On behalf of the Kilruane MacDonaghs Club, I would like to pay this tribute to our Vice-President Joe McCarthy.
It was through hurling that many of us got to know Joe. Hurling was a huge part of his life as a valuable player with Kilruane MacDonaghs and later as a loyal supporter. The young Joe was inspired by the success of the MacDonaghs 1944 team that won the North final with Tommy Williams as captain. He recalled looking in awe at the Murphy Cup in the window of Williams’ public house. Joe had great admiration for that team, and his dream was to emulate the men of ’44 and win a coveted North Tipperary medal.
He made his senior championship debut in 1954. Four years later, Joe played on the team that lost the North final to the great Toomevara side of that era. In 1959, he won his first North senior medal when MacDonaghs reversed the previous year’s result against Toomevara. It was a special day for the McCarthy clan as Gerry captained the team. Joe lined out in his customary wing-forward position in this victory, and although his direct opponent was the outstanding Matt O’Gara he finished the game with two points to his credit. The Guardian reporter gave favourable mention to Joe when he wrote: “In the Kilruane attack Joe McCarthy and Ger Hogan were prominent wing forwards who figured in many thrilling duels.” They faced a star-studded Thurles team in the County final in Roscrea. MacDonaghs gave a magnificent performance, but a late Sarsfields surge saw them complete the five-in-a-row. The Tipperary Star was fulsome in its praise for Kilruane, stating that “Their determination, do-or-die spirit and their first time hurling seldom allowed the Sarsfields machine to move with its usual smoothness and rhythm.” In his acceptance speech, Thurles captain Tony Wall said it was their toughest game in five years. The 1959 team deservedly holds a special place in the history of Kilruane MacDonaghs, and Joe cherished his involvement in its success.
In the late fifties and early sixties, Kilruane MacDonaghs and Toomevara were great rivals, and the crowds in their thousands flocked to see them go toe to toe. In 1960, they clashed for the third year in-a-row in the divisional final with the Greyhounds coming out on top. Joe wore the number twelve jersey at left wing-forward in this encounter. Two years later, MacDonaghs and Toomevara renewed rivalry once more in the North final. Joe was introduced as a substitute as Kilruane suffered a galling two-point defeat. The following year, the neighbours met in the semi-final with Toomevara prevailing by three points in the replay after a titanic tussle. Such was the pulling power of these teams that 5,300 spectators assembled for the second game. In 1965, Joe collected his second North senior medal when a late Sean Williams goal gave MacDonaghs a dramatic two-point victory over Lorrha in the final.
He retired at the end of the 1965 season after playing senior hurling for twelve successive years. Joe had played all his hurling in the attack, mostly in his favourite wing-forward position. He was a great exponent of ground hurling and bemoaned the almost total demise of this skill. Joe wasn’t enamoured with the intricate patterns of the current game with the constant passing and recycling of the sliotar. Direct hurling appealed to him. In his own career, Joe was a committed and competitive player who sought to outwit his opponent by means that were fair rather than foul. He admired great hurlers, whatever colour jersey they wore, be it club or county.
When Joe retired from hurling, he didn’t immerse himself in administration or selectorial duties. Neither appealed to him. He kept in the background and faithfully followed the progress of Kilruane teams. Joe supported all club fundraisers such as the Lotto, Tipperary Draw and raffles. He was never afraid to dig deep into his pocket. He was delighted to see MacDonaghs remerge as championship contenders in the mid-seventies and longed to see the North senior title return to the parish. When we were preparing for the 1977 North final, Joe arrived into training with one of his North medals. The medal was a treasured possession, and he impressed on us how it was such an honour to win one. His passion for the game was infectious, and his affection for the club was deep-rooted. Joe held the successful three-in-a-row team of 1977 to 1979 and the All-Ireland club winning team of 1986 in high regard. It was a tonic to meet Joe during those wonderful years. The complimentary remark was graciously passed, and the encouraging word was freely given. Joe admired the spirit, determination and the direct hurling of those teams. Hurling was important to Joe, but of equal importance was how the game was played.
Joe was elected Vice-President of Kilruane MacDonaghs in 2016. He regarded it as a huge honour to fill this role in the club that meant so much to him. During his time as Vice-President, he saw Kilruane MacDonaghs win both North & County titles and he was a proud man to be present at both finals. He had seen the current generation take on the baton, and nothing pleased him more.
There is little doubt that hurling is the greatest field game in the world. It is part of what we are. A former Cork hurler put it eloquently when he said: “I believe hurling is the best of us, one of the greatest and most beautiful expressions of what we are. If you could live again you would hurl more, because that is living,” Hurling was an important part of Joe’s long life but to his family and those who knew him best it didn’t define him. He was a man of integrity and humility. What you saw was what you got. There was no artificiality associated with Joe.
I thank him for his contribution to Kilruane MacDonaghs. Joe understood the culture and the ethos of the club and was proud of its history and tradition. He was aware that you never own the jersey because someone has gone before you, and there is someone coming after you, so it’s a case of giving the jersey maximum respect. Joe respected the jersey and was honoured to wear it. He did his bit and handed on the jersey.
Over the last few days, the Tricolour in MacDonagh Park has flown at half-mast to signal to all that one of our own has passed to his eternal reward. Before Mass, it was fitting that three generations of MacDonaghs members walked in silent tribute as Joe made his final journey to Cloughjordan Church, a journey he made thousands of times during his four score and ten years on this earth. Down the decades, Joe had walked in many a Guard of Honour to salute departed colleagues, and this morning was our opportunity to give him a well-deserved farewell.
On behalf of the Kilruane MacDonaghs Club, Joe’s club, the club that was in his DNA, the club he represented so well as a player, the club he followed so faithfully as a supporter, I extend sympathy to Gerry, Fr. Michael, his relatives and friends.
The bed of Heaven to Joe.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal dílis.