The big interview: Bride Rovers stalwart John Arnold never pulls his punches

The big interview: Bride Rovers stalwart John Arnold never pulls his punches
Pa O’Driscoll and an Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, being shown how to make hurleys by John Arnold. Picture: John Hennessy

A LIFETIME involvement in the GAA, mainly through his beloved Bride Rovers, John Arnold is one of the most dedicated and articulate observers of what’s happening across the landscape of the association.

Sometimes his opinions have been the opposite to others but he’s more than capable of articulating his viewpoint.

Here he talks about some of the happenings he has seen, particularly in the Rovers club down the years.

“I suppose my first major memory would be of Bride Rovers winning the East Cork Junior Hurling in 1969.

“We won it too in ‘68 and those were our first titles since 1932. I would not have grown up in a strong GAA family and my father died when I was very young but I had a grand-aunt who was married to the great Jamesie Kelleher from Dungourney.

“I would have a memory of the great Larry O’Flaherty from Blackrock driving monks from Rochestown around making collections, he called to our house a few times. They are early memories.”

His association with Bride Rovers began at a very early age, the club’s representative at the East Cork board.

“I started there at 15, I was not very good as a player but got involved at admin level very early.

“I remember going to East Cork meetings when Paddy O’Driscoll was in the chair and Derry O’Brien, who passed away recently, was also there as vice-chair.

“Bride Rovers lost two junior finals in East Cork in 1972 and 1973, one was after a replay against Erin’s Own in a classic of a game, the scoreline being 7-11 to 6-14.

“I can remember cars being parked two miles outside Midleton for those games, it used be that way since the early ‘60s.”

The first major breakthrough came in 1998 when the club graduated on to the intermediate stage.”

Yes, we beat Freemount in the county junior final after beating Dungourney in the divisional final.

“And there was better to come for us a few years later when we won the Cork County Intermediate final against Inniscarra in 2003.

“Suddenly we were a senior club, something that might have been a distant dream years earlier.

“But we had a very good team, very good players and they proved it afterwards by getting to a senior final.

“We lost that final to Sars by a point, maybe we could have won it, a point or two here, a point or two there but they went on to win four county titles between that year and 2014.”

Sarsfields' Tadhg Óg Murphy challenges Bride Rovers' Brendan O'Driscoll at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Larry Cummins
Sarsfields' Tadhg Óg Murphy challenges Bride Rovers' Brendan O'Driscoll at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Larry Cummins

From humble beginnings, he has seen the Bride Rovers club grow into one of the most thriving units of the association.

“Look the club has changed dramatically since I went in there. Today we cater for up to 50 teams from under six upwards, boys and girls.

“Of course, the parish has grown so much too and in the club we try to cater for everyone that comes through the door.

“We would have purchased our field back in 1985 for at the time £27,000. We had to borrow obviously and some thought we’d never be able to pay it back.

“But since then we have spent €590,000 on development which shows the ambition in the club.

“We have very strong people at the helm in the club and you need that, a core group of 10 or 12 people, not like in the past when you had one or two doing everything in all the clubs.

“To attract the young people you need the best of facilities and we have made great strides in that.

“I wrote the club history which came out in 1999 and that needs to be updated.

“We will be celebrating our centenary in 2028 and it might be a while away yet but updating the history would be a priority.”

In the bigger picture, Arnold has seen the association undergo a drama

Daniel Lane, Ger Lane and John Arnold, all Bride Rovers, at convention in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Daniel Lane, Ger Lane and John Arnold, all Bride Rovers, at convention in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Jim Coughlan

tic transformation down the years.

“Yes, I’ve seen many, many changes, many of them for the good of the association. I would not agree with everything that’s happened and one thing

“The money that’s being spent on inter-county teams cannot be sustained. Overall, last season, you had €36 million spent on the inter-county front across the country.

“That cannot continue. Let me tell you a story, one night last season I got into my car and went around East Cork and I came across eight empty GAA fields bar a few youngsters playing around.

“That was in the month of July, no activity because the club season had been suspended.

“That cannot be right, the emphasis is on catering for the elite in the months of the year that matter, months when players should be hurling.

“We have a new president coming in next season, Larry McCarthy and he seems to have a good grasp of things by the way he has spoken.

“But this has to be addressed, are we heading for elite county squads, if we do that the GAA will be in trouble because the whole ethos of the GAA is about it being an amateur organisation.”

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