Tag Archives: Mount Sion

And then there were four 2013

After the Lord Mayor’s Ball of  the Minors triumph – and don’t think that party is forgotten about as far as this blog is concerned – it’s the back-to-work hangover that is the county championship. For the second year running the defending champions were felled at the quarter-final stages, De La Salle’s exit giving a headache to those who blithely assumed that Michael Ryan’s uneasy abdication could be swiftly followed by the coronation by acclamation of Derek McGrath. All that is neither here nor there to me at the moment. This year has seen a renewed interest in the goings-on in Cumann Lúthchleas Gael Michael Mac Craith, and the presence of Barry Whelan suggests there might be life in Tramore hurling yet – an old friend of my brother who was at the linked Portlaw game was of the opinion that Tramore is inexorably becoming a hurling club, with more hurling teams at underage level than football teams. Until that day arrives though, my interest in the Senior county hurling title is purely academic. And by ‘academic’, I mean ‘riddled with prejudice’. In short, who should a supporter of the county team want to see win? As always, the criteria are:

  • how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
  • have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
  • a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
  • Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change

The semi-final lineup looks like this:

Ballygunner v Abbeyside
Passage v Mount Sion

With De La Salle out, the Big Two from the city loom large, winners of forty-seven titles between them and fifteen in the last twenty years.  The Monastery men may not be the force they once were but old habits die hard, not least when hearing the tale last Monday at the Minor homecoming from an Erins Own man who was my mother’s neighbour in Poleberry, of how certain members of their alone-it-once-stood Harty Cup win in 1953 were ringers (money quote – “I asked him when Clover Meats became eligible to play in the Harty Cup”). Yes, I realise it was a very long time ago and I really should grow up about such a story rather than getting a perverse delight in it. Still, I’m not in the humour to grow up just yet, and it’s not really a tie-breaking story. You’d want to be a right killjoy to be neutral and wish ill on Passage (county titles: 0). The same is true of the other semi-final. It has to be Abbeyside all the way (county hurling titles: 0). When you look at the spread of clubs represented in the Waterford team in Croke Park on Sunday week last, it would be an affirmation of the robust strength of hurling in the county should we have new names on the county cup.

Given the criteria established above, it would look like Abbeyside would be the favoured choice of the neutral. Since Lismore won the title in 1993 the trophy has only once gone out past mid-county, to Ballyduff Upper in 2007. It would be nice to see that rectified. However, there’s one caveat to that – football. Abbeyside have had plenty of success in the guise of Ballinacourty, and there’s no one telling me that they are different clubs. So let’s all hope and pray for a Passage win. And prayer is what they’ll need, for with my imprimatur they are surely doomed.

And then there were four 2012

Ove the last few years I’ve posted about who I would like to see win the Waterford county hurling championship. From the quarter-finals onwards I’d list from 1-8 who I think it would be most beneficial to win the title , in terms of personal satisfaction (a trivial matter; Tramore are so far away from winning it that it’s easy to be dispassionate), future prospects for the winners in the Munster/All-Ireland series, and the joy it would bring to the masses. Please note that if you want to read something about the competition itself, you’re in the wrong place. Thomas Keane and Tomás McCarthy both cater for that market, the latter also covering the football championship. The criteria can be listed as follows:

  • how long have you waited? The longer the better. A string of close misses in the recent past helps
  • have you undergone a rapid rise from the Intermediate / Junior ranks?
  • a slight bias towards counties from way out West to counteract the perception that the city is too dominant
  • Mount Sion will always be last. If that ever changes, we’ll know Waterford hurling has undergone radical change

This year I was too lazy busy to do it from the quarter-final stage, so we find ourselves at the semi-finals shorn of the defending champions as Ballygunner went down to Mount Sion.

29/9/12 at Walsh Park (5pm)
Mount Sion v De La Salle
30/9/12 at Fraher Field (6pm)
Dungarvan v Fourmilewater

The Gunners-Sion game might have presented a bit of a dilemma had I managed to get my act together before the quarter-finals. I’ve been pondering of late whether I’m being too hard on the Monastery men. It’s a source of some pride for our county that we have such a robust presence in one of the truly urban areas of Ireland and the recent travails of Mount Sion would make you wonder whether they could be heading the same way as Erin’s Own before them. Would I have wanted Mount Sion to topple Ballygunner, the club who have so flattered to deceive when they ventured outside the county as our representatives? Not putting together a crib sheet before the weekend has spared me the choice. Mount Sion were only playing with our minds. They’re still evil. Factor in the ease with which De La Salle seem to adapt to the burden of being county champions (two county titles, two Munster titles, two losses to the eventual All-Ireland champions) and more personal angst, and the all-city clash is a no-brainer. DLS all the way.

The other fixture is much more intriguing. A quick Google reveals that Dungarvan have not won the county hurling title since 1941 and Fourmilewater have never even reached the final. There’s obviously a clear difference between the size of the respective clubs, with the Dungarvan the winningest (to use that awful, but awfully useful, American phrase) team in the county football championship, so you’d think that ickle Fourmilewater should get the support of all right-thinking neutrals. But wait, who is that further down the football roll of honour? The Nire have won the football championship six times since Dungarvan’s last win and as any fule kno The Nire and Fourmilewater are the effectively the same club. Not quite the David and Goliath clash it seems.

And yet it is. I have a fondness for the Nire valley since happy days spent there with the Cub Scouts back in days of yore. We were all only too eager to jump on the Ballymacarbry bandwagon when the ladies footballers were sweeping all before them in the 1990’s, and it would be great for them to get something back. Factor in the marvel that is a club with as small a catchment area as the Nire valley fielding two competitive senior teams, and how could you object to Michael Ryan’s lot landing the big one? You couldn’t. Come on Fourmilewater.

Two degrees of separation

Having found myself with some time on my hands recently, I vowed to review most/all of the Waterford GAA books that have come out in recent times. Alas – not that there’s anything ‘alas’ about it, if you catch my drift – my circumstances have changed to the point where the time available for reading has diminished significantly.

This is a good thing, and not just because of the obvious reason. It was with a sense of dread that I surveyed some of the books. I don’t want to be vicious to people pouring their hearts out on paper, but if a book is cack then it’s the duty of the reviewer (sez he, donning his pomposity hat) to say it’s cack. Worse still, it would have been tempting to compare them to the first – and, by the looks of it, last – book I read, David Smith’s marvellous study of John Keane.

It’s the book that keeps on giving, as I found out when discussing locating his grave in Tramore with my father and brother. Not only did I find out that John Keane and my grandmother were on first-name terms, Keane being a regular visitor to the house to check up on my uncle in Keane’s role as a Waterford selector in the late 1950’s. I also found out that the tickle in my memory regarding the Jack Flavin mentioned regularly throughout the book in his capacity as chairman of Mount Sion was correct, i.e. that the man who was even more Mr Mount Sion than Pat Fanning was my mother’s next-door neighbour!

One of the battier thoughts I had during my Luvvie Darling-like period of rest was to write a book on the history of Waterford GAA – if Kilmacow GAA  can lend itself to the Senan Cooke-penned doorstop that I saw every day while doing research in Waterford library, then why not our entire county? It’s not going to happen for me this time around, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a gap in the market. Knowing Jack Flavin is gone, resting at a point roughly equidistant between my grandmother and John Keane in Tramore, and that my uncle who knew them all so intimately has been ravaged by the cigarette curse that took Keane so heartbreakingly early, it seems urgent that someone do this before the memories of a pre-digital era are lost forever. Will no-one step forth to perform this task for their county?

(Image: the 172 pupils of De La Salle College when it opened on 4th September 1949. My uncle Billy Shanahan – no relation to Dan or Maurice – is no 23, middle of second row from the front. The late John Barron of the 1959 All-Ireland winners is no 81, second last from left to right in row five.)

The anti-Ozymandias

In his history of the first 100 years of the GAA, the late Marcus de Búrca had only one thing of note to say about Tramore and its place in GAA lore: Tramore had the honour of staging the first national championship. It’s no disrespect to the people beavering away with Mícheal MacCraith that that’s about the limit of Tramore’s place in overarching history of the GAA. In fact, I was so complacent about Tramore not turning up anywhere important in the GAA’s story that I almost missed the significance of a line on the second last page of The Unconquerable Keane where David Smith mentions  John Keane’s final resting place “overlooking the broad sands of Tramore”. Could it be possible that I have been paying my respects at my family plot all these years, unaware of the giant of the game so close by? I took the five minute stroll to the graveyard and after a systematic search found this:

And there he was. Where were the cherubim and seraphim? The Ionic columns? The pompous acclamation of the man of whom Mick Mackey said “there never was, nor never will be, a greater hurler”? The sheer modesty of the headstone was in itself moving. This was the spot where the following exchange took place on the 4th of October 1975:

Pat Fanning noticed a lone figure still standing at the graveside. He was a giant of a man but his head was bowed and his great frame was racked with tears as he struggled to control his emotions. Pat recognised the great Nicky Rackard and, approaching him, told him of the reception and that he was welcome to join the other hurlers. Rackard, his face streaked with tears, declined the invitation and said, ‘Pat, I came to bury John Keane, and all I want to do now is go home.’

It seems a shame that not enough is made of this location. Then again, that would run counter to the minimalist nature of the final resting place of John Keane.

One final personal observation. Speaking of this discovery to my father I mischievously noted that it was strange that my grandmother, who had a seam running through her consisting of pure antipathy towards Mount Sion, would thirty-three years later consent to be interred in the same ground as their greatest legend. “Sure, she liked him,” said my father. Truly a man like none other.

Waterford GAA results archive – knave of clubs

[table id=233/]

With Ballygunner getting ready to have another tilt at the Munster club title, it seems like a good time to roll out the complete list of results for Waterford clubs since the competition started in such a half-assed fashion back in 1964. Complete, that is, except for Lismore’s result against Ballyduff of Kerry in 1992. The Irish Times didn’t think it was worth noting, Feel free to comment on the Old Lady of D’Olier Street (yes, I know it’s not there any more) and its derisory attitude to the GAA below (Update: got it. Unsurprisingly the Indo is a bit more thorough).

Our record isn’t as bad as I expected it to be. It’s certainly a lot better than our record at Under-21 level, a competition that started around the same time.  We’ve a winning record against Limerick teams and a surprisingly good one against Tipperary teams. Tipp’s county championship is ferociously competitive with nine different winners over the last 20 years compared to only five in Waterford, so their teams are probably not as robust as the likes of Ballygunner and Mount Sion.

Aha, you may say, how does that explain our crappy records against teams from Cork and Clare? Our recent efforts against Cork teams haven’t been so bad, but in the early days of the competition we were routinely mown down by the likes of Blackrock, Midleton and St Finbarr’s. It’s been a while since a team from Cork was inherently scary. The same cannot be said of the Clare champions. The hoodoo the Banner had over Waterford teams in the ’90’s was brutal, knocking us out no fewer than nine times in the twelve years between 1991 and 2002. Mount Sion didn’t beat Sixmilebridge in 2003 – they exorcised them. Now if only we could get all Max Von Sydow on the Galway champions . . .

And then there was one . . . Padraig Ó Fainín RIP

The original Déiseach has died. There will be plenty of obituaries, positive, negative and even a few neutral ones. It would be preposterous to suggest that I knew much about the man, but given my appropriation of his nom de plume (guerre?) for online purposes – find deiseach on the web and the odds are that it is yours truly, unless you went to Degrassi Junior High – it would be strange to let his passing pass by without comment.

The fact that he strode the Waterford GAA scene like a colossus for several decades might be important too. Pat Fanning, as he was universally known in our family, was in one way a figure of mystique – former President of the association which seemed a very big deal in the days when Waterford’s only contribution to the GAA scene seemed to be an object lesson in how not to run things. Yet this was a giant whose grandchildren I was pretty well acquainted with. A man who managed to juggle the seemingly contradictory impulses of being conservative enough to want to retain the infamous ban on GAA members playing soccer and rugby, yet was statesmanlike enough to effectively prevent a split in the association when it became clear that the settled will was to abandon The Ban. Someone who was so partisan about Mount Sion that when I asked my uncle, a fine hurler in his day with De La Salle, whether he was really that bad that said uncle, not a man given to overblown comments, observed that an occasion arose when he (my uncle, not Pat) was instrumental in a shock DLS win over MS and Déiseach couldn’t bring himself to mention his name in the News & Star report. Yet this was a partisan who when he met my brother a number of years back beamed with delight to be introduced to the nephew of the man whom he confirmed was indeed a fine hurler in his day.

So my impressions of the man and the myth are contradictory, to say the least. In the final analysis though, in a week where I read how a games journalist spent 1.7% of the last decade playing World of Warcraft, you wonder how much of Pat Fanning’s life was devoted to the association that he loved. It’s a legacy of service that, as this remarkable article from the Evening Herald about his son’s work in Dublin testifies, ripples out to this day and will do so for generations to come. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Update: comments thread on AFR here.

Update II: article from Dermot Crowe of the Sindo here (h/t to Clonliffe Cat over on AFR).

You learn a new thing every day


During the week I received an all-too-rare comment, a post from HURLER saying that “Ruairi Og will hurl you’s off the park on sunday…” After getting over the initial sarky amusement that someone had homed in on a Googled reference to De La Salle (the school) being the All-Ireland champions (last year), I wondered who ‘Ruairi Og’ was, clearly the latest great white dope of Antrim hurling.

Which (and I’m thinking of making this the motto for this website) shows you what I know. Ruairí Óg is the name of Cushendall GAA. There’s a doctrinal thesis out there waiting to be written on the historiography of GAA club names, and a whole chapter could be devoted to why people come up with names that are never used. I’d heard of Cushendall yet I don’t feel one bit embarrassed that I didn’t know their real name (any more than HURLER should feel embarrassed by not knowing the distinction between the two DLS’s, it should be noted). One of the great clubs of recent times, St Mary’s, are known to absolutely no one as that. And my own club trade under the mouthful that is Michael Mac Craith, a name that I’ve only ever seen unaccompanied by the pregnant explanation that it’s Tramore on the clunky old scoreboard that they used to have in Walsh Park.

So will it be Ruairí Óg (Cushendall) or De La Salle (club) winning through on Sunday? Waterford clubs hold no fear for Antrim clubs, as Dunloy demonstrated in beating Mount Sion in 2003. But De La Salle have shown that they are not hamstrung by the demons that have held back Waterford clubs over the years. I’ll stick my neck out – based on the aforementioned lack of nerves and their gradual ascent towards the top meaning their presence here is no fluke, De La Salle to win. Either way, thanks to HURLER for his / her interest, and best of wishes to the good folk of Cushendall.

It had to happen II

Last Sunday was a noteworthy day in the history of Waterford hurling. It was, of course, the day my grandmother shuffled off to her eternal reward after 103 years on this mortal coil. Kieran O’Connor was later to be heard on WLR reading out a list of famous Salleians who never got to get their hands on the county cup as De La Salle won said trophy for the first time in 94 years. Inexplicably he never mentioned her name, despite her at-times vicious support for them. It should be noted that the support was not predicated on love for De La Salle but hatred for Mount Sion, hatred she passed on to what will surely be the next seven generations she spawned.

What made her extraordinary as a Waterford supporter – hating Mount Sion hardly cuts the mustard in that respect – was that she was probably one of only a handful of people who were present at both of the county’s victories in the All-Ireland hurling final. Doubly extraordinary was the fact in 1959 she was cheering for Kilkenny! Yep, so embittered was she at what she perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be the malign influence that Cnoc Sion held over Waterford hurling that she delved into a vague ancestral relationship with Co Kilkenny and rooted for them over Waterford.

Things had improved in 2002 to the point that when my father called in as Waterford were piling the pain on Tipperary in the Munster final, she was caught shedding a tear. She probably shed fewer tears when she buried her daughter than she did on that day.

Nana, as she was universally known when she died, would have been similarly moved had she lived long enough to see De La Salle lay claim to the county title. The tribe, whether it be your family or your team, was everything to her. She passed that on to all her grandchildren, and in cheering for De La Salle on Sunday I was carrying on that (dis)honourable tradition. Truly no one had as big an influence on me as she did. Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam.

The shock of the new

The senior county championship is entering the final furlongs and thanks to a truly astonishing work of Wiki-scholarship by ManFromDelmonte, those of us who take it all a bit casual can keep track of it. With Ballygunner’s defeat at the hands of Tallow and Mount Sion long gone after a woeful performance in the group stage, we have five teams left who between them have won the princely total of 12 championships. There doesn’t seem to be any causation between the competitiveness of a county championship and success at inter county level – Crossmaglen Rangers’ dominance in Armagh, for example, doesn’t seem to have harmed their county’s standing – but it’s nice to see the wealth being shared now and again.

Oooh-ooh, halfway there!

Final score, Ballygunner v Mount Sion, October 2007

Quote of the month, if not the year, went to my dad on the train back from Dublin yesterday. Ten to eight, and already I was checking how Stan and the boys were doing against Germany at Croke Park. “Why are you bothering,” says he, “don’t you know it’ll be 0-0? Don’t you know it’ll be 0-0 in an hours time?” A comment born of his less-than-glowing attitude to soccer, but it was eerie in its presience. And what better way to ram home the point than to agree to accompany me to the replay between Mount Sion and Ballygunner, where it was most unlikely that the score was going to be 0-0 to 0-0.

Ballygunner v Mount Sion 1, October 2007

As it was, what transpired was only marginally more entertaining, as an astonishing three-goal salvo in the first ten minutes sunk the defending champions before they had even had a chance to raise the periscope to survey the danger. Each goal was more morale-sapping than the last, the first allowing the Ballygunner forward (no team sheet could be found) to waltz through the defence and score with a shot that Ian O’Regan in the Mount Sion goal really should have seen coming; the second seeing the Mount Sion defence going AWOL, the Gunners nearly screwing up as they had acres of time and space to walk the ball into the net; and the third from a free, a well-struck one but surely one Monastery man could have put a stick to it as there were enough on the line to form a scrum. When another speculative effort on goal from a free arrowed home – Ballygunner’s forward clearly spending his days well with The Master – the match was done and dusted.

Ballygunner v Mount Sion 2, October 2007

Having not been at a senior club match in all of eight years – the 1999 county final, when the Mount Sion juggernaut flattened Ballyduff Upper – this was a case of dipping my toes in the water. I can certainly see myself doing it again. The bone-juddering intensity of hurling is still there at the lower levels, even in a match as anti-climactic as this one was. So I’ll be back, in the sense of being back to Walsh Park, where it’s a case of short journey in, easy parking, no hassle getting a ticket or a seat (can’t have been more than a thousand at it) and a quick getaway at the end. Heading down to Dungarvan or even further afield for the Munster club championship, should we be in it? I don’t think so.

Ken McGrath free, Ballygunner v Mount Sion, October 2007

Speaking of Dungarvan, it is there that Ballygunner travel to play Lismore next weekend in the semi-final. As per previous comments. Lismore shall have my full support (in spirit). And should they fail, Ballyduff Upper shall have my full support, they having secured the honour of being my backup to slay the other head on the Waterford hurling Hydra that is Ballygunner by defeating Abbeyside in a nailbiter on Saturday night. Fingers crossed.