In 1964 Éire Óg bridged a seven-year gap when the Blues were crowned north Tipperary senior hurling champions following a great win over Roscrea at MacDonagh Park. Our thanks go to Enda O’Sullivan for digging up the following report from fifty years ago – this match report was published in the edition of the Nenagh Guardian dated October 1st, 1964.
North Tipperary Senior Hurling Champions, Roscrea, were sent crashing from their throne Sunday, when they were beaten by an inspired Éire Óg to take their first senior hurling crown since 1957.
Éire Óg’s form was a revelation and must have astonished even the most optimistic of their own followers among the attendance of 3,800. From first to last they hurled with a daring, dashing will to win and made a mockery of those who had doubted their ability.
Many felt that Éire Óg would make a good fight of it, but only a good fight; their own fervent supporters said they would win, but who expected to see Roscrea, on the crest of the wave, fold up to the tune of 5-12 to 2-5.
Éire Óg reached undreamed of heights in the opening ten minutes, and the holders had no answer to their brilliant first-time hurling. If this brilliance dimmed somewhat later, their determination never faltered and the fact that they were going as strong at the finish as at the start was a tribute to their trainer, Garda Jim Hughes.
Roscrea could never match the Nenagh team in the first half but the holders did improve after the interval and for a period were in command but failed to push home their advantage. The superbly fit Éire Óg side finished the stronger and Roscrea’s second goal came almost in the last minute. The difference between the teams was that Éire Óg were expertly served in almost every position, whereas although Roscrea had a number of players to match their opponents these could not compensate for the shortcomings of the remainder.
There were scenes of great excitement after the Éire Óg captain, Mick Burns, had been presented with the Frank McGrath Cup by Mr Jim Ryan, Chairman of the North Tipperary Board. This excitement continued into the evening and bonfires blazed in celebration of Éire Óg ‘s great triumph that brought the title to Nenagh for the third time in almost half a century.
It was a colourful scene as the teams, with Éire Óg in light blue and Roscrea in their familiar red jerseys, paraded over the green sward of MacDonagh Park in the late September sunshine behind the Nenagh C.B.S. band. The pitch was in perfect trim and a credit to the grounds man, Mr Jack Roberts, who had put so much work into it the previous week in preparation for the big day.
Roscrea won the toss and Éire Óg were, set to play, into the town goals. The Nenagh team were the first to attack and from a line ball out on the left Mick Burns centred beautifully but the ball was cleared and Roscrea raced into the attack. From Francis Loughnane’s drive, Johnny McGrath, pulling first time in the air drove the ball downfield. Back came the holders and Mickey Nolan raced down the centre to drive over their first point.
Hardly had the cheers of the Roscrea supporters died away when Gerry Quinlan brought Éire Óg supporters to their feet as he broke his way past two defenders, pushed the ball up to his full-forward line and Oliver Tucker was on hand to turn it into the Roscrea net. Éire Óg were hurling as if their very lives depended on it and Roscrea reeled backwards as the side in the light blue jerseys again went on the attack and Terry Moloney, with a great effort, hammered the ball to the net for the second time.
Michael Kearns tried to work his way through but was held and from the free Moloney drove the ball high and straight between the posts and minutes later Pádraig Kennedy sent over a great point from way out on the left wing. In a Roscrea attack Connie Cleere saved well from John Dillon and McGrath cleared up-field, and then came the greatest goal of the game as Michael Kearns rounded Niall Heffernan, bore down on the Roscrea goals and with a left-handed drive gave Leo Dooley no chance whatsoever with a ball that rocketed into the top of the net, and unbelievably the Nenagh team were ahead by 3-3 to 0-1 with less than nine minutes of play gone.
STRUCK TOP FORM
In those opening nine minutes Éire Óg had really struck lop form and though their standard dropped somewhat for the remainder of the first half, it was nevertheless, top class and It would be difficult to level any kind of criticism at such a display of hurling skill and fervour. Roscrea had no answer to the play of the new champions and never really recovered from their whirlwind start. After Kearns goal the Nenagh team again got back on the attack and forced a 70 that Leo Dooley saved and cleared up-field and Francis Loughnane scored the holder’s second point. A free to Éire Óg was pointed by Moloney and then a drive by Kearns went wide.
Dooley saved a shot from Adrian Ayres before Moloney chalked up goal number four for the still rampant Nenagh team, as he connected with, a cross by Pádraig Kennedy. Loughnane kept Roscrea hopes alive with a point, and at the other end Kennedy was wide for Éire Óg, their third and last wide of the first half. Roscrea began to come more into the game, and Johnny McGrath swept the ball almost off the toes of the holder’s full forward, John Dillon, and out of play. Roscrea had their fourth score when Nolan took a pass from Barney Hogan to swing over a point. Hogan moved back to midfield to partner Mick Minogue with Pat Dynan moving to the full-forward line.
Again Moloney was on the mark with a point from a free for Éire Óg and after Dooley had saved a shot by Tony Tierney, the Nenagh team had three points in succession, the first from a long-range free by Mick Burns and the remaining two coming from Ayres and Kennedy. Roscrea had a chance from a 21 yards free but Loughnane’s shot at goal was saved, and a row developed near the Nenagh goalmouth. The holders were given a second 2l yards free and on this occasion Loughnane drove over a point, and seconds later the half-time whistle went to leave Éire Óg ahead by 4-7 to 0-5.
For the second half Roscrea completely re-arranged their back division. Kieran Carey took over at centre-back with Pat Dynan on his right and Patsy Boland on his left. Mick Hogan moved to full back, Owen Killoran to left corner-back and Cronin Murphy to right corner-back. Jimmy Carroll, who had come, an as a substitute for Niall Heffernan, was now up in the full-forward line. Minutes after the restart Éire Óg came very near to increasing their lead as Michael Kearns again rounded his opponent and fired in a shot that hit Dooley on the shoulder and went out for a 70 which Burns drove to the left of the posts. The ball was knocked back into play and an Éire Óg player took a quick shot that went wide. The Nenagh team increased their lead when Kennedy whipped over a point, and Roscrea came back for a similar score by Nolan.
Kearns was fouled as he tried to work his way through the Roscrea defence and from the free, Moloney was again on the target for a point. Roscrea were in command for a period but the Éire Óg defence was equal to all demands on It. Finally, the holders got through for a goal they richly deserved as a Nenagh defender blundered and Jimmy Carroll drove the ball to the net. The holders had a great chance from a 21 yards free but Jimmy Carroll missed his stroke and on the second attempt off the ground drove the ball wide.
Éire Óg had been playing “seconds” to the holders for quite a spell but now began to fight their way back on top. Kearns, who had moved to the half forward line in a switch with Ayres, won possession in the middle of the field, broke away and “flicked” out a pass to the unmarked Kennedy who promptly slammed it between the posts for another point. Minutes later the Nenagh team scored again, Ayres sending ever a great point from cut near the sideline.
Play was scrappy at this stage and each side had a, number of wides. Hogan reduced arrears for the holders with a point and when Loughnane was fouled the same player duly pointed the free. The Nenagh team were four clear goals ahead at this stage, and this was increased to five as Ayres connected with a cross by Tucker and slammed the ball to the net. The crowd was streaming from the grounds as Moloney pointed another Éire Óg free, and then in the last minute Loughnane raced through to crash home Roscrea’s second goal.
It was a great display by the Éire Óg team and one that will long be remembered in the division, for not even their most carefree optimists could have foreseen so resounding a victory. It was essentially a team achievement, but one player stood head and shoulders above all others and that was Éire Óg’s midfielder, Phil Hennessy.
Hennessy was immense for the entire hour, raining long drives into the heart of Roscrea territory and completely outplaying those sent to curb his activities. Hennessy, who has been in London for some time past, has taken up employment with a Nenagh firm and will be training with the remainder of his team mates for their semi-final clash with the winners of the Holycross-Marlfield tie.
Right: Éire Óg captain Mick Burns pictured holding the Frank McGrath Cup fifty years ago.
Hennessy was the man of the hour for the Nenagh team but Eddie O’Donnell, Johnny McGrath and Michael Kearns must all claim very high ratings for their displays. O’Donnell gave a tremendous display in the first half, time and again coming through to clear his lines and he was equally effective after the interval. McGrath had another great hour at full back, despite the fact that for the entire second half he played with a nasty head injury that later necessitated five stitches, and Kearns had his best ever game In senior ranks and repeatedly had the Roscrea defence in trouble as he moved goal wards.
That quartet were truly outstanding for the winners, but Mick Burns, Terry Moloney, Adrian Ayres and Pádraig Kennedy all contributed handsomely. Burns was always in control of his area, Moloney was leading scorer with two great goals despite the presence of Kieran Carey and from five frees had a hundred per cent success. Ayres had an old leg wound received in a college game re-opened and later had two stitches inserted in the Injury, but both he and Kennedy picked off some great scores. The efforts of those already mentioned would have hardly met with such outstanding success but for the heroics of Phil Murray, Paddy Kearns, Tony Tierney, Christy Morgan, Ollie Tucker, Gerry Quinlan and goalkeeper Ollie Cleere.
FAILED TO COME UP TO EXPECTATIONS
Roscrea did not deserve to be beaten by thirteen points but on the day’s play wore inferior to the challengers. A number of their players failed to come up to expectations. Leo Dooley made some fine saves in goal and had little chance with the five that beat him, while Kieran Carey, Mick Minogue, Barney Hogan, Francis Loughnane, Donie Moloney battled hard all the way.
TEAMS AND SCORERS
Éire Óg scores came from: T. Moloney (2-5), A. Ayres (1-2), P. Kennedy (0-4), M, Kearns (1-0), O. Tucker (1-0), M. Burns (0-1). Roscrea scorers were: F. Loughnane (1-3), J, Carroll (1-0), B. Hogan (0-2), M. Nolan (6-2), J. Dillon (0-1).
Nenagh Éire Óg: C. Cleere (goal); C. Morgan, J. McGrath, E. O’Donnell; M. Burns (capt.), P. Murray, P. Kearns; P. Hennessy, T. Tierney; a. Ayres, G. Quinlan, P. Kennedy; M. Kearns, T. Moloney, O. Tucker.
Roscrea: L. Dooley (goal); M. Hogan, K. Carey, N. Heffernan C. Murphy, P. Roland, O. Killoran; P Dynan (capt.), M. Minogue; S. Carroll, M. Nolan, F. Loughnane; B. Hogan, J. Dillon, D. Moloney. Sub: J. Carroll for Heffernan.
Referee: M Carey (Ballinahinch).
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