Sport

DENIS HURLEY COLUMN: It’s time to tell the story of Cork and Castlehaven legend Larry Tompkins

March 23rd, 2020 12:25 PM

By Southern Star Team

Larry Tompkins is a Cork and Castlehaven football legend.

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YOU might have noticed but there is no sport on, so that means that there are no games for us to talk about – small mercies, perhaps.

To be fair, you probably haven’t given much consideration as to what a sports journalist does when the matches stop. There are after all far more important things going on in the world and in your own life for you to stop and think about such things, and that’s okay.

When things like this happen, there always seems to be a long queue of people who say that things have been put into perspective, as if we lose all sense of priority and importance during the various playing seasons.

If that is the case, it’s somewhat sad that a huge event is needed to redress the balance – we would hope that the majority know how to compartmentalise properly – but nevertheless the absence of sport is a strange sensation, a first for pretty much anybody who doesn’t have experience of the second world war.

It sounds like an oxymoron, what’s in the sports section when there’s no sport? As you can see in the surrounding pages, a reporter checks for updates, whatever they may be, interviews sportsmen and sportswomen to see how they’re affected and, of course, dips into the big box of ideas and concepts, often landing on nostalgia as the silver bullet.

The loss of games certainly removes structure from the working week. Whereas Sunday should have been a busy day covering Cork v Louth in Division 3 of the Allianz FL in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, instead it was spent writing this column in the morning and then indulging in family-time, which is hardly a bad thing. Friday nights, usually dictated by a Cork City game in the SSE Airtricity League Premier Division, have also suddenly become blank canvases.

One area where sport has increased in my life is a return to the golf course, though I’m not sure if anybody has benefited from that. It was at least some exercise, with plenty of shots to walk between.

The lack of ‘live’ work means more time to catch up on other projects, though. For the past few years, I have been running a website focusing on the history of sports kits – www.museumofjerseys.com, in case your curiosity is piqued – and that has led to a commission to provide copy for the second edition of The Arsenal Shirt, which will be released in the autumn. Before that though, there is another book to finish and release.

The proof of ‘making it’ in the GAA is that you can be identified by just one name. Micko, DJ, Henry, for example, are guys who don’t need any more of an introduction. In Cork, Billy, Jimmy and Teddy stand out, among others, and so does Larry.

It’s probably hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there at the time, but the late 1980s were a transformative time for Cork football and the arrival of Larry Tompkins was a catalyst for that. A Kildare native, he had fallen out with the county board there in 1985 after he returned home from New York for a game to find that they wouldn’t pay for his flight back.

He might have remained in the Big Apple as the greatest footballer you never saw, but through playing for Donegal GFC, he came into contact with Anthony Collins, Vincie Collins, Martin O’Mahony and Martin Connolly, who spoke of a place where they football as seriously as Larry took his.

That place was, of course, Castlehaven and the course of Cork footballing history, at club and inter-county level, changed with his decision to throw his lot in with the Castletownshend/Union Hall club.

By any measure, he is an ideal candidate for an autobiography and I am exceedingly lucky to be the person to help tell that story. It’s perhaps odd that, of the Cork double-winning teams, only Teddy McCarthy and Billy Morgan have previously put pen to paper.

Larry is recounting his life at enough of a remove to analyse it properly and it is a tale that stands on its own feet, without the need for personal problems to act as a driver.

Sometimes, the problem can be in finding enough worthwhile information to fill the allotted space; with Larry’s book, the issue is deciding what to cut, but it’s a nice headache.

All going well, it will be in the shops come June. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait.

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