“A Cuala v Ballyea final would be a heck of a day out.”
A pipe-dream at the time, but prescient and prophetic as it has come to pass. “The dream becoming a reality and all that,” chimes troubadour Mike Hanrahan right from the heart of Cuala country in Deansgrange.
It was RTE broadcaster Dessie Cahill who sounded out the pipe-dream — way back on 30 October last — in a tweet to Hanrahan from his own corner of Cuala country.
Ballyea had just won their historic first ever county senior title and the smart money was that this would be as good as it would get for the black and amber, while Cuala had plundered their fifth county title 24 hours previosly and would have had notions about going one step further than 2015 when they were Leinster finalists.
But making it as far as St Patrick’s Day — and Ballyea being there with them?
“Myself and Dessie laughed and joked about it,” says Hanrahan, “and every now and then, after they both kept winning I’d be telling him that the dream was still on until it wasn’t a dream anymore”.
The banter between the two would be over tweets, and even the odd pint in McCormack & Sons in Glenegeary. “It’s my local,” says Hanrahan, “and it’s the local of the president of Cuala, some of the players’ mothers and fathers drink there and Dessie comes in for a pint there.
“The pub is Cuala. Completely. They even turned off the soccer match the day of the semi-final — the bar which is normally the soccer area was completely taken over by hurling. They said it couldn’t be done. It’s all hurling now,” he adds.
A bit like The Local in Tiermaclane then — the pub that is Ballyea, completely and taken over by their team’s hurling voyage, albeit there are people who believed it couldn’t be done.
So when you’re looking for Cuala and for Ballyea in microcosm, just default to McCormack’s and The Local.
For Cuala it’s unique; for Ballyea it’s unique — and certainly for Mike Hanrahan it’s unique as he plants a foot firmly in both camps. Until match day that is…
“Cuala is a very local club,” he says. “You wouldn’t really associate the GAA with Dalkey, but Cuala is right there in the heart of the village. They share their grounds with Dalkey FC and the clubhouse is a real focal point. Everyone comes in there.
“I have done a lot of gigs there over the years — myself and Ronnie Drew did a lot of charity gigs there. A lot of the crew in the club would have grown up with my nieces and nephews. I’d would know Óisín Gough very well and Cuala is my club, but……..”
It’s the Ballyea thing, because the club also has a special place in his affections and it’s why the colours are flying outside his Deansgrange home — an oasis of black and amber in what is otherwise a sea of Cuala red and white from every GAA house.
The flagstaff on top of Dalkey Castle carries the red and white, while the round tower out on Dalkey Island is even showing off the colours, as are some of the boats in Bullock Harbour.
Amidst in all, Mike Hanrahan stands alone.
“I’m Ballyea because of my grandfather,” he says proudly. “Dan Joe Kelleher was born in Cork but came up Clare when he was very young. He was sent up to live with his aunt in Tiermaclane. He married a local woman and they had a farm in Tiermaclane. He is listed as the founding chairman of the club, while the president was Michael McTigue.
“Growing up we spent all our summers in Tiermaclane and we would march every Sunday morning into Ballyea for mass and we would get our ice-cream from Sylvie Barrett’s shop.
“Even at school I would always have hung around with the kids that came from Ballyea. There was that sort of camaraderie between us. When my grandfather died my grandmother was out there on her own. My sister spent about a year with her and I spent a good few months out there.
“Ballyea was our childhood. In the summer months the place was our playground. We worked on the farm and we played on the farm. It was an idyllic upbringing really,” he adds.
And it’s that upbringing that Hanrahan is defaulting to this week — in banter and craic as the countdown to St Patrick’s Day gathers momentum, but also in nailing his loyalties firmly to the Ballyea mast.
“A lot of people wouldn’t know my background,” he says, “and I’d be talking to them about working of a farm as a kid in Ballyea — lads up here would never have seen a tram of hay, they mightn’t even have seen a cow. There is a great bit of slagging — the GAA is great for slagging and we have a bit of fun on that.
“It is amazing,” he continues, “because if Ballyea weren’t in the final I’d be shouting for Cuala, but that it’s Ballyea in the final there’s no contest for me — it has to be them. The heart is a lot stronger for Ballyea.
“We will all be sitting together in Croke Park. Ballyea and Dalkey. We’ll go in together and we’ll leave together, regardless of who wins or loses. I’m going to the match with Pat Shortt. His brother lives right beside the pitch. Pat says he will become an honorary Ballyea man that day.”
All that will be left is Mike’s next gig in the Cuala clubhouse.
For the man who famously told a Kerry audience in Ballybunion on the night Clare won the Munster football final in 1992, “hello, we’re Stockton’s Wing, we’re from the home of Munster football” it would have to be “hello, I’m Mike Hanrahan from Ballyea, the home of the All-Ireland champions.”
Maybe the Wing will play that gig in the Cuala clubhouse.
It’s their 40th anniversary year, after all.

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