Sport Hurling

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Fond memories of legendary 'Doc'

John O'Brien

PA Dillon, the great Kilkenny full-back, once told a story of the day they played Clare in an Oireachtas final. Challenging for a high ball with Clare full-forward, Puddin' Cullinane, Dillon shipped a nasty gash to his lower lip. "I went to Doc Cuddihy. He had me up on the table, stitches me up. 'Will it leave much of a scar, Doc?' I says. He stopped stitching and looked at me, 'Listen', he says, 'you're no beauty. It'll make no difference to you'. That's all the sympathy I got."

In that gem of a story, the rich character of Kieran Cuddihy is succinctly revealed. Modest yet gregarious, playful yet serious, the man they simply referred to as 'Doc' was larger than life. In a defining era of Kilkenny hurling, so adeptly chronicled in The Godfather of Modern Hurling, Enda McEvoy's book on Fr Tommy Maher, Cuddihy was a fringe but immense and important figure.

Brought on board by Paddy Grace in the early 1960s, Cuddihy remained team doctor until 1982 when his son, Bill, took over. Two other sons, Brendan and John, have also served the cause while Bill's daughters, Joanne and Catriona, have run internationally for Ireland. Cuddihy always laughed off the idea of a dynasty -- "it makes one feel like a member of Nero's family during the Roman Empire" -- but that's how it felt.

Sadly, he passed away last Tuesday and you can be sure they swept in from all parts of the county and beyond to pay their respects to a great hurling man. And no doubt, a Tipp man with a glint in his eye, would have mentioned the 1968 League final, a fractious affair stoked by a decade of fierce rivalry, when the Doc, furious at the punishment being meted out to Eddie Keher, rushed onto the field to remonstrate with the referee who promptly sent him off.

"Suffice to say that I was not exactly Persil white," Cuddihy recalled years later, "and the only other comment I can make is that it was the first and only time an official was put outside the Croke Park gate. Mind you, the same official was told by the gateman to furnish himself with a cap or a hat, and come back, and that he [gateman] would let him back in, which is exactly what happened."

He will be sorely missed.

Irish Independent

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