Cloyne and East Cork hurling was built on the strength of brothers in arms

Recent RTÉ show on Christy Ring highlighted family ties
Cloyne and East Cork hurling was built on the strength of brothers in arms

Cloyne and Cork legend Diarmuid O'Sullivan standing under the shadow of the great Christy Ring. The O'Sullivan clan backboned the club for a generation. Picture: Dan Linehan

THE recent excellent documentary on Christy Ring on RTÉ, Christy Ring: Man and Ball, featured fine contributions from a number of Cloyne personnel, great GAA people like Dan and Donal Óg Cusack, Bunty Cahill and Jimmy Aherne.

They spoke reverently about the great man and their pride in the man they were so proud to call one of their own.

Cloyne is, of course, one of the country’s great GAA homes, a club steeped in the rich traditions of the GAA. It is unique too, not alone for some of its great achievements but because of its huge family tradition.

Across the GAA landscape, there are clubs with similar family ties but in that regard, the east Cork village surely stands apart.

The names just fall off the tongue: the Rings, Motherways, Ahernes, O’Sullivans, Cusacks, Cahills, Dalys, O’Briens, and so on, fathers, sons, brothers, cousins and so on who wore the famed jersey.

Growing up in east Cork one can recall the contributions those names made to Cloyne hurling through the ages, some of them the finest club players of their generation.

In his excellent book, An Illustrated History of the GAA in East Cork, historian Tom Morrisson pens the great victories of Cloyne teams in the region and beyond from 1924 onwards. One of their great victories was 50 years ago last year when they won the Cork County IHC at the expense of Castletownroche at Castlelyons.

That Cloyne team featured five Ahernes, the aforementioned Jimmy, Brian, Bernie, Joe and Ger.

David and Ger Motherway played on that team, you had Pat and Noel Cusack, Jerry O’Sullivan, Ray and Bunty Cahill, Paddy Ring, Dinny Shea.

Conor Cusack and Willie John Ring of Cloyne. Picture: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision
Conor Cusack and Willie John Ring of Cloyne. Picture: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision

School principal and the man credited with so much of the club’s success story, Michael O’Brien played that day as did Paddy Dunne, Didi Costine, the great Donal Clifford and Tommy Canavan. It was a perfect blend of youth and experience and it illustrated just how so many family ties contributed to the success.

Four years earlier, Cloyne were successful in the grade too, defeating Cobh in the final in Midleton with David and Seamus Daly playing their part.

That great family tradition was always maintained and more recently you had five O’Sullivan brothers featuring in county senior finals with the club.

My own club, Castlemartyr had four Dowlings involved in the county junior final win of 1964. You had three O’Keeffes involved in that win too.

In Youghal’s county intermediate victory of 1969 you had strong family connections, brothers Dan and Robbie O’Sullivan, Billy and John Ryan.

The Coleman name is synonymous too with great Youghal teams while Midleton’s great success story of the ’80s had three Boylans and Pat and John Hartnett.

The O’Connors and the Mulcahys played massive roles in the wonderful years when Newtownshandrum ruled the roost in the Cork SHC.

Sars are another club with huge family links, Tadhg and Bertie Óg Murphy, Tadhg Óg and Ronan Murphy, the Kearneys Danny and Willie, Conor and Eoin O’Sullivan, Pat and Ray Ryan and so on.

The point that we are trying to make in all of this is the importance of families in GAA clubs, generations of different units contributing to the wellbeing of the club that they are attached to.

The love of the games are passed on from generation to generation and thus ensuring the club will continue to thrive.

It’s a similar story in all the clubs. In the Rockies victories of 2001 and 2002, you had John and Alan Browne, the current crop features the Cormack brothers.

The Glen have a rich family tradition, the Barrs the same, every club everywhere has that strong family bond and that’s so much part and parcel of the GAA.

Finally, on this Friday we remember another great Tipperary hurler who was called to his eternal reward this week. Theo English was one of the greats of Tipperary hurling when they dominated the landscape in the ’60s and he was one of the finest players of his generation.

As a youngster I always wanted Cork to dominate when the counties clashed but it was a privilege too to have seen that great Tipperary team in action.

You never forget those Summer Sundays of a time now long passed.

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