Newmarket’s dominance of Clare hurling in the late 1960s was recalled this week, when the members of the club’s three in-a-row championship-winning teams of 1967, 1968 and 1969 were feted at a function at The Inn in Dromoland.
It was a particularly successful period for the club as, in addition to the three championship titles, they won four Clare Champion Cups from 1966 to 1969, while they became the first in Clare to win the Munster club title, when they defeated Carrick Davins from Tipperary on October 6, 1968 on a scoreline of 3-9 to 2-7.
Many of the players in those teams were household names, including Jim Cullinan, Michael Considine, Gus Lohan, Liam Danagher, Paddy McNamara, Pat Cronin, Hubbie McCabe, two time All-Star Johnnie McMahon and Wexford man, Liam Griffin, who managed his native county to the All-Ireland title in 1996.
In those three finals, Newmarket defeated neighbours and arch rivals Clarecastle. The 1967 final was played on November 5, with Newmarket winning 3-10 to 2-4. The team line-out on that occasion was: Kevin Toomey; John O’Leary, Michael Considine, Lewy Halpin; Jim Cullinan, Gus Lohan, Joe Hannon; Liam Danagher, Jim Woods; Liam Griffin, Paddy McNamara, Pat Cronin (captain); Michael O’Leary, Tom Melody and Michael Arthur.
On September 8, 1968, the final scoreline was 2-8 to Clarecastle’s 1-9. The team line-up on that occasion was: Kevin Toomey; Jim Woods, Michael Considine, Lewy Halpin; Gerry Fawl, Gus Lohan, Joe Hannon; Liam Danagher, Jim Cullinan (captain); Liam Griffin, Paddy McNamara, Val Arthur; Jim McNamara, Michael O’Leary and Pat O’Leary, with John McMahon as a substitute for Gerry Fawl.
Clarecastle again provided the opposition in 1969, when the final was played on August 17. It ended in a draw, 3-5 for Newmarket to Clarecastle’s 2-8. The Newmarket line-out was: Kevin Toomey; Jim Woods, Michael Considine, Lewy Halpin; John O’Leary, Gus Lohan, Joe Hannon; Paddy Daly, Pat O’Leary; Jim McNamara, Paddy McNamara, Jim Cullinan; Michael Kilmartin, Michael Arthur (captain) and Hubbie McCabe. The substitutes were Michael O’Leary for Jim Cullinan (injured) and Michael McMahon for Jim Woods (injured).
The replay took place on August 31, when Newmarket were victorious by 9-13 to 3-6. The Clare Champion described the display as “one of the greatest seen in any Clare arena”. Former Clare GAA board chairman, Monsignor Michael Hamilton, died while attending the game.
Newmarket’s line-out for that replay was: Kevin Toomey; John O’Leary, Michael Considine, Billy Meehan; John McMahon, Gus Lohan, Jim Cullinan; Liam Danagher, Hubbie McCabe; Jim McNamara, Paddy McNamara, Pat O’Leary; Michael Kilmartin, Michael Arthur (captain) and Michael O’Leary.
Other panel members during this period included Johnny Quinn, Dominic McMahon, Buddy McMahon, Gerry Gleeson, Con Woods, John Considine, Paddy McCormack, DJ Meehan and Tim Ryan.
Four members of that all-conquering team, Kevin Toomey, Michael Considine, Michael McMahon and Michael Arthur are deceased.
Mike O’Leary was one of a number of brothers who was part of those successes. He told The Clare Champion, “Our idols were the people who played in the 1920s and ’30s. They were legends in our eyes. They had great time for us and they talked to us and supported us. The teams from the ’40s and ’50s hadn’t the same aura”.
Many of the three in-a-row winning teams won a minor championship in 1960. “In 1961, Newmarket and Clarecastle met in an U-15 final and Clarecastle beat Newmarket out the gate. We met in a lot of juvenile finals and Clarecastle held the upperhand but at U-21 and senior levels, we were on top,” he recalled.
According to Michael, “Jimmy Halpin was an excellent trainer and he trained a lot of those successful teams. The late Mick Arthur trained the ’69 team, with the late Fr Tim Tuohy as coach. Newmarket ran up a big score in the replay of that final.”
Having achieved so much success in the ’60s and ’70s, the fact that the club has failed to win many titles in the modern era must be disappointing?
“These are different times. In the past 10 or 12 years they haven’t been far away but they probably needed a couple of exceptional players. From 2005 until now, I have really enjoyed the hurling but we only got one championship in that time but there was a pretty good effort. In the ’60s and ’70s we played a number of teams from other counties and felt we could hold our own against them. They were wonderful times and it’s great to meet up.
“When times were tough, hurling lifted the gloom and kept us all going and we always enjoyed a great following. Everyone was involved,” he added, before singling out Newmarket’s annual home and away matches with Patrickswell from Limerick for special mention.
“There was always a great relationship between the clubs and it’s there to this day,” he concluded.
By sports editor Seamus Hayes