Tipperary's Golden Cross-Country Era 1945 -1955
The decade from 1945 to 1955 has long been regarded as a golden era in Tipperary athletics. Indeed ten All Ireland inter-county senior team cross-country championships were won during this period. The 1955 team was the last to bring back the All Ireland senior title to the Premier County. The 1955 victory culminated in a famous sequence of ten All Ireland senior team titles from 1945 to 1955, with the exception of 1952 when the championship was run on an inter-club basis. Over this glorious decade, Tipperary not alone won ten team titles but had the first runner to breast the tape on 7 occasions, through John Joe Barry, Patsy Fitzgerald (twice), Mick Blake (twice), and Mick Cleary (twice). Tipperary has a long and proud tradition of cross-country and so it seems strange that no county team has succeeded since then at senior level.
Prior to 1945, All Ireland were held at inter-club level only and a number of Tipperary teams competed with Coolcroo. Their first incursion onto this scene was in 1937. They won the title with Jimmy Sweeney 4th and Tom Kennedy 10th
In 1938, Coolcroo provided the individual winner in Phil Healy, over a typical cross-country circuit of the time, hills and dales. Owing to heavy rain the course was a quagmire. 190 runners, representing sixteen clubs, faced the starter. Tipperary placings in the front of the pack that day were Phil Healy, Coolcroo, 1st R. Hackett, Ballynonty, 2nd Gerry Fahey, Coolcroo, M. Hanley, Ballynonty, Tom and Denis Kennedy, Coolcroo, Ed Cooke, Ballynonty and Martin Healy, Coolcroo. Despite Coolcroo's top placing, finished second to Kilrush (Clare), 59 pts to 64, with Ballynonty 3rd on 121 pts. Coolcroo picked a strong group of eligible athletes for the senior and duly won the All Ireland senior inter club with a scoring sextet of Jimmy Sweeney 2nd , Jerry Fahey 4th, Tom Bourke 8th, Jimmy Hannon 11th, Tom Healy 12th Mick Healy 14th
In 1939, Coolcroo once more demonstrated the depth of strength in cross-country, taking both the All Ireland senior 'A' and junior inter club titles, the first club in Ireland to achieve that double. In the junior at Limerick, they beat the O’Callaghan Mills of Clare. Coolcroo's leading runners in that grade were Larry Ryan 5th and Larry Donnelly 11th. The senior was in Thurles racecourse and in front of an enthusiastic home crowd, Coolcroo put on an unprecedented display when they had seven runners home in the first eleven. They were Tom Healy 2nd Jimmy Sweeney 3rd , Jerry Fahey 4th, Tom Bourke 7th , Martin Healy 8th, Phil Jones 9th and Phil Healy 11th .
In 1940, Coolcroo took 2nd place in the team rankings with Denis Kennedy 6th and Tom Healy 10th in Limerick. Their next visit to the rostrum was in 1942 for a second team place in the junior with Jimmy Sweeney 3rd in the national senior. It was silver placing in the junior next season with John Caesar Coolcroo's first scorer in 8th position.
Other clubs from the county were also successful in inter club competitions such as Galteemore Harriers, Slievenamon Harriers, Nenagh Harriers with Galteemore being most successful. Galteemore Harriers drew on athletes from areas such as Boherlahan, Knockavilla, Coolcroo, Moycarkey, Rosegreen, Golden, Killenaule, Clonoulty and Anacarthy etc. On the individual front, Tim Crowe deserves a place in any hall of fame of Tipperary sport. He won fifteen individual senior title's in a row and remained competing into his 40th year. J .J Ryan of Dromline, Tipperary was another great distance man who succeeded Crowe, adding a further six individual titles over the cross-country courses., Thus athletes from the premier county held the title for 21 consecutive years.
In 1945, the then Central Council of the .N.A.C.A (I) decided to commence the inter county series as against inter-club in the previous years. The notice of motion for the change, tabled by the Tipperary Board, was successful at congress. In 1945, Tipperary won in Dublin, starting the winning sequence that would last a decade.
Following a trial race in Gortnahoe, in atrocious weather conditions, John Joe Barry, in his first ever competitive race, led the qualifiers, with Mick Blake (Coolquill) 2nd , Jerry Kiely (Killenaule) 3rd , Patsy Carroll (St Rudhans, Lorrha) 4th , Patrick Sheehy (Moneygall) 5th, Thomas Delaney (Nenagh) 6th, Rody Teehan (Moneygall), 7th , Frank Hourigan (St. Rudhans) 8th h Sean Fitzelle (Nenagh) 9th , Cpl. Gleeson, (McCann Barracks, Templemore), 10th , Michael Barrett (Ballincurry) 11th and Richard Barry (Coolcroo) 12th.
This team were the trail bearers for all Tipperary inter cross county teams as they entered for the first ever All Ireland inter county championship, the National junior championship in Belfast. Tipperary won the title easily, with 34 pts to Galway's 100pts. That famous scoring six were John Joe Barry, Patsy Carroll, Mick Blake, Jerry Kiely, Patrick Sheedy and Rody Teehan
In the senior in Dublin, Tipperary again triumphed. John Joe Barry, Mick Blake, Jimmy Sweeney, Jerry Kiely, John Fitzelle and Patsy Carroll were the scorers. The team officials were Denis O'Brien (Nenagh), manager, Tom Healy and Jimmy Sweeney (Coolcroo) trainers. It must be noted that no parish rule applied to athletic clubs and to bolster strength, athletes transferred from one club to the other.
The following year Coolquill A.C ended Coolcroo's dominance at county senior club level with Mick Blake (Coolquill) taking the individual title followed home by Denis Kennedy (Coolcroo) and Patsy Carroll (St. Rudhans) 3rd . In the All Ireland junior cross-country, held in Tipperary town over a six miles snow-covered course, Tipperary retained the title. However, four runners ending up in hospital with frost bite, but they believed the win made the pain worthwhile. This typified the spirit of the runners of that period.
All roads led to Mount Merrion, Dublin for the national senior crown. Tipperary achieved both team and individual titles with Patsy Fitzgerald the winner and Mick Blake, Larry Donnelly, Con Ryan, Patsy Carroll and Denis Kennedy completing the sextet. Patsy Fitzgerald went to the race as a spectator but his club colleague Tom Fitzgerald decided to stand down due to an injury and Patsy competed in his place. There were scenes of unbounded joy as the Poynstown youth sprinted first down the finishing funnel. It was an achievement of gigantic proportions and Fitzgerald became one of Tipperary middle and long distance greats.
In Irish cross-country circles, the burning question was how long would the Tipperary dominance continue? Although Meath had competed earnestly, it was always feared that the biggest threat would come from the Galway team.
In 1947, Moneygall emerged as Tipperary senior champions. This club later achieved the grand slam of Tipperary titles senior, junior and novice and became the first club to bring a senior team title to North Tipperary. Having controversially joined the A.A.U., Coolcroo swept all before them, winning all events open to them. Mitchel Cogley of the Irish Independent had this to say:
" In the All-Ireland junior tests in Belfast in February (under A.A. U & N.I.A.A. rules) the race was won by the famed Coolcroo club from Tipperary who ran barefooted over the snow covered course. Led by Patsy Fitzgerald they made their first appearance in the North a winning one. A fortnight later they won the A.A. U senior championship at Finglas, again in the snow and Fitzgerald was again first man home."
In March, Coolcroo completed a hat trick, by winning the A.A.U., N.I.A.A.A. and senior All Ireland, with the young Fitzgerald again victorious. In the N.A.C.A. (I), Tipperary made it three in a row. The All Ireland senior championship was held at Mount Merrion in Dublin. Mick Blake took the individual title, followed by Mick Cleary, Patsy Carroll, Mick Treacy, Jim Beatty and John McMahon. Tipperary won by 52 points from runners-up Meath, Galway coming a close third.
Tipperary made it a four in a row at Bellfied, Co. Dublin. Mick Blake, Coolquill won the gold medal, followed home by Mick Cleary (Moneygall) 4th , Tom Fogarty, (Moycarkey) 5th , Tim Ryan (Golden) 7th , John Treacy (Ballysloe) 8th and Patsy Carroll (Moneygall) 9th .. Coolcroo continued their success on the A.A.U front. Retaining the senior double title, with Paddy Fahey and Jerry Kiely. That same year they came second in an international club event in Dublin with John Caesar, Jerry Kiely and Larry Donnelly doing the business
On the domestic front, Moneygall retained their senior crown and added the individual title through Mick Cleary with his colleagues, Patsy Carroll and Mick Fogarty 2nd and 3rd . Newcomers, Moycarkey A.C. gained the second placed medals. Lucan, Dublin was the venue for the senior final. Could Tipperary make it a quintet of wins.? Galway was determined to make sure that this did not happen. As the race progressed it became evident that it would be an epic battle between the two counties. The crowd were treated to an impressive display of aggressive running over the extended nine miles. Galway matched Tipperary lap after lap. Tipperary score checkers knew that it would take abundant spirit from all of the twelve runners to win the title. The athletes were not found wanting over the final circuit, when each one fought as if their life depended on it. It finished Tipperary 50 pts, Galway 58 pts. This win was a great triumph for the Moneygall club in particular. They supplied four of the scoring six, Michael Cleary 1st , Patsy Carroll 2nd , Mick Fogarty 10th and Paddy Quirke 14th. The other scorers were the Treacys of Ballysloe, Mick 10th and John 16th. Mr Dan Morrissey, Minister for Industry and Commerce, presented the medals to the athletes, as they were entertained in Jury's Hotel that evening by the Tipperary Association in Dublin.
The Tipperary bandwagon rolled on and in 1950 at Blackrock, they were once again victorious with 33 pts, to Galway 61 pts and Dublin 139 pts. Only three complete teams finished the course. Mick Cleary joined Mick Blake as a double individual winner with Mick Ryan 3rd, John Shanahan, 5th Mick Slevin 7th, Patsy Carroll 8th and James O’Brien 9th. This was one of the fastest races run over nine miles.
1951 is remembered as the year of the scare. At the finishing line officials totted up the scores and it was evident that Galway had beaten Tipperary. However, the Tipperary officials were adamant that some of the Galway team had taken a short cut and did not complete the full course. Tipperary subsequently objected and with the support of the race officials, the evidence was accepted and Galway was disqualified. Former champion, Mick Cleary led Tipperary home in 3rd place followed by the newcomer, Sean Hayden, Moyne 6tH, Mick Fogarty 7th , Mick Slevin 8th, John Shanahan 12th and Patsy Carroll 15th The team scored a total of 51 pts against the only other complete team, Dublin on 160 pts.
Tipperary's complete dominance of senior inter county cross-country displeased other counties and they were reluctant to field teams. Six entries was the average for an event. To counteract this a motion was passed at annual N.A.C.A. (I) congress to revert back to an inter-club competition. In the new championship, Kilconerion of Galway won, with Moneygall 2nd and Ballysloe 3rd . Winner of that race was Mick Ryan, formerly of Moyne, then working in Dublin and running in the colours of Metropolitan Harriers. At the following congress, Tipperary tabled a motion and the decision reversed. The championship went back to inter county. In the senior county Sean Hayden, then running with the Ballysloe club, was the winner from team mates Tom O’Sullivan and John Shanahan, Ballysloe took the team honours from Moneygall.
Coolcroo's A.A.U adventure came to a close in 1952, having just two athletes in the senior championship, Patsy Fitzgerald and Eamon Donnelly. Both had made the Irish team for the internationals. Afterwards a number of Coolcroo athletes were reinstated by the N.A.C.A (I) and ran with their own or neighbouring clubs.
In March the Tipperary team journeyed to Bellfied in Dublin to successfully defend their title. Tipperary scored 35 pts and Galway 73, with only Dublin and Clare finishing with a scoring six. Mick Cleary led Tipperary home, once more, in 3rd position, followed by Sean Hayden, the Tipperary champion, Tim Sullivan, Tom Kelly, Ed Corrigan, and MI O'Dwyer. The athletes and supporters were delighted to see Tipperary remain supreme, with Moneygall champions of Tipperary.
The margin of victory was narrower in 1954. Galway were defeated by 48 pts to 73. Patsy Fitzgerald was back with the N.A.C.A. and showed his calibre by taking gold. Sean Hayden came 2nd and Tom Kelly 9th , with Johnny Hanley 10th, Mick Cleary 12th and Ned Fogarty 14th making up the Tipp scorers. Running in the colours of Ballysloe A.C, Fitzgerald had earlier won the Tipperary title from Sean Hayden with Moneygall still champions.
Portroe was home to the 1955 county senior cross-country championship. Paddy Fahey defeated Sean Hayden and John Joe Bourke (Ballincurry), with Moyne taking the senior team title for the first time. The Munster inter county championship was not inaugurated until 1958, so the next event for the seniors was the All Ireland championship, held in Belfield, Dublin. Here Tipperary beat Galway, 51 points to 68, with Dublin on 92 points. The results were as follows: Paddy Fahey, (Moyne) 2nd , Sean Hayden Moyne), 5th , Ned Fogarty (Nenagh) 9th Mick Cleary (Nenagh) 10th , John Joe Bourke (Ballincurry) 12th , and Pakie Ryan (Moyne), 13th. Other Tipperary runners included Walter Scott (Ballincurry), John Callanan (Moyne), Patsy Carroll, (Portroe), Willie Ryan (Portroe), Pat Cleary (Nenagh) who replaced Jim Savage (Nenagh) and Mick Corrigan (Nenagh). The Tipperary officials were exuberant at the victory. Little did they realise that it would be many years before they would hold the title again.
Tipperary's golden era came to an end in Clonmel in 1956, when Galway finally defeated the reigning champions 56 points to 74. Sean Hayden took the silver medal behind the legendary Willie Morris (Galway). Thus ended a great decade of victories, which featured some of the best Tipperary distance running of that era. The scoring six that evening in Powerstown Park in Clonmel were Sean Hayden, Walter Scott, John Joe Bourke, Johnny Hanley, Ballincurry, Mick Cleary and J.J Gaynor, Ballincurry. The demise and defeat was not considered too painful at the time for few could have envisaged that the tide would turn so forcefully against Tipperary senior cross-country running. New teams, in the shape of the champions of 1956 Galway, Limerick and Cork began to dominate the cross-country scene.
One must note that some of the runners of the 1950's were drawn from an area around Mid Tipperary: Ballysloe, Ballynonty, Gortnahoe, Glengoole, Coolcroo, Moycarkey, Lanespark, The Commons, Ballincurry and Moyne. Of course North, West and South Tipperary contributed their quota too. In North Tipperary there was a great upsurgance in the sport, with clubs such as Moneygall, St Rudhans from Lorrha and Nenagh McDonagh contributing to the sport along with individual runners from Ballinderry, Borrisokane etc.
In the 1940's and 1950's hurlers and footballers trained with and helped to form athletic clubs in the winter months in order to keep fit. Nowadays there is hardly any closed season in G.A.A. circles, with championships going on almost to Christmas and club training starting again early in the new year. This could explain the decline in cross-country running. Some great efforts have been made since at senior inter county level, but with no real success. To wear the blue vest of Tipperary was considered a great honour and the hundreds of youngsters competed and trained throughout the county in the hopes of realising that dream. Any athlete, who failed to finish, even if they were not on the scoring squad, was considered to have let the county down. Team spirit was central to the race and was shared by mentors and athletes alike.
Some year's ago, one of Tipperary's greatest athletes, Patsy Carroll reflected upon this golden era in cross-country running:
"The team spirit in those days was great, unbelievable. Twelve brothers couldn't be anymore united. We were thrilled to get to Dublin and Belfast, as travel was then much restricted. We all realised that, but for cross-country, we would hardly get beyond our own parishes. Men such as Denis O'Brien, Mick Navin, Tom Healy and Jimmy Sweeney played a very important part in all our victories. I never heard so much talk about Knocknagow and Matt the Thresher in the press. He had special mention of the part played by the L.D.F (Local Defence Force) in those days when that body organised cross-country running and introduced many youngsters to the sport."
Tom Healy of Coolcroo always believed that motivation and team spirit was necessary for success in cross-country and he had a motto 'first away, keep up a good position for the first mile or two and then make every post a winning one.' He believed in half mile and mile training stints so as to increase speed, with stamina following later on when more mileage was undertaken. Mick Navin, long time secretary of the Tipperary, Munster and at one time National athletic committees also believed that Tipperary had a great bunch of athletes in that period under review but as some were getting on in years they had not immediate replacements. Their class always told and it was all done "quite easily" by men who had pride in their clubs and county.
Following on the 1945-55 "golden era", the next chapters cover the period of Tipperary cross-country running from 1956-67 up to the formation of the B.L.E. During those years upwards of 20 clubs throughout the county were affiliated and while success was achieved at lower levels, the senior All Ireland title still evaded Tipperary runners. There was a lull after the 1956 defeat in Clonmel, but Tipperary was still to the fore and though there was much promise, it was really never fulfilled at senior inter county level. While the county had some terrific individual performances, the backing was not always there for team points.
In the late 1950's, two new clubs came to light, namely Holycross (1956) and the revived Coolcroo (1959), while Dundrum club was founded in 1960. Older clubs such as Ballincurry, Moycarkey-Borris, Nenagh McDonagh, Moneygall (winners of 11 titles in various grades), Portroe, Coolquill, Nenagh Olympic and Moyne were still to the fore. The 1960's were significant years in the cross-country running as the 1965 Annual Congress voted in favour of allowing and recognising ladies athletics. All previous efforts, some dating back to 1934, had failed. Tipperary gave full backing to this decision and the Holycross club had the honour of staging the first ever-national ladies cross-country championship in the abbey side village in March 1967.
In Tipperary too, the 1960's was an exciting time with new Board personnel, introduction of many new competitions, road races, track and field championship, ladies events, organisation of juvenile athletics both at cross-country and in track and field. A total of 335 competed in the first ever such event for U/12 to U/16 at Kickham Park, Thurles. Inter provincial championships took place in the run up to the formation of B.L.E. and all its aftermath repercussions. Fundraising was improved and teams were looked after better than heretofore. County teams were brought together for training and sponsorship was sourced for a new set of singlets. Rockwell College, with its great facilities, became available for county track and field fixtures. To encourage and motivate athletes, annual awards were inaugurated. These were presented to the best senior cross-country and track and field athletes, as well as the best juvenile athlete. The three Tipperary provincial newspapers sponsored these.
There were great changes in the county with the retirement of such long serving and dedicated officials such as Mick Navin (Clonmel), Seamus O’Riain (Moneygall, later Uachtardn of C.L.C.G.), Mick Kennedy (Thurles), Dinny O'Brien (Nenagh), Mick Blake (Coolquill), Tommy Ryan (Cashel) and Fr J. Noonan (Thurles, a former Board president). The new county board consisted of President: Fr James Meehan (Thurles), Vice President: Fr Patrick Leonard (Rockwell College), Chairman: Phil Blake (Moyne), Vice Chairman: T.K. Dwyer (Moycarkey-Borris), Hon. Secretary: Bill Hyland (Clonmel), Hon. Treasurer: Tom Holmes (Thurles and Nenagh) and Hon. Registrar: Dinny Ivers (Cashel). This Board governed Tipperary athletics for three years0
In 1964, the Tipperary County Board celebrated the 40th anniversary of the N.A.C.A. Board, founded at Tobin's Hotel, in Clonmel on 24th February 1924. A commemoration function was held in the Castle Hotel, Thurles and past officers were honoured with suitable presentations. The guest of honour was Tipperary hurler, Donie Nealon.
This was during a period when athletics were fairly poverty stricken with small gate receipts and no subsidies. The County Board had not sufficient funds to send county teams to race venues countrywide. The clubs stepped in and financed the transport of their county team members. Although large crowds attended fixtures, it was not always easy to collect admission fees, as people had no qualms about hopping in over a wall or fence to enjoy a free afternoon's entertainment. "Gate-receipts" in those years would be considered good at £20. An All Ireland senior event if it showed a profit of £200 was considered excellent! However, the people who ran athletics suffered and had to raise finance other ways. This was not easy as clubs had their own affairs to run and some did not always fully co-operate with Board fundraising. Flag days, raffles, dinner dances and other tried and tested methods were organized. Sponsors were procured for some athletic equipment. The Tipperary Association in Dublin originally arranged a social function for the county teams when they competed at venues near Dublin. Later they discontinued this practice and instead gave a donation to the Board.
Clubs affiliated to the Board were Nenagh Olympic, Ballynonty, Moycarkey-Borris, Dundrum, Rockwell College, Lorrha, St. Michaels, Holycross, Upperchurch, Coolcroo, Ballincurry, Tipperary Town, Moyne, Cahir, Thurles Crokes, Clonmel, Coolquill, Cashel, Ballytarsna, Ballinderry Shannon Rovers, Knocknagow A.C., Mullinahone, Nenagh McDonagh and the PremierAthletic Club.
Three years on, a new County Board was elected: President: Fr James Meehan, Thurles; Vice President: Phil Blake, (Moyne), Chairman: Aiden Dempsey (Thurles Crokes); Vice Chairman: Paddy O’Dwyer, (Holycross); Hon. Secretary: Danny Hogan (Premier); Hon. Treasurer: Denis Dunne (Moyne); Asst. Hon. Treasurer, Joe Coman (Coolcroo); Registrar and Juvenile Hon. Secretary Jimmy Fogarty (Coolcroo). These personnel steered the board up to the end of the 1960's. Juvenile athletics were catered for through the likes of Tom Healy (Coolcroo), Bro. J.C Joyce (Tipperary Town C.B.S.), Frs Meehan, Purcell, Stapleton, Comerford, John Mernagh, John Byrne (Thurles Crokes), Bill Hyland (Clonmel). John. McLoughlin (Nenagh), D. Tuohy, L. Byrne, M.O. Meachair (Voc. Schools) and Paddy O’Dwyer (Holycross). They helped to organise under age athletics in the county. Br. J.C. Joyce became secretary of the juvenile boards. He was a founding member of B.L.O.E., the under age wing of B.L.E. and one of the greatest workers and administrators in the country. This board steered Tipperary athletics through to the end of that decade.
A full programme of juvenile events was organised at all age levels. Muintir na Tire held parish juvenile sports at many locations and the introduction of young boys and girls to the sport in track & field athletics helped clubs to form their own juvenile sections. Some great open cross-country events were also organised by clubs such as the Gold Flake, Abbey, Fanning, Kiely, Archdeacon Ryan, O'Donoghue cups. Road walking was catered for through the J.F. Kennedy club in Thurles, under the baton of Donal Kealy.
In this review of cross-country every effort has been made to have all results included but in some cases this proved difficult with records not available due to change in board administrators. At the time some meagre space was given to results especially in the daily newspapers. Apologies are offered to any clubs or individuals whose efforts are not documented.
Four clubs dominated the senior cross-country scene, with Ballincurry adding to their 1956 title with further successes in the following two years. Holycross won five in a row, 1959-1963 and Coolcroo added two titles in 1964 and 1965. Dundrum held the titles in 1966, '67, '68 and '69 and then Premier came on the scene. The 1956 senior was at Moyne, with Ballincurry first on 49 points. Moyne were 2nd with 68 points, followed by Nenagh Olympic and Portroe. First three home were Walter Scott (Ballincurry), Sean Hayden (Moyne) and John Joe Bourke (Ballincurry).
In 1957, Sean Hayden of Moyne won his third individual senior crown having previously been Successful in 1952 and '53. John Joe Bourke and Patsy Fitzgerald of Ballincurry followed him home. The Ballincurry club had an easy victory, beating Portroe by 53 pts to 98, with Nenagh Olympic 3rd on 109 points. Other team finishers were Moycarkey-Borris and Moyne. Running with Bourke and Fitzgerald, the other winning team members for Ballincurry were Walter Scott, John Joe Gaynor, Tom Ryan and Luke Wall.
At the 1958 senior championship in Moyne, local man Sean Hayden was first home, followed by the Ballincurry pair of John Joe Bourke and Patsy Fitzgerald, who lead their club to three in a row success. Five of the Ballincurry scorers of the previous year were again to the fore, with Pat Gleeson replacing Tom Ryan as a scorer. They had a narrow three-point margin of victory over Portroe, 66 points to 69 points, with Holycross and Moyne finishing behind.
In 1959, Moyne's famous castle field hosted the senior championship and the big question was could Holycross complete the treble? The form suggested that they could, but Ballincurry, Moneygall and Coolcroo hoped to dispute it. However, Holycross continued on form and were led home by Billy O’Dwyer, a 600 yards winner over the great Patsy Fitzgerald, John Joe Bourke and Walter Scott in the Ballincurry colours. Holycross (Dwyer, Kevin Dwan, Philip Maher, Larry Phelan, John Ryan (B) and Pat Keane) with magnificent team packing, finished on 44 pts, ousted Ballincurry 60 points, Moneygall 86 points and Coolcroo 138 points. Thus Holycross completed the novice, junior and senior treble.
In 1960, Holycross were odds on favourites for the senior championship at Moyne and justified this with a very low total of 38 points (Billy O’Dwyer, Kevin Dwan, Philip Maher, Patsy Dorney, Larry Phelan and Seamus Ryan) from Ballincurry 79 points, Coolcroo 121 points and Cahir 198 points. Billy O'Dwyer led his team home from John Joe Bourke 2nd and Sean Hayden in 3rd
Holycross were now at the zenith of their power and on Sunday, 5th of March, for the 1961 premier senior nine miles championship in Moyne, the Abbeysiders had a facile win on 39 points, with Billy O’Dwyer, Patsy Dorney, Philip Maher, Larry Phelan, Paddy and Seamus Ryan the Holycross scoring six. It was here at near Moyne Castle that Coolcroo reached senior status as they edged into second place for the runner-up awards. The 1961 the individual title went to one of Tipperary's most consistent runner, John Joe Bourke in the Ballincurry colours. Billy O'Dwyer 2nd and Patsy Dorney 3rd followed him. The promising youths Con Bowe (Coolcroo) and Mick Hickey, then running with Dundrum, in the next positions. See Tipperary Star Article dated 11th March 1961 here. See Tipperary Star Article dated 18th March 1961 here.
Few were surprised when Holycross added two more senior titles in 1962 and 1963. They beat their great rivals, Coolcroo, 38 points to 46 points in 1962 and by 60 points to 62 points the following year. Billy O’Dwyer reversed the previous year's placing with John Joe Bourke. Dominic Ryan (Holycross) came 3rd . The winning sextet were O'Dwyer, Ryan, Dorney, Phelan, Seamus Ryan and Maher.
After a titanic struggle in the 1963 race, Holycross completed the quintet of senior titles on their home grounds. It was the closest battle between the three teams, with just two points separating Coolcroo from the winners. Cahir were a further three points adrift. Billy O'Dwyer, Donal Maher, Pat Ryan, Seamus Ryan, Paddy Ryan and Joe Bourke as the leading six represented Holycross. The individual crown went to Billy O’Dwyer from Mick Hickey 2nd and John Joe Bourke 3rd . This Holycross victory deprived Coolcroo of making it four team titles that season. Coolcroo had already won the youths, novice and junior age groups.
The senior circuit of 1964 was centered in Two-Mile-Borris. Over the local course in Duggans, of the Castle, Coolcroo regained the title after 21 years. This followed a hectic battle with Dundrum, both clubs finishing on 60 pts. The better six scoring rule clinched the crown for the black and whites, as did their 7th, 8th and 9th finishers. Mick Hickey led the field home, from Billy O'Dwyer and Con Bowe. Coolcroo lined up as follows: Con Bowe, John Joe Bourke, Paddy Coman, Malach Mullaney, Matty Mullaney and Seamus Bowe. The Dundrum sextet also deserve to be recorded - Mick Hickey, Christy Tuohy, Jack Bergin, Mick Kavanagh, Paddy Keogh and Seanie Kelly.
1965 saw Coolcroo victorious once again (Con Bowe, John Joe Bourke, Pat Ely, Paddy Ryan, Malach Mullaney and Matty Mullaney). They also had the first three runners home in Con Bowe, John Joe Bourke and Pat Ely and defeated Ballynonty by 22 points to 126 points. Coolcroo went on later that year to win the Munster inter-club championship with a scoring six of Con Bowe, John Joe Bourke, Pat Ely, Paddy Ryan, Willie Bowe and Malach Mullaney. The Munster Inter-club championship was run in conjunction with the Munster senior at Kenmare, Co. Kerry. Mick Hickey was the individual winner from Jimmy Brogan, Clare with Con Bowe 3rd . Coolcroo with 81 points relegated Tulla (Clare) 95 pts and St. Finbarrs (Cork) 115 pts to the minor positions. In doing so Coolcroo became the first Tipperary club to capture Munster senior inter club honours.
The 1965 season closed with the county six miles road championship race at Cashel. The winners were 1st Mick Hickey, Dundrum, 2nd Billy O'Dwyer, do, 3rd Con Bowe, Coolcroo. Teams:
Coolcroo (Con Bowe, Pat Ely, Paddy Ryan, John Joe Bourke, Willie Bowe, Timmie Bowe) 33 pts. Ballynonty 87 pts.
It was a return to Two Mile Borris in 1966, when Billy O'Dwyer, now sporting the Dundrum colours won the County senior title in a course record of 39 mins 55 secs. Second place in the seven and a half miles race went to club mate Mick Hickey, with the ever-consistent John Joe Bourke, Coolcroo, third. Dundrum relieved Coolcroo of the team trophy, beating their great rivals by 51 pts to 58, with a scoring sextet of Billy O'Dwyer, Mick Hickey, Mick Kavanagh, Eddie O'Brien, Paddy Keogh, and Myles Mc Hugh. That season Dundrum finished 2nd in the Munster inter-club championship.
To complete the round up of senior cross-country in this period the senior cavalcade returned to TwoMile-Borris on the first Sunday in March 1967. The team placings were unchanged: Dundrum 47 pts, (Mick Hickey, Billy O’Dwyer, Eddie O’Brien, Mick Kavanagh, Tommy Barron and Myles Mc Hugh), Coolcroo 2nd on 57 pts and senior newcomers, Premier A.C. from the Toomevara area, were 3rd team home on 73. Mick Hickey turned the tables on Billy O’Dwyer to win the county senior championship with Timmy Ryan, Premier 3rd . This was the last occasion that Coolcroo A.C. hosted a senior county championship event.
The youth's team and individual awards went to Coolquill. Scoring 79 pts they were ahead of Portroe (100 points) and Moyne (153 points), with MI. Corbett leading the club home in first position from M. Kennedy (Portroe) and R. Delahunty (Knockgraffon). Portroe won both novice and junior team titles.
In the county novice championship of 1957, Knockgraffon took the title. This event was always considered as an introduction to cross-country running for newcomers and provided Tipperary with some of our greatest runners. Pat McMahon of Nenagh won the novice race run at Knockgraffon, Christy Tuohy of the local club was second and Mick Hanley of Coolquill was third. For team honours Knockgraffon finished on 25 points and defeated Moycarkey 47 points, with Coolquill 3rd on 63pts Four runners counted as scorers at novice level. Moycarkey were beaten into 2nd for the 4th year in succession. The junior race was held in Ballincurry and Coolquill emerged victorious with 85 points. The team consisted of Ml Hanley, P. Cooke, W. Hanley, M. Corbett, P. Kelly and A Colville. Moycarkey were 2nd on 111 pts with Knockgraffon 3rd on 113 pts. Later at the junior championships Pat McMahon completed a junior and novice double, with Mick Hanley 2nd and Billy O’Dwyer, Holycross in 3rd position. The latter was to make a big impact on running in the following seasons. In the youths event Liam Ryan (Thurles) was the winner from Larry Phelan (Upperchurch) and Pat Maher (Knockgraffon). Coolquill won the youths team award with 112 pts to Clonmel's 142 and Knockgraffon's 143 points.
On the home front, Holycross were to the fore, taking the novice and junior county team championships. In the novice event run at the Horse and Jockey, Jim Keaty (Knockgraffon) beat Larry Phelan (Holycross) and Sean O’Brien (Nenagh Mc Donagh). Holycross on 24 points were team winners. The scoring athletes were L. Phelan, B.O'Dwyer, J. Ryan, J. Ryan. Coolquill finished 2nd with 42 points, while Nenagh Mc Donagh were 3rd with 44 points. Liam Ryan (Thurles St. Josephs) lost his number but finished well up in 7th. The County Board later confirmed his position but it had no bearing on team results.
The junior 6 miles championship was contested at Nenagh, where Pat Ryan (Knockgraffon) was first to breast the tape ahead of Billy O’Dwyer (Holycross) and Jim Keaty (Knockgraffon), Holycross were the champions on 73 pts, with a winning sextet of Billy O’Dwyer, John Ryan, Larry Phelan, Philip Maher, Tomas Shelly and Donal O’Connor. Knockgraffon took 2nd on 95 points and Nenagh McDonagh were 3rd with 95 points. The youths 2 miles championship was won by Pat Maher (Knockgraffon) from MI O’Shea (Ballincurry) and P. Maher (Holycross). Team honours went to Knockgraffon 79 points, Ballincurry 90 points and Coolquill 143 points with Nenagh Mc Donagh, Moycarkey-Borris and Clonmel also completing with full teams.
First off the blocks were the novice runners at Horse and Jockey, with Holycross winners on 31 pts from Ballincurry 43 and Coolquill 50 pts. A total of 146 runners represented thirteen clubs. Ballincuury, Coolquill, Nenagh Mc Donagh, Knockgraffon, Coolcroo, Clonmel, Moycarkey-Borris, Moneygall, Ballytarsna, Moyne, 13th Battalion, Clonmel and Cashel all finished with complete teams. Patsy Dorney (Holycross) was the individual champion beating Frankie Hughes (Ballincurry) and John Gayson (Coolquill).
Knockgraffon was the venue for the junior championship where 102 athletes faced the starter. Holycross athletes Dorney, Dwan, John Ryan (B), Tom and Pat Cooke and Liam Dwan) completed a team double on 66 points. Ballincurry were 2nd on 71 points and Knockgraffon were 3rd 93 points were in the minor placings with Coolcroo, Clonmel and 13th Battalion the other team finishers. Holycross teammates Patsy Dorney and Kevin Dwan took the gold and silver individual medals, with John Ryan (Knockgraffon) taking bronze. That year Ballincurry on 72 points defeated Coolcroo on 100 points and Holycross. Willie Croke (Coolquill) finished 1st from Liam O’Dwyer (Clonmel) and Frankie Hughes (Ballincurry).
In the county novice at Holycross a promising youth, Mick Hickey running in the colours of Cashel, led the field of 202 runners home from Seamus Ryan (Holycross) and Paddy Coman (Coolcroo) 3rd . It was the start of a brilliant career for Mick Hickey. Coolcroo with 27 pts (Paddy Coman, Con Bowe, Ned Fanning and Jimmy Fogarty) easily won the novice title from Holycross on 61 pts and Ballincurry on 73 pts. Other completing clubs were Ballynonty, Cahir, Clonmel, Cashel, Coolquill, Moycarkey-Borris, Nenagh Mc Donagh, Ballytarsna, Shannon Rovers, Nenagh Olympic, Moyne and Marlfield.
At Gallow's Hill, Cashel, Coolcroo A.C. achieved the team double. Paddy Woodlock and Liam Ryan joined the novice four to complete their sextet, to win the title, with 48 pts from Ballincurry with Holycross on 154 points. Frankie Hughes took the gold medal with Coolcroo members Paddy Coman and Con Bowe 2nd and 3rd respectively.
The youth's race at Moyne proved to be a headache for the finish line markers, when half the field of runners came in almost together. But the County Board decided that this did not interfere with the team positions of the first six. Ballincurry (Frankie Hughes, Pat Fitzgerald, Hugh O’Brien, MI. Morrissey, John Stokes and Pat Morrissey) were winners on 103 pts from Cashel 137 and Coolquill 146 points. A trio of excellent young runners battled it out for the individual placings with Frankie Hughes (Ballincurry) beating Mick Hickey (Cashel) and Con Bowe (Coolcroo) in a sprint finish.
That competitive season opened at Marlfield, Clonmel on January 15th when Moycarkey-Borris were crowned novice champions 41 pts from Cahir 56 points and Holycross 70 points. The individual winner was Jimmy Butler (Moycarkey-Borris) from Dan Bourke (Ballynonty) and Pat Bolger (Coolquill). The Moycarkey scorers were Jimmy Butler, Tom Molloy, Billy Shanahan and Michael Bannon.
The junior venue was Holycross and the home stars regained their title here with 89 pts over Moycarkey 127 points and Ballynonty 167 points. Their scorers were D. Maher, P. Ryan, J. Bourke, P. Donnelly, P. Ryan, and T. Ryan. The race was won by Dan Burke (Ballynonty), with Seamus Bowe (Coolcroo) taking silver and Donal Maher (Holycross) finishing 3rd in a field of 116 starters. In the youths championship, Moycarkey-Borris completed a fine double for the season winning with 140 pts against Nenagh Olympic 168 points and Rockwell College 179 points. Eddie O’Brien (Cahir) won, with Seamus Bowe again 2nd and Noel Kelly (Nenagh Olympic) in the bronze spot. Moycarkey scorers were Tom Molloy, Michael & Sean Bannon, Danny and Jimmie Butler, Richard Wright.
At Moyne, the novice race resulted in a much-deserved win for Cahir (S. Ryan, E O’Brien, J. O’Brien, and G. O’Dwyer) on 33 pts from Coolcroo with 53 points and Dundrum 57. First across the finish line was Sean Ryan of Cahir, ahead of Paddy Bolger, Coolquill and Tom Farrell, Dundrum. Cahir added the junior title, overcoming Coolcroo by 75 pts to 122 points. Individual honours went to Christy Tuohy of Cashel from Sean Ryan the novice champion. Coolcroo were victorious in the youths championship beating Cashel 81 points to 182 points, with Cahir, Moycarkey-Borris, Mullinahone, Dundrum and Nenagh Olympic next in line. Coolcroo scorers were Tom Kelly, Connie Nolan, Willie Bowe, David Hennessy, Kieran Woodlock and Seamus Connolly. Individual placings: 1st M. Kavanagh (Dundrum), 2nd D. O’Brien (Coolquill) and 3rd J.Butler, Cashel.
That season a new ruling was aired stating youths should not be under 15 years of age, but it was never confirmed and left a grey area. Coolcroo officials submitted a team of twelve runners, complete with birth certificates. They were all allowed to start by the officials but subsequently four of their runners were deemed ineligible as they were under the age of 15. They were disqualified, but so strong was their team that the next four scorers still gave them enough points to win the County youths title.
This young Coolcroo team completed the lower grades treble by winning Novice, Junior and Youths. Had it not been for a two points defeat by Holycross in the senior, the club would have completed the grand slam of all Tipperary cross-country team titles. At home, in Two- Mile- Borris, they took the novice title beating Rathcabbin with the individual placings as follows: 1st M. Kavanagh, Dundrum, 2nd . Wm. Dunne, Moyne, 3rd . Sean Gleeson, Ballynonty.
The junior test was also run at Two Mile Borris and won by Jack Bergin, Cahir, followed home by Mick Kavanagh, Dundrum. Taking the bronze medal was Stephen Brolan, Coolcroo. To the great delight of the spectators, Coolcroo won the team awards, with Stephen Brolan, Tom Kelly, Tommy Woodlock, Willie Bowe, Malach Mullaney and Pat Ely.
The Coolcroo club achieved their second youth's title at Holycross with a total of 104 pts from Nenagh Olympic 155 points and Ballynonty 169 points. Coolcroo team members were Pat Ely, Matty Mullaney, Willie and Timmie Bowe, David Hennessy and Tommy Healy (N). Pat Ely won the gold medal from Cashel's Conor Davitt and Matty Mullaney was in 3rd position
Sixteen teams contested the 1964 novice championship at Powerstown Park, ClonmeI, when Nenagh Olympic were team winners of the Peter Maher Cup (Patrick Kelly, John Mc Loughlin, Matt Walsh, Joe Hogan) with a total of 43 pts edging out Ballynonty by just one point with Moycarkey-Borris 3rd . First to breast the tape was local army man Paddy Keogh, running in the Dundrum singlet, with John Kelly, Ballynonty 2nd and John Lynskey, Rockwell College 3rd . Three weeks later at Ballynonty, the junior championship was contested with Nenagh Olympic once more triumphant over the promoting club, 80 pts to 89 points. Dundrum were 3rd on 108 points. Olympic scorers - Pat Kelly, Matt Walsh, MI. McGrath, John Mc Loughlin, Eddie Troy and Ml. McCormack.
Eleven teams lined up for the youths at Holycross, where Ballynonty took team honours with 78 pts beating Coolcroo 88 points and Rockwell College 157 pts. Individual placings: 1st Mick Kavanagh, Dundrum, 2nd Matty Mullaney, Coolcroo and John Scott, Mullinahone in the bronze position. Ballynonty scoring six were Tony Kirby, Pat Ryan, Pat Croke, Pat Shelly, Pat Healy, and Wiliiam O’Shea. Of the 98 starters 79 athletes finished.
In all a total of 391 athletes faced the starter in the four 1964 cross-country championships. This showed a huge interest in the sport at the time. Vocational schools county championships were held for the first time. They were under the jurisdiction of a county board, the first such event in Ireland. The winners were:
U/15 Pa Joe Mullaney, Thurles Team Award: Thurles.
U/18 Pat Cormack, Ballingarry Team Award: Ballingarry.
The 1965 competitive winter running season commenced with a novice 4 miles road race at Thurles. There was much disorder at the start and spectators encroached at finish. Premier A.C. won with 151 pts, (Jack O’Meara, James Gleeson, Tom and John Whelehan, John Hackett and Billy Cummins) from Ballynonty 180 points. The individual winner was Conor Davitt, Cashel, with John O’Meara, Premier A.C. 2nd and Liam King, Lorrha, in 3rd position. One of the county's newest clubs of the time, Premier A.C, promoted the novice championship on the hills of Toomevara. Coolcroo took both team (33 pts) and individual honours from the host club (34 pts) and Ballynonty (52 pts). Jim O’Halloran, running in the Coolcroo strip, won from Liam King, Lorrha and Mick Carey, Premier. 116 athletes finished the course. Coolcroo scorers were Jim O’Halloran, Timmie Bowe, Tommy Healy (Newhill), Robert O’Hara.
The youths three miles took place in Holycross. Ballynonty (86 pts) ousted the champions Coolcroo (137 pts) for team prize, with Moycarkey-Borris 3rd (202 pts). The Ballynonty scoring six were John Scott, Paddy Croke, Pat Hanley, Austin Hackett, Pat Healy and Michael Heaphy. The individual champion was our local hero Matty Mullaney, Coolcroo ahead of John Scott and Edward Heffernan, Holycross.
The junior honours were decided at Ballynonty where the local club triumphed with a score of 91 pts ahead of neighbours Ballincurry on 116 pts and Moycarkey-Borris 129 pts. Ballynonty's top six - Pat Hanley, Tony Kirby, Michael Nolan, John Scott, Pat Ryan, and Pat Croke. In a field of 94 finishers, the individual title went to John O’Meara, Premier from Timmie Bowe, Coolcroo and John Flynn, Moyne after a group of runners broke early and led the field through for a close run in.
Vocational School: U/15 Liam Ryan, Thurles. Team Award-Thurles.
U/18 P. Troy – Thurles Team Award - Nenagh.
Tipperary inaugural juvenile championships
U/15 Team Coolcroo
Tom Healy, Gerry Bowe, Tomas Ryan, Pat Healy, John Costello and Timmy Hayden Individual – Ist Peter Prout, Shannon Rovers,
2nd . Liam Ryan, Moycarkey-Borris
3rd Tommy Healy, Coolcroo.
15 clubs keenly contested the novice race at Holycross, with just 20 points separating the first 4 teams. Premier (Mick Carey, Jerry Ryan, Donal Troy, M. Burns) were the champions with 45 pts from Moyne on 49 points and Moycarkey-Borris 58 points. John Flynn (Moyne) was winner from Mick Carey (Premier) and Frank Shanahan (Upperchurch). There was an unhappy ending to this event. Following a report by stewards and officials, the 4th scoring athlete for Moycarkey-Borris was disqualified for alleged pacing and assistance during the event. The club was relegated to 3rd place. One could say that Moycarkey were unlucky, for pacing was common enough at the time and some clubs had developed it to a fine art, particularly when some assistance could be given to a runner at some backward point in the course. It happened at all levels, even inter-county, but actually made little difference to the runner paced.
The junior championship at Deerpark, Cashel saw Frank Shanahan take the honours from Jimmy Butler (Moycarkey-Borris) and Mick Carey (Premier). Moycarkey-Borris (Jimmy Butler, Mick Gooney, Danny Butler, Seamus Costello, Thomas Cummins and Sean Bannon) were 1st , with 62 pts, thus gaining consolation for the loss of the novice. Premier took second on 84 points and Moyne third with 105 points.
The youth's race was run off at Tipperary town on a cold day and over a heavy course. Moycarkey-Borris took both individual and team honours through winner, Seamus Costello, with John Flynn (Moyne) and Liam Hennessy (Tipperary Town) were 2nd and 3rd respectively. Moycarkey-Borris, the new youths champions, finished on 76 pts with Moyne 2nd on 89 pts. The Moycarkey team consisted of Seamus Costello, Thomas Cummins, Michael Costello, Billy Ryan, Donal Cummins and Richard Costello.
In juvenile competitions at Holycross, Tipperary town with 64 pts (W. Foley, W. Mc Bride, C. Mc Bride, G. Dineen, J. Wilson took the U/14 title from Clonmel 127 points and Moycarkey-Borris in third with 127 points. Individual placings: 1st John Kennedy (Ballynonty) 2nd Pat Healy (Coolcroo) and 3rd M, Ferncombe (Holycross).
Coolcroo scored a double in the U/16 at Holycross with Tommy Healy first home from MI Costello (Moycarkey-Borris) and Gerry Bowe (Coolcroo). The team results Coolcroo - Tommy Healy, Gerry Bowe, Thomas Ryan, Pat Healy, John Costello and Timmy Hayden. Clonmel were 2nd with 62 pts and Moycarkey-Borris 3rd on 95 pts.
Vocational schools U/15 - Team 1st Thurles 12pts , 2nd Clonmel 25 pts. Martin Ryan (Thurles) 1st , John Costello (do) 2nd and Michael O'Gorman (do) 3rd with Michael Kennedy 4th scorer). The U/17 title was won by Tommy Healy (Thurles) from T.J. Walsh (Cahir), with Clonmel team winners on 43 pts, Thurles 2nd with 55 pts.
Moyne was the venue for the novice championship and Dundrum (T. Barron, J. Gayson, J. O’Gorman, C. Ryan) scored a comfortable win 27 pts to beat Premiers on 41 points and Clonmel with 48 points. First to the winning post was Timmy Ryan (Premier) from Tommy Barron (Dundrum) and Austin Hackett (Ballynonty). The inaugural intermediate at the Horse and Jockey saw only 2 teams finishing complete. Premier A.C. (Tim Ryan, Mick Carey, Eddie Troy, Matt Walsh, Tom Whelehan with Eamonn Lee and Gerry Ryan dead heating for 6th team spot) winning from host club Moycarkey-Borris. Premier A.C. had 43 pts and Moycarkey-Borris 76 points. Tim Ryan (Premier) took the gold from Mick Carey (do) and Willie Bowe (Coolcroo) was third. In the junior race at Toomevara, the home club won team honours with Tim Ryan (Premier) 1st from Mick Carey (do) and John Flynn (Moyne). Premier A.C. scorers were T. Ryan, M. Carey, J. Ryan, T. Whelehan, D. Troy, E. Lee.
The senior road championship at Thurles saw Dundrum win team prize with their scoring six as follows: Mick Hickey 1st, Billy O’Dwyer 2nd , Paddy Keogh 3rd , Mick Kavanagh 4th , Eddie O’Brien 7th, and Willie O’Gorman 9th. Dundrum were 26 pts ahead of the only other finishers, Premier' A.C. on 66 pts. The field included 31 "letter runners", athletes competing to try to gain a place on the county team.
This season brought the inauguration of ladies cross-country championships at county, provincial and national levels. The initial Tipperary championship test was held at Moyne on Sunday 1st January where Kathleen Leane (Thurles Crokes) was the winner from Ann Ryan (Moycarkey-Borris) and Bridget Heffernan (do). Ann Shortall and Hannah Butler completed the winning quartet. Moycarkey-Borris with 14 pts, were team victors from Thurles Crokes 25 pts and Tipperary 64 pts.
The youths in Two-Mile-Borris brought further success for the Premier team of Eamon Lee, Thos Whelehan, S. O’Toole, K. Kennedy, P. Prout and T. Cahill, winning with a score of 79 pts to Coolcroo's 96. Austin Hackett (Ballynonty) won the title from Pat Egan (Moyne) and D. Croke (Ballynonty).
1963 & 64
In the 1963 Munster series, Tipperary was 3rd in youths and seniors. Thurles racecourse saw the Munster novice contest, with Cork having the first six runners home with and needless to say team winners from Clare, Tipperary third, with Coolcroo's Paddy Coman best placed in 10th. Some counties criticised the lack of obstacles on the flat course. Afterwards other racecourses were used and no criticism raised!
In the junior Tipperary showed improved form and came second to Cork, with Paddy Coman 5th our first scorer. The national junior at Athenry proved a joyous occasion for Tipperary followers, with Mick Hickey leading Con Bowe for the first two places and a good second team effort to Cork. The year finished on a high note at Croom, when Tipperary regained the Munster senior title defeating Clare, 63 pts to 68 and surprisingly relegating a much vaunted Cork side to 3rd . It was Tipperary's second such title since the inception of the event. Tipperary medal winners were Mick Hickey 3rd , Billy O’Dwyer, John Joe Bourke, Con Bowe, Christy Tuohy and Jack Bergin. The race winner was Sean O’Sullivan, Limerick. On the same day the Tipp youths were 2nd to Cork beaten by 47 pts to 58 points with John Scott in 3rd individual position. In the inaugural inter club senior event Tulla took the team honours, where Dundrum and Coolcroo finished incomplete.
Tipperary County Board hosted the All Ireland senior and youths at Thurles racecourse After the Munster win, hopes were high of regaining the senior title. The team was brought together for training at the racecourse to familiarize the athletes with the terrain. However, injuries and illness deprived them of some members on the day and Cork won by 72 pts to Tipperary's 90 points, just edging out Galway (90) by the last scorer rule. Sean O’Sullivan continued on his winning ways, from Mick Molloy (Galway) and Matt Rudden (Dublin). Mick Hickey was Tipperary's top runner in 5th place. The youths also had to yield to Cork by a 24 pts margin, with Mick Kavanagh 1st for us in 6th place. Munster athletes dominated both events with the first 15 in the top 20 senior and 16 in the top 20 youth finishers. That season Tipperary's John Joe Bourke completed 14 years of cross-country running - with more to follow!
Officials for the national Cross-Country races at Thurles were: President: Thomas S. McDonagh, Secretary: Paddy Power, Treasurer: Paddy Larkin, Organizing Secretary: David Browne, P.R.O: Jimmy Conaghan, Starter: Jimmy Bruce, Cross-country committee: Phil Fanning, Sean Fitzelle, P. O’Kelly, and Brendan Lynch. Local Committee: President: Rev. Fr. J. Meehan, Vice-President: Rev. Fr. P. J. Leonard, Chairman: Phil Blake. Vice Chairman: T.K. Dwyer, Hon. Treasurer: Tommy Holmes, Hon. Secretary: Jimmy Fogarty, Committee: Mick Blake, Paddy O'Dwyer, John Lyons, David Ryan and Denis Ivors, Chief Steward: Paddy O’Dwyer. In the youths, the following counties competed – Tipperary, Offaly, Cork, Limerick, Kildare, Clare, Meath and Galway. Senior counties entered were - Dublin, Tipperary, Cork, Limerick, Kildare, Clare, Galway and Wexford.
The Munster campaign opened at Tulla, Co. Clare with the novice 4 mile and it was a disappointing start to the provincial campaign for Tipperary. The county failed to gain any individual or team medals, with J. Lynch (Clare) the winner and Limerick team winners. The junior brought little joy either with success for Jimmy O’Sullivan (Kerry) and the Cork team. Our disastrous campaign continued at the Munster senior and youths. The senior title went to Sean O’Sullivan (Limerick) with his brother Mick in 2nd place and Cork's Willie Webb in 3rd. In the county results, Tipperary finished last of the five competing counties, but it was not the fault of our great stalwarts Billy O’Dwyer 5th and John Joe Bourke 7th
The county youth's team had nothing to show for their endeavors. Going into the nationals there was little belief or confidence behind our runners. The junior saw us finish on a downward slope with a total of 192 pts. Clare winning on 39 pts from Cork and Wexford, but Mick Hickey kept the Tipperary colours flying, with a 9th placing.
Naas racecourse was a graveyard for Tipperary. The youths finished at the end of the placings with 236 pts behind Cork 97, Wexford 104 points and Offaly 105 points. The unbelievable happened in the All-Ireland senior, Tipperary incomplete. Once more it was John Joe Bourke 11th and Billy O’Dwyer in 12th place, giving Tipperary some comfort. That day Sean O’Sullivan beat Matt Rudden (Dublin) and Willie Webb (Cork) for the top national awards. For the county team, the inglorious tag of incomplete brought no joy to followers, As Tipperary were unable to get six runners to uphold our pride and joy. It was only the second time that Tipperary gained this unwanted tag.
At least the youth had sufficient finishers to get a return score. In the Munster novice, junior and senior, Cork had the upper hand over Tipperary, winning novice 54 pts to 59, junior 30 pts to 89 points and senior 47 points to 78 points. Tipp's leading men in novice were Pat Phelan, Upperchurch 3rd and junior Michael Kavanagh 10th. The Tipperary team was depleted before this race, when the Munster Council ruled that two Coolcroo team members were not eligible. It needed a unanimous decision of the council but five counties were in favour with only Kerry Board objecting. One wonders why they did so, considering they had not a team entered in the race!
In the Munster senior, Mick Hickey was the winner with Con Bowe 3rd . The youths could only manage 3rd position with John Scott first for Tipp 9th position The All Ireland junior was at Thomastown with Tipp 4th . Our 1st finisher was 39th and the 6th man was in 61st position. Cork was the winner with 67 pts.
The All Ireland senior at Navan was another disappointment with 5th position for Tipperary. However, Mick Hickey ran a gallant race, only beaten by Sean O’Sullivan as the Limerick man piled on the pressure over the last two laps. In the youths it was 3rd for Tipperary, with John Scott 8th
Croom was the scene of the Munster novice. Tipperary's 4th place was most disappointing, with our first home in 18th place. Coolcroo hosted the Munster junior but there was no luck for Tipperary, taking 3rd position behind Cork and Limerick. Paddy Ryan was Tipp's best finisher in 7th place.
The Munster senior at Ballymartle, Co. Cork brought no joy for premier county followers, with 4th in senior, Mick Hickey was best in 8th place. In the end Cork were easy winners and Sean O’Sullivan took another individual title. Tipperary youths were 4th with John Flynn in 5th place. The All Irelands junior at Ballymore-Eustace saw Tipp finish 7th, with Frank Shanahan our best-placed runner. Tipperary would have been in the inglorious "incomplete category" but for the efforts of some runners who were drafted onto the team at the last minute. The national senior at Dromoland saw Tipperary in 5th and last position. Mick Hickey came 8th, behind winner Mick Molloy. Galway was crowned champions.
An event worthy of recording in 1966 was the triangular contest between the N.A.C.A., A.A.U. and Combined Universities at Gormanston College on Easter Saturday. It was organised by the Irish Universities Athletic Council, which was the first to bring the associations together after 30 years. This was welcomed by all associated with the sport. The N.A.C.A. beat the A.A.U. selection by 37 pts to 53. The winner was Tom O’Riordan, A.A.U. from team mate Jim Mc Namara, but N.A.C.A. runners filled 9 of the next 12 positions which showed the imbalance. Tipperary was honoured to have Mick Hickey on the selection and he finished in 6th position beating many of those who had run at international level.
This year got Tipperary off to a heartening start at the Munster novice in Meelick, Co. Clare. They were in 2nd position after Cork, with Timmy Ryan 3rd. In the ladies one- mile, although Kathleen Leane took the gold medal, Tipp could only muster 3rd spot. Dungarvan saw mixed fortunes for our runners with a poor 4th and last position in the senior, with Mick Hickey 4th and Cork's John Buckley winning. The youths fared better but still yielded to Cork, 29 points to 108, coming in 2nd place. Christy Maher, Dundrum was our first boy home in 12th place.
The Munster junior was run off at Kenmare (always a lucky course for our athletes) and resulted in a welcome team win for Tipperary, with Premier team mates Timmy Ryan (2nd) and Mick Carey (3rd) leading the way with the scoring six completed by Paddy Keogh, Dundrum, Moyne's John Flynn and the Coolcroo pair Willie Bowe and Paddy Ryan. It ended Cork's bid for 5 in a row in this championship.
With Toomevara staging the All Ireland Junior, a special effort was made to train the Tipperary squad but in a closely run race they had to yield to Dublin 76 points, Cork 88 points. Tipperary finished on 110 points. Limerick's John Cregan was the man to break the tape and local man Timmy Ryan gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about in 3rd place.
Tullamore housed the All Ireland seniors and youths towards the end of February, with Mick Hickey again our leader in 6th place. However, it was another black day for Tipperary, finishing 8th, the worst ever placing up in that event. The Tipp team manager had great difficulty in getting eight starters. Nine youths started for Tipperary and to their credit completed the course with A. Hackett our first, but the team could only muster 7th place.
In the N.A.C.A.1 All Ireland senior championships, the first nine runners home were awarded an Irish green singlet with the shamrock emblem. It was presented as a token of non-participation at International level and it was considered a great honour to receive one. As we end this review of Tipperary cross-country running over a 60 years period and try and analyse the reasons for the erratic form, one must say that the team spirit that was there in the early stages gradually diminished and a new attitude crept in, often putting club before county. Some feel that running in the Tipperary singlet did not seem to conjure up much interest and runners who failed to turn out or retired with so called injuries would be okay for their clubs a week later! Others say that with the spread of juvenile running, good quality athletes have won everything by their late teenage years and lose interest. If that is so, why does it not happen in other sports? The G.A.A., soccer and rugby may have dropouts after youth levels, but still they have sufficient numbers to keep their clubs competing. Of course whatever way one builds up athletics, it is an individual sport, with the athlete having to do the hard training grind on his or her own. On some occasions, particularly after a poor showing at provincial level, it was difficult to motivate teams for All Irelands. It was not uncommon for team managers to arrive at venues and have defectors. They had to try and get athletes, who may have traveled as supporters, to fill the voids.
I will leave the final words on the matter to a former Board secretary, Danny Hogan who said in his 1968 report referring to the All Ireland senior at Tullamore that year "The moral of teams has certainly dropped to zero, with the manager having difficulty in getting eight runners to start the senior race, this included a runner who had not been on the original selection who gamely consented to help out his county, while four of the original selection stood by and shuddered at the thoughts of wearing their county colours. Although Tipperary had a runner in 6th position they finished in 8th position with 269 pts, the lowest ever in a senior All Ireland. I do not wish to degrade the efforts of the six scorers in Tullamore, on the contrary I salute them on their efforts."
Ah yes, but we had great days too and afterwards, no doubt the sun will shine on Tipperary cross-country runners once more. It should in compensation of the Herculean efforts of officials and athletes down the decades who have kept the cross-country flame alight in Tipperary.
Our Thanks to
Jimmy Fogarty, Two Mile Borris, for the use of his script and general back up in putting the presentation together
Niall O'Sullivan, Clonmel A.C. For initiating the project and some photographs
To Moycarkey Coolcroo A.C., Patsy Dorney, Thurles Crokes & John Moore, Dundrum A.C for photographs and captions.
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