Waving the Tipp Flag 60 Years Ago
Memories play as important a part in the lives of players and supporters as the immediate impact of games and one memory that is as fresh and vital as the day itself in the mind of Austin Crowe, the well-known proprietor of Dundrum House Hotel, is May 29 sixty years ago, when Cork and Tipperary drew in the first round of the 1949 Munster senior hurling championship.
Austin was a young sixteen year old, going on seventeen, in the Agricultural College, run by the Salesians at Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick.
He has fond memories of the year spent there, remembering it as a place where gaelic games were strongly promoted and where the boys were extremely well looked after by the religious order founded by St. John Bosco.
Hurling and football provided the boys with relief from class and study. In fact the Fathers gave the boys plenty of free time to listen to matches broadcast on Radio Eireann by Micheal O Hehir or to attend the games themselves. On these occasions the boys gave vent to their county loyalties
Tipp v Cork
One such game was the first round of the Munster championship between Cork and Tipperary in May 1949. As the game approached the rivalry and excitement between the supporters on both sides got keener. Unfortunately for Austin there were only fifteen Tipperary boys in the college as against about forty from Cork The rivalry found particular expression during practice sessions in the hurling field.
Austin's greatest support, verbally and physically, came from his best friend, Sean O'Brien, who hailed from Grawn, Toomevara. Neither he nor Sean were big men physically and had to take a lot of stick. Another supporter was Jim Lanigan, son of the famous Dick of Bloody Sunday fame, from Grangemockler.
One of the finest supporters of the games in the college was an Antrim man, Fr. Campbell, who tried to steer an impartial path between the Cork and Tipp rivalries coming up to the game. He must have concluded that support had skewed too far in favour of Cork.
On the morning of the match the boys had their usual two-hour study between breakfast and lunch and Austin was sitting in his desk dreaming of the match when next there was a peremptory call from Fr. Campbell, who was supervising.
'Mr. Crowe: Up to the desk!'
He answered the command and was ordered outside the door. Not knowing what he had done he slumped outside like the poor scholar.
Soon Fr. Campbell joined him.
'You're going to get some doing today,' he said, 'the Cork boys are very well prepared. They have an effigy of Ring and all kinds of rattles and banners.'
'What can I do?' asked the bewildered Austin.
'Up to my room,' replied the priest.
Arriving in the room Fr. Campbell handed him two large curtains, one blue and the other yellow.
'Here's a needle and thread, Stitch them together,' he said.
Austin set about the task and stitched them into the semblance of a flag. When Fr. Campbell returned he had a sweeping brush with him, from which he took the handle. They tacked the flag to it and rolled it up, leaving it behind the door.
After study the Cork boys started parading round the quadrangle. Austin had drafted in Sean O'Brien and told him of his 'secret weapon' and they bided their time.
The buses came in and as they did Austin and Sean collected the flag and unfurled it. They marched up the quad behind the flag and the other Tipp fellows fell in behind them. Some of the neutrals joined in also, particularly the Kerry fellows.
A Colour Party
They got on the bus and as it moved off they put the flag out the window and it created a great splash of colour along the side of the vehicle. They had another secret weapon, the college bell, which Sean had taken with him.
They arrived at their parking area in Limerick on the Docks and all alighted. They fell into two lines and marched side by side out to the Gaelic Grounds. As they crossed Sarsfields Bridge they made a very colourful sight, one group following the effigy of Ring and the second the large flag of Tipperary. The addition of the college bell gave the latter the edge in the noise stakes..
Austin remembers the excitement still, the beautiful day, the arrival at the pitch. Tipp's victory in the minor game, his pride in the senior team, particularly the four West men, Tony Brennan, Paddy Furlong, Willie Carroll and Jim Devitt. Even though the game ended in a draw he believed that Tipp shaded it on the day because of the victory of the minors.
And, of course, they did win the replay, which set up one of the glorious periods in Tipp's hurling history!
Munster Senior Hurling Championship Program, Cork v Tipperary, at Semple Stadium, May 31, 2009