Clonmel’s St. Mary’s in with ‘serious chance’

Jeddy Walsh

Jeddy Walsh

ST. MARY’S minor hurlers take on Eire Og of Nenagh in the County Minor ‘A’ Hurling Championship final in Holycross on Saturday at 2 pm. For the Clonmel boys it will be a chance to make history and become the first team from the club to capture the coveted hurling title.

Twice in the past “The Mary’s” have contested the under 18 hurling decider, in 1954 and again in 1985, but on both occasions had to give second best to Thurles Sarsfields.

The manager of the this team is Noel Buckley, along with trainer Robert Dooley and selectors Michael Boland and Billy Carroll. As far back as last February the four-man management team set a goal for their charges to be South and county champions.

St. Mary’s team manager, Noel Buckley, in giving his team a “serious chance” had this to say about next Saturday’s final:

“This weekend the players aim to make this dream a reality. We are under no illusion that this will be a tough battle but we believe this squad of players have the skill, passion and determination that will stand to them on the day of a final.

“While older members of St Mary’s may hark back to how long ago it is since we were in a county final the management of this team are only focused on one thing, winning this championship in 2012. We will write the history later.

“Many hurling pundits from the traditional areas of hurling in Tipp have expressed surprise that a team from a football town could make it in hurling to a county final. They may however be making the mistake of looking at Clonmel through the lens of the past.

“For the last twelve years St Mary’s have been working hard at growing the hurling in Clonmel. Twelve years ago we had only about twenty players under the age of 10 training on a Saturday morning, where as right now we have over 80. The strategic decision to invest heavily in developing the juvenile end of the club over the last 12 years has begun to pay dividends.

“Two years ago for the first time in 36 years we won the minor South championship and eight of that squad feature in this minor team.

Noel goes on to add: “Further evidence of the growth of hurling in the town is seen in the entry of the High School this year into the Harty Cup Competition and St Mary’s have eight of this squad on the (Harty) panel.”

“This squad of young men who will represent St Mary’s this Saturday in the county final have known success at under 14, 16 and minor and some of them like Darren Cass, Colman Kennedy and Jason Longeran have also tasted county success with Tipperary. You could say these lads have always wanted to be winners. I have no doubt they will do their town and club proud this weekend,” he concluded.

The previous two finals involving St Mary’s...

We contacted GAA historian and St. Mary’s supporter Dr. Sean O’Donnell, in anticipation of this Saturday’s minor final and this is what Sean recalls.

“In the 1954 county final St. Mary’s opposed a Thurles Sarsfield team of which the great Jimmy Doyle was the star. He had been goalkeeper on the Tipperary minor team a month earlier in the All-Ireland final.

St. Mary’s lost by 2-9 to 2-2 and the team was: John McNamara, Joe Gardiner, Walter O’Meara, Jim Hyland, Jimmy Mullins, Liam Boland, Brian Murphy, Tommy Gouldsboro, Paddy Kirwan, Seán Lonergan, Larry Keane, Austin English, Eamon Long, Mick Strappe, Jody Collins.

Subs: Gerry King and Timmy Ryan.

Other panel members were Stanley Griffin, Jimmy Dunne, Seán O’Dwyer, Frank Maher.

One caller to the St. Mary’s dressingroom after the match was Brother Doody, the renowned mentor of Tipperary minor teams of the 1950s. He confided to Mick McDermott that if he had put Jimmy Doyle outfield in the All-Ireland final the previous month and had John McNamara in goal, Tipperary would have beaten Dublin and won their third minor All-Ireland in-a-row.

Few Clonmel people would have disagreed with his assessment of John McNamara who that year became the first player in the history of the club to play minor for five years in succession, and who was later to become one of the leading G.A.A. personalities in the town.

Thurles Sarsfields were again the opponents in the county final of 1985 and they won by 2-10 to 1-7.

The St. Mary’s team that day was: Declan Ryan, George Burke, Pádraig Kavanagh, Dick Ryan, John McCarthy, Fergus McGrath, Jim Harvey, D.J. O’Connell, Gerard Deely, John Dunphy (captain), Seán Hickey, David O’Donnell, John Dempsey, Liam Ó Duibhir, Robert Hogan.

Subs: Barry Condon, David Hickey, Malcolm Gearon, Stephen O’Flynn, Philip Ryan, Gerard Hall, Jimmy Ryan, Gerard O’Mahony, Brett McGrath.”

We all join in wishing St. Mary’s the very best of luck against Eire Og and perhaps by Saturday night we can be celebrating a first-ever county minor hurling title for the town.