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THE RUN for ONE (Part 1)

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

A hurling snob lobs a thingmabob into the Overdrive-for-Five football mob

The Dublin Team that played against Tipperary in the 1961 All Ireland hurling final
The Dublin Team that played against Tipperary in the 1961 All Ireland Hurling Final

Had planned to quill a piece on the Drive-for-Five (football) but having watched the Nowlan Park match, scratch and dispatch by the Cody-goaded Cats last Saturday decided to return to our last Run-for-One (hurling).

Besides, having been a non-playing (i.e. eternal sub) member of a club where one absorbed by osmosis not only the virus of hurling snobbery but also – wait for it! – a hauteur which took the shape of a disdain for Hill Sixteen (home of the amateur bandwaggoners). For this was a club, many of whose most influential knobs, i.e., mentors prided themselves on marking out a spot for themselves on the morally superior Canal End (high up in the Hogan Stand corner).

Wouldn’t have been a member of any other club for love nor Monet. Still remains the only GAA club which can boast of a member to be the first player ever sent off in a FA Cup Final at Wembley or anywhere.


But back to the Run-for-One.

It was Saturday evening, the day before a Special Sunday, September 3, 1961 with Dublin down to play Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final. I had just turned 14 and as it was on ‘a day before’ naturally I was ahead of my time. Being big into Spotify long before the term had even been invented.

What made it a Special Sunday was that it was the first time Dublin had contested a hurling final in all of (gasp) seven years. Tipperary V Dublin contests have a special niche in GAA history, whether with the big or the small ball. What was to make 1961 a bloody Special Sunday was that it was to be the last hurling final Dublin were to contest – thus far. That’s 58 years ago – and counting.

It wasn’t the first hurling final I’d been to – that was the 1957 final during which 16 Kilkenny players paraded around after the Artane Boys Band before their game with the 15 man Waterford. The 16th man was John Gregson, the English actor of Irish ancestry, in town for the filluming of a most imaginative movie, ‘Rooney’. Yes, a Dubalin binman on the Kilkenny team.

Even to one’s ten year old eyes (do the math) he looked out of place, like certain folk of one’s acquaintance on a golf course. On the Keaveney bodymass scale of 1 to 10 he was shoving 11. Sadly, John Gregson died prematurely of a heart attack at the age of 55 while out walking near Porlock, Somerset. No, he wasn’t the Person from Porlock (of S.T. Coleridge’s imagination).

That Saturday evening of early September 1961 my father was a conflicted man. A Tipperary man to his finger tips, as blue and gold as the Devil’s Bit or Slievenamon itself, he had been resident in Dublin since his late teens.

Played hurling for Faughs, a club which recruited immigrants from the Peat Bogs (and whose first secretary back in 1885 gloried in the name of .....George Washington (I tell no lie) and was duly capped for Dublin. Indeed he, the Da, not GW, featured in two losing finals at the red hands of Cork, 1941 and ‘42. Although billed as hurling finals Dublin were hockeyed on both occasions. This may have been down to the fact that in at least one of the finals the only Dublin native in the sky blue gansey was the goalie.

(There is a glorious Pathé clip in full black and white of the 41 final – give yourself a treat, check it out on youtube). The commentary is by an English chap in Deerstalker hat, Norfolk jacket and spats, by the crisp, cut-glass sound of him – who does a superb Dermot Smyth impression.

Incidentally, NO player is named, which was just as well for the Dublin players. While the attendance is given as 26, 000 it looks a deal more than that. Approximately 26 of the 26 thousand appeared to be of the fair sex. The umpires were still dressed in their street clothes. These being Emergency Times the white uniform of the chemist’s assistant was seemingly deemed suspect, as a possible disguise for espionage purposes).

Though the Da was immensely proud of his appearances in the Dublin gansey at heart he remained a irredeemable Tipperary man who would have given his stone-throwing arm to have played for his native county. If one may continue with the Tipperary uplands riff (see Devil’s Bit and Slievenamon above) he would even have gladly donned the blue and gold gansey of the (gulp) Keeper, if offered.

Thus, as we exited the gravelly laneway which linked (and may well still do) Pearse Park and the Drimnagh Road, mighty was the banter. We had been attending a sort of proto-type sevens in Pearser as a hors d’ouevre for the main course, organised by our GAA Club.

And as we lingered outside the Star Cinema, Crumlin, to our backs and the Children’s Hospital, Drimnagh (check it out, it was on Cooley Road and may well still be, for the nonce, in anyways) to the front of us, the Da, with all the sour wisdom of a double loser, was cautioning against over-confidence on the part of the Dubs. Hope was a wiser policy than hype (or words to that effect, for hype was a word yet to achieve all its ripeness), was the good counsel he offered.

Good humoured verbals alone were exchanged between the one Tipp man and the numerous natives in doublets: the only violence known in the area of that era was perpetrated by a patron who had once smuggled an air gun into and up to the balcony of the Star.

It was during the showing of ‘Petticoat Junction’, starring Audie Murphy or some such epic horse opera. During a dull lull in the fillum (technically known as ‘the romantic interlude’) the gun smuggler stood up, pulled the trigger even as he took a pot shot at the baddies, who may or may not have been either the Injuns or the Calvary (sic).

For months afterwards, local folk talked in awe of the R-I-P which the synthetic fibre of the silver screen made as it ripped down the middle, straight down the middle.

Fast forward now to the Run-for-One on the morrow.

(To be Continued)

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