Johnny Everard and Micheál O Muircheartaigh meet again after sixty nine years
Sixty nine years on a former Tipperary hurler Johnny Everard and legendary broadcaster Micheál O Muircheartaigh enjoyed an emotional reunion.
Both men share a unique bond and met sixty nine years on to reminisce about a memorable day in both their lives, the 1949 Oireachtas hurling final in 1949 in Croke Park.
Johnny, along with his late brother Ned, lined out in the Oireachtas hurling final in 1949 for Tipperary against Laois that day in Croke Park, and is the last remaining player from both teams alive.
For ninety four year old Johnny it was his first game for the Tipperary seniors and for Micheál it was his first RTE radio hurling broadcast and the start of a remarkable career during which he was affectionately known as the voice of Gaelic games in Ireland and all over the world.
Johnny, an All-Ireland senior hurling medal winner with Tipperary in 1950, was delighted that Micheál called to see him in the Templemore Arms Hotel and the two of them, along with Michael’s wife Helena, Johnny's son Sean, nephew Paudie and local man Billy Loughnane, had a great chat about the game and the paths their lives have taken in the intervening sixty nine years.
Sport and life can sometimes intertwine in the most unusual of shared experiences and this was one such occasion.
It was a special day for both men who had devoted their lives to the promotion of GAA and their meeting coincided with an announcement that UNESCO had granted hurling special status. Both men were delighted to hear the news that hurling would be recognised internationally as a unique game that would be protected and preserved.
Both men spoke about the game back in 1949 and how it has evolved into the fast and exciting modern day game and the changes that have happened. They spoke of the great Tipperary players and mentors of the day. Micheál was particularly interested in Tony Reddan, Tommy Doyle and Christy Ring. The Munster final of 1950 against Cork in Killarney was also recalled and the chaotic scenes during the game as some of the fans tried to have the game abandoned. Jack Lynch’s intervention prevented an almost certain pitch invasion while Tony Reddan had to be escorted from the field in disguise under the coat of Father O’Meara.
Micheál recalled the day of his first broadcast very well. The broadcast was in Irish and Micheál was a nineteen year old student in Saint Patrick’s college in Dublin. Being a native Irish speaker with a keen interest in sport he was ideally suited for the job. He had previously broadcast the Railway cup football game. As a Kerryman Gaelic football was very familiar to him but the hurling was less so. He especially remembered the amazing wrist work of Tommy Doyle and holds him in very high regard as one of Tipperary’s most stylish hurlers. Tipperary were All Ireland hurling champions in 1949 and had comprehensively beaten Laois in that final. The Oireachtas final, played six weeks later was a chance for the Laois team to redeem their All Ireland display.
This they did and in a very even game they pushed Tipperary all the way but Tipperary inspired by a great display by Phil Shanahan at centrefield emerged winners on a score line of 2-8 to 1-6. Tipperary lined out without the Borrisleigh players, as they were involved in the Tipperary hurling county final against Knockavilla Donaskeigh. Their absence afforded Templetuohy men Johnny and his brother Ned the opportunity to play with Tipperary .
Ned played at centre back while Johnny played his first game for Tipperary at corner forward. Johnny retained his place on the team and went on to win an All-Ireland medal in 1950 when Tipperary defeated Kilkenny in a close final. As Micheál continued on his way to Kerry and Johnny headed back to Templetuohy a 69 year connection was finally made.
For the record the Tipperary team that beat Laois 2-8 to 1-6 in the Oireachtas final in 1949 was as follows: Tony Reddan, Mickey Byrne, Tony Brennan, John Doyle, Pat Stakelum (Captain), Ned Everard, Tommy Doyle, Phil Shanahan, Seamus Bannon, Mick Ryan, Tommy Ryan, Jimmy Kennedy, J. Dwyer, E. Gorman, Johnny Everard.
Legendary broadcaster enjoyed his great adventure
When a nervous nineteen year old Micheál O Muireachtaigh arrived in Croke Park to do his first RTE hurling broadcast in 1949 , three things stood out for him.
The name of a Laois player caught his eye - Paddy Rushchitzko, he was greeted with the utmost courtesy in the Tipperary dressing room by captain Pat Stakelum who introduced him to the players so he could familiarise himself with them for the task ahead and being in awe at the exemplary skills displayed by Tipperary and Laois teams and in particular the sublime skills and wristwork of Tommy Doyle .
“When I went into the Tipperary dressing room before the game nobody had a clue who I was or what I wanted” he said.
He remembers the Oireachtas final as being a much more memorable game than the All-Ireland final played between the same teams a few weeks earlier.
“The crowds were huge, the Oireachtas final was a big event at the time.” said Micheál.
He enjoyed the challenge and remembers being so excited by the game and was thrilled to relay that to RTE listeners as Gaeilge.
Little did he know that he would go on to have an extraordinary broadcasting career known and loved in every corner of the country and all over the world for his passionate and colourful observations on the action he was privileged to witness on the biggest sta ge of them all, Croke Park.
“The hurling was fast and fair, and I absolutely loved it all instantly, the wonderful thing about sport is once the teams cross the line you never know what is going to happen and that excited me.It was a great adventure for me and I enjoyed every game” he said.
Micheál said he was honoured to be entrusted with the job of broadcasting and providing a commentary on the events before him to those who were unable to attend.
The genial Kerryman, the voice of Gaelic games for decades, said the friends he made through the GAA enriched his life.
He was privileged to have become good friends of some of the players he was commenting on.
“Over the years I made good friends with the players, they were great company to be in. I remained very good friends with Paddy Ruschitzko who played in that first hurling game between Tipperary and Laois. I met him often after that day, he was a very good singer”
The Tipperary team of the 1958 to 1965 era was one of his favourite teams he had the pleasure of watching throughout his distinguished career.
“They were a fantastic team, such an array of skills” he said.
Micheál said he enjoyed meeting Johny Everard and said they both loved talking about the day back in 1949 which was so special for them both for different reasons.
“I love meeting people like Johnny and enjoy talking about the games in the past and meeting those involved. I knew little about hurling before that d ay in Croke Park in 1949 but it is a superior game to any other I have seen in this country or in any other country all over the world” he said.