The new coach of the Tipperary senior hurling team Paudie O’Neill believes the skills he developed and the responsibility he was given at a young age at his St.Mary’s club in Clonmel prepared him for bigger roles to come.
Paudie,speaking at a press night for the new Tipperary senior hurling management team,recalled with great fondness the wonderful memories he has of playing in the street leagues in Clonmel and the influence people within the club had on him at such a young age.
He believes the instincts for management and taking on responsibility for the preparation and organisation of teams, were honed during those street leagues when mentors within the club entrusted young people like himself to take on such tasks.
The energy, commitment and love of the game shown by those men had a massive impact on him and it is something he has never forgotten.
“It was a dynamic time for gaelic games in Clonmel.At the time St.Mary’s was very lucky to have people like Billy Carroll,Jimmy Collins ,Jimmy Doyle and TJ Corby involved and this combined with the arrival in the town of such people as Paudie Butler to Ss Peter & Pauls and Matt Ruth to St.Marys primary schools and it was a great time for hurling,” he said.
He loved playing in the streets leagues that were huge in Clonmel at the time and there was a tremendous buzz from the rivalry between all of the boys playing for their streets.
“I enjoyed those leagues and also taking on the responsibility of leading the team, organising them which we were encouraged to do,” he said.
“Looking back I think that is when I was given my first taste of coaching and my first introduction to anything like that,” he said.
He also played football with Commercials under the guidance of ‘Clonmel’s Mr.Football’ at the time John McNamara.
Success with both clubs arrived with St. Mary’s winning back to back South minor titles in 1974/75 and a county intermediate hurling title in 1975, the club went senior and won their first south senior championship in 1981.
In the High School Michael Forrestal played an important part in the development of GAA leadership qualities and progression was made onto county minor and U21 set ups where Paudie met Eamon O’Shea and they have remained great friends since.They were on the Tipperary U/21 that won the Munster championship in 1978.
Paudie went to St.Pat’s in Drumcondra,GAA President Liam O’Neill was in the same year as him, as was Pat Daly who is Director of Games in Croke Park. as was Jimmy Ryan now principal in St. Mary’s CBS.
While in Dublin Paudie immersed himself in the Ballyboden St.Endas club,where his brother Terry is the current Chairman.
Paudie, has held the role of Principal of St.Colmcille national school in Knocklyon for the last fifteen years, a school which is closely liked to the club and has a massive GAA focus.
Paudie went on to manage Dublin minor and U21 teams as well as being involved in a coaching education programme in the county.
He is married to Claire and they have three children Caoimhe, a twenty six year old who works in Croke Park, Caoilinn a twenty three year old who plays camogie for Ballyboden St Enda’s and Eoghan a nineteen year old student at St.Pats.
After hearing that his friend Eamon O’Shea had taken on the top job in Tipperary hurling Paudie said he was surprised to get the phone call from Eamon inviting him on board.
“It’s not like I was waiting for the phone call or anything like that, .I was surprised and it is exciting to be involved,” he said.
Even though he is living in Dublin for so long he always regards himself as a Tipperary man and he was fully awware from very early on in his life the huge value placed on hurling in the county.Paudie said it would be a huge honour and privilege for him to be able to contribute to Tipperary hurling in any way
“It’s a challenge. I have met the players and have been very impressed by them and hopefully I can contribute positively to Tipperary hurling,” he said.
Paudie is a son of John and Theresa and he grew up in Powerstown Road going to school at Ss Peter & Pauls and the High School.
He was the oldest in the family and had two brothers Seamus and Terry and two sisters Grace and Maire.
He grew up in a house in which GAA was very important, his father John originaly from West Tipperary was a passionate Tipperary hurling supporter, and to Paudie and rest of his family GAA was important to them all from a young age.
The link between the O’Neill family and St.Mary’s is a very strong one.Paudie’s father John played for St.Mary’s and is a current Vice President of the club.
Paudie’s brothers Seamus and Terry also played at all levels with St. Mary’s with Seamus playing in goal for the Tipperary Minor team.
Described as a ‘wonderful clubman’ by St. Mary’s stalwarts Paudie O’Neill has tremendous support within the club and there is a great sense of pride throughout the club that one of their own has been handed such an important GAA role for the county.
Paudie O’Neill, third from right on the front row, was a member of back to back St.Mary’s teams that won a south title in 1974/75.The ‘75 team is pictured above - Back row - Jimmy Ryan, John O’Neill, Frank Nyhan, Anthony McDonagh, Michael Kelly, Tommy Linnane, Ben Coy, John O’Dwyer. Front Row - Jimmy Kavanagh, Tony Cronin, PJ O’Brien, Billy Lambe, Timmy Guidera, Paudie O’Neill, Tommy Walsh, Vincent Mullins.