Philip went to school in Ardmayle, with Jim Brien and Miss Kennedy as his teachers. “We did a bit of hurling there but there was no school team, we hadn’t even a field! We used to hurl on the road, with Grubb’s gate as one goal and big stones as the other.” The boys also played a bit of handball against the gable end of the school.
They made their own hurleys. “My father used to make hurleys for me. He had a big timber plane, and he used to finish it off with glass, glass bottles. That was the hardship we had! There was no repairing the hurleys really, you hardly broke them at all”. For a ball they used anything that was round, a tennis ball or a sponge ball.
Philip first played for Clonoulty in 1947 in a junior match. “I can’t remember who it was against. At that time we were playing in the current hurling field, and there was nothing at all there apart from big beech trees along the side of the road. Before that we used to play in English’s field, behind the pub in Clonoulty”.
Philip went to the technical schools in Cashel for about six months. “they had no team either but we played hurling away amongst ourselves”.
When he started playing with Clonoulty in 1947, the club had a number of rivals. “Oh the Kickhams! Cashel were going well at that time too, Jim Devitt was playing at the time and he used to live only up the road here at Ferncombe’s. Golden was a fair tough team too, they had 3 or 4 Donnell’s playing with them, they were all fairly good, fairly tough”.
He remembers the officers of the club at the time: “Tommy Ryan, Billabone, was secretary for a while. Billy Ryan the Mason was treasurer. I took over from him. Dick Purcell was an official as well but I’m not sure what. I was treasurer for 14 years. The club officers mostly would train and look after the teams”.
Clonoulty wore green and gold at the time. “Wherever they got the colours or jerseys from l don’t know. Green and red then were Rossmore’s colours. I don’t know what colours Ballagh wore, they were finished up before l came along”.
Philip’s hurling career was cut short by injury: ”I sprained my ankle in ’51, myself and Paddy Shea met each other in the field one day, we both went down and l never came up! They kept me on the panel for the year then, there were only two games in the West, then we played Holycross and they beat us. Next time l played l was about 43 or 44 years of age, myself and Jim Ryan Hannah went in in a junior match in Dundrum to make 15. That was the last time l played”.
The best player he remembers was Tony Brennan and Mick Kinane was very good as well. Billy Ryan of Knockbawn, Larry Shanahan and John Kearns too. The county men from the West would have been Tony Brennan, of course, Pat Furlong from Annacarty and Willie O’Donnell, who used to play for Eire Og.
Philip played corner forward for Clonoulty and corner back for Boherlahan. “Corner back was my favourite. I remember when l played corner forward l used to be on Tom English of Dundrum, and John Joe McCormack from Tipperary, big fellahs, about 6 ‘ 2”, and weighing 14 stone. When you were coming in with the ball and they hit you, they’d bury you!”
Philip didn’t agree with the Ban: “I went to rugby matches in Cashel, you weren’t supposed to go, you’d be suspended for 6 months if you were reported. Of the two teams lining out – definitely Cashel – you’d see 2 from Clonoulty, maybe 2 or 3 from Golden, and of course 2 or 3 Cashel hurlers as well, half the team lining out would be hurlers. Of course we couldn’t say anything about it because we were there. We were wrong as well. Everyone shut their mouths! Then soccer brought a bit of life into the locality, it didn’t harm hurling l think. Before you had two soccer teams in Clonoulty for the winter”.
He remembers the development of the field when he was treasurer. “The club wasn’t in too bad a state at the time, but l was all the time gathering money to try to do repairs on the field. And it never came to that we didn’t have enough money to do them! It’s a great field now. They got it in the ‘30s and a wall was built around the outside in the ‘50s, with Jim Hannah. We built it in the evenings, by direct labour. Poor Jim was there, and he had a bad heart, and he was carrying big lengths of capping along in his arms. There could have been 20 of us working in our own time there, there was no shortage of men to get the work done. We paid for the cement and sand and blocks, and we got Alec Colville to build the dressing rooms”.
Philip was also a hurley maker: “I made them for 18 years, for Clonoulty, but some went as far as Dublin and America. Fellahs used to bring some to Shannon with them for the flight to New York. I’m repairing hurleys since. If anyone broke a hurley I’d have it mended for them. Jimmy Morrissey of Clune used to get the ash. He’d bring planks of ash to me, about a hundred at a time, and l used to store the planks and make the hurleys in a shed out the back”.
He had some success as a trainer: “l used to train the junior footballers for a few years. It was around the same time that the senior hurlers were going well, in the late eighties. There wasn’t much training done though, for about two months l was going around with two footballs in the boot of the car, and they were never taken out. I remember we played Ballyporeen in Bansha and we beat the stuffing out of them without having trained at all. I was working in Ballyporeen at the time, and they never came near us the following Monday. When they finally spoke to us all they said was”Where did ye get that team of giants!?” Ten of that team were over 6ft. There were 3 Hayes, Tom, Declan and Kenny Ryan, John Kennedy, Andrew Fryday, Dominic and TJ Rody, Dan and Maurice Quirke. TJ Rody was the smallest of them”.
“We won the junior county final, having done maybe a few half hours of training after hurling, in the dark!. Preparations weren’t taken very seriously, but we played away anyway. After going Intermediate, we won the West again, and got to another county final, against Newcastle. 3 or 4 of our lads were knocked out with the ‘flu and we couldn’t field a team, but Newcastle made a bargain that we’d play in the field of their choice, with the referee of their choice. So they chose Cahir and John Moloney as referee!”
“We had a very bad start to the final. But when we got going – Dan Quirke started us off with a goal – we won by about 3 or 4 goals. Of course we had to go senior the next year, and we put in two rounds. Working with that team over those few years was probably the most enjoyable time l spent in the club. Around that time too we won the senior hurling county final, it was a great time for us”.
By John O’Gorman