(1934 – 2010)
The sudden passing of Jimmy Gibson has severed yet another link with a golden period for the Kilruane MacDonaghs club. Jimmy rendered tremendous service to the club as a player and selector and he is rightly regarded as one of the greatest ever to wear the jersey. He was born in Middlewalk in 1934 and received his primary education in Glenahilty School. Hurling was one of the few pastimes in an era when luxuries were scarce and hobbies were few. In the company of his brothers Billy and Danny he honed his hurling skills and soon made his juvenile debut in the green and gold of MacDonaghs.
Jimmy tasted his first success on the playing fields in 1952 when he lined out at centre back on the Kilruane MacDonaghs minor team which defeated Nenagh to win the club’s first title in that grade. Eight years ago Jimmy and his colleagues on that team gathered in Lucky Bags to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of that historic victory. He soon progressed on to the senior team and in 1958 he played with his brothers Billy and Danny on the Kilruane team which lost out to their great rivals Toomevara in the North final. Twelve months later that result was reversed as Jimmy filled the number six jersey once again on the MacDonaghs side which overcame the The Greyhounds to win the coveted Murphy Cup. The great Thurles Sarsfields team captained by Tony Wall deprived them of county honours in the final in Roscrea.
Six years elapsed before Jimmy collected his second North senior medal when MacDonaghs captained by Len Gaynor defeated Lorrha. Unfortunately Jimmy was not available for the semi-final when Kilruane suffered a narrow and controversial defeat to Sarsfields in Nenagh. Many felt that Jimmy’s presence would have turned the tide in favour of MacDonaghs and few would disagree. He was highly regarded by friend and foe alike in an era when the standard of club hurling in Tipperary was at an all time high. The Titanic tussles with Toomevara in particular helped forge a passionate and friendly rivalry that exists to this day. It was fitting that in this morning’s guard of honour Toomevara’s Niall Williams should walk side by side with Jimmy’s former colleagues.
Jimmy possessed fierce determination and was calmness personified under pressure. He was a great reader of the game and as strong as an ox. He wasn’t renowned for his speed but compensated with uncanny positional sense and clever reading of the game. Like all great athletes he seemed to have plenty of time on the ball and always delivered it with purpose and precision. When Jimmy had the ball in his fist, possession was never surrendered and MacDonaghs were sure to be on the offensive. First to the ball was his motto and while most players could beat him in a race from A to B Jimmy never started at A. Jimmy’s talents did not go unrecognised at county level and he wore the blue and gold, winning a national hurling league medal in 1960. When the North Tipperary centenary hurling team was selected in 2001 he was deservedly on the list of nominees. In 2005 he was honoured with a Sean Ghael award which recognised his contribution to hurling in general and the Kilruane MacDonaghs in particular.
Jimmy was a shrewd observer of the game and it came as no surprise that he slotted seamlessly into the role of selector. Along with Len Gaynor and Jim Meara
Glenahilty he was a mentor on the minor hurling team which won the county final in 1971 and completed three in a row North titles two years later. He was also on the line when the U-21’s captured the club’s first two county titles in 1973 and 1974. The victory against Sarsfields in seventy four would have given him particular satisfaction as decisive changes by the selectors helped to turn an early ten point deficit into famous triumph. His significant contribution to the success of the minor and U-21 teams helped lay a solid foundation for the senior success that was to follow. In 1973 Jimmy trained a young senior team which reached both North and county finals. I can still see him in MacDonagh Park, shirt sleeves rolled up, whistle in the hand, crouched in that familiar style, urging the players to give every ounce of energy in the sprint. Jimmy didn’t believe too much in stretching or warm ups and hadn’t much time for the player who stole the limelight in training and didn’t give it all in the heat of championship battle.
Jimmy loved to socialise by taking a drink and he liked nothing better to replay the thrilling games of days gone by particularly the great contests between Tipp and Cork. And while he revelled in recalling the past he was quick to acknowledge the skill of the modern day players though he failed to understand the need for short puck outs, third midfielders, a sweeper in defence or two man full forward lines. And although he liked to take a drink he never let drink take hold of him. He came into village early, went home early, respected himself and respected others. His hurling was disciplined and controlled and he lived his life accordingly.
This morning as Jimmy entered the village for the last time three generations of MacDonaghs hurlers walked in silent tribute to acknowledge his massive contribution to the club both as a player and selector. One flank was led by Gerry McCarthy captain of the 1959 side and Len Gaynor captain of the 1965 team took the lead on the other side. Jimmy would have been pleased. The green and gold jersey of MacDonaghs was used in the offertory procession, the jersey he wore with pride, the jersey for which he gave his all, the jersey which symbolized the hopes and desires of the parish. Today as we bid farewell to one of our greatest ever hurlers, the Kilruane MacDonaghs club would like to sympathise with his wife Marie, his sons Seamus and Pat and his daughter Lena and all his relatives and friends.
I would like to conclude by reciting the hurler’s prayer:
Grant me, O Lord a hurler’s skill
With strength of arm and speed of limb
Unerring eye for the flying ball
And courage to match them what’er befall
May my aim be steady my stroke be true
My actions manly my misses few
And no matter what way the game may go
May I part in friendship with every foe
When the final whistle for me is blown
As I stand at last on God’s judgement throne
May the great referee when he calls my name say
Jimmy you hurled like a man you played the game.
(By Gilbert Williams)