The clash of Cooraclare and St Joseph’s Miltown in Sunday’s county final is one thing, writes Joe Ó Muircheartaigh, but what about other county final clash that’s all tied up in the banter between the county board president Tadhgie Murphy and chairman Michael McDonagh who are in opposing camps.
BETWEEN Michael McDonagh and Tadhgie Murphy it is. Mr Chairman and Mr President. Between them it is for a slice of history on Sunday as their beloved football brethren go into county final battle. It’s not a unique county final county final pairing that will take to the field — albeit it will be the first time in 24 years that St Joseph’s have walked behind the band and Cooraclare’s first in 18 years — as they’ve clashed on six occasions over the past 100 years. But, it’s certainly unique off the field. Chairman McDonagh in the claret and gold corner of St Joseph’s; President Murphy in the sky blue corner — even if they’re more likely to be at each other’s side under the Cusack Park shed.
“It’s a good one alright,” admits McDonagh, “with the president and chairman of the board coming from the two competing clubs. I doubt if that’s ever happened before down the years of Clare GAA,” he adds.
You’d say we have to detach ourselves but at the end of the day it’s like this. Tadhgie Murphy is a Cooraclare man; Malty McDonagh is a Miltown man. I’d be telling a lie if I didn’t say I’d love to see Miltown shade it by a point. Course I would. That would do me just fine.
Murphy has been here before though — back in 1986 he was chairman of the Clare County Board and seated in Cusack Park’s Ard Comhairle as the Cooraclare Milesians beat Éire Óg in the county final. But the added dimension of both chairman and president being from rival camps — that’s historic and an extra piece of spice sprinkled onto Sunday’s intriguing battle for supremacy. Both men are consumed by football: Murphy the old Cooraclare playing legend and championship winner in 1956 and again in ’64 and ’65 when he was captain; McDonagh never reached those heights, but his total immersion in the game can’t be questioned.
“I was no good at football and that’s being straight up about it,” he admits, “but I went down to Hennessy Park from a young age because I loved it. I was as young as eight with the likes of Pete Cleary, Sean Minogue, Christy Killeen, Sean Burke, Pat Murray and those fellas.
“There was nothing else — the football field was the centre of the parish, whether we were up there playing soccer or up there after school playing football. There were sheep and cows in the field and an old dressing room in the middle of it. There were none of the modern facilities, but it was a focal point. That’s what we knew in the early 1970s and didn’t want for anything else,” he adds.
Murphy was the same — beating a path to Dónal Kelly’s house next the the football field, pleading to be given the only football in the parish, so himself and his pals could kick some ball in the sports field after school. Both then turned to administration — at club level and then on to the county board. “When the football board was formed I was the first vice-chairman,” remembers Murphy.
“That was in 1970 with Miltown’s Paddy Hennessy the first chairman and I followed him in 1974.
“I left the football board at the end of 1977 — I went back to college to do a Masters degree in Dublin — and then came back as county chairman in ’81 when Brendan Vaughan went to the Munster Council,” he adds.
McDonagh’s rise through the ranks of administration started when he became club chairman in the mid-1990s and oversaw the beginning of the redevelopment of Hennessy Memorial Park as the ground became host to county finals in football and hurling in 1998 and ’99 respectively.
“There were great people involved in the club in those days,” recalls McDonagh. “People like Michael Mahoney, John Reidy, Gus Fitzgerald, Jim Galvin, Jim Marrinan and more. Great people,” he adds.
Now the administrators are meeting at Cusack Park — each with two hands on the Jack Daly Cup. Hoping that their respective clubs will have their hands locked onto them come this Sunday evening at around 4.30pm.
“The banter is great,” says McDonagh, “so all that’s left now is to see which team jumps the ditch. Whoever does it fair to play to them.
“I am an administrator with the county board — I have a strong connection with Miltown and Tadhgie is the same and his attachment is Cooraclare. You’d say that we have to detach ourselves from it, but at the end of the day it’s like this. Tadhgie’s a Cooraclare man; I’m a Miltown man. I’d be telling a lie if didn’t say I’d love to see my parish winning it. I’d love to see Miltown shade it by a point — course I would. That would do me just fine.”
“I’m the same,” says Murphy. “Cooraclare to win by a point.” Between them it is.