Sunday, 23rd October 1977 will always be remembered as one of the most memorable days in the history of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club. On that particular day, as monsoon conditions prevailed in Semple Stadium, Kilruane MacDonaghs won the Dan Breen Cup with a victory over Borris-Ileigh and the county senior title was returning to the parish after a lapse of 75 years. Lining out at corner-forward on that historic day was Jim Reddan. Some would see the victory over Borris-Ileigh in the North Final as the turning point in the year. However, for many of us the win over reigning county champions Moneygall was the spark that ignited the season and instilled the belief in the players that the dream of a county title could become a reality. That game against an outstanding Moneygall side in Borrisokane was to be Jim Reddan’s finest hour in the black and white jersey.
Jim scored a hattrick of goals in that victory and the following week was nominated as the Guardian Player of the Week where his contribution to the victory was lauded as follows: “ Jim came up trumps by netting no fewer than three times when playing on such a sterling fullback as John Gleeson. There is no doubt that the opportunism of the burly full-forward went a considerable way towards the dethronement of Moneygall. “ Jim didn’t receive any award or accolade for that nomination and that’s the way he would have wanted it. Kilruane won. That’s all that mattered and he was delighted to have played his part.
Hurling was in Jim’s blood. His father Jack won North senior medals with MacDonaghs in 1940 and 1944 so it was no surprise that Jim would follow in his footsteps as hurling was one the few if not the only pastime for boys in the 1950s and 1960s. There was just one grade in juvenile hurling — U15. Straight knockout. No second chance. It was sink or swim. The start of Jim’s hurling career coincided with a golden period for underage hurling in the parish. In 1960 he was part of the squad that overcame Moneygall in the North final and the following year he lined out at corner-back in another victory over our neighbours. 1962 was a vintage year for the juvenile team. Jim was now marshalling the defence at number six. A victory over Borris-Ileigh in the Rural final saw Jim collect his third North medal. The headline in the Guardian Report declared that “Borris-Ileigh go down in Classic Final.” Jim played an influential role in that victory with the report stating, “That while it was mainly a team performance the major share of the honours must go to Jim Reddan and Paddy Williams in defence, midfielders Paddy O’Meara and Seamus Farrell and forwards Jimmy Minogue and Liam O’Shea.”
That team, captained by Paddy O’Meara, went on to claim the County Urban Rural title with a victory over Moyne but lost the Rural semi-final to Cappawhite. Both of these sides clashed once more in the Turas na nÓg Final with a trip to the All-Ireland final for the winners — a much-coveted prize in 1962. With time almost up Paddy O’Meara scored a goal to put MacDonaghs ahead. The old wooden stand in Thurles was shaken to its foundations as the crowd went wild with delight. Mick Hogan from Ballygibbon, a staunch supporter recalled that moment: “I threw my cap in the air and before it came back down Cappawhite had the ball in the net at the other end of field.” Defeat and devastation for MacDonaghs. Not the way Jim would have liked to end his last game in the juvenile ranks.
He progressed on to the minor team and in the 1964 semi-final Kilruane MacDonaghs toppled reigning champions Roscrea who were chasing their seventh title in succession. In the North final Jim played wing-back on a side that proved too strong for Newport. Kilruane MacDonaghs were back in the final the following year but relinquished their title to Roscrea despite a solid display from Jim in the number six jersey. Our seniors won the final the same day so the minors had to line out in the juvenile jerseys. The luxury of a second set of jerseys was a long way off in the future. I can only imagine the difficulties the minors had in squeezing into the juvenile jerseys with removal after the match probably requiring surgical intervention.
Jim made his senior debut in 1969. At that time MacDonaghs were struggling in the senior ranks as the successful 1965 team had begun to break up. 1970 was no better than the previous year. Defeat at the hands of Nenagh in Borrisokane ended championship aspirations. Prematch preparations for that game were hardly ideal. After togging out in Ger Kelly’s Bar a few players, including Jim, made a quick counter attack to gulp down a few pints. A sixteen-point loss was hardly surprising under the circumstances. Obviously the team nutritionist was not available that day. Jim could clearly hold his drink better than the rest as the Guardian reported that “Jim Reddan was the only player to enhance his reputation with a mighty game at midfield until he tired.“ That was typical of Jim Reddan as a player. Win or lose he gave it his best.
Little progress was made by the senior team in 1971 and the following year Jim threw his lot in with Burgess when he moved to Carrigatoher. He played senior with Burgess for three years. In 1975 he set anchor in his native parish once more and transferred back to Kilruane MacDonaghs. By this time an influx of younger players were blending in nicely with the more seasoned campaigners and Kilruane were genuine championship contenders. That year Jim was a member of the senior football panel that captured the County title with a win over Loughmore. His younger brother Phil was a powerful presence on that side in the middle of the field. Jim was never a football fanatic and was content to be a squad member to enjoy the after-match social activities. He took his hurling a little more seriously and was part of the panel that lost out to Moneygall in the County final replay. Jim featured in a number of games in that campaign including the County semi-final victory over Silvermines. The promise of 1975 was dashed with a less than distinguished campaign in 1976. All that was to change in 1977 and Jim Reddan was to play a vital role in that breakthrough.
Len Gaynor took over as trainer and coach and whipped the team into a formidable unit. Jim was no fan of training but patiently endured the gruelling sessions to get into some type of reasonable shape. He started at corner-forward in the first round and he nailed down a regular place for the remainder of the campaign. His power was a huge asset to the forward line and although not noted as a prolific scorer he finished the season with a tally of 6-3. His goals against Moneygall were crucial but no less important was the point he scored in the drawn County final against BorrisIleigh when MacDonaghs rallied from an early nine-point deficit to take the game to a replay. To say that Jim was happy with the County final victory would be an understatement. The photo of a jubilant Jim in the dressing room afterwards speaks a thousand words. In 1978 and 1979 Jim continued to be a valuable member of the squad that went on to win the North & County titles. He hung up the boots on the nail and the end of the 1979 season after playing for twenty consecutive years.
Jim was the quintessential team player. He played where he was asked. He didn’t down tools if he wasn’t selected. The toys weren’t thrown out of the pram if he was brought off. What you saw was what you got with Jim. There was no pretence,. As the advertising slogan goes : “It does what it says on the tin.” Jim used his power and strength to great effect. He hurled the ball in an era when that wasn’t often compulsory. Jim could take punishment at a time when there were no cards of any colour red, yellow or black to protect the forwards. I can’t recall him ever being sent off and his name hardly ever featured in the referee’s notebook. Jim was humble and modest. He recognised his strengths and was very much aware of his limitations as a player. Jim enjoyed his hurling and revelled in the celebrations. He took his hurling seriously but it wasn’t life or death for him. Jim gave his best in the black & white jersey. The Reddans always gave their best for the club — the late Paddy and Phil as players and Dinny as a dependable First Aid man for many years. Coaching or the selector’s role didn’t hold much attraction for Jim though he was a mentor with the 1994 U14 football team that won the North title with his son John wearing the goalkeeper’s jersey. In retirement, he remained a loyal supporter of MacDonaghs and despite failing health he attended last year’s North final.
Jim’s passing severs yet another link with the successful three-in-a-row side. Joe Hutchinson, Johnny O’Meara, Sean Hyland and Mackey Keogh have all passed to their eternal reward as have selectors Billy O’Meara, Mick O’Meara and Tom McLoughney. Today, we have laid to rest a great character Jim Reddan. That chain that links us back to the three-in-a-row team is getting shorter but hopefully it is getting stronger as we appreciate more than ever the fantastic times we had together.
On behalf the Kilruane MacDonaghs Club I would like to extend sympathy to his sons Jim, Robert, Declan, Michael, John, Dan and Nigel, his daughters Caroline and Majella, his sister Margaret, his brothers John, Michael, Dinny and Phil and extended family.
I think it might be appropriate to conclude with 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 whate’er befall
May my stroke be steady and my aim be true
My actions manly, my misses few
No matter what way the game may go
May I part in friendship with every foe
When the final whistle for me is blown
And I stand at last before God’s judgement throne
May the great referee when He calls my name say:
Jim, you hurled like a man, you played the game.
Solas na bhFlaitheas ar a anam uasal.