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Boys in blue from the Banner

When it comes to Dublin hurling successes the contribution from Clare has been huge with all six All-Ireland successes enjoyed by the metropolitans having a strong representation from the Banner County with peerless Dr Tommy Daly standing tallest of all as ‘the greatest goal man to ever clutch a ball’ writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh.

The stock placed on past glories in the GAA was given a monetary value recently at a sale of Gaelic Games memorabilia organised by Fonsie Mealy’s auction house in Castlecomer, Kilkenny.
A first-ever All-Ireland football medal won by Limerick in 1887 went under the hammer for €32,000, while a collection of medals won by old Tipperary and Dublin hurler Mick Darcy in the 1920s fetched over €9,000.
The buyer of the latter haul that included All-Ireland gold was antique dealer Tony Honan from Ennis, who already has the largest private collection of All-Ireland medals of anyone in the county – among them a first All-Ireland hurling medal from 1887 won by Tipperary, as well as one from the year Christy Ring won the last of his eight medals in 1954.
His latest acquisition is Nenagh man Darcy’s collection, who won All-Ireland with Dublin in 1924 and with his native Tipperary the following year. The All-Ireland with the Dubs came during the metropolitans’ golden era in hurling when they were backboned by countrymen and won four All-Irelands between 1917 and ’27, before adding another in ’38.
And, Clare’s contribution to these successes was huge, with ‘the greatest goal man to ever clutch a ball’ as Bryan MacMahon called Dr Tommy Daly being the king of them all in winning four All-Irelands during this glorious decade in Dublin from a career that lasted nearly two decades.
From winning an All-Ireland junior title with Clare in 1914 through to a Munster senior title with the county in ’32, with all his triumphs in the blue of Dublin coming in between the beginning and end of the greatest ever career by any Clare-born hurler.
And, he’s Clare’s Dub that stands apart as the nonpareil, even though there were plenty of others from all parts of the county, East and West that scaled the same All-Ireland heights from Dublin’s first in 1889 at Clare’s expense through to their last in 1938 when a member of Feakle’s most famous hurling family proved to be the match-winner.

IT STARTED in 1889 when you could say that Clare hurling never had it so good. Tulla Robert Emmets were Munster champions and their opponents in the All-Ireland final were a Dublin Kickhams side that included four Claremen in their ranks.
The final was played in Inchicore on 3 November that year and it was a case of what might have been — it was because of drink and their choice of footwear or lack thereof.
“We played in our bare feet,” recalled Danny McNamara, told in the ‘This Game I Will Remember’ series in the Irish Independent in the 1950s. “We would have beaten Dublin only we had seven or eight sober men. Ten or 11 of them were out all night and we would have been much better off to get on without them. If we had done that we would have won,” he added.
Club vice-president, Fr William Moloney, offered a different reason for the defeat: “The field was against us,” he said. “The fact it was merely a little plot of building ground, so slippery that sawdust had to be spread on part of it. The Dublin team were prepared for its slippery conditions by having their boots well spiked,” he added.
Kickhams won by 5-1 to 1-6, with Mick Madigan and Ned Gilligan, John Cahill and J Shannon being the Claremen in their starting team to set a trend that would continue in every All-Ireland winning side to come out of the capital.
It went from 1889 all the way to 1938, nearly a span of 50 years when the six All-Ireland wins that Dublin enjoyed during that time period had a common denominator of Clare involvement, with the denouement coming in the dramatic of circumstances for those back home in the Banner County eager to hear how their countymen was getting on on All-Ireland duty.
A lot of those countymen happened to be in Kilkishen hurling field as Dublin and Waterford crossed sticks in Croke Park when the news came in.
Old Clare hurling goalkeeper George O’Dea heard a roar from the crowd and stopped up straight away, just as everyone around him did. They stopped because word from Croke Park had reached them.
It had hurled all the way down from Dublin on the wireless and landed in Kilkishen hurling field. What matter if there was a hurling championship game in progress? There was more – this was a championship game between the neighbouring parishes of Feakle and Tulla.
Fierce rivals forgot about their hurling hostilities for a few seconds. It was celebration time as they downed tools for those few seconds.
Referee George O’Dea didn’t mind and what followed could have been one of the first time-outs in hurling history midway through the first half of this championship game.
It had all to do with the end of another championship game – the biggest one in Ireland. The All-Ireland final had a special Clare interest. It was down to Bill Loughnane – a Feakle man who would become one of the leading members of the Tulla Céili Band and a Fianna Fáil TD from 1969 until 1982. It was all thanks to the wonder of the wireless – there was a runner in Kilkishen that day and he ran for all his worth. His job was to run back to the village and get all the news from Dublin. The runner’s final dispatch brought all the celebration.
“Bill won the All Ireland,” he roared. The crowd roared as news snaked around Kilkishen hurling field. “Most of the Feakle players threw their hurleys up in the air. They were obviously very proud that someone from the parish had won an All-Ireland,” said Billy Loughnane, of the reaction to his father’s triumph.
“After the game was over he went into the Dublin dressing room and got all the players to sign one side of the Hurley. Then he went to the Waterford dressing room and got them to sign the other side
“The Dublin team used to train in Parnell Park and he’d walk about six, or seven miles to training. He was always irritated by people who used to say that hurlers weren’t fit in those days. He used to eat 12 raw eggs every day which the dieticians nowadays say would kill you,” he added.
The eggs didn’t do Dr Bill any harm – he was a hero on All-Ireland day with his goal being crucial in Dublin’s 2-5 to 1-6 win.
And why wouldn’t they jump with pride in Kilkishen, because, as Billy Loughnane said of his father – “he grew up at a time when hurling in Feakle was an expression of identity”.
It was an expression of identity in Tulla as well and this identity, of course, went all the way back to the team that won the Carrahan Flag in 1888 and those barefoot ones that played in the All-Ireland final the following year, not forgetting Tulla man Jack Coughlan who captained London to All-Ireland success in 1901.
In 1938, Dr Bill was following in the same tradition as his fellow medic Dr Tommy Daly, with their path onto Dublin teams coming via their sterling displays for UCD where they were medical students.
Dr Daly was the eternal student as it took him many years to get his medical degree, but along the way Dublin and UCD were very good for his hurling as he amassed more Fitzgibbon Cup and All-Ireland gold than any other Clare hurler.
And because of that, it’s the great goal man, who is buried on the windswept hill of Tulla and whose hurling story was committed to song by the Listowel man with Clare connections, Bryan MacMahon, who has showcased Tulla and its hurling more than anyone else.
This is despite the fact in the words of noted scholar of all things Tulla hurling and Tommy Daly – the redoubtable Pat Danagher – he didn’t really play much hurling with the local club.
It was what he did on ‘foreign’ hurling fields in Dublin that made him a superstar across three decades in an inter-county career that stretched from 1914 to 1932.
“In 1956 the Clare County Board had a competition, a vote to decide the best five hurlers who were ever in Clare,” recalled Danagher. “Jimmy Smyth had many years of his career to go but was in the top five. Daly headed the poll, John Joe Doyle, Tull Considine, Larry Blake and Smyth were after him.
“Padraig Puirséil wrote in the Irish Press – he saw all the great goalkeepers like Tony Reddan, Ollie Walsh and Paddy Scanlan – that Daly was the best of them all.
“Then in 1961 Gaelic Weekly held a national poll to select the best team ever,” he continued. “Remember Tony Reddan was only gone a few years, while Ollie Walsh was in the middle of his career.
“Reddan made the Team of the Century and the Team of the Millennium, but Tommy Daly was on the best team ever in ‘61. That’s how great he was,” his fellow Tulla man added.
His haul of medals made him so, just as his longevity did, while the enduring image of him being carried shoulder high from the Gaelic Grounds field in Limerick in 1932 after a dramatic All-Ireland semi-final victory added to the narrative of him being a heroic figure.
He was in the Clare colours that day after they’d come back from the dead thanks to Tull Considine’s goals to beat Galway to advance to what would be his seventh All-Ireland final appearance that no other Clare player has ever come close to.
He’s also out on his own in terms of victories after his maiden victory in 1917 ushered in a great career at senior All-Ireland level. That year Tull’s older brother Brendan Considine, who was on the Clare team that won the county’s first All-Ireland in 1914 while still a student in St Flannan’s College, was a team-mate, as was Charlie Stuart from Ogonnelloe.
So began a golden period for Clare players in the blue of Dublin, with three more All-Ireland victories coming in the 1920s.
On the 1920 team that beat Cork in the decider Tommy Daly had Clare company in Rob Doherty from Newmarket-on-Fergus, while in ‘24 Whitegate’s Michael Holland stepped up to join Daly on the team.
However, it was Dublin’s 1927 All-Ireland victory that cemented Clare’s hurling reputation in the capital as the county made up five of the starting team, as well as having another man in the subs.
It was Dublin’s greatest-ever hurling day as they beat reigning champions Cork by 4-8 to 0-3 and at once became known as one of the greatest All-Ireland winning combinations.
It was a famous win, even if back home in Clare it only warranted one paragraph in the local press when The Saturday Record remarked, “Of the team that won the All-Ireland honours for Dublin on Sunday, the goal man, full-back, midfield, full-forward and right-wing-forward were from Clare – being respectfully Dr Daly (Tulla), McInerney (Mills), Gleeson (Kilkishen), Fahy (Ennis), O’Rourke (Newmarket). T Burnell (Tubber) was a substitute”.
There was no score, no mention of the opposition, and no Christian names. Mclnerney was the famous Pa ‘Fowler’ who won an All-Ireland in ‘14 as a goalkeeper before moving out the field, while he was still there as a full-back in ‘32 when Clare played Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final.
Gleeson was Jack who also returned to the Clare colours and played in that ‘32 final. Tom Burnell also played in that 32 final, while Dr Tommy Daly was the fourth of that ‘27 side back in the Clare colours five years later.
Those who weren’t and finished their inter-county days in Blue were Ned Fahy and Tom O’Rourke, while with the exception of Dr Daly all the All-Ireland winners that year were members of An Garda Siochana.
Dr Daly was also an exception on the field, as the legendary PD Mehigan [known as Carberry] memorably relayed in his match commentary on that 1927 final that was carried on 2RN [Raidio Éireann].
“Cork go sweeping into the Dublin goal,” roared Mehigan. “A cloud of dust rises. It must be a goal. Oh Daly! Daly! Daly! Wonderful,” he added.
“Dr Daly, who was appearing for the fourth time in a final on a successful side covered himself in glory, some of his saves being electrifying,” noted The Irish Independent.
“He was never seen to better advantage than yesterday when not alone was his saving perfect, but his deliveries were an outstanding feature of the hour’s play,” the report added.
It didn’t end there – that same year Dr Daly was one of the pin-up boys in a series of cards produced by Wills’s Cigarettes. His card said, “An uncanny positional instinct and quick grasp of the rival are twin factors that place Dr Tommy on a pinnacle amongst goalkeepers, and though it would be absurd to assert that he refuses to appreciate the magnitude of his onerous task, his cool and calculating demeanour shows few signs of anxiety”.
Dr Tommy Daly was a man apart on many different levels.

About Joe O'Muircheartaigh

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