BY KIERAN McCARTHY
IT was 16 years in the making but it was certainly worth the wait.
As a football-mad kid growing up in Dunmanway, Tom Lyons often marched behind his Dohenys heroes as they walked from the dressing room in Bernard’s Hotel to Sam Maguire Park, pretending to be Denis Bernard, Edda Young and Micky Farr, dreaming of the day he would wear the Doheny jersey too.
That was a great era for Dunmanway in the junior football championship, as they won seven titles in 11 years. And Tom lived and loved every moment of it.
Now, all these years later that young supporter turned author – and Southern Star GAA correspondent – has outdone himself this time with his latest must-read offering, The Quest for The Little Norah, which was launched with fanfare at the West Cork Hotel on Friday night.
Local GAA heroes, greats of the game, from across the division all came together to celebrate Lyons’ latest work, which captures, forever, the history of the South West junior A football championship from 1949 to 1997.
The importance of The Quest for The Little Norah cannnot be understated, explains Lyons who started piecing together this intricate jigsaw in the late 1990s.
‘Since they retired the Little Norah Cup in 1997 I’ve been toying with the idea of writing the story of the cup, covering the South West junior A football championship from 1949 to 1997,’ he explained.
‘I was working on other projects at the same time, producing four GAA books in the intervening years. But a lot of the great players of the early years of the Little Norah were passing away and their stories were being lost. There was the danger that they would be forgotten about, that their deeds on the pitches would never be recorded.
‘Then when the Little Norah Cup itself disappeared last year, I realised that the story had to be produced in print, it couldn’t be delayed any longer.
‘The cup, thankfully, was found and now the story is in print for all future generations to enjoy and appreciate. The players, mentors and characters involved in the Little Norah Cup years will now be remembered for posterity.’
Finding himself at the other end of the questions, for once, the Dunmanway man now living in Clonakilty highlights just why it was so important to capture in print the history of The Little Norah.
‘We can never forget, or be allowed to forget, that what we enjoy at present in the GAA is founded on the past,’ he said.
‘The story begins in the 1950s when times were really tough in Ireland and emigration was rampant. The Little Norah junior championship was the flagship of the GAA in West Cork for 50 years, through good times and bad, tough times and prosperous times.
‘It survived through turbulent years and there is a lesson there for the present generation of GAA players, that no matter how tough things might seem in recent times, the GAA and the games will go on.
‘There will always be people, players, mentors, referees and supporters to carry the flag forward.
‘It is up to the present generation to pass on the games to the future generation, just as the people in the Little Norah era passed it on so successfully here in West Cork.’
Carbery GAA Chairman John Corcoran acted as MC for the night, while Tim Looney of the West Cork Hotel (sponsor), Tom Lyons himself and Kieran McCarthy, Sports Editor of The Southern Star all addressed the large atendance on a night where the past and heroes of West Cork GAA were celebrated.
Thanks to Tom Lyons, their feats are now be captured, and will be remembered and regaled forever more.