Memories of hurling in Kilmurry
I started school just after my fifth birthday. I was born in August. I have many great memories of Kilmurry N.S. For me, most of those revolve around my hurling exploits at the school. When Joe Brady arrived at the school just as I was entering 1st class it gave all hurling enthusiasts a big lift, including myself. I was a member of the school panel that year and there was a good team, but it was a disadvantage that these lads had no training, except for the one year. (Players like Keith Walsh, Finbar Tuohy, Brendan Callaghan, Pat Gilligan to mention a few). The most joyous occasion ever experienced by the school was when I was in 3rd class and we won the Division 4 schools title, beating Ballycar in the final. The celebrations were unbelievable. We had difficulty in locating a good goalie that year but unfortunately! Brendan Griffin broke his leg early in the season in a challenge against Ballycar and turned out to be our lifesaver more than once from there to the final. The irony of the situation was that it was his own player, Pat Sheedy did the damage in the challenge match against Ballycar earlier this year.
Memories from the final include John Joe Walsh giving out to his son Liam at
half time and the parish of Kilmurry having to calm them both down! In the early years training was done in Donnellan’s field where the new houses are now and across the road. Towards the end of my school days, it was done in Sheedy’s. I can remember when I was in first class a game of past pupils v present being organised in my father’s field in Rosroe. There must have been 100 people there, from 7 to 70 all got involved.
In finishing, when I reached sixth class we again won the schools title. The celebrations were not as good as the first time, but none the less very exciting. Earlier that year we played a 7-a-side competition, beating Sixmilebridge and playing out a draw with Clonlara, which was a great achievement for such a small school. Finally, I encourage all pupils and parents alike to get involved in school activities and to keep the spirit of Kilmurry alive.
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Friday, May 17, 1991
1991 has begun well for Clare’s ace defender and team captain,
John O’Connell. First came his selection on the Rest of Ireland team v Cork in
January, then O’Connell was chosen on the final panel for the Bank of Ireland
All Star selection.
Although O’Connell was to be disappointed with the centre back berth going to Jim Cashman, the Clareman was rewarded for his sterling defensive displays in the value and gold jersey, with a trip to the Skydome, Canada.
The Sixmilebridge man was next chosen on the Munster Railway Cup team that lost out in the decider to Connacht at Croke Park.
But it was his selection last autumn as captain of the Clare senior hurlers that gave the 25 year old De Beers employee his greatest satisfaction to date.
Growing up in Sixmilebridge, the home of one of Clare’s greatest
defenders, Sean Stack, John O’Connell was naturally influenced by his clubman,
Jimmy Barry Murphy for his supreme skill and artistry also earned the youthful
Honours at club level came early to John, in quick succession under 14, under 16, under 18 and under 21 mementos were collected with Sixmilebridge.
Then in 1983 while still in the minor ranks, O’Connell captured both under 18 and senior awards. Yet it was not as a defender that he lined out but at wing forward on the Bridge team that beat Eire Og (Ennis) after a replay.
On the inter county front, honours were initially scarce, two years on the county minor side yielded no rewards. Limerick in 1986 deprived a Tommy Gilfoyle led Clare side of the Munster Under 21 title.
Almost two years later, the 5’11″, 12 and a half stone Sixmilebridge
clubman made his senior debut v Tipperary in the NHL at Cusack Park, in autumn
1988.Due to a succession of unfortunate injuries, O’Connell was
regularly in the medical wards. His senior championship debut finally came in
last year’s Munster Championship v Limerick at Cusack Park, Ennis. It was a
losing debut as Clare lost heavily. O’Connell starred despite being the
recipient of some tough marking. But O’Connell, despite the lack of senior inter
county rewards, has collected a varied medal selection on his sideboard on other
With Moyliesh RTC, Limerick, O’Connell collected two All-Ireland
winners mementos. In 1984 Sixmilebridge captured the Munster club title at the
expense of Patrickswell.
Then with a star studded De Beers (Shannon) side, John collected All-Ireland winners inter firm mementos at the expense of Avonmore (Kilkenny) in 1989.
That same year gave the stylish defender his greatest disappointment i.e. the loss of the Munster club title to Ballybrown.
Sixmilebridge had already beaten Glen Rovers at their Cork venue at an earlier
Expressing his disappointment with the result, O’Connell feels “I
thought we were good enough to win but we didn’t win, it was a great
Of course, a Limerick tie, be it a league or championship meeting, always raises the pulse in Clare hurling circles. In 1995 Clare beat Cork and Tipperary in the championship but Mackeys Greyhounds ended Clare’s Munster title dreams. Some say Clare hurling has never gotten over this setback. Then in 1972, Clare beat a very useful Limerick side in the old Cusack Park. The following year Limerick were All-Ireland champions, but only after overcoming an unlucky Clare outfit in Semple Stadium by a couple of points.
A 50/50 encounter
John O’Connell is eagerly looking forward to Clare’s meeting with Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds in the opening round of the Munster Championship on Sunday.
“We have a 50/50 chance,” says O’Connell. “Limerick will be favourites but we’ll give it a crack,” promises O’Connell. “Len Gaynor is a great motivator. Clare hurling is on the up,” John enthuses, “it will take time but we have youth on our side.”
The Limerick tie will bring the crisp clear striking Clare defender in direct opposition with his workmates i.e. Carmody, Galligan and Ryan in the green of Limerick.
In fact, Anthony Carmody, Limerick’s captain could be in direct opposition to
O’Connell at centre forward.Despite playing in the centre back berth
where the Sixmilebridge man has earned many plaudits O’Connell if given the
chance, would prefer to line out at right wing back. But the teak tough defender
who plays the game still with a boyish enthusiasm, is prepared to play anywhere
for Clare’s blue and gold jersey if required to.Clare’s 59 year wait
It is difficult to understand why it was 1932 when Clare last captured a
Munster senior hurling title. Eighteen years previously the All-Ireland title
was captured by The Banner.
With the recent revival in form of fortunes in the minor ranks, maybe the foundations are being laid. Clare’s loyal supporters who have followed the fortunes of the hurlers through thick and thin but mainly the latter deserve some tangible reward for their loyalty.
As John O’Connell, the Sixmilebridge clubman leads his county into another Munster
senior championship campaign, the musical Fiddler on the Roof springs to mind.
Tevye the Dairyman in “If I were a rich man” in his chat with God, wonders if he
became a rich man would it upset some divine plan.
If Clare made the breakthrough the Hills of Clare would indeed reverberate to the sound of unprecedented celebration. Meanwhile the wait continues but the expectations are the same, the dream lives on in Clare’s supporters minds. All-Ireland day early September and a Clare captain lifting the McCarthy Cup aloft.
Then and only then will the ghosts of yesteryear be finally banished and the Banner final unfurled to celebrate the long awaited victory.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
17th May 1991
A Kilmurry Past Pupils’
* The following is an
extract from a letter written by Ken O’Brien, of Bishopstown Road, Cork, to the
Principal of Kilmurry School. (c. 1932 – 1944)
To me, Kilmurry is a very special place and always will
be. It was Kilmurry N.S. that gave a start in life tome. I loved the
school and the teachers and kept going there until I was sixteen years of age.
Eventually, I got too embarassed and began to work in Mac’s shop in Kilmurry
(now Farrell’s), including some work on their farm and on the bog “footing’’
turf, which was a great day out. Seamus McNamara (R.I.P.), the son of the owner,
was an inspirational figure. He had a fanatical interest in hurling and was a
great example for all of us. His cousins in Ardane, especially Gerard and
Patrick, whom we knew well, were also marvellous leaders and motivators and had
a great interest in hurling, football, handball (against the Coach House door)
near the church, and marbles inside the Coach House when it rained. Playing
marbles was a highly skillful game and was played by fellows of all ages. An old
man used to challenge us on our way home from school for a game. Mr. Cunneen was his name. He would leave his work in the field and come out to play the game on the road – no motor cars in those days! He used to put up the stake which was one penny – I can’t recall ever having won a game.
The Wireless and The Bike
Hurling of course was the great love of our young lives in
Kilmurry – there was nothing quite so exciting to play, to look at, or to listen
to Micheál Ó Hehir (R.I.P.) My brother and myself went to all the local club
matches on my father’s bike. We had extended timber pedals on the bike, so that I could pedal from the saddle and he could pedal from the crossbar and rest on the pedals going downhill – distance was no problem. Eventually, we decided to cycle to an inter-county match in Limerick. When we were pedalling up the hill after passing “Poulawilly’’ Bridge one of the timber pedals broke off and that was the end of our cycling trips to matches – I suppose something had to give ! I remember that Kilmurry was a great place for (plenty) potatoes, vegetables and loads of fruit in summer time. Robbing orchards for apples was no problem – it was only a sin if you were caught! In the “crag’’ too, which was just behind our house, there was an abundance of hazel nuts, rabbits and wild strawberries in the summer time. I often cycled into Limerick (I think Moody’s was the shop) with a stone of hazel nuts and got a half-crown (two shillings and sixpence in those days).
Summer in Kilmurry during the school holidays was also a great
time for fishing, with a number of lakes within easy walking distance. We caught lots of fish withour home-made bamboo fishing rods. Winter was a time for hunting and catching rabbits. This was a very rewarding pastime during the war years and was great for pocket money. Skating on the frozen pools near us was also great fun, during the long weeks of very severe frost in Winter and early Spring. Spring was a great time too; with more daylight in the evenings and the road drying out, we were able to spin tops, by whipping the top into a
continuous spin using a “lash’’ of cord tid to a hazel rod.
Point – to – Point
The highlight of Spring for us, however, was the
Point-to-Point races in Clonmoney. Many “sacrifices’’ were made during Lent, to
have pocket money for the Races. What excitement! Bookies
shouting, horses racing and jockeys in their caps and colours, sitting on
saddles, to stop them from falling off. So different to riding the neighbour’s
donkey, when we fell off at every twist and turn! Then there were many
side-shows too at the races, all very exciting, including the “wheel of
fortune’’, where lots of prizes could be won; roulette tables where lots of
pennies could be lost, all shouting: “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! don’t be late!’’ Of
course there were plenty of sweet stalls too, and they did their own shouting –
needless to say they didn’t have to shout too hard at us! Yes, Easter Monday was a very special day! With the school closed for Easter, going through the field to Mass in Sixmilebridge, in the early morning for the Holy Week Masses, is also a special memory. At Kilmurry, we knew everybody for miles around; it is so different in the city. There was always so many things to do, at all times of
the year. There was constant contact too, including a share of fist fights and a
few “bloody noses’’ – Kilmurry gave me a great start, so I will finish now with
a little verse:
Kilmurry is a lovely place in the east of
It’s where we learned to read and write in
the little schoolhouse there,
There too, we learned to flick and flake the
sliotar in some field
So I hope your plans for school and pitch
have now been signed and sealed.
The people of Kilmurry deserve a man like
I pray that God will help you, in
everything you do.