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‘Up Tipp!’ No shock triumph for those in the know about heroes who made GAA history

Pride of the Premier County dispels the Covid blues

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Caoimhe O'Callaghan, Ava Wall and Ava Flavin, students of Loreto Secondary School, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, celebrate Tipperary's win in the Munster Gaelic Football Final. Photo: Don Moloney

Caoimhe O'Callaghan, Ava Wall and Ava Flavin, students of Loreto Secondary School, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, celebrate Tipperary's win in the Munster Gaelic Football Final. Photo: Don Moloney

Caoimhe O'Callaghan, Ava Wall and Ava Flavin, students of Loreto Secondary School, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, celebrate Tipperary's win in the Munster Gaelic Football Final. Photo: Don Moloney

It was business as usual at Maher’s Foodstore in Kilsheelan yesterday, but the owners had plenty to smile about on a rainy Monday afternoon.

Ollie and Miriam Maher were beaming with pride after witnessing their son Bill win a Munster football title with Tipperary, the Premier county’s first in 85 years.

“We haven’t seen him since, except for the pictures of him in the paper,” Ollie laughed while pointing at the shop’s newspaper stand.

When asked about the “shock” victory, he patiently pointed out those in the south of the county weren’t shocked at all.

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23/11/2020 
Miriam and Ollie Maher, proud parents of Tipperary Footballer, Bill Maher pictured at home in Kilsheelan,  Co Tipperary.
Pic: Don Moloney

23/11/2020 Miriam and Ollie Maher, proud parents of Tipperary Footballer, Bill Maher pictured at home in Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary. Pic: Don Moloney

23/11/2020 Miriam and Ollie Maher, proud parents of Tipperary Footballer, Bill Maher pictured at home in Kilsheelan, Co Tipperary. Pic: Don Moloney

“There’s been a big commitment from those players in recent years and plenty of experience there, so we weren’t too surprised,” he said. “We’re very proud of him.”

At CBS High School in Clonmel, some of Bill Maher’s former football coaches and teachers spoke about a “shy individual who was a warrior on the field”.

“He was a very quiet, unassuming and mannerly student,” said woodwork teacher Chris Allen.

“There were no notions about him. There’s great satisfaction in watching young lads you coached reaching their potential on the television.”

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Tony Gleeson, Chris Allen and Dave Nugent, GAA Coaches at CBS High School Clonmel, Co Tipperary 
Pic: Don Moloney

Tony Gleeson, Chris Allen and Dave Nugent, GAA Coaches at CBS High School Clonmel, Co Tipperary Pic: Don Moloney

Tony Gleeson, Chris Allen and Dave Nugent, GAA Coaches at CBS High School Clonmel, Co Tipperary Pic: Don Moloney

Eleven players on Sunday’s panel – including All Star Michael Quinlivan, Evan Comerford and Alan Campbell – went to CBS.

Tony Gleeson, who has been teaching accounting and business at the school since 1981, described CBS as a “conveyor belt for Tipperary talent”.

“Make no mistake about it, this is a football stronghold,” he said.

“Football teaches these young people about work ethic and it’s a great boost for the students currently here to see some of the school’s past pupils winning county titles on the biggest stage.”

In normal times, the school’s walls would be decorated with pictures of their former students playing in the Corn Uí Mhuirí cup, but the Covid pandemic changed all that.

“We had to take them all down when the school was deep cleaned earlier in the summer, but hopefully we’ll be able to hang them back up soon.

“There was a great buzz about the school today and hopefully they’ll be inspired to go on to be the stars of the future.”

With many shops and pubs in Clonmel still closed due to the coronavirus Level 5 restrictions, there wasn’t the usual buzz you’d expect the morning after a Munster final victory.

One local man on the main street described the town as “the home of Bulmers and the home of Gaelic football”, before shouting “Up Tipp” and walking off.

But other than that, it seemed like just another day in the Tipperary town.

The only places where there was some level of post-match celebrations was in the local schools.

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When Dublin teacher Mark Kehir walked into his history class at Loreto Secondary School on Monday morning, his second-year students were about to give him a lesson of their own.

He was met with a sea of blue and yellow as students brought their Tipperary jerseys, banners and flags to taunt Mr Kehir, an avid Dublin supporter.

“I was going to give them no homework but that might have to change,” he said.

Originally from Blanchardstown, Mr Kehir moved to Tipperary four years ago and has been teaching at Loreto since.

“The girls are confident it’s going to be a Dublin and Tipperary final, so depending on the result, they might be getting a lot more homework”.

Much of the talk around the town was about the omens surrounding last weekend’s matches and the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday.

The semi-finals in 1920 involved the same four teams due to contest the 2020 games.

As a history teacher, Mr Kehir is very familiar with the details of Bloody Sunday and has taught his students about the events of that day.

“It’s a weird coincidence all right and I suppose in 2020 who knows what could happen,” he said.

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