocious conditions.
Roscrea provided the opposition in the North final which failed to live up to expectations. First half goals from Dinny Cahill and Ger Williams laid the foundation for a 2-10 to 0-10 victory. Kilruane faced Thurles Sarsfields in the county quarter-final and an impressive first half helped build up a match winning eleven point lead. The final score was 2-10 to 2-3. It was MacDonaghs third successive victory against Sarsfields. A 2-8 to 2-2 win against Cappawhite secured a county final slot. Kilruane limited the west champions to a point in the first half and led by eleven points with eight minutes left. Roscrea had been impressive in their semi-final win and were installed as favourites. Roscrea had the better of matters in the first half and led 0-8 to 0-4 at the break. The Kilruane banner which read ‘ We’ll hurl the curl off yer ol pigs’ tail’ seemed way off the mark as the team from the bacon factory town dictated matters. Some judicious interval changes by the selectors helped tilt the balance in favour of Kilruane. A 51st minute goal from Pat Quinlan shot Kilruane into the lead for the first time. Two minutes later Eamon O Shea raised another green flag and the title was on its way to Cloughjordan for the fifth time.
The Munster campaign began with a scenic trip to Tallow in Waterford. In what the Cork Examiner described as one of the best ever games in the Munster club championship MacDonaghs came out on top on a 1-18 to 1-17 scoreline, with the winning point coming from a last minute 65. Star studded Blackrock who had trounced Kilmallock in the other semi-final blocked the path to Munster glory. A controversial last minute free from Pat Moylan earned Blackrock a replay as the sides finished 1-8 each in Limerick. ‘Underdogs Kilruane Are Magic’ proclaimed a banner headline in The Guardian while the Midland Tribune read: ‘Bruising Clashes in Sub-Zero Conditions’. The general consensus was that Kilruane had missed the bus but anyone who heard Len Gaynor’s rousing post match speech in the dressing room would have had other ideas. The replay was scheduled a week later for Sunday December 1st. The atmosphere was electric at the Saturday evening training session and Jim Williams summed up the feelings of the players when he said that it would be dog eat dog against Blackrock the following day. Kilruane were not to be denied at the second attempt and a tremendous display saw them triumph on a scoreline of 0-12 to 0-6. The Cork champions only scored one point in the second half. Kilruane Are Kings of Munster ‘declared the Tipperary Star while The Guardian led with the headline ‘Rockies Crumble to Fantastic Kilruane. In the immediate aftermath it was rumoured that the All-Ireland quarter final against London champions Desmonds would take place cross channel. Paschal Harty and Jim Keogh, two well known supporters, had a fear of flying and were heard hatching plans to hire a boat for the trip to London. However, they needn’t have worried as the match was fixed to take place in Cloughjordan after Christmas.
In heavy underfoot conditions and with a gale blowing Kilruane took on Desmonds in Cloughjordan on January 19th. The home side had the use of the elements and helped by a brace of goals inside the first seven minutes from Jim Williams and Eamon O Shea they built up an unassailable fourteen point interval lead, with the emigrants failing to register a score in the first half. The final score was 2-9 to 0-4. Turloughmore from Galway now stood between Kilruane and a date in Croke Park. On a bitterly cold day in February MacDonaghs overcame the Connacht champions on a 3-9 to 0-9 scoreline in Nenagh. Kilruane’s superiority can be gauged from the fact that the Connacht champions only scored one point from play.
Hurling fever now gripped the parish. The village was festooned with bunting and banners. From Congor to Kyle and from Ballinwear to Behamore the black and white flags flew proudly in hope and expectation. History beckoned for Kilruane MacDonaghs or Buffers Alley. A huge banner outside Roisin Costello’s house read; ‘Buffers Alley may huff and puff but Kilruane are made of sterner stuff. The Leinster champions were powered by former Wexford stars Tony Doran, Colm Doran, Mick Butler and Martin Casey while Tom Dempsey and Barry Murphy were on the county team. Cloughjordan parish has never witnessed such an exodus as took place on Sunday March 16th 1986. Three special trains left the railway station, with the players looking resplendent in their club jumpers, travelling in a reserved carriage.
On reaching Dublin the team travelled by bus to Na Fianna ground in Mobhi Road for a cup of tea and a puck around. It was brilliant to see the droves of parishioners in their black and white colours on the streets of the capital. After the long journey most quenched their thirst in one of the many watering holes in the Fair City, with Paschal Harty claiming that one pub in Amien Street ran out of beer. The team headed to Croke Park and watched a few minutes of the Burren and Castleisland Desmonds football final. Into the dressing room under the Hogan Stand and then a walk down the narrow tunnel to have a look at the pitch. Some over officious stewards in green jackets prevented Sharkey Gibson from stepping out onto the hallowed turf. I assured them that Sharkey wouldn’t start grazing the grass as he had a full Irish breakfast that morning. Back to the dressing room. The gear on. The black and white jersey on over the shoulders. Len’s electrifying speech. Down the tunnel to be greeted by a tumultuous reception. The parade behind the Artane boys band. Amhran na bhFiann. The sliotar is thrown in. 10,176 spectators witnessed what Paddy Downey of the Irish Times, the doyen of sportswriters, called ‘One of the best and most enjoyable finals since the inception of the competition. Buffers Alley made the better start and led by six points after twenty minutes. Kilruane reduced the deficit to four by the interval and in the 36th minute Pat Quinlan ghosted inside Colm Doran to steer the sliotar to the net. Six times in a thrilling and pulsating second half the sides were level. With two minutes to go the teams were still deadlocked. A pointed sixty five put Kilruane ahead and Jim Williams added the insurance point. Buffers Alley had one last attack with their captain Sean Whelan hitting the butt of the post. Terence Murray blew the final whistle. Final score Kilruane MacDonaghs 1-15 Buffers Alley 2-10. It was Plan B with the crowds swarming on to the field. There were cheers and tears, backslapping and hugs. The older generation couldn’t believe that Kilruane MacDonaghs were All-Ireland champions in Croke Park, the field of dreams. For the players it couldn’t get better than this winning an All-Ireland with the lads they had grown up with.’ Kilruane Win Thriller’ was the heading of Michael Ellard’s report in the Cork Examiner. Donal Keenan in the Irish Independent called it a thrilling and dramatic final. Few will forget the memorable journey home on the train and the magnificent celebrations in the village.
To-night we celebrate the silver jubilee of that historic win. I will introduce the twenty five strong panel and the management team who will come forward to receive a framed scroll. A notable feature about the panel of 1986 was that twenty out of the out of twenty five went on to serve as a selector in one grade or another with the club. I’ll have a word with the other five later. The panel also produced a club chairman, three club secretaries, two juvenile chairmen and a juvenile secretary.
Superb goalkeeper, fantantistic captain and inspirational leader of the team was Tony Sheppard. We usually called him Skinny not because he was slim and trim but after the legendary Toomevara goalie Skinny O Meara. Ever before anybody thought of a hurling wall Tony sharpened his skills on the chapel wall opposite his home on the Windmill. Tony is the only Kilruane MacDonaghs player to captain two teams to win the North senior title. He was also an outstanding footballer and was selected as goalkeeper on the North Tipperary centenary football team. Tony is one of six players on the panel who holds seven North and four county senior hurling medals. He kept six clean sheets during the 14 match campaign and always maintained it would have been more if he got better cover.
Left full back was John Cahill. John captained the U-21 team to win the North title in 1978 and won intermediate North and county medals the same year. He waited patiently to claim a permanent place on the senior team and when his chance came in 1985 he grabbed it with both hands. John was a committed and passionate player who took no prisoners. This story concerning John is related by a well known Roscrea referee, who shall be nameless, because I wouldn’t want to use Johnny McDonnell’s name publicly without his permission. Kilruane were playing in the North championship against a team wearing maroon and white and as John was heading up to his customary corner back position he asked the referee to delay the throw in for a few moments as he to attend to a minor matter. The referee duly obliged and on hearing a muffled groan from the corner forward the ref knew business had been completed and promptly threw the ball in. John Cahill known to one and all as JC.
Full back marking the legendary Tony Doran was Dinny Meara. Dinny captained the first Kilruane MacDonaghs team to win a county U-21 hurling title in 1973 and he also led the 1975 senior football side to county final victory. In his role as hurling full back he drew the short straw when he had to face a galaxy of top class full forwards including Ray Cummins, Joe McKenna, Francis Loughnane and Noel Casey. Dinny was a full back way ahead of his time and he was the first Kilruane MacDonaghs player that I ever saw stretching before a game. Dinny almost didn’t make it here to night because he had a bit of a scare when the Gardai with siren blaring on the patrol car came racing to his house, alleging that one of Dinny’s black Labradors had followed a young lad on a bike. ‘Well, ‘said Dinny ‘if a black Labrador followed a young lad on a bike it definitely wasn’t one of mine because neither of my Labradors ride a bike.’ Dinny Meara better known as Beaker.
I was a junior selector with Dinny and Tommy McDonnald last year and we had a very good working relationship and operated a transparent system of accountability which could serve as a model for all other club teams. If we lost Dinny and Tommy took the blame and if we won I took the credit. I thought the system worked very well.
Left corner back was Seamus Sharkey Gibson son of Jimmy Gibson one of MacDonaghs greatest players. Seamus lined out at corner back on the Tipperary senior team which defeated Cork in the famous 1987 Munster final in Killarney. He won the man of the match award for his display in that game. While some may dispute the identity of the first MacDonaghs player to do stretching, a few claim it was Mackey Waters not Dinny O Meara, I think I can say without fear of contradiction that Sharkey was the first Kilruane player to wear bicycle shorts. They weren’t a success however as it took a minor operation to remove them after the match. Seamus was a consistent performer all through and was named Guardian player of the Week after his display against Thurles in county quarter-final.
We had a very small backroom team in 1986 so Sharkey also doubled up as nutrionist and dietician for the team and a good job he did as both.
Right wing back wearing the number five shirt was Joe Banaghan. An impressive display by Joe when he was introduced in the county final earned him a permanent berth on the right flank of the defence for the Munster and All-Ireland series. His long striking off both his left and right proved to be an invaluable asset to the team. One night in the Quill some of the customers were discussing long strikers “Whist ‘said Dinny Meara taking a swig out of his pint of Guinness and wiping the froth of his moustache. In the All- Ireland Joe Banaghan was running back towards his own goal at the Hill 16 end and struck the ball into the Canal at the far end…… off his weak side. End of debate. Joe was man of the match in the All-Ireland semi-final win against Turloughmore. He was one of five members of the panel who won a county U-21 football medal in 1978 when Kilruane MacDonaghs defeated Loughmore in the final.
Centre half back was Jim Meara known as The Breeze. Tony Sheppard always maintained that we had the advantage over every other team as we had the breeze in both halves. Jim was a nephew of Jack Meara the famous Iron Man who captained MacDonaghs to North final victory in 1940 and Jim had the same steely resolve as his uncle. Kilruane MacDonaghs have won seven county U-21 titles and Jim has been involved in six of them, four as a player and two as a selector. The club has produced great centre backs and Jim was one of the best. He had few equals in catching the dropping ball although he would have conceded height advantage to most centre forwards. Throughout his career Jim played in a total of twenty three county finals, including three replays.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Jim and Bernie on the birth of baby Emily. Bernie has told me in confidence that she’s having terrible trouble with the tears, the tantrums, the constant feeding and the sleepless nights. I’ll have to speak to Jim about his behaviour. I knew someone was misbehaving when I met Bernie earlier on and asked her how the baby was and she said which one. However, Bernie is delighted that the baby Emily is as good as gold.
On a more serious note I think we can all understand why Jim is wearing a beaming smile tonight. As a resident of Moneygall parish he is dizzy with excitement about the upcoming visit of President Obama, even claiming in the bar a while ago that the O Mearas and the Obamas are closely related. I don’t think that is possible because I can never remember any of the Obamas even playing junior hurling never mind winning an All-Ireland club medal.
Dinny Cahill lined out at centrefield. Dinny was one of the most versatile hurlers ever produced by the club. He was equally at home in defence, midfield or attack and played some of his juvenile hurling in goals. In 1977 he captained the senior hurling team which brought the county title to the parish for the second time. Dinny played in the famous Munster final against which Cork in centenary year. In recent years he has made a name for himself as a coach at both local and national level. He coached the Tipp minor team to the All-Ireland title in 1996 and also steered Portumna to All-Ireland club success. Dinny has done Trojan work with the Antrim team as well has having a spell in charge of Laois. He also managed the MacDonaghs minors to a county triumph in 2005.
Partnering Dinny Cahill at midfield was Enda Hogan. Enda won county medals as corner back on the three in a row seventies team but in 1985 and 86 he got a new lease of life in the middle of the park. Enda broke his arm in the county final but returned to action for the Munster final against Blackrock. He is one of five Kilruane MacDonaghs clubmen who hold an All-Ireland minor medal and is also part of elite group of five MacDonaghs players who has won an All-Ireland U-21 medal. In 2003 he was a selector on the MacDonaghs intermediate team which won the county final and regained senior status. Peadar O Brien in the Irish Press named Enda as man of the match following the All-Ireland quarter-final win against Desmonds.
Right wing forward was Ger Williams. In those never to be forgotten clashes against Blackrock in Limerick he was pitted against All-Star Dermot McCurtain and on both occasions he gave the Cork star a torrid time. Ger has acted as both a senior and junior selector. On one occasion and when the delicate news had to be broken to a player that he was going to be taken off at half time Ger informed the player that as he had played so well in the first half it would be a pity to spoil it in the second half. In the infamous bust up against Nenagh in the 1987 semi-final Ger escaped punishment when suspensions were dished up. He admitted heading into the row but got a blow on the head which resulted in very convenient concussion and loss of memory and he subsequently played a prominent part in the final. Ger is one of eight MacDonaghs players who hold a Munster senior hurling medal.
On a night such as this I don’t want to get political but there has been a lot of talk recently about burning the senior bondholders and I think we have to be very, very careful. Ger is one of those senior bondholders and I don’t think any of us want to see him badly scorched.
Centre half forward was Jim Williams. Jim scored five points from play in the second half of the All-Ireland final and he was top goalscorer in the campaign with five green flags to his name. In 1978 he captained the senior team to win the county final and he wrote himself in the history books when he became the only captain to be sent off in a county final and still accept the cup. Jim is one of five members of the panel who holds a National league medal and he also played senior football for Tipperary at nineteen years of age. He played his first senior game for MacDonaghs in 1969 and he played for twenty five consecutive years on the senior team, a club record and maybe a county record. Having just celebrated his 43rd birthday Jim played in the county junior final in 1995. A tranquiliser gun had to be used to stop him playing the following season.
Left half forward was the speed merchant of the team Eamon O Shea. Eamon holds All-Ireland minor and U-21 medals as well as a National Hurling League medal. His return for the Borris-Ileigh game was the final piece of the jigsaw in assembling this team as his speed and movement both on and off the ball gave an extra dimension to our attack. Eamon was named as man of the match in the county final against Roscrea after he finished top scorer with 1-4. His qualities as a coach are now recognized nationally after his exploits with the Tipperary senior team in their All- Ireland triumph against Kilkenny. In his column in the Irish Independent former Clare star Jamsie O Connor has always been lavish in his praise of Eamon’s coaching ability. At club level he coached the Kilruane MacDonaghs intermediate side managed by his brother Billy to county victory in 2003.
Right full forward wearing the number thirteen jersey was Pat Quinlan. Pat was the youngest player on the starting fifteen in Croke Park. He was a crafty and opportunistic corner forward who had the happy knack of popping up in the right place at the right time for vital goals. He will forever be remembered as the man who scored one of the most important goals in the club’s history and he also raised a crucial green flag in the county final. Pat helped himself to 3-8 on the journey to All-Ireland glory. In 1990 Pat became the last Kilruane MacDonaghs man to lift the Frank McGrath above his shoulders when he deputized for injured captain Jim O Meara. He would like to lose that distinction as soon as possible. Pat was a selector on the successful 2005 minor team
Full forward Paddy Williams was the oldest member of the panel and in 1986 he was starting his 21st successive year as a senior hurler with Kilruane MacDonaghs. Paddy was one of six members on the panel who won both a county senior football medal and an All-Ireland sevens medal. In 1978 he was selected as Guardian hurler of the year and the following year he captained Tipperary to National League victory against Galway. Paddy won his three previous county medals at centre back but was sited at full forward for this campaign and he finished as top scorer with a total of 2-33 to his credit. He coached the last Kilruane MacDonaghs senior team to win the North final in 1990 and he has also coached the successful U-21 sides for the last two years.
Left full forward was Philip Quinlan. Philip used his physical strength to great effect during the campaign especially in the two bruising encounters against Blackrock. He had 2-8 to his name when the Tommy Moore Cup came back to the parish. Philip played minor football for Tipperary and his sons Kevin and Shane also played football for the Premier County in this grade. 1978 was a very special year for Philip. He won North and county medals in senior and intermediate hurling and U-21 football as well as a divisional U-21 hurling medal. Philip was a key member of the All-Ireland winning seven -a-side team. He has served as both senior and juvenile secretary.
Seamus Hennessy was one of MacDonaghs most outstanding and consistent performers during the golden years of the seventies and eighties. Seamus and Mackey Keogh formed one of the best midfield partnerships ever witnessed in club hurling. A combination of brain and brawn. I’ll let you figure out which was which. Seamus had the uncanny ability of being in the right place at the right time and he always seemed to have time on the ball, the hallmark of a truly outstanding player. His ability as a freetaker was admired by friend and foe alike and he is recognized as one of the best marksmen ever to play club hurling. I haven’t the stats to prove it but I’m certain that he is the all time top scorer in senior hurling for Kilruane MacDonaghs and he is the only player in North Tipperary to play in six successive divisional U-21 hurling finals. Seamus played minor, U-21 and senior hurling for Tipperary.
Michael Hogan was an all action wing back who always made life difficult for his opponent. He captained the U-21 hurlers to win the county title on 1976 and he is one of seven payers to have played in all the four in a row U-21 wins between 1973 and 1976. His son Eoin has two county U-21 medals. Michael and Eoin are one of seven father and son combinations in the club who have won county U-21 medals. Michael is a former club chairman and during his time at the helm he was one of the driving forces behind the building of our magnificent complex. He was a senior selector when MacDonaghs defeated Toomevara in the 1990 North final and he was also on the line when the minors won the county title in 2005.
David Quinlan was the youngest of the four Quinlan brothers on the panel. He was an outstanding performer on the all conquering 1980 U-14 team. In centenary year he was one of five members of the panel who won a North minor A football medal, the last time Kilruane MacDonaghs won this competition. David was on the 1987 and 1990 senior teams which won the Frank McGrath Cup. He played wing forward on the 1985 county winning junior team scoring 2-1 against Cappawhite in the decider. For the last three years he has been a minor selector.
Sean Williams known Rocky played wing back on the successful ’85 junior team. He was also on the victorious 1978 U-14 team. Sean was a tenacious defender but occasionally operated in the attack. He scored the clinching goal against Turloughmore in the All-Ireland semi-final. Fifteen of the panel were past pupils of Cloughjordan National School where the principal was Roche Williams, Sean’s father. Sean is a secondary teacher and is now resident in Ennis.
John Quinlan was the eldest of four Quinlan brothers on the panel and according to himself by far the most sensible. John has won county medals at U-15, U-17, minor, U-21, junior, intermediate, senior hurling and senior football. No player in the club or in Tipperary can match that haul of medals. So when John says he’s special he’s not joking. John was manager of the senior hurling team in 2010 and he was also a selector on the successful U-21 sides of the last two years.
Paul Mulcahy was captain of the most successful juvenile team in the history of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club. In 1980 Paul led the U-14 team which won North and county titles in both the Rural and Urban Rural championships. They also won the Tipperary Feile competition and reached the All-Ireland where they were just edged out by Na Piarsaigh from Cork. Paul was one of nine members of the panel who played minor hurling for Tipperary. Paul is now resident in America and is represented tonight by his father Noel.
Jack Darcy. was one of the finest ever juvenile backs to wear the black and white. He captained the Kilruane MacDonaghs U-14 team which won North and county titles in 1978. Earlier that year Toomevara had beaten Kilruane by twenty points in the Feile but in the semi-final of the championship the result was reversed. He was man of the match in the 1990 North senior final victory against Toomevara.1985 was a good year for the Darcy family as his brother Francis better known as Bugs rammed home five goals in the U-14 victory against Toomevara in Moneygall.
Unfortunately Jack is away on a business trip in Frankfurt and his return flight was delayed by volcanic ash.
Tom Killackey was another member of the successful 1980 U-14 side. Tom was also on the 1978 U-12 team which won the club’s first divisional title in this grade. In the 1990 North senior final he scored a crucial second half goal as Kilruane won the championship for the 18th time. Tom was a very skillful player who operated at either wing back or wing forward with equal effectiveness and he was a deadly sharpshooter from placed balls. He was a selector on U-14, minor, and intermediate teams while he coached the 1998 junior team to win the North championship. Of the panel of twenty five only two dared to pick up a whistle as a referee. Tom was one of them.
Ned Darcy is one of five players on the panel who played in the 1980 All-Ireland Feile Final. Ned was one of the finest juvenile full backs ever produced by the club. His twin Tom played at corner back in the first round of the North championship against Silvermines but drifted off the panel during the course of the season. Ned’s real name is Paul and his brother Tom’s correct name is Noel so you can imagine the confusion in writing out the team list when they were juveniles. Ned was on the first Kilruane MacDonaghs team to win a North title U-12 in 1978 and in 2010, thirty two years later, his son Cian won divisional and county medals in the last ever championship in this grade.
At 17 years of age Eamonn Kirby was the youngest player on the panel of twenty five. He was goalkeeper on the 1980 U-14 team which reached the All-Ireland Final of Feile. Eamonn scored two points from wing forward on the junior team which defeated Cappawhite in the 1985 county final as Kilruane MacDonaghs completed a senior and junior double. He was a skillful and tidy forward who rarely failed to get on the scoresheet. He is now a captain in the defence forces and is based in the Curragh.
I was fortunate enough to be part of this magnificent team and to play my hurling at a time when the parish was teeming with talent. I’ve often been asked who my hero was when I was growing up and surprising as it may seem my hero was Dinny Meara. I tried and tried to emulate him but despite my best efforts I failed miserably …I could never grow a bushy moustache like Dinny. In my college days only universities could part in the Fitzgibbon Cup but I did win a FitzGibbon plate medal as ‘how shall I put it’ a guest player for Trinity College in the company of Paddy Ryan from Summerhill Nenagh and my brother Paddy, both employees of the Post & Telegraph, and the gardener from my own college Saint Pats who was on the wrong side of forty. We were all supposed to be doing sophisticated degrees like Archaeology, Psychology, Medieval History and Classical Studies though the gardener always said he was doing sums. Philip Ryan from Moneygall who was the head of the FitzGibbon committee presented the medals, smiled knowingly and wished us all the best with our studies.
Len Gaynor was trainer and coach and combined these duties with the role of selector. The term manager in 1986 referred only to a bank manager. Without a shadow of doubt he has been our greatest ambassador in the long and distinguished history of MacDonaghs and De Wets. Among his many honours are three All-Ireland senior medals, an All-Ireland U-21 medal, two National League medals and Tipperary hurler of the year in 1967. Len was a pioneer in coaching in both club and county. He is the only person to train three different clubs to capture the Dan Breen. He has coached the Tipperary senior, U-21 and minor teams and laid the foundation for Clare’s resurgence in the mid nineties. The team of ’86 was moulded in his image committed, determined, disciplined and skillful. Len has served two stints as chairman of the club and is currently our county board rep.
In 1986 Jim Casey was in his seventh successive year as chairman and he also played an important role as selector in the All-Ireland triumph. In his playing career Jim had won county juvenile and county junior honours as well as three divisional junior medals. Jim captained the 1975 junior team to win the North title. In over fifty years service to the club he has also been a mentor on minor, U-21, junior, intermediate and senior teams. He was following in the footsteps of his father Jack who was a juvenile selector with MacDonaghs during a golden period of underage hurling for the club in the late fifties and early sixties. Jim has also acted as secretary and he has been a capable and competent North Board delegate for many moons often batting on a sticky wicket as he defended the club and its players in the boardroom.
The third selector was Billy Shea. In 1964 Billy captained one of Kilruane MacDonaghs most successful juvenile teams which won North and county rural titles, the North Urban/Rural final and were just edged out by a point by Thurles in the Urban/Rural county final. In 1965 at the age of sixteen he won the first of his four North senior medals when he was part of the panel which overcame Lorrha in the final. Billy led the senior team to victory in the 1979 county final against Thurles Sarsfields. The legendary Pat Hartigan of South Liberties and Limerick reckoned he was one of the best centre-forwards he ever faced. In 2003 Billy masterminded one of the club’s most famous victories when he was manager of the intermediate team which got the better of Burgess in what is universally recognized as the best ever final in this grade.
An ever present figure with Kilruane MacDonaghs teams in the in the glory days of the seventies and eighties was the late Ned Fogarty from Knockshegowna. Ned was team masseur and hail rain or snow he made his way to MacDonagh Park for training on his reliable Honda motorbike. He was always positive and no matter what state the legs were in Ned always assured you that they were just coming right. He was a proud man in Croke Park on March 16th 1986. Sadly Ned passed away a number of years ago
Ladies and gentlemen I would ask you to show your appreciation for the Kilruane MacDonaghs senior hurling team of 1986 North & County champions, Munster champions and champions of all of Ireland.
I think it’s customary at this stage to say that we won’t see their likes again but looking at some of them tonight maybe that’s just as well.
Tony Sheppard captain in 1986 would now like to speak on behalf of the team
Fifty years ago Tom McLoughney became the first Kilruane MacDonaghs player to win an All-Ireland senior hurling medal when Tipperary overcame Dublin. Tom made his debut for Tipperary in the 1959 National League aged 18 years. Remarkably in one year he had progressed from the club junior side to the Tipperary senior team. In 1962 he collected his second Celtic Cross when Tipp overcame Wexford. This was the first televised final so Tom had the distinction of getting the first ever hurling score on TV when he netted in the opening minutes. As well as his two All-Ireland medals he also collected three Munster medals, two National League medals, two Oireachtas medals and two North senior medals.
Tom was a selector on the MacDonaghs senior team which won three North & County titles in a row in the seventies. In 1951 he won a North juvenile medal with MacDonaghs so tonight to celebrate the diamond jubilee of his first medal and the golden jubilee of his first All-Ireland medal the club would like to mark the occasion with a special presentation.
Tom was no back of a clock when he was playing. On one occasion he was marking a fellow who was a handy boxer. As the great commentator Michael O Hehir would say a bit of a schomozzle broke out between them. The boxer invited Tom to drop the hurls to settle the matter with the fists. The boxer made the fatal mistake of dropping his hurl first and need I finish the story Tom took advantage and promptly laid the boxer out for the count.
Fifty years ago the Thomas MacDonagh Park Committee was formed with the purpose of providing the parish with a playing pitch worthy of a club with such a proud heritage. Chairman of that committee was Roche Williams and secretary was Michael Banaghan. Tonight we mark the Golden Jubilee of the Park Committee by honouring Roche and Michael who have held those positions for the last five decades, and you all thought that it was only the Chinese leaders seemed to go on forever. Michael and Roche went to school together, were neighbours and best friends and provided great leadership in motivating and organizing a group of ordinary GAA men to take on the mammoth task of raising the finance to purchase and develop the pitch. They oversaw the official opening in 1966, the building of the pavilion in 1969, the erection of the stand in 1995, the opening of the magnificent Complex in 2006 and the provision of a hurling wall in 2009. But in many respects they were like the odd couple. One worked in the private sector the other in the public service, both claimed the other continuously voted the wrong way, one was punctual the other could plead innocent to that charge, one was a stickler for detail the other had a more casual approach to record keeping. Although very different they complemented each other perfectly. Thomas MacDonagh Park and its magnificent facilities will be their lasting legacy. Roche and Michael the parish in general and the Kilruane MacDonaghs club in particular will be forever grateful for your contribution to the community. As a token of our appreciation we would like you both to come forward and accept this presentation.
And finally the club would like to make a presentation to Liam Sheedy in recognition of his magnificent work with the Tipperary team and as a gesture of appreciation for his attendance here tonight.