The West's Awake
Senior Hurling Final day in the West is a good day to reflect on the contribution of the division to the fortunes of the county at a senior level. Whatever may have been the story in the past there isn't a shadow of doubt that the West has contributed enormously to the present revival of Tipperary's hurling fortunes.
Most commentators on last Sunday's victory over Galway have made the point that the most impressive line on the field of play was our inside forward line, which scored 1-12 of the team's total of 1-17. And,everyone reading this today is aware that the three forwards who made such an impression were Pat Fox of Eire Óg, Cormac Bonnar of Cashel King Cormacs and Nicholas English of Lattin-Cullen.
But the contribution of this division didn't end there. Of the total panel of twenty-three, no fewer that nine players came from the West, representative of five clubs. As well as those mentioned above, Clonoulty-Rossmore were represented by Declan Ryan, Joe Hayes and John Kennedy, Golden-Kilfeacle by John Leamy, and Cashel had two more Bonnars, Conal and Colm. Significantly, all of them, with the exception of John Leamy, made their contribution to victory on the field of play.
Observers from other division are wont to make the point that the West was a late arrival on the hurling sene and that much wasn't heard from the division before the eighties. There is a certain truth in the observation but it is by no means the whole truth.
Since the division was formed in 1930 its hurlers have made a respectable contribution to the county's senior hurling victories. During that period Tipperary won twelve senior All-Irelands and the men from the West had a contribution to make in eleven of them.
The exception was 1930 when the division had no representative. However, there were two who played their part in the 1937 victory over Kilkenny at Killarney. Jack Gleeson of Shanballa, Cashel and Bill O'Donnell of Golden and Eire Óg, Gleeson played at centrefield, went to London later the same year and won an All-Ireland junior medal with London the following year. O'Donnell played corner-forward and was to help Eire Óg to become the first team from the division to take the county senior hurling title six years later.
In 1945 the West had two representatives again. At right-corner back was the ten and a half stone Jim Devitt of Cashel, a most improbable occupant of the position. Declining health meant that he retired after getting a second medal in 1949 at the age of twenty-seven years.
At the other end of the field was the Clonoulty-Rossmore star, Tony Brennan, playing at full-forward. It was to be the first of four All-Irelands for Tony. He was the only representative (excepting Jim Devitt in 1949) from the division on the successful three-in-a-row teams of 1949, 1950 and 1951. In these All-Ireland he changed ends and gave sterling service at full-back, providing maximum cover for Tony Reddin in the days when Michael McGrath's indescretion against Conor Donovan would have been regarded as a mere passing irritation.
There's a bit of a blank in the 1958 team. The man between the posts in that All-Ireland was John O'Grady of 'Culbaire' fame. However, his shadow on the occasion was Terry Moloney from Arravale Rovers. Terry had made his name with St. Flannan's College, won an All-Ireland minor medal with Tipperary in 1957 and, still a minor, beaten unexpectedly by Limerick in the first round of the 1958 championship. His prowess with the minors was sufficient to have him drafted in as cover for John O'Grady in the 1958 senior campaign.
Terry Moloney started a great tradition of West goalkeepers on successful Tipperary teams. He himself wasn't quite so successful. He took over from O'Grady, who retired because of faulty vision, in the 1959 championship but Tipperary were massacred by a rampant Waterford in the Munster semi-final. He was again unfortunate to be on the losing side against Wexford in the 1960 All-Ireland. So, he had to be satisfied with his 1958 medal because he was out of favour by the following year.
His place on the 1961 team was taken by Kickhams player, Donal O'Brien. Donal had a shorter innings between the posts but became the proud possessor of two All-Ireland medals when Tipperary succeeded against Dublin in 1961 and against Wexford in 1962.
The remarkable supply of goalkeepers from the West division, begun by Terry Moloney in 1958, was to continue until 1972, with the exception of 1963, when Toomevara's Roger Mounsey occupied the position. (Interestingly the tradition is revived in the 1989 side with John Leamy of Golden-Kilfeacle holding the position of sub-goalie.)
John O'Donoghue of Arravale Rovers took over in 1964 and guarded the net in that year's All-Ireland victory over Kilkenny and in the 1965 success against Wexford. He might have had four-in-a-row had Tipperary not been beaten in the 1967 and 1968 finals.
John was replaced by Peter O'Sullivan of Cashel King Cormacs during the 1970 championship and held the position until 1972. He was on the last All-Ireland winning side in 1971 and had two other West players for company in the victory over Kilkenny. John Kelly of Cappawhite played at full-back on that successful side and Dinny Ryan of Sean Treacys played at wing-forward. It was the biggest representation the West ever had on an All-Ireland winning side and may have been an omen of future developments in thecounty.
Therefore, our present players, who will represent the division on September 3, can carry into the All-Ireland final a great belief in their own contribution to the present revival of the county's fortunes but also the knowledge that they are the bearers of a very repectable tradition, which has contributed significantly to the county's senior hurling success since the division was formed.
West Tipperary Division Senior Hurling Final Program at Emly, August 20, 1989