The grandfather of Indira Ghandi, former Prime Minister of India, told her: “There are two kinds of people in the world those who work and those who take the credit.” He advised her to belong to the first group because there is less competition there. There is no doubt as to which group Michael Cahill belonged. He was a worker who toiled ceaselessly for the community, never looking for praise or plaudits never seeking appreciation or admiration. He evaded the spotlight and carefully avoided the limelight. The success of the GAA is built on the dedication and commitment of grassroot members and Michael was your typical ordinary member who helped the Kilruane MacDonaghs club not merely exist and survive but thrive and develop.
Michael grew up in the shadow of Grawn Church, the second eldest child of Din Cahill and Peg Culhane. In school Roche Williams fostered a love of all things Gaelic, particularly hurling. Roche brought the “Irish Press” to school every day and we took the liberty of reading the hurling reports and results on the paper as it lay unattended on the table. Michael became familiar with legends like Christy Ring and Jimmy Doyle and hurling strongholds such as Mount Sion and Mooncoin, Blackrock and Bennetsbridge
Of course, Din Cahill had a passionate interest in hurling. He played with Kyle and won a North junior medal with Kilruane MacDonaghs in 1950. With a favourable environment for hurling both at home and in school Michael developed a love of the game which remained with him all his life. In 1966 he played his first juvenile game against Shannon Rovers in Ballinderry. Michael’s father was one of the selectors on that team and he ferried juveniles here, there and everywhere to matches with his car generally loaded to the gills. I have no doubt that Michael was very much influenced by the example of his father’s voluntary commitment to the GAA. This was something that Michael was to emulate later in life.
During Michael’s time as a juvenile Kilruane MacDonaghs failed to get among the honours. He was part of the U21 panel that won North and County championships in 1973. Two years later he lined out in goals on the junior team that overcame Templederry to win the North final. In 1978 Michael wore the number one jersey once more on the intermediate side that claimed Divisional and County titles. A second North junior hurling medal came his way in 1985 when Kilruane MacDonaghs got the better of Toomevara in the final and he added a County medal with the defeat of Cappawhite in Semple Stadium. Michael continued playing intermediate hurling until 1987, winning a North league medal in his final season.
Michael never played senior championship hurling although he was part of the 1979 panel that won the Frank McGrath and Dan Breen Cups. He loved playing the game but wasn’t a fan of the endless running and demanding physical exercises that were part and parcel of training. Michael was content to play junior and intermediate hurling where there was less pressure. The stress and strain of senior hurling and the forensic scrutiny of the players in that grade did not appeal to him. For Michael hurling was a game to be enjoyed not endured. The goalkeeping role with its minimum running and maximum involvement suited him down to the ground. Michael was a shrewd judge of a player and served as a senior, junior and U21 selector. However, his many other commitments in the club prevented him from taking a more active role as a mentor.
Outside the Kilruane MacDonaghs club Michael is best known in GAA circles as a referee. He started his career with the whistle by accident in 1974. Kilruane MacDonaghs were playing Drom & Inch in a challenge match in Johnny Moylan’s field in Ballycapple. There was no referee so Paddy Quinlan, who as a selector, persuaded Michael to step into the breach. His first final was in 1975 when Borrisokane overcame Moneygall in the North U14 Urban/Rural decider and he went on to referee finals in all grades in both hurling and football.
Michael’s first North senior hurling final was in 1988 when Borris-Ileigh were winners over Roscrea. He refereed six more senior finals. One of the highlights of his career was in 1997 when he officiated at the County senior final that saw Clonoulty defeat Mullinahone. He had become the second Kilruane MacDonaghs man to referee a County senior hurling final — the first was Con Heffernan who was in control of the 1943 final. Michael refereed at inter-county level and was fourth official on a number of occasions. At this year’s North Board Awards night in the Kilruane MacDonaghs clubroom he was honoured for his 45 years of distinguished service as a referee.
Michael is second only to Donie Nealon in the all-time list of North senior hurling final referees. This fact is eloquent testimony to his standing as a referee. Referring to soccer referees, the legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly said that they all knew the rules but very few knew the game. Michael knew the rules of hurling but more importantly he knew the game and the players. An incident involving Liam Sheedy illustrates this point. Michael had to book Liam after he pulled a foul stroke on a Toomevara player. Michael’s advice to Liam after booking him: “Liam you may watch yourself for the rest of the game. He (nameless Toome payer) won’t take that lying down.”
Michael had the ability to let the game flow without losing control. He didn’t depend on cards of any colour to impose his authority. A quiet word in a player’s ear often diffused a potentially explosive situation. To be a top class referee you need composure, courage and above all common sense. Michael had all these qualities in abundance. He knew that spectators came to see the players and he never sought to be the centre of attention. Michael was most obliging in facilitating the Board, clubs and schools with his services as a referee. Whatever the grade and whatever the competition he tried to carry out his duties to the best of his ability because he believed all teams irrespective of age or ability deserved no less.
Michael was a member of the club committee since 1971 and he gave forty-eight years unbroken service in a variety of roles. In 1973 Michael was elected assistant secretary of Kilruane MacDonaghs and spent six years as an understudy to Tom Kirby. In 1990 he was appointed County Board Delegate and for ten years he was an able club representative in that position. In 1996 Michael was installed as assistant treasurer before being promoted to treasurer in 1998. He was in charge of club finances for the next thirteen years, stepping down from minding the purse strings at the 2011 AGM. However, Michael was given very little respite and we called on his services once again in 2013 when he filled the position of assistant treasurer for the second time. At the recent AGM he was unanimously reappointed for the seventh successive year.
In one shape or form Michael has been deeply immersed in the monetary affairs of the club since 1988 when he was a member of the Finance Committee. And it is no mere coincidence that he has been such an influential figure in this area as Michael was the personification of honesty and integrity. He was a master fundraiser with few peers. Michael has been a Tipperary Draw promoter since its inception in 1988. He was one of the driving forces behind the Club Lotto which commenced in 1996. For over thirty years he took his turn in selling the Lotto in the public houses on a Saturday night and of course his home was the unofficial headquarters of the Lotto Committee up to recently. In our hugely successful Sales of Work Michael was always in the thick of the action. He manned his chainsaw in felling many a tree and his yard was a hive of activity as gangs with axes and log splitters prepared loads of timber to go under the auctioneer’s hammer.
In any organisation the job of treasurer is probably the most difficult and certainly the most thankless. The incumbent is directly responsible for generating income and controlling expenditure. It is very easy to be generous with somebody else’s money but Michael was strong enough not to pursue popularity by trying to please everybody. He was prepared to spend wisely but he was prudent enough not to plunge the club into an unmanageable debt. In all my years dealing with Michael I have never known him to refuse a request for money that would benefit any of our teams young or old.
Michael wasn’t one to dominate meetings. Instead, he listened attentively and judged his interventions carefully. However, he wasn’t afraid to call a spade a spade and was prepared to challenge the cosy consensus if the need arose. There was no posturing or pretence with Michael. What you saw was what you got.
The name of Michael Cahill will always be associated with MacDonagh Park. He took great pride in this magnificent venue and led by example in maintaining the facilities in pristine condition. Michael was to the fore in all the major development works: the erection of the stand in 1995; the construction of the Complex which was officially opened in 2006; and building the Hurling Wall in 2009. Michael was an enthusiastic supporter of the Astro Turf project which came on stream in February.
Michael was also in charge match tickets for many years and nobody could have done a better job. He regularly replicated the miracle of the loaves and fishes in satisfying the ticket demands of our supporters. From his many contacts at Board level Michael was able to source extra tickets to cater for the genuine follower. On big match days in Semple Stadium he was a familiar presence in his role as a steward along with his loyal crew from the club. Indeed, Michael was a steward there at last year’s Féile Classical. With all due respect to the bands that performed, I can only assume that he was in Thurles out of a sense of duty rather than any burning desire to revel in the music.
To view Michael Cahill as simply a great GAA man would not do justice to his memory. He was so much more than that. Michael had a long involvement in the Credit Union, served for twenty-three years in the local Fire Brigade and was supervisor of the Fás scheme until his retirement last year. Above all he was a dedicated family man, a great friend and neighbour to many in the community.
Michael was skilled carpenter and a hard worker. He ran his own business and although he was never idle he was seldom in a hurry and always managed time for a chat. All the Cahill family inherited a great work ethic from their parents. Each and every one of them would go through a stone wall to do a good turn for you and Michael was no exception. It is my own experience and the experience of many that Michael did not expect a good turn to be reciprocated and payment was never part of the equation. If you wanted to borrow anything from a needle to an anchor Michael invariably had it his workshop. To everybody else the workshop looked an unholy mess but Michael knew where every hammer, wrench, chisel, nail and piece of timber was located. I presume if it was tidied up he wouldn’t be able to find anything. You were never stuck for petrol in Cloughjordan. A call to Michael and the crisis was averted. No cash in your pocket. No worries, you pay for the petrol later. You got no invoice in the post. Michael’s dealings were based on trust.
Michael had a very positive attitude to life. He didn’t grumble about the disappointments and difficulties that he encountered on his all too short a journey. Michael faced his recent illness with typical fortitude. It was fitting that he reposed in the Kilruane MacDonaghs clubroom. MacDonagh Park and its fabulous facilities is a lasting legacy left by Michael and many others who have passed to their eternal reward. Shakespeare wrote that “No legacy is so rich as honesty” and perhaps that is Michael’s greatest legacy. He showed us all how to live a decent, honest and hardworking life.
President Harry Truman said: It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” In his own quiet understated way Michael accomplished so much and cared so little who got the credit.
Michael’s funeral was the biggest ever witnessed in the parish. The thousands that attended over the two days showed the esteem in which he was held by people all over the country. As a mark of respect the Tricolours flew at half mast at MacDonagh Park, the Fire Station and the Heritage Centre while the scheduled senior and junior league games were postponed. On a sunny May Sunday we laid to rest one of the great stalwarts in the history of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club.
On behalf of the Kilruane MacDonaghs club, a club that was so special to Michael and a club he served so well, sympathy is extended to his daughters Niamh and Lousie, their mother Delia, granddaughter Caragh, his mother Peg, his partner Chris, son-in-law Donal, brothers, sisters, brothers-in- law, sisters-in-law, uncle, aunts, nephews, nieces, relatives and many friends especially James.
Solas na bhFlaitheas ar a anam uasal agus leaba i measc na naomh dó.