Tipperary - All-Ireland champions 1964
A period of dominance is explored in depth by former County Board Chairman, and Tipp hurler, John Costigan
When Tipperary won the McCarthy Cup in 1958 it did not indicate that we were on the cusp of a period of such dominance.
The defeat by Waterford in the Munster Championship of 1959, when the half time score of (8-2) to (0-0) led to disbelief among listeners to the radio, gave an indication that the team was beatable on any given day. The fact that Jimmy Finn a member of the team of the century and arguably one of the greatest wing backs that ever wore the Tipperary singlet was forced to retire from the game in 1958 following an eye injury in a local club game was deemed a massive loss.
The 1960 campaign started promisingly as Tipperary won the National League defeating Cork (2-15) to (3-8) in the final despite a Ring goal with ten minutes to go giving the rebels hope that never materialised.
In the championship Tipp defeated Limerick and Waterford to qualify for the Munster Final showdown with Cork. It was one of the great contests between the age old rivals with many of the old-timers saying that it was one of the toughest games they ever witnessed. In the end Tipperary came out on top on the score of (4-13) to (4-11) with the display of the late Jimmy Doyle being the highlight. In the All Ireland Final a fresher Wexford team defeated a tired Tipperary combination by (2-15) to (0-11).
The Oireachtas competition which was held each year in conjunction with Féile an Oireachtais saw Tipperary defeat Cork in Croke Park before an attendance of 34,000 by (4 -11) to (3-10) a welcome prize but scant consolation for the September defeat. On the club scene Toomevara denied Thurles Stansfield’s quest for six championships in a row with a resounding victory before 11,000 supporters in a great final in Templemore.
Football was at a low ebb at this point in the county, and the old chestnut of the County Board’s failure to spend enough on football raised its head. Club football was at an acceptable level and produced a great county final that was won by Thurles Crokes for the clubs only time beating Clonmel Commercials by (1-9) to (0-9). The team was captained by Neil O Dea and included such household names as the Doyles, the Keanes, Rocky McElgun and Seán McLoughlin.
1961 started promisingly for Tipperary as they won the National League beating Waterford by (6-6) to (4-9).
As Tipp started out in quest for championship honours they had a new goal keeper Donal O Brien (Knockavilla - Kickhams) and the team was captained by Toomevara’s Matt Hassett. They beat Galway in the Munster semi-final and thus qualified for Munster Final versus Cork. A crowd of over 62000 packed into Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds for the final which was most uncomfortable and absolutely dangerous. Many of those in attendance saw no game but the situation did not deter Tipp who won the game on the score of (3-6) to (0-7). Theo English, Nealon, Devanney, Jimmy Doyle and Goalie O Brien were the key men in the victory.
Dublin provided the opposition in the final and Tipperary were quite fortunate to emerge victors on the score of (0-16) to (1-12). Liam Devaney emerged as star of the show when he replaced the injured Tony Wall at centre back. The display resulted in Devaney getting hurler of the year award.
Michael Murphy lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 1964
The victory over the Dubs saw Matt Hassett become the first Toom man to captain Tipp to All Ireland honours a feat replicated forty years later in 2001 by one of Tipp’s most skilful players in the counties long history, current senior hurling coach Tommy Dunne. The Oireachtas was also captured by Tipperary who defeated Waterford in a replayed final by (2-13) to (3-4). For the second year in a row Tipp lost the All Ireland Minor Final to Kilkenny. The county championship resulted in Thurles Sarsfields retaining their title when before 12000 spectators they beat Toomevara by (3-4) to (0-9)in Templemore.
There was no success in the football world and St Flannans (a north Tipp selection) defeated Lattin - Cullen by (0-6) to (0-3) in a replayed County Final.
1962 started poorly for Tipperary and an emphatic defeat by Kilkenny in the National League saw Tipperary eliminated from the competition. In the replayed semi-final of the Munster Championship Tipp defeated Limerick impressively and qualified to play Waterford in the Munster Final. The final was a one sided affair with Tipp coming out on top on the score (5-14) to (2-3).
The All Ireland Final versus Wexford was a game for the ages. Tipp got off to a flying start and after 90 seconds were two goals in front courtesy of Tom Moloughney and Seán McLoughlin two powerful and talented inside forwards. Wexford rallied in style and at half time had reduced the leeway to three points (2-6) to (1-6). The second half was a thriller and with ten minutes to go Wexford had gone to the front and looked likely winners. A brilliant forward movement by Mackey McKenna opened up the Wexford defence and his pin pointed pass to Tom Ryan of Kilenaule ended with a great goal that put Tipp back in the lead which they never relinquished. It was a happy Tipp crowd that celebrated a wonderful victory that September evening on Jones Road.
The Oireachtas Final played in October resulted in a win for Waterford who beat Tipp by (4-12)to (3-9). The county Final saw the Sars retain their title beating Moycarkey - Borris by (1-7) to (1-6) in a game that was dominated by the brilliance of Tony Wall at number 6 for the Sars.
The County Senior Football Championship was won by the Babs Keating led Ardfinnan who bridged a twenty three year gap when they defeated Thurles Crokes by (4-11) to (1-6). The failure of the County Board to provide adequate support for football was a once more a prime topic at Convention and amongst the football fraternity the feeling was that all the resources was going an hurling. Cúlbaire not a defender of the big ball had a very simple explanation for the situation explaining that Tipp was poor at football at this point and time in the same way as Offaly was not as effective at hurling but that the wheels may turn. For the third year in a row Tipp lost to Kilkenny in the All Ireland Minor Hurling Final, an indicator that the conveyor belt of young talent was lacking a little.
1963 was a disappointing year. Waterford beat Tipp in the League Final by (2-15)to (4-7). Tipp beat Cork in the Munster semi –final by (4-7) to (1-11) and qualified to play Waterford in the Munster Final. In an absorbing contest before a huge crowd in Limerick, Waterford were deserving victors by(0-11) to (0-8). There was some consolation in October when Tipp beat Wexford by (4-15) to (3-12) in the Oireachtas final, a competition that was taken very seriously by the participating counties and full strength teams was the norm.
Tipp won the All Ireland Intermediate title in Thurles defeating London by (1-10) to (1-7) The team was captained by the late Jackie Lanigan and it produced three future All Ireland Senior medal winners and one past. In the first bracket I include Peter O Sullivan, Babs Keating and Mick Roche and the past medal winner was the late Tom Larkin of (Kilsheelan - Kilcash) who passed away a few months ago. Thurles Sarsfield’s dominance continued on the club scene as they beat Roscrea by (4-10) to (2-10) in the county hurling final.
Ardfinnan won the football final beating Templemore (1-9) to (1-2) in a final on a team that featured the Myles Brothers, the Savage brothers, the Keating brothers, Babs, McDermott and that powerful mid fielder Billy ‘Boy’ Moloney.
Tipp bounced back in 1964 winning the National League in May beating Wexford by (5-12) to (1-4). The victory included a much sought after trip to New York. Having returned from the States, Tipp beat Clare by (6-13) to (2-5) in the Munster Semi-Final. The final against Cork was a one sided affair with Tipp coming out on top by (3-13) to (1-5). As the All Ireland versus Kilkenny approached Tipp had prepared well and the team had been energised by the inclusion of Larry Kiely, Mick Roche, Babs Keating and Sarsfield’s Mick Murphy the captain. In a one sided final Kilkenny was overwhelmed on a score of (5-13) to (2-8) with their forwards unable to make any headway on the rock solid Tipperary defence in which John Doyle, Kieran Carey and Mick Burns (Nenagh) stared. The Oireachtas Final was also against Kilkenny and in a much closer affair the Premier County came out on top by (5-7) to (4-8). Tipp won the inaugural (U-21) All Ireland beating Wexford emphatically in a one sided final by (8-9) to (3-1) on an excellent team captained by Francis Loughnane (Roscrea). Thurles Sarsfields won the county senior hurling final beating Holy Cross by (5-13) to (1-4) while on a quite year on a football front Ardfinnan completed their third Co. Final in a row beating St Flannan’s(North Tipp Selection.) by (5-10) to (3-3).
Tipp started 1965 on a high winning the National League home final beating Kilkenny by (3-14) to (2-8) in a teak tough encounter. The final was played in late September in New York over two legs with Tipp coming out on top by (6-19) to (5-20). Having beaten Clare and Cork to win the Munster title Tipp faced Wexford in the All Ireland Final and won emphatically by (2-16) to (0-10). Tipp were beaten in the (U-21) All Ireland final by Wexford (3-7) to (1-4). To bring the curtain down on another great year they won the Oireachtas beating Kilkenny by (2-12) to (2-7) in an excellent Final.
In the first half of that Oireachtas final the late Paddy Leahy the counties’ spiritual leader for almost two decades and a man who had overseen Tipperary win eight All Ireland titles had left his hospital bed to come to Croke Park for the Oireachtas Final. At the break not satisfied with the first half display, he went across the field to the dressing room and mobilised his forces. His inspirational pep talk inspired the Premier boys to carve out a significant victory. Unfortunately for Tipperary Paddy Leahy who was in deteriorating health at this time passed away in May 1966 – a huge loss to Tipperary GAA. He won two All Irelands as a player in 1916 and 1926 and in the company of his brothers and other freedom fighters played an important role in the fight for freedom.. The age old rivalry with the ‘Cats’ continued in 1966 and in a dour League Final, Kilkenny came out on top by (0-9) to (0-7). Limerick eliminated Tipperary from the Munster Championship on the score of (4-12) to (2-9) and Wexford put paid to Tipperary’s chances of retaining the Oireachtas, beating the Premier County in the semi – final by (4-11) to (2-12). It was not a totally blank year for Tipperary as the Intermediate team having defeated Galway in the Munster Final by (4-2) to (1-7) went on to capture the All Ireland title defeating Dublin (4-11) to (2-12) in the process. Three players from the winning combination Seamus Shinners, Noel O Gorman and Ml. ‘Neighbour ‘Jones subsequently went on to represent Tipperary at senior level, while Fethard’s Liam Connolly added an intermediate medal to the three senior medals won in 1958, 1961 and 1962.
The club scene saw Carrick - Davins emerge as real contenders for the Dan Breen ,having lost out to Thurles in 1965 after a replay. They captured their first in 1966 beating Lorraha-Dorraha by (2-12) to (1-3) in the final. They subsequently became the first Tipp Club to capture the Munster club title when they defeated Ballygunner by (2-17) to 1-11) in that year’s final.
During 1965 and 1966 there were green shoots sprouting up on the football scene.. Tipperary put up a great show in the 1965 Bloody Sunday commemoration in Croke Park when they ran Dublin to a point (0-9) to (1-5). Clonmel Commercials won the 1965 county final beating Moneygall in the final (2-9) to (0-5). They added a second in a row in 1966 when they overcame Ardfinnan in a competitive final by (2-6) to (1-8). Club football was very competitive at this point in time especially in south Tipperary where the rivalry between Commercials, Ardfinnan and Kilsheelan – Kilcash led to great games before huge crowds.
In 1967 Tipperary won the Bloody Sunday challenge with Dublin in a replayed final in Clonmel by (5-9) to (4-10) which indicated progress with the big ball. The team that November evening was captained by the late Mick Egan whose uncle Jim played on the infamous day on Jones’s Road. Clonmel won their third county final in a row when they beat Lattin – Cullen by (2-9) to (0-8) in the final.
On the hurling front 1967 did not look very promising when Kilkenny ended Tipperary’s interest in the National League with a big win (5-7) to (2-7) in a tasty encounter in Nowlan Park. Both Babs and Pa Dillon witnessed the finish of that game from their respective dugouts. In the Munster Championship Tipperary defeated Waterford in Round 1 and disposed of Clare by (4-12) to(2-6) in a Munster victory that was full of promise. In the All Ireland final against old rivals Kilkenny, Tipperary started promisingly and at half time by (2-6) t0 (1-3). The second half was a different story and despite the gallant efforts of Lyn Gaynor, Kilkenny took over and with John Teehan and Paddy Moran dominating midfield the ‘Cats’ were worthy winners in the end on the score (3-8) to (2-7). The occasion was marred by a serious eye injury to one of Kilkenny’s most classy forwards, Thomastown’'s Tom Walsh. It was the last hurrah on Jones Rd. for a quartet of great Tipperary stalwarts, John Doyle, Kieran Carey, Tony Wall and Theo English.
Tipperary had some consolation when their (U-21) team won a well contested All Ireland final against Dublin by (1-8) to (1-7). The team was captained by the classy P.J. Ryan from Carrick Davins and included future All Ireland senior medal winners, John Kelly, Tahg O Connor, Seamus Hogan, Noel O Dwyer, Jack Ryan and the late and much lamented John Flanagan. The Davins won their second county final in 1967 defeating Roscrea in an exciting contest by (2-10) to (1-7).
With club football on a high in south Tipperary and with a new county championship format in place Ardfinnan emerged to contest the county final versus Kilsheelan – Kilcash. In what was the best county football final for years Kilsheelan – Kilcash were winners, their first since 1933 by (1-11) to (2-7). It was a day to remember for the Gormans, the Robinsons, the Larkins, Seán Nugent and the irrepressible Dick Strang who had a blinder at mid – field.
With a trip to New York at stake for the National League winners in 1968 Tipperary approached it with intent and won a tempestuous league final versus Kilkenny on the score (3-9) to (1-3). A trip to New York followed in May on which I was privileged to be on. Tipp won a two legged final on an aggregate score of (6-27) to(1-22). On returning Tipp beat Clare in the Munster semi-final and Cork by (2-13) to (1-7) in the Munster Final.
Premier men - Mick Murphy leads Tipp into battle
Tipperary were favourites to add All Ireland versus Wexford and at half time it looked a distinct possibility as they led by (1-11) to (1-3). Wexford rallied in style and were winners in the end by (5-8) to (3-12). It was a game that the late Mick Roche did more than anyone to salvage but unfortunately it was not to be. The Oireachtas victory over Cork (1-9) to (1-6) was scant consolation but the victory was due to the heroics of John O Donoghue. Roscrea after decades of endeavour won their first county title when the late John Dillon led them to victory over the Sarsfields on the score (2-13) to (3-4). In football, Clonmel Commercials regained the county senior football title beating Ardfinnan by (2-13) to (0-13) in a cracking final.
1969 brought the curtain down on a remarkable decade for the blue and gold with no silverware coming our way. A study of all the competitions during that decade will tell you Tipperary were up for every dance. They did not win Fair Lady always but they sure tried. Many of the heroes have now gone to their eternal rewards and for these great men we pray the bed of heaven be their reward. To those who are still with us we pray “go maire sibh and céad”