independent

Sunday 22 September 2019

Watching hurling sends me right back to my childhood

The Way I See It

Fr Michael Commane

The Tipperary Wexford All-Ireland semi-final was an exciting game. I know little or nothing about hurling but that game was spectacular. The excitement right to the final whistle kept me on the edge of my seat.

And that's all quite amazing as it's one of the few hurling games I have watched on television from start to finish.

That semi-final brought so many memories and emotions running through my head.

Over the years I have been following Wexford manager Davy Fitzgerald, who enthrals me. Any time I hear him on the radio or television he immediately catches my attention and I'm listening to every word he says. The man has something; it might be genius, then again it might be roguery, whatever it is he has charisma and personality in abundance.

My mother was from Tipperary, so 'loyalty', whatever that is, should have had me supporting Tipp. No self-respecting hurling enthusiast will like my saying that I was changing side from each puck of the ball. When Wexford was a point down I was on their side and when the Premier County were trailing I was counting on Bubbles O'Dwyer to score or Jason Forde to point a free. Whatever happened I was winning and losing.

And then all the memories of fadó fadó. I spent my summer holidays on a grand-uncle's farm in Kilkenny but it straddled Tipperary and to this day I'm not sure where's Tipperary and where's Kilkenny, though I do remember the address included lines: 'Via Thurles, Co Tipperary'.

Come August it was time to leave and head back home. En route we would call to a nearby family, a sister and two brothers, to say goodbye. It seems always to have been the Sunday of the All-Ireland final that we called. In the early years the three of them were glued to the radio listening to Micheál Ó Héir's commentary on the game and then later watching every stroke of the ball on television. I have this memory of their jubilation when Kilkenny won, and I, out of 'devilment' would be shouting for Tipperary.

My family had no interest in GAA games whereas our nearby cousins were players and supporters of 'the code'. That was a word I often heard used for GAA games. Indeed, they would often call to our house asking my brother and me if we would go with them to Croke Park. Their father was John D Hickey, who was GAA correspondent for the Irish Independent. On a few occasions I must have gone as a small boy as I can still remember playing in the press box with not the slightest interest in the game below.

On another occasion in Thurles I recall trying to operate a handle on one of those now-obsolete Bakelite telephones so that my uncle could file his match report after a Munster Final at the 'Sportsfield', which has now morphed into Semple Stadium. Those black telephones with no dials have long ago disappeared.

Interesting what a game of hurling can do. Watching that game, my mind kept wandering back to my childhood.

As to the final: up Tipp, up Kilkenny.

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