Kilruane MacDonaghs Four in a Row

26 Jan 2007 by Gilbert Williams
County U-21 Hurling Champions 1973 to 1976
The victory of the Kilruane MacDonaghs u-21 hurling team against Carrick Swan in this year’s county final evoked memories of the four in a row wins by the same club between 1973 and 1976 . The seventies were the halcyon days for the men in black and white. In that decade alone, the club won fourteen county championships and thirty eight divisional titles, a remarkable haul of fifty two trophies. The u-21 grade in particular provided rich pickings with six divisional and four county wins in hurling, while the footballers chipped in with six North and one county.

This year marks the thirthieth anniversary of the u-21 county triumph against Cashel. The first North championship in this grade began in 1959 but it wasn’t until 1972 that Kilruane MacDonaghs made an impression . In their maiden appearance in the divisional final they had eight points to spare against Roscrea and captain Johnny Meara became the first man from the parish to lift the Hugh Burke Cup. The Clounoulty/Annacarty combination deprived them of a place in the county decider after a replay. With only Johnny Meara and the late Paddy Reddan ineligible for the following year it was obvious that MacDonaghs were going to be a force to be reckoned with.

The side was once again coached by Len Gaynor and he fashioned the style of the team.The hurling was direct, discipline was paramount and the team always came before the individual. Len was assisted by two wise and wiley men in former greats Jimmy Gibson and Jim Meara. MacDonaghs retained their divisional crown by defeating Borris-Ileigh on 3-10 to 2-3 scoreline. This time their sights were set higher and led by Dinny Meara they overcame West champions Clounoulty /Annacarty in Holycross, on a 1-10 to 1-0 scoreline to take the county crown and get their hands on the Dwan Cup for the first time.

In 1974 they won their third North title in a row when they defeated Na Piarsaigh on a 4-3 to 2-4 scoreline. In the county final in Nenagh they faced the formidable challenge of Thurles Sarsfields. Thurles had just won the Dan Breen Cup and with a liberal sprinkling of senior players in their ranks they entered the game as favourites. This favouritsm seemed entirely justified when Sarsfields raced into a ten point lead inside the first quarter. It was then that MacDonaghs displayed their renowned resolve and resilience. Some astute switches by the mentors, allied to tremendous hurling on the field, helped Kilruane to reel in their opponents and by the interval the game had turned dramatically in favour of the North champions. In the end MacDonaghs had an eight point advantage with the scoreboard reading 5-8 to 3-6 in their favour. Many in the parish regard this as the most satisfying of all the wins, as it marked the first occasion on which MacDonaghs had triumphed against the famed Mid club in a county final. Kilruane born Fr. Niall O Meara , who was then vice-chairman of the North Board, had the pleasure of presenting the trophy to fellow parishoner Tom Killackey.

1975 was a very successful year for Kilruane MacDonaghs and this was acknowledged when the club became the first holders of the coveted MacDonagh trophy after being named North Tipperary club of the year. The u-21 hurlers were unbeaten in the division and had a big win against the Erins Hopes combination in the North Final on a 4-14 to 1-4 scoreline. The senior hurlers were defeated in the county final but many of the same players featured on the u–21 side which proved too strong for Moyne-Templetuohy in the county final and completed the three in a row on a 5-10 to 0-4 scoreline with John Doheny as captain. The following year they completed the five in a row divisional wins when they again overcame a combination side St.Brendans on a 3-14 to 1-4 scoreline in the North Final. In the county final they drew with Cashel in Semple Stadium. Score : MacDonaghs 0-10 Cashel 1-7. Cashel star Pat Fitzelle was unavailable for that game and the general consensus was that his presence in the replay would tilt the balance in favour of the men from the West. However, in a low scoring rematch in Holycross , Kilruane MacDonaghs prevailed on a 3-4 to 1-6 scoreline to become the first club to win four county u-21 hurling finals in a row. Goals in either half from Seamus Hennessy and Mackey Waters were crucial in securing victory on a bitterly cold day. The replay had been delayed until January 9th 1977. The Mid chairman, the late Tom O Hara, presented the trophy to captain Michael Hogan. Thirty years later Michael’s son Eoin was to play a pivotal role when MacDonaghs won their fifth county title.

Seamus Hennessy, Jim O Meara, Michael Hogan, John Quinlan, Mackey Waters ,Dinny Whelan and Joe Hutchinson ( R.I.P.) played in all four finals. With Len Gaynor once again at the helm, the players on these successful sides were to form the nucleus of the Kilruane MacDonaghs senior team that was to go on and win four county finals and an All-Ireland club championship. Players from this year’s successful side will backbone a youthful senior team in 2007. With time and patience they may develop into a unit which could challenge for higher honours.           

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