One of the major developments in the 1998 county senior hurling championship was the introduction of relegation at divisional level. The brainchild of the Games Development Committee, the intention behind it was to reduce the number of senior teams in the county: there were too many and the result was doing the standard of senior hurling no good.
It was decided that one team would go down in each of the four divisions in 1998 and 1999. With the winning team in the intermediate championship getting promotion to senior status in each of these years, the result would be a reduction of six in the number of senior teams, from 32 to 26, over the period.
The divisions were given freedom to decide their method of relegation and the chief one used was a play-off among teams defeated in the first round of the championship. In the south, where the championship was played on a league basis, a decision was taken that the lowest team at the end of the league stage would be relegated. Cahir found themselves in that position and were relegated after two years at senior grade.
The relegated teams in the other divisions were Lorrha in the north, Gortnahoe in the mid and Arravale Rovers in the west. They were beaten by Borrisokane, Drom-Inch and Eire Og respectively.
Loss of Status
Of the four teams to be relegated probably the greatest heartache was felt in Lorrha. Whereas the other teams have oscillated between senior and intermediate status over the decades, Lorrha has enjoyed uninterrupted senior statue since 1946 and won five divisional finals. In contrast, Arravale won west divisional honours twice in 1966 and 1970, while Gortnahoe and Cahir have never achieved senior success.
Lorrha gained senior status as a result of winning the intermediate title of 1946. The north final was played in November of that year but the county semi-final and final weren't played until the end of 1947. In the semi-final Lorrha beat Galtee St. Pecauns at Thurles on November 16 and the final, against Moycarkey-Borris, was played at Gaile on the first Sunday in December. The choice of venue was very interesting, only a mile from the parish of Moycarkey-Borris. It was as close as it was possible to get to Moycarkey without actually being in it!
No report of the match was published in any of the local papers. Probably the result didn't please the powers that were in control in the county at the time. As far as has been discovered the result was 4-4 to 3-4 in favour of Lorrha. The referee let everything run its course in a fairly tough game. The Lorrha centre-back, Paddy O'Sullivan, retired with an injury five minutes into the second half. When he went into Thurles to have attention the doctor, on hearing of the match, said: 'I can expect more so!' He was unnecessarily pessimistic as Billy Hogan, who had to get a few stitches in the mouth, was the only other casualty.
As a result of winning the north final the team went senior in 1947, getting to the semi-final before going down to Borrisileigh. Of course, the team got a great new recruit in February of that year when Tony Reddin came across the bridge of Portumna from Mullagh. He was to make a name for himself with Lorrha and Tipperary over the next decade. His presence on the Lorrha team in 1948 was most responsible for the team's success in the north final and qualification for the county final in which they went down to Holycross-Ballycahill.
All of that was fifty years and more ago and it returned the club to the status it has held from the foundation of the G.A.A. until 1940. In the latter year it had been regraded to intermediate and it remained in that status until winning the championship in 1946. It is hoped that the club's present relegation is for an even shorter period. There may even be some good to come from a stay in the intermediate ranks, an opportunity to rejuvenate the club and put it on a stronger footing. Probably the greatest motivation will be a determination to get back to senior status.
For the record then, and not something to be proud of, as Ken Hogan pointed out to me at the Toome-Blackrock game, the Lorrha team which was defeated 2-7 to 0-9 by Borrisokane in the relegation playoff at Cloughjordan on September 6 was as follows: Ken Hogan, Cathal McIntyre, Tom Madden, Martin Younge, Stephen Hogan, John Mclntyre, David Haughton, John Madden, Enda Moran, Barry Moran, Declan O'Meara, Noel Hogan, Pat Kennedy, Aidan Mclntyre, Rory Coen. Subs: John Sherlock for B. Moran, Padraic Madden for A. McIntyre, Donal O'Donoghue for Kennedy.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1999, p 23