Reunion celebrates heroes of 1977 South West success
BY TOM LYONS
THERE was a distinct Kerry flavour about the Clonakilty GAA players’ re-union in Ahamilla recently as the club celebrated the 40th anniversary of the outstanding South West junior A football and hurling double in 1977, as well as the 50th anniversary of the South West minor hurling and football double of 1967.
In the 1970s, the club was going through a lean time in senior football, the only decade since the 1930s that they didn’t contest a county senior final, but, as usually happened, when the fortunes of the seniors dipped, the junior teams came to the rescue.
In 1977 the junior A football team surprised everybody by winning the South West title for the first time since 1949. Captained by Kerryman Gabriel Quirke, and containing some excellent ex-seniors and budding young talent, the team, including Kerry heroes Pat Griffin, Kevin Dillon, Tim O’Connell and Maurice Fenton, swept all before them including O’Donovan Rossa and Carbery Rangers, to reach the South West final against up and coming Tadhg MacCárthaigh. Trained by Tom Tanner, Clon were on a roll and a golden goal from Griffin led to a comprehensive 3-13 to 2-3 victory in the final. At the reunion Kerryman Maurice Fenton introduced the team in a most entertaining manner, the biggest reception going to club legend Pat Griffin, who was the recipient of a framed picture from the players.
Present on the night were Gabriel Quirke (captain), Michael Dorgan, Donie Collins, Kevin Dillon, Maurice McCarthy (whose photographic exhibition on the night was a big hit), Patsy O’Neill, Con O’Neill, Séamus Lehane, Tim O’Connell, Pat Finn, Timothy Coughlan, Mick O’Mahony, Maurice Fenton and trainer Tom Tanner. Tribute was paid to deceased player Joe O’Donovan, and an email was read from Mayo man Pat Gavin, a stalwart of the side, who now resides in Melbourne.
The team was most unlucky to lose the county semi-final in a replay to eventual county champions, Castletownbere. The club hasn’t won the South West junior A football title since.
To top off a great year in 1977 the junior A hurlers, who were defending their South West title, led by Eugene McCarthy, followed the example of their footballers, by beating Kilbree and Ballinascarthy to reach the final for the second year in a row. Opponents were the men of Kilbrittain, emerging from a long junior A slumber, and a hectic battle ended with a win for Clonakilty by 1-11 to 2-5. The Flyer Nyhan Cup was on the way home to Clon to join the famous Little Norah Cup, an unique junior double achieved by very few clubs during the past 90 years.
Introducing the junior hurling team was outstanding trainer Denis Noonan, a native of Wexford and a talented hurler as well. Present were Kieran Hegarty (goalkeeper), Eugene McCarthy (captain), Pa Googan (vice-captain), John Forristal (who put on a photo exhibition of the 1977 hurling season), Pa McCarthy, John McCarthy, Dave McCarthy, John O’Neill, Fintan O’Regan, Pat O’Regan, Mick O’Mahony, ‘Cheeser’ Hayes, Tom Lyons, Donie Collins, Mick McCarthy, Eamonn Murphy, Denis Noonan and selector Jim O’Reilly. Tributes were paid to deceased players, Joe O’Donovan and Dan Walsh, as well as selectors Tim ‘Noss’ Downet and Pat Lombard.
Again, the team was unlucky to lose the county semi-final to a very strong Éire Óg team, who went on to win the county title.
In 1967 Clon were coming to the end of a great run in minor football and hurling, under the team name of Tadhg Ó Cruadhlaoich, In 1962 the South West double and the county rural football titles were captured; the South West double was won again in 1964 and the footballers went on to win four-in a-row, 1964 to 1967, with the hurlers also winning in 1967. Those teams produced a wealth of young talent including the Hayes brothers, Florrie and Tim F, Noel O’Donovan, Pa McCarthy, Aidan O’Regan, Dave and John McCarthy, Finbarr Gannon, Michael O’Donovan, John Crowley, Pat Collins, Noel Walsh, Brendie Keohane, Teddy Crowley, Eugene McCarthy, Maurice McCarthy, James O’Donovan and Michael Dorgan.
Noel Lynch introduced the winning 1967 team which won both titles in the space of four days. Bantry were beaten in the football final and arch-rivals Bandon in the hurling final. The clashes between Clon mentor Tadhg Ó Néill, N.T., and Bandon mentor Liam Ó Donnchú, N.T., are now part of West Cork GAA folklore.
Present on Friday night from the 1967 double-winning team were John Keohane, Pat Sutton, Dave McCarthy, Eugene McCarthy, Pa McCarthy, Timothy Coughlan, Michael O’Donovan, Maurice McCarthy, Fachtna Moxley (who made the trip from the USA), John McCarthy, Aidan Gannon, Michael Dorgan, James O’Donovan and Paddy O’Donovan.
The function, which was hosted by club president Pat Cahill and club chairman,Ger McCarthy, doubled as a ‘Thank You’ night for all club workers during the past season and presentations were made to Seamus White (creator of the new club website), Susan Blackburn (club shop), Siobhán and Micky Harte (Life-Time Award) and club sponsor, Colette Twomey (Clonakilty Black Pudding).
Special mention was also made of the sterling contribution from club secretary Sean Whelton; underage officers’ Sean Daly and Colm Murnane, children’s officer Sinéad Crowley and club hostess Carmel Calnan.