West Tipperary native Con Hogan
What's your idea of a perfect day, or perfect weekend in Tipperary?
A Munster hurling final weekend in Thurles with Tipperary involved would for me be the perfect weekend.
I would start on Saturday with a cut-throat game of golf for a fiver with a couple of friends at Clonmel’s magnificent and picturesque golf course, followed by a drink and a bit of banter in the clubhouse.
Then off to Thurles bright and early on Sunday morning to visit Liberty Square and absorb the spectacle and colour as the rival supporters mix and interact in a good natured way. Better if it’s Tipp and Cork, there’s something special in that rivalry! Then, taking my time, I’d head out to the Stadium, past the buskers with their fiddles and banjos, the more raucous the better, past the stalls selling “hats, scarves and colours of the game”, over the railway bridge and on to the Field of Legends, where memories of great games would come flooding back and the heart would beat a little quicker in anticipation of another epic clash to come.
I’d round off the weekend watching the Sunday Game over a couple of pints at Careys in Irishtown, where I’d be guaranteed to hear much more colourful analysis than I’d ever get on RTE!
Who has made the greatest contribution to Tipperary in your lifetime - and why?
The voluntary community, charitable, health, scouting, religious, cultural, educational and sporting groups throughout Tipperary are for me the great heroes of our County. The countless hours freely given by volunteers across so many areas of endeavour enrich our lives and make Tipperary a better place to live in.
As a GAA man I am particularly proud of the outstanding facilities provided in every parish in the County by the GAA for the service of local communities and of the volunteers who, week in week out, give of their time and energy to enabling thousands of young people to play our Gaelic games.
What's your first Tipperary memory?
I was born and spent my early years in Roesboro about two miles west of Tipperary Town. My family and I had an idyllic childhood. All doors were open to us as we roamed the fields, swam in the “sheeps dip” on the river Ara, visited the hurling field and the handball alley in Clonpet and walked the double ditch from O’Neill’s at Roesboro House to Barronstown where Sir Michael O’Dwyer, who was associated with the Amritsar massacre in the Punjab province in India, was born.
As children we played hurling and football for Cordangan and were ferried to juvenile games all over West Tipperary men like Jim Donoghue and Andy Kennedy who spent their lives in the service of the GAA.
What's your favourite part of the county - and why?
Tipperary is a county of great natural beauty. There can be few more scenic spots than the Holy Year statue of Christ the King on Slievenamuck on the road between Tipperary and the Glen of Aherlow, with the Golden Vale on one side and the Glen and Galtymore on the other. I particularly like the hills around Glengar and Hollyford and it is always a pleasure to drive the road between Gooldscross and Cashel, passing by Longfield House where Bianconi lived and seeing the majestic Rock of Cashel come into view as I approach the ancient town. Nearer Clonmel, St. Patrick’s well is a spot of peace and tranquility and Slievenamon has a special place in the hearts of Tipperary people. To quote CJ Boland in his poem, The Two Travellers:
No doubt the scenes of a Swiss Canton have a passable sort of charm
Give me the sunset on Slievenamon from the road at Hackett’s farm.
What do you think gives Tipperary its unique identity?
There’s a sturdiness and independence about Tipperary people that goes back to the times of occupation when Tipperary was noted as the most lawless county in Ireland and was never quite subdued. It was to the fore in rebellion and agrarian conflict and played a leading part in the War of Independence. Tipperary became known as the Premier County when Thomas Davis, in the Nation newspaper in the 1840s wrote: “Where Tipperary goes Ireland follows.”
Do you have a favourite local writer or author?
The Big Sycamore and Knocknagow are my favourite Tipperary books because they tell of life in rural Tipperary in times past and capture the spirit and lives of the people in the years leading up to the emergence of the GAA and the Gaelic League and finally to the National struggle for independence.
Although he never visited the county, the poet and revolutionary, Kevin O’Higgins, having read Knocknagow, was moved to write:
I love you, Tipperary dear, for sake of him who told The tale of homely Knocknagow – its hearts as true as gold –For sake of Matt the Thresher’s strength, and Nora Leahy’s grace, I love you, Tipperary, tho’ I never saw your face.
My Clonmel Scrapbook is another favourite and Michael Ahearne from Clonmel is a fine local author that I enjoy reading. Sean Nugent’s “Slievenamon in Song and Story” is a treasure trove of folklore, songs and stories about the area under the shadow of Tipperary’s famous mountain. The Tipperary Historical Journal is a must read when it is published each year, as are many articles published by local historical societies throughout the County.
What's the biggest challenge facing the county today?
The decline of rural village communities and the erosion of town centres like Tipperary and Clonmel are major challenges. While Government funding and support can help, regeneration and renewal must come from the bottom up. Communities need to mobilise to achieve this, and Upperchurch and Cappawhite come to mind as examples of rural areas that are active in this regard.
If you had the power to change one thing in, or about Tipperary, what would it be?
I would restore urban councils and de-centralise local government, giving local communities more say in the running of their affairs.