Theo English sets up for a throw-in with the great Christy Ring of Cork
Coming from a region more distinguished for footballing ability and prominence, Theo English became the exemplar of hurling prowess and the pride of Marlfield in particular.
Former All-Ireland winning Tipperary senior hurling goalkeeper John O'Grady - aka Cúlbaire - the great Tipperary Star GAA columnist has penned a very appropriate tribute to the late Theo English, his former team mate in the blue and gold jersey. Theo passed away this week, aged 90 and was regarded as one of the greats of Tipperary hurling.
John O'Grady writes:
Early in 1958 a local pressman returned a dismissive verdict on Theo English. “It will be a surprise if he retains his Tipp position this year.”
As things turned out and as later seasons served to prove, the prediction could not have been less inspired. Five All-Ireland's, four Railway Cups from five appearances 1959-'65, were the substantial proof of his calibre at midfield.
In that regular position, he was somewhat of a specialist. Junior for Tipp in 1952 and a winner in that grade a year later, he stepped up to senior in 1954 and '55 as partner to John Haugh in losses to Cork and Clare.
A winger in '56, he was also on a junior football side beaten by Kerry. Phil Shanahan was back as Haugh's partner in the '57 defeat by Cork and there seemed to be some substance in the idea publicised about Theo's lack of a future at that level.
How eagerly he grasped the renewed opportunity in 1958 was shown by his Munster 'cap' in the next inter provisional.
Theo's neatness and economy teamed well with Haugh's physicality on Tipp's All-Ireland side in beating Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Kilkenny and Galway under Tony Wall's captaincy and in Jimmy Doyle's emerging season.
Tom Ryan (Killenaule) in 1960's defeat by Wexford; Matt O'Gara in 1961 win over Dublin; Liam Devaney in'62 success; Donie Nealon in the '59 ordeal at the hands of Waterford; Mick Roche in a south pairing for the '64 and '65 triumphs - Tom Ryan again in the loss to Limerick in '66; Roche restored for '67 and the Kilkenny breakthrough - such was the sequence of varied partnerships which had Theo as the resident tenant of midfield.
Coming from a region more distinguished for footballing ability and prominence, he became the exemplar of hurling prowess and the pride of Marlfield in particular.
The club became a strong rival to Carrick Davins and Swans, and Killenaule, winning the divisions senior title in 1960, 1962 and 1964. Theo's brother Austin was also involved before he went to the USA and trans-Atlantic hurling.
Theo always had timing and judgement. He confined his vicinity largely to his midfield assignment and his controlled swing of the stick became a much admired asset.
Though not of great height, he still did a lot of overhead striking - not from all-out swinging - but through a snap of the wrists on an aerial sliothar. Calm composure masked his competitive flair - Theo was never one to lose his cool. There was a trim tidiness in all he did. No wonder one heard of him in later times as a keen enthusiast of the dance floors of his area and beyond.
He was with Nicky as the leader of the English factor on our hurling story. A high tribute, thoroughly deserved, to an amiable and cheerful personality and an ornament to the game.
John O'Grady aka Cúlbáire