In the bar at Hayes Hotel a killer met his victim...
Pat Quirke and Bobby Ryan met to discuss their relationships with Mary Lowry, writes Liam Collins
Festooned with For Sale signs and religious symbols, Thurles is different from other towns in one significant respect - as the cradle of the GAA, even today it is infused with what it means to be Irish.
Archbishop Croke presides like a patriarch in the form of a bronze statue over Liberty Square, looking from the west end of the town towards Hayes Hotel, where the seven men who invented modern Gaelic Games met on a fateful day, November 1, 1884.
It was also where flat-capped Pat Quirke and Bobby Ryan, known colourfully as 'Mr Moonlight', sat down to discuss Mary Lowry. It is not clear what strong-willed Mary Lowry, who was also in the hotel, thought of her lovers, past and present, discussing which of them had first rights on her affections. Pat Quirke would be convicted of the murder of the man sitting opposite him eight years after that 'summit' in Hayes Hotel in Thurles. The two men sat in Cusack's Bar that night to discuss their claim to the wealthy land-owning widow who lived some distance away at Fawnagowan, near Tipperary town.
Perhaps it was the anonymity of Cusack's Bar that appealed to both of them. In Tipperary town it was likely that some people knew Pat Quirke had become Mary Lowry's lover shortly after the death of her husband Martin, and probably that he had been supplanted in her affections by the colourful Mr Moonlight.
There is not much that goes unnoticed in the so-called Real Ireland.
Besides, they were men of the world. Bobby, with his disc jockey job performing in bars and hotels around the county. Pat, an aficionado of trendy hotels like The G in Galway, The Lyrath in Kilkenny, the Cliff House in Ardmore. Pat liked to put on 'the style', as they say, when he wasn't running his farming business or gambling on CFDs, a complicated form of investing on the stock market.
The meeting became necessary after Pat Quirke discovered that Mary was seeing Bobby. By Quirke's account, it was a civilised meeting.
They sat down on January 5, 2011, a matter of weeks after Mary Lowry started seeing Bobby.
It's a big, modern bar with cosy corners for conducting discreet business. It does a busy trade in good bar food, although we don't know if the two men broke bread together or just had a drink. It is also a place of pilgrimage for GAA diehards on the day of the Munster hurling final, but such sporting thoughts were far from the concerns of the two Tipperary men that day.
"I was happy enough with the meeting," Quirke later told gardai, as if he was discussing a business deal rather than a real-life human entanglement that would turn into one of the most engrossing court dramas of the modern era.
"He didn't see me as someone who had it in for him," he added, indicating perhaps that the lines of demarcation had been drawn.
We don't have Bobby Ryan's version of events. But he did tell his daughter Michelle, "Pat warned me to stay away from Mary" - advice he didn't heed.
We don't know if anything else was discussed in Hayes Hotel; whether they engaged in chit-chat, or looked at the names of every team to have played in an All-Ireland. Perhaps they were too engrossed in their love triangle to have noticed such niceties.
A few weeks after the meeting, Pat Quirke and his wife Imelda, and Bobby Ryan and Mary Lowry, went to the Clonmel Park Hotel to catch a Brendan Grace gig. They all loved dancing and the shows.
On a recent visit to Hayes Hotel, the town of Thurles was transfixed, like most of the country, on the murder trial, although possibly a little defensive about it.
"If it happened in Dublin it wouldn't be getting so much attention, but because we are country people ye seem to think this kind of carry-on is exotic down here," I was told by one woman.
The Sunday night crowd, mainly women celebrating Mother's Day with gin and tonics as golf and Formula One played on screens over the bar, thinned out early.
The town's main preoccupation is keeping the post office in Liberty Square - the trial was just a distracting sideshow recalling events that took place many years ago.
Come mid-summer, the events in Fawnagowan will have faded somewhat and the hurling folk will gather in Cusack's Bar in Hayes Hotel to savour once again the build up to one of the country's great sporting occasions, the Munster hurling final. Stories of love triangles come and go, but great sporting occasions remain a constant.