Tom Duffy of Lorrha
Cheering on Lorrha last Sunday, in the county semi-final at Nenagh, was Tom Duffy. He followed the play and gave the players plenty of support and much advice as Lorrha's fortunes rose and fell. In the end when the North men had beaten Drom-Inch he was delighted and full of comment. Today, when Lorrha take the field against MoycarkeyBorris in the final, he will be there to cheer them on to victory with as much enthusiasm as any man from the parish.
It's a safe bet that Tom will be the oldest man in Thurles today. He's on the verge of ninety years and, if the flesh has failed and a walking aid has become a must, the spirit remains undimmed. This spirit was seen in his attendance at the launching of the club history at Redwood Castle earlier this year: Tom had to be manhandled up four flights of stairs to the Great Hall but he endured the discomfort to be present.
Lorrha have won seven divisional senior hurling championships to date and Tom has the unique distinction of having attended all of them. When it is realised that the time span covered is from 1905 to 1984 the extent of his longevity becomes apparent! He shouldn't have gone to the 1905 final, played against the famous De Wets at Terryglass on April 8, 1906, because he was too young. But he hid up the road from the house and was smuggled aboard the brake that was carrying the team from Rathcabbin. Later he was present at the priests' house in the village when the photograph of the team was taken.
It's his wife, Emily, who has the better memories of the 1914 championship. Her brother, Bill Harding, was on the team and she remembers the semi-final against Borrisokane, also at Terryglass: 'I travelled in a horse and sidecar with my father. There were a lot of flags and banners and a band played the Borrisokane team on the field. Breege O'Meara - she was Lack's sister- she was with me and as the band passed us, she shouted at them: 'You'll play them in but you won't play them out'." And they didn't. Lorrha won and went on to defeat Templederry in the final and give Tom his first North medal. The team didn't play very well and one report had this to say: 'Lorrha played a much better game against Borrisokane but probably since then the players suffered from swelled heads and failed to attend practices."
Tom won his second medal in 1924 when Lorrha defeated Nenagh in the final. Again, the team travelled by brake. Willie Egan in Birr provided it and it carried twenty-four passengers and was pulled by two horses. Tom remembers someone playing a melodeon and they had a good sing-song. They carried their own sandwiches and had a feed after the game. Nenagh weren't much good and Lorrha won by 7 -3 to 0-3.
Another memory from those times was a tournament in Shinrone. Lorrha had a shortage of hurleys and when Tom had three broken there was none left. He got a lath off a timber rail, paired the handle with a penknife and, in his words, played as good a game as he ever did.
Lorrha never won a county final but Tom won three in his time! This might appear strange but there's a simple enough explanation. Toomevara won the north championship in 1923. On their way to victory they had a very difficult time overcoming Lorrha in the semifinal. It was a game in which Tom had an outstanding performance. Later, when Toomevara picked their selection for the county semi-final Tom was included and won a county medal when the team defeated the south selection.
He won another county medal when Mountshannon defeated Newmarker-onFergus in the Clare championship at O'Callaghan's Mills. He's rather vague about the date and he didn't get a medal. He was invited to play by McNamara, who had a pub in Mountshannon. He travelled by motorcar, driven by Bill Smith of Connaght Street in Birr. Nicky Forde also travelled. After the victory they returned to Mountshannon and 'I was barman in McNamaras until six o'clock in the morning'.
Tom's third medal came from Co. Galway and was won with Tynagh. Ignatius Harney was the contact man. Before the game they were pucking about and Tom was striking very impressively. Harney rushed in and said to him: 'Stop Tom, they'll notice you'. There was an interesting sequel to this game. Tom, alias Joe Hynes, an egg-buyer for the Clanrickarde estate, was picked to play for Galway. He was referred to in despatches as the 'Henman for Clanrickarde' and word was sent back to the selectors that 'The hen man is gone away'.
Ah! them were the days! And surely the memories will come flooding back today as Tom looks out on the blue and white. The scene will be changed by the comforts of modern developments. But the spirit and enthusiasm for the game will be the same that took Tom over fence and style, by brake and bicycle to places familiar and unfamiliar down all those years.
County S.H. Final Program, Thurles, Oct. 14, 1984