The late Sean Walsh, captain of St. Mary's accepts the trophy from the late Tom O'Hara, Tipperary County Board GAA. In the background are Eamonn Devitt and Tony Smith both St. Mary's.
Forty-two years on from their only county adult hurling final success - the County Junior A Championship in 1975 - St. Mary’s Hurling Club (Clonmel), will be hoping to finally bridge that gap on this coming Saturday.
Standing in the way of “The Marys” in the County Intermediate Final will be Mid Tipperary champions, Gortnahoe/Glengoole. The final goes ahead at Golden at 4 pm.
Should the South champions, captained by goalkeeper Shane O’Neill from Ballyea, County Clare (current Munster club Senior Hurling champions), prevail it will be an occasion for great celebration in Clonmel, no doubt. Not alone will the long four-decades famine, bereft of county silverware, finally be at an end, but more importantly it will signal a return to senior status for the club in 2018. That is the standard that this ambitious club, under chairman Kevin Leahy, has been striving to regain for the county’s largest town over the past number of years.
Operating at intermediate grade since losing their top flight status in 2002, there has been a definite renaissance in the hurling fortunes of this proud hurling club in recent years. The Western Road based club, founded in 1929, has been re-energised by two magnificent county minor ‘A’ successes in 2015 and 2016, and by South Tipperary intermediate titles in 2014 and again recently when they defeated Carrick Davins in the divisional decider.
Under the on-field guidance of the vastly experienced inter-county manager, Michael Ryan, St. Mary’s now has a tremendous opportunity on Saturday next - if they produce their best form - to bring a coveted county championship title back to the South Tipp GAA Centre. We wish them every success.
The history makers! St. Mary's County champions 1975. Back row from left: Michael Kelly, Phil Corby, Jimmy Ryan, Paddy O'Loughlin, Brian O'Shea, Jimmy Hewitt, T.J. Corby, Michael Guiry, Paudie O'Neill, P.J. O'Brien, Jimmy O'Connell, Connie Carroll, Seanie Carroll. Front row: Eamon Devitt, Timmy Guidera, Tony Smith, Sean Walsh (Capt, RIP), Tommy Walsh, Johnny Guidera, Sean Hearn, Paddy Conway, Vincent Mullins, Billy Boyle, Pa Moore.
All Clonmel folk will be hoping it will be the first leg of an amazing double of county titles, with St. Mary's sister club, Clonmel Commercials, involved in the county senior football final against Killenaule on Sunday week at Semple Stadium.
Indeed there is quite an overlap of dual players with the likes of Richie Gunne, Liam Ryan, Seamus Kennedy, Ross Peters, Jamie Peters and Jason Lonergan involved with both panels.
In November 2015 at the re-launch of Dr. Sean O’Donnell’s excellent second edition history "St. Mary's Hurling and Camogie Club Clonmel", club chairman Kevin Leahy, was hopefully prophetic in what he said that night about St. Mary's.
Looking to the future on that occasion, Kevin said “Our intermediate team are a good bunch, an honest bunch. They trained hard, it was a long summer, they were unfortunate to be beaten in a South final when they were hot favourites and they didn’t really come back after that. But I can tell you one thing, our goal is senior hurling and it is not far away. We are very close actually. If we don’t get it next year, we will definitely get there in the next couple of years,” he added.
Fingers crossed that it will be so.
But now is also a great time to reflect back on the magnificent campaign by the St. Mary’s Junior/Intermediate team of 1975 who made club history with a first-ever county title.
Having come through the South with a comfortable win over Newcastle by 4-9 to 2-1 in the final, “The Marys” opposed favourites Kilruane MacDonaghs in the county semi-final at Semple Stadium in mid November. The Cloughjordan club, then at the zenith of its powers, had contested the senior final a few weeks earlier and on the previous Sunday had completed a three-in-a-row of county under 21 titles. Favouritism lay with the North Tipperary side but in a rip-roaring encounter St. Mary’s prevailed by 4-8 to 2-7. The goals came from team captain the late Sean Walsh, from Jimmy Hewitt and two in the second half from Tony Smith.
The full list of scorers was: Tony Smith 2-3, Sean Walsh 1-1, Jimmy Hewitt 1-0, Paudie O’Neill 0-2, Tommy Walsh 0-2.
Team captain Sean Walsh proudly raises the county trophy in November 1975 after "The Marys" defeated Clonmore in the final, much to the delight of Tony Smith (behind) and Seanie Carroll (right).
Back then in 1975, like this week, there was a great buzz about the town in the lead up to the final played on 30th November - the club’s first since the minor final defeat in 1954. Proudly Sean Walsh led his team out onto Semple Stadium where they would get the better of Clonmore by 1-9 to 1-6 in an close battle.
At the break St. Mary’s led by 0-6 to 0-4, Tony Smith denied a goal by a great save just before half-time.
In the second half the Clonmore goalkeeper made another miraculous save, this time from PJ O’Brien at the expense of of a 70, and it was from this that the St. Mary’s goal came. Michael Guiry’s delivery was doubled on by Tony Smith for a 1-6 to 0-6 lead for the South champions. County senior player Seamus Burke later had a goal for Clonmore to leave just two between the sides as the game entered the dying minutes but Tommy Walsh, a younger brother of the team captain, chipped in with a welcome point for the soon-to-be-crowned county champions.
Incidentally, the Clonmore club no longer exists as a separate entity having amalgamated with JK Bracken’s of Templemore since 1975.
The team who made St. Mary's club history on the day was:
Vincent Mullins, Timmy Guidera, Jimmy O’Connell, Paddy Conway, Johnny Guidera, Brian O’Shea, Jimmy Ryan, Sean Hearne, Michael Guiry, P.J. O’Brien, Paudie O’Neill, Tommy Walsh, Sean Walsh (Captain), Tony Smith, Jimmy Hewitt.
Subs: Paddy O’Loughlin for J. Guidera.
The mentors were: Jimmy Collins, Jimmy Hewitt, Brother Cahill, Bill Peters (RIP) and John O’Neill (RIP).
Incidentally half-back that day, Jimmy Ryan, has many connections with this year’s intermediate team with son Gavin, and nephews Richie, Joe and Sean Gunne, Sammy Ryan and Matt Barlow all involved with the current St. Mary's team.
And the late Bill Peters, whose son Willie was a stalwart for the club for many years, has grandsons Ross, Kyle and Adam Peters involved in this year’s team also.
COME ON THE MARYS!