Colm Bonnar's hurling record includes at least one rare distinction, that of having won All-Ireland honours in different grades, senior, intermediate, under-21 and minor. With a little luck this distinction might have been unique: in 1985 he played on the county junior team beaten in the All-Ireland by Wexford. When one one adds a Fitzgibbon Cup medal, a couple of All-Ireland colleges B medals the record becomes even more impressive.
Born in Cashel in 1964 his first hurling was done in the Christian Brothers Primary School under the eye of Brother O'Grady. Also giving guidance at the time were Danny Morrissey and Roger Kennedy, the latter before he gave up teaching for the freedom of farming. Colm played in under-11 and under-13 competitions captained the county under-13 primary schools against Clare primary schools.
Progressing to secondary school he was on the team in 1978 which was beaten in the Rice Cup final. He went on from there to win a Croke Cup, a Fitzgerald Cup, a MacGabhann Cup in football, and culminated a very successful period with All-Ireland colleges successes in 1980 and 1982, after victory in the Corn Phadraig in Munster. Playing at centreback in 1982 he captained the side.
His successes at school level were paralleled at club level. In 1976 there was county success at under-12 in hurling but defeat in the football final. This was followed up by under-14 success in 1978, under-16 success in 1980 and county minor honours in 1980; In the same year there was victory in the west under-21 football championship.
So much talent and ability spilled over into county recognition. In 1982 there was All-Ireland minor success at cornerback and this was followed by three years at under-21 level. The years brought him three Munster medals and one All-Ireland. In 1983 there was defeat by Galway at Tullamore and by Kilkenny the year after at Waterford. Victory finally came in 1985 against Kilkenny at Waterford. The winning margin was narrow, 1-10 to 2-6, but it was very sweet after defeat in the two previous years. Colm was again at cornerback and, according to one match report, 'maintained his consistently sound performances over the season:
Colm almost won a second All-Ireland in 1985. He played on the junior side which qualified for the AllIreland but lost by a point to Wexford at Kilkenny. Colm qualified to play in this grade by virtue of being unavailable to play senior with Cashel the previous year. He impressed the county senior selectors sufficiently, with his performances at under-21 and junior levels, to be drafted into the senior panel for the league at the end of 1985. From then until 1998, fourteen years inclusive, he was to be a member of that panel.
His first championship outing was against Clare at Ennis in the 1986 championship. Not a very auspicious opening. Nine points up early in the second half, Tipperary eventuaJly slumped to a 2-10 to 1-11 defeat. Many would regard this defeat as the nadir in the county's fortunes, which had given us little to shout about since 1971. It led to a think-in about where we were going, the appointment of Babs Keating as manager and the lowest point became the darkest hour before the dawn of a new era.
The new management took over in September and started out on a campaign to end the famine in Tipperary senior hurling. Colm Bonnar was very much part of that campaign. Between then and September 1989, when All-Ireland success came, Tipperary played forty-two competitive games in league and championship. The extent of Colm's contribution can be measured by the number of these games he played. The player who played the most was Conor O'Donovan with thirty-eight but Colm was a clear second with thirty-six. Also, he had a record, uninterrupted sequence of thirty-one games until he was dropped, in favour of Declan Carr, for the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. He returned for the All-Ireland.
During this period he won three Munster finals, in 1987,1988 and 1999, and the first of his two All-Ireland senior medals in 1989. The previous year he was honoured with an All-Star, partnering George O'Connor at centrefield. Bobby Ryan, Declan Ryan and Nicky English were also in the side. He captained the side on the tour to the U.S., visiting New York and Florida. A National League title was won in 1988 against Offaly and one lost the following year against Galway. Prospects looked bright for Colm at this stage of his career and he was to continue playing for a further nine years but success was to be sparse. His second All-Ireland came in 1991 with victory over Kilkenny. There was an Oireachtas medal the previous year. Two Railway Cup medals were won in 1995 and 1996. There was a second National League medal in 1994. The third senior All-Ireland medal remained elusive and he had to make do with a fifth Munster medal in 1993. Everything might have come right in 1997 but instead there was defeat by Clare at both Munster and All-Ireland levels.
Nevertheless there were consolations. There was some fine success at college level with the Waterford Institute of Technology. He captained the freshers footballers to a B All-Ireland. He won the division 1 hurling league in 1986 and 1987. WIT was the only IT in the competition. Institutes of Technology and such Third Level places were excluded from the Fitzgibbon Cup until 1987-88. When Colm went back to WIT for further study in the mid-nineties he helped it to its second Fitzgibbon victory in 1995. (They beat U.C.D., managed by brother, Conal, in the final.) He had trained the school to its first in 1992.
As well as giving dedicated service to the county Colm has for years been the backbone of the Cashel King Cormac's team. He made his debut with the senior team in 1981 and helped the club to a Crosco Cup victory. Further Crosco Cup medals were won in 1983, 1986,1990,1994 and 1996. The eighties were not a very fruitful time for the club and he had to wait until 1988 for his first west senior hurling medal. Cashel were defeated by Borrisoleigh in the county semi-final. There were further divisional titles won in 1990, 1991, 1993 and 1994. The highlight of club achievement was the winning of the county final for the first time in 1991, after losing to Holycross-Ballycahill the previous year. Colm was captain of that victorious side which went on to take Munster club honours before going down to Kiltormer after a three-game classic in the All-Ireland semi-final. On a lesser note he helped the club to their first ever west senior football title in 1990, making it a senior double. He is also the proud possessor of a county junior football medal from 1984.
Because of his domestic and work commitments Colm transferred to Dunhill, Co. Waterford in 1997 and played with the club for a number of years. He won two divisional intermediate championships with the club, football in 1997 and hurling in 1999. Unfortunately they were beaten in both county finals.
Colm has an impressive list of honours to his credit but even more impressive is the complete commitment he has given to club and county over a quarter of a century. This made him the most valuable member of any. team. He never gave less than his all and his superior physical fitness ensured that most always he gave more than most. His solo runs and tackling were phenomenal. He was a player so full of courage that he never stood back from anything. On the other hand he was always the fairest of players who never had his name taken by a referee. He played centrefield quite a bit but was probably most at home in the centreback position. He liked nothing better than meeting the ball and taking it out of the air amid a flash of hurleys. His sense of position on the field of play was superb af:his anticipation was uncanny. His contribution Cashel and Tipperary can never be forgotten.
West Tipperary G.A.A. by J.J. Kennedy. Pub. by West Tipperary G.A.A. Board, 2001, pp 395-396