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22 Apr 2024 by Gilbert Williams

Ben began playing U12 with Kilruane MacDonaghs as a nine-year old in 1974. He was following in the footsteps of his brothers, Dan, Paddy and Jack, who were already wearing the black and white jersey. In 1976, Ben lined out at wing-forward on the U14 team that overcame Toomevara in the North final in Nenagh. His brother Jack was full-back on the team. In Ben’s juvenile days, Kilruane MacDonaghs and Toomevara were great rivals, and there were tremendous contests between the teams. In 1977, the sides clashed again in the U14 Rural final with the Greyhounds taking the honours on that occasion.

The following year, the omens didn’t look great for Kilruane when Toomevara had a comprehensive victory in the North Féile final. In the championship, Kilruane and Toomevara met in the U14 Rural semi-final in Borrisokane. A huge crowd turned up to see an exciting contest with MacDonaghs coming out on top. The teams locked horns once again in the Urban Rural semi-final with Kilruane shading the verdict by two points. The Toomevara notes in the Guardian said that “it was one of the best games of the year.”  In the Rural final, Kilruane saw off the challenge of Borris-Ileigh. Ben was the top scorer in that match, helping himself  to  2-1. In the Urban Rural final,  Kilruane had to give second best to Nenagh. In the County Rural semi-final, a victory over Emly secured a place in the final against Ballingarry in Semple Stadium. That was a great occasion for the Darcy family as Jack captained the team to win the Harty Shield. Ben and Ned were also on the team, and Tom was a sub.

1977 was Ben’s fourth and final year in the U14 grade. You will not be surprised to hear that Kilruane played a team in green and gold in the Urban Rural final with Toomevara claiming the title with three-point victory. The teams met again in the Rural semi-final. The game ended in a draw, and Ben gave an exhibition of hurling that evening in the centre of the field.  The ball seemed to follow him. If there was a man of the match award, Ben would have been the unanimous choice. Toomevara won the replay, and Ben’s hopes of a third divisional U14 medal were dashed.  

Ben went on to play U16 and minor with MacDonaghs. He hung up the boots after he finished playing minor. He faded quietly from the scene. There was no formal announcement about his retirement. There was no Twitter, nor Facebook posts to inform all and sundry that he was retiring. Ben enjoyed his hurling but didn’t take it too seriously. He was blessed with great hands and had the ability to play senior but lacked the desire and ambition to do so. Ben wasn’t a huge fan of training. The repetitive skill drills and the punishing physical exercises held little appeal for him.  

Ben started refereeing in 2004, and for eleven consecutive years, he officiated at venues throughout the county. By that time, his brother Dan was a seasoned referee, so I assume he coaxed and cajoled  Ben into taking up the whistle. He had the ideal temperament for a referee. Ben was calm and composed even in the most volatile situation. He managed to control games without ever being the centre of attention. Ben refereed all grades from U12 up to senior. His services were in constant demand by  the North and County Boards, and he rarely if ever, failed to oblige when the call came. Ben was the man in the middle of many finals, including the senior Hogan Cup final in 2010. He also had the honour of handling the first ever Junior ‘C’ championship final when Borrisokane drew with Nenagh in Cloughjordan.

When Ben set anchor in Toomevara, he got involved with both the GAA & Camogie clubs. He was a selector with the U12 and U14 hurling teams and took on the role of manager with the Junior ‘B’ side. He also served on the committee. Bingo was one of Ben’s favourite pastimes, and he was instrumental in getting the sessions started in Toomevara. Through his efforts, Bingo was very successful in Toomevara for a number of years. Ben was a much loved and respected coach with many underage camogie teams.  However, he still remained a loyal follower of Kilruane MacDonaghs and could be seen at venues throughout the county in all kinds of weather supporting his native parish. Ben was a happy man when Kilruane MacDonaghs won the North senior final in 2018 and the County final in 2022. He took particular pride in seeing his nephew Cian pick up the man of the match award in the North final and score two crucial goals in the County final victory.

Although his career in the Kilruane MacDonaghs jersey was short, the club very much appreciates his contribution. As a mark of respect, the Tricolour in MacDonagh Park flew at half-mast, and a minutes silence was observed before Friday evening’s Junior League game between Kilruane MacDonaghs and Ballinahinch. Toomevara postponed their Junior ‘B’ match while the Camogie club cancelled their blitz.


His coffin was draped in the MacDonaghs colours, and as Ben made his last journey down the Templemore Road to Cloughjordan Church club members formed a guard of honour.

The Kilruane MacDonaghs GAA & Camogie Club extends sympathy to his wife Mary, the Darcy and Bourke families. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.