I Played My Last Game At 53 Recalls Cork Champion G.A.A. Volunteer
I was born in Shanbally, Co. Cork, in 1946 and lived there all my life.Shanbally (Seanbaile) is a small village in Cork’s lower harbour area just two miles outside of Ringaskiddy.I attended National School there where I got my very first introduction to hurling & football and the local Club Shamrocks.
The School Principal was Mr. Bernie O’Flynn, himself a former senior hurler with the club and a very keen hurling enthusiast. At around seven years of age I attended my first games played in Pad Joe Sullivan’s Field near the Barnahaley Cemetery. When I was older, about ten years of age along with other lads, we would be given hurleys by the then club chairman, Blackie Pierce, to scatter the cow dung that would be all over the field before the game commenced.
I played my first match with Shamrocks in 1957 at under 14 level at Goats’s Cross in Crosshaven.I played late into my forties and in that time was fortunate to win under age and junior hurling & football championship medals with the Shamrocks club. I enjoyed every minute on the playing pitch.
In 1964 I became a member of the clubs executive committee and chairman at that time was Mick Walsh. I was immediately impressed by the officers and members who were so keen and gave so much to the club. In 1965 I was elected club asssistant secretary.
In 1966 I was elected secretary and served in that post for twenty three years. I later was elected chairman and served for eleven years. In 2017 I am in my fourth year as treasurer of the Shamrocks club. Over the years I served as team manager and selector and was fortunate to enjoy some great successes.
In 1966 I was also elected secretary of the South-East Cork Juvenile Board and later went on to be elected Chairman. I then served as divisional representative on the County School Shields Board.
In 1971 I was elected treasurer of the Schools Shield Board where I was fortunate to work with wonderful people such as Jack Cotter of Midleton (Chairman), Peadar Seymour from Carrigtwohill (Sectetary), Paddy Cooney from Youghal, whose son Christy went on to be GAA President, Bertie Murphy from Sarsfields and the wonderful Liam O’Donoghue N.T. Bandon. When I stepped down, my replacement in that post was Tom Livesey from my own Club, Shamrocks.
In 1966, I was elected Hon. Secretary of the South-Juvenile Board and then I took up refereeing. I stayed in that role for twenty two years, travelling far and wide.
In the former Helm Hotel, Crosshaven, in 1990 I was elected chairman of the South-East Cork Junior Board. I was fortunate to serve in this post for twenty consecutive years.
I was so lucky to work with very dedicated officers such as the late Jim Forbes, Myles Barry, Liam Webb, Colm Harrington and Mylie Collins, to name but a few.I enjoyed this position as it gave me a great opportunity to get to know the clubs better and meet so many wonderful and dedicated workers within.
These were always the real and unsung heroes of the GAA.It was also very pleasing to see the further growth of camogie in our clubs and the surge of ladies football. The Ladies are now the real growth area in the GAA and their impact and contribution is surely fascinating.
I was very fortunate in 2006 to be one of two Corkmen to be nominated to receive The President’s National Award from the then President, Sean Kelly.I was really taken aback with this nomination and I thought that there are thousands of other worthy recipients out there who will never step on the national podium.
In 2013 I was elected a Member of The Cork County Board Senior Hearings Committee and the GAA has been a huge part of my life. On reflection I don’t think I would change anything. I was so fortunate to be blessed with good health and to be able to relish every minute.
My first introduction to hurling and football was at local level where the youngsters in the locality organised teams. We had a team in Raffeen, Shanbally and Coolmore. We all had our own fields, subject to not been hunted out by the farmers.
These games gave us pride in our own place and made us competitive. When we went on to play for Shamrocks we were fully blooded. I played in my first ever final in 1960 when the club faced St. Patrick’s of Upton in the South East Final.The game ended in a draw and the replay was won by a stronger St. Patricks side.
I won my first medal in 1965.It was a South East junior hurling league medal which I always treasured. It was my first piece of silver. When I got married in the South Chapel, Cork city, in 1971, it was that silver medal I used when I uttered the words “with gold and silver I thee wed”.
I won a divisional Under 21 football medal in 1967 and went on to collect five junior football medals and two hurling medals in South East Cork. I was fortunate to have incurred very little injuries in my career and I played my last game in grade ‘B’ hurling at the age of fifty three. Like so many players, it was always great to put on the club jersey.
In my long playing career I played with and against countless wonderful sporting players. I now look back and recall some of my wonderful club colleagues, Ted Hanley, Ray Sisk, Neally O’Mahony, Billy Hurley, Joe O’Flynn, Anthony Ronayne, Con Twomey, Ger Hanley, John Bourke, John Dineen, Declan O’Neill, John Collins and Jackie O’Driscoll.
There were many players to be admired among the opposition too. The Cooneys of Carrigaline, The Nyhans of Ballymartle, The Colemans of Ballinhassig, D.D. Leary of Ballygarvan, Neally White, Crosshaven, Terry Kelly and Kieran Kingston of Tracton, Dermot Collins and the Barretts of Kinsale and Dermot O’Brien of Valley Rovers.
Justin McCarthy was a class apart and I was privileged to play with him in the South East final of 1981 when he won his only club championship medal ever.I was hugely privileged to see Christy Ring playing and I saw him for the first time ever in November of 1958 when I was a boarder in Farranferris College,Cork.
We were allowed to attend Cork games played in the old Athletic Grounds. They played Dublin that day and every time Ring touched the ball, there was wild cheering from the huge crowd. In my playing days we were lucky as there was a huge array of wonderful inter county stars to see in action such as Mick O’Connell, Declan Barron, Jim McKeever, Kevin Heffernan, Eddie Keher, Jimmy Doyle, Tony Wall, The Rackards. I could go on for ever.
As a referee I had the unique honour of refereeing an inter county game.In 1983, the night before the Munster Senior Football Final, (Tadghie Murphy’s late winner), the Cork over 35’s played the Kerry over 35’s in Crosshaven.
Both counties had some of their former star players and they still had their great touches. With time almost out and Cork leading by one point,I awarded Kerry a free in the middle of the pitch. Up walked Mick O’Connell and he said to me “ watch this ref.”
I did and he just placed the ball on the ground, took a few steps back and kicked it straight over the bar. It surely was worth watching.
Editorial by John Twomey recalling his many years in administration, as a player and as a referee.