(1904 – 1987)
When Kilruane MacDonaghs won the All-Ireland club title in 1986 to become the top hurling team in the land, it gave great satisfaction to Con Heffernan, a man who had been the guiding light and the driving force in the club for over thirty years. Con was not only a pioneer of juvenile hurling in the club but also in the division. His selfless dedication and renowned organisational ability helped to lay solid foundations for the development of the club and was an inspiration to successive generations. His death in 1987 severed a link between the early days of the G.A.A. and the modern era. Con was acquainted with the Ninety Eights, the first team to emerge from the parish in the infant days of the G.A.A. He was familiar with members of the legendary De Wets, while he was regarded as a founding father of Kilruane MacDonaghs.
Con was born on April 23rd, 1904 at Behamore, the second of five children to Con Heffernan and Julia Ann Tierney. His father was at that time teaching in Behamore school but transferred to Glenahilty in 1904.The family then went to live in Bantiss outside Cloughjordan.
Con was educated by his father at Glenahilty until 1914 when the family moved to Ardcroney where Con sr. was appointed principal. He finished his primary education in Ardcroney. Having completed formal primary education he continued to study at home until he went to preparatory training school in Mallow around 1922. He then attended the teacher Training College at De La Salle, Waterford, from 1924 to 1926, when he qualified.
His first teaching post was at Nenagh C.B.S. where he taught for three or four years. He taught for a short a short time in Portlaoise but returned to Ardcroney to take up an appointment as principal in 1930, when his father died suddenly in March of that year. Con remained as principal in Ardcroney until he retired in 1967.
He was elected secretary and treasurer of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club in 1932 and he held both positions until he retired in 1963. During his term of office MacDonaghs won three North senior hurling titles, four North junior championships, a North minor title and a county intermediate title. Con was also vice-chairman of the North Board in 1936.
He will be forever associated with the revival in the 1940s of the rural schools hurling competition which had fallen on evil days due to the non-observance of the rules. Brother T.V. Hutton contacted all rural schools in Tipperary by letter. From North Tipperary he received three replies. Borrisoleigh, Dromakeenan and Ardcroney were willing to help. The first tentative steps in rekindling interest in juvenile hurling had been taken. Con was at the forefront of that revival, taking on the position of secretary of the newly formed North Tipperary Juvenile Board. In 1944 a parish juvenile team playing under the name of Ardcroney became the first North Tipperary team to inscribe its name on the coveted ‘Harty Shield’. Under Con’s astute stewardship six North juvenile and three county titles came to the parish.
Con was a noted referee and was in charge of hundreds of matches over many years. His reputation as an upright and fair man earned him the respect of players and spectators. He was in charge of the 1943 county senior final between Eire Og Annacarty and Moycarkey-Borris. In 1947 he had the distinction of refereeing the All-Ireland minor hurling semi-final between Dublin and Galway in Birr. Con also spoke of having refereed the great Mick Mackey in league games. In the North division he was the man in the middle of the senior finals in 1936,1942, 1943,1948 and the intermediate final of 1947.
His passing in 1987 brought to an end a love affair with the G.A.A. which began way back in 1911, when his father took him to a parish league match between Ardcroney and Bantiss in Moylan’s field in Ballycapple. Both the Kilruane MacDonaghs club and North Tipperary Bord na nÓg owe an immense debt of gratitude to Con Heffernan.