Honouring a team of legends of the 1980s

They missed out on the big prize but yesterday proves their place in history is safe.

A common thread linked the ‘Stars of the 80s’ honoured in Croke Park yesterday with not an All-Ireland senior hurling medal-winner among them.

All but one of them won an All Star, many of them number provincial, national league and Railway Cup medals among the honours gained — and, of course, Ger Loughnane managed Clare to their twin Liam MacCarthy successes in the 90s.

But, a mere five actually got to play in an All-Ireland senior final.

One of them was the late Limerick goalkeeper Tommy Quaid, who played in the 1980 decider against Galway and whose son Nickey was a member of the team beaten by Clare in last month’s semi-final.

He died tragically in 1998 and was represented on the field yesterday by his father Jack, a Munster championship winner in 1955 (along with twin brother Jim).

Martin Quigley was a member of the Wexford team beaten by Cork in the 1970, 1976 and 1977 finals, Leonard Enright played in front of Quaid 33 years ago and the Antrim pair Dessie Donnelly and Terence ‘Sambo’ McNaughton were there in 1989 against Tipperary.

Each player’s story is interesting in its own way, but for sheer misfortune, Quigley is in a league of his own. While he won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1968 (Wexford’s last), he lost to Cork in the previous year’s final as well as three consecutive U21 deciders. And, Rathnure were beaten by Cork clubs in four All-Ireland finals (twice by Blackrock along with defeats to St Finbarr’s and Kilruane McDonagh).

Now involved with St Martin’s, he says that the feelings of regret, particularly over the twin defeats by Cork in the senior finals, were diluted “over a period of time”.

“You look on the positives,” he said. “I played for a long number of years (up to 1989) and I was relatively successful. You would have liked to win All-Irelands but at this stage it doesn’t matter.

“The friends you made and the places you went playing — those are the memories I have now rather than regrets about All-Ireland medals.”

In another context, Pat Critchley is unique among the group in that he won an All-Ireland club football medal with Portlaoise in 1983, when they defeated Clan na nGael, Roscommon. And, along with PJ Cuddy (the sole player of the 15 not to have won an All Star), he had the distinction of playing in the 1985 Leinster final against Offaly. That marked Laois’s only appearance in a final since 1951. And, he is the only player from the county to win a hurling All Star.

Waterford’s Jim Greene never got to experience the atmosphere of championship hurling in Croke Park, but he did play a few league games against Dublin.

And, back in 1992, he managed the last Waterford team to contest the minor final prior to yesterday’s decider. His versatility — with Mount Sion and the county — saw him star both at half-back and in the full-forward line.

His first league game was against Kilkenny in Walsh Park, when he was marked by the late Ted Carroll. “I wouldn’t say I touched the ball,” he joked. “He nearly put hurling out of my mind!”

One of his happier memories is of winning the last of eight county medals in the company of his son Brian in 1988, when he also managed the team.

Mount Sion made it to the All-Ireland club final of 1982, when they lost to a James Stephens team which included Brian Cody.

Ironically, while his father (in 1938) and son Brian (2002) both won Munster senior hurling championship medals, he was on the losing side in both of the finals he played in (against Cork in 1982 and 1983).

“A Munster medal would have been the Holy Grail for us at the time and we never achieved that,” he recalled. “To win Munster was our goal for 20 years. We went to (watch) the All-Ireland every year and you’d stand up for the national anthem and you’d shed a tear. It affected me that way.’’

Being beaten in the minor final 21 years ago drained him and his players emotionally. “We shed a lot of them back at the hotel afterwards. It’s a hideous thing to lose, especially with young fellows. It was very hard to cope,” he recalled.

Before Clare made their long-awaited breakthrough with the 1995 and 1997 All-Ireland successes, the Banner enjoyed a degree of success two decades earlier.

Ger Loughnane was one of their key players back then, when they lost the 1974 Munster final to Limerick and had the bad luck to lose in consecutive finals to the Cork teams which went on to beat Wexford in the All-Ireland final. But, they had the consolation of two significant wins over Kilkenny in the league finals of 1977 and ’78.

John Callinan was also involved back then, lined out in another Munster final against Cork in 1986 and played both for and against Munster (with the Combined Universities) in the Railway Cup, winning four medals.

He admitted to a feeling of “genuine delight” on hearing of his selection on the team.

“I was slagging Colm Honan because he was trying to slag me about this ‘team of also-rans’ and I said, ‘at least you are not even a sub.’ I do see it as an honour, and it’s brilliant for the Clare fellows that it’s on the day Clare are playing.”

* The concept of recognising the contributions of these players came about because Galway’s winning teams of 1987 and 1988 were both honoured as ‘Jubilee’ teams last year. Martin Quigley feels it’s “a pity” that the two participating teams are not paraded on All-Ireland final day. “After so many years, I don’t think there should be a distinction between winners and losers,” he says.

The men I remember:

Tony Considine’s team from the 1980s

1. TOMMY QUAID

Limerick/Feoghanagh (RIP)

Tommy was a top-class goalkeeper for nearly two decades, one of the best of his generation. He was also a brilliant outfield player for his club, a complete player. Unfortunately though he’ll be forever associated with the ground shot by John Fenton that beat him for that timeless Cork goal, but, believe me, that was the exception. The guy was brilliant in every element of goalkeeping, and so brave.

2. JOHN GALVIN

Waterford/Portlaw

A tight player who could mix it with the best, even on some of the worst Waterford teams that ever took the field. Excellent in the air, great leader and very consistent. I never remember him playing a bad game.

3. LEONARD ENRIGHT

Limerick/Patrickswell

To me this guy was the prince of full-backs in his generation. Very pacy, top-class athlete, starred in a number of sports and a pure hurler. Came on the scene very shortly after Pat Hartigan was finished, big boots to try and fill but he managed, and then some, the All Star of 1980, ’81 and ’83, and maybe deserved even more.

4. DESSIE DONNELLY

Antrim/Ballycastle

The one thing that will always stand out for me about this guy was his performance against Offaly in the historic All-Ireland semi-final win of 1989. He played well also in the one-sided final against Tipperary. Another pure hurler, fine striker, long clearances, Dessie was also a classy wing-back and could play anywhere. Also a very good club player.

5. GER LOUGHNANE

Clare/Feakle

What can I say about this guy? Made of granite, ultra-tough physically and mentally, he played for ten years without missing a league or championship match! He was probably the best defender of the fine Clare team of that generation, an outstanding hurler. One thing about him, he never failed on the big day. Won league and Railway Cup medals, was also Clare’s first All Star, but probably his biggest day of all came in 1988 when he led Feakle to a Clare senior title in almost his last year. We should have known even then that he would go on to become something special as a manager also.

6. SEÁN STACK

Clare/Sixmilebridge

Sean will always be classed as the supreme stylist at centre-back, an out-and-out hurler. Very graceful, fine striker. He was a good athlete too and wasn’t just able to read the play but could get to where he wanted to go with surprising speed. Captained a Clare team to win a league title but, like Loughnane and so many others on this team, was an outstanding clubman, led Sixmilebridge in a golden age for them. Has given a lot back to the game.

7. TERENCE McNAUGHTON

Antrim/Cushendall

The real leader of that Antrim team in the ’80s. ‘Who played well for Antrim?’ – so often the answer to that question was just one word — ‘Sambo!’ No need to say anymore, even in Kilkenny, Tipperary and Cork they knew who you were talking about. As with all the others, great club player with Cushendall. If you were going to war, you’d want this fella with you.

8. MOSSY WALSH

Waterford/Ballyduff

Another fine Waterford player when Waterford weren’t good. Unorthodox style, right hand under, great engine and a fine striker, good for a score or two in every game. Gave outstanding service to Waterford and even in a time of great midfielders, could hold his own with anyone. Was also a fine forward when called on, which proves his versatility.

9. PAT CRITCHLEY

Laois/Portlaoise

Another player who was multi-talented, footballer and basketball player. A strong and forceful player, very unlucky that the Laois team he played on didn’t manage to make the breakthrough in the ’80s. He came so close on a number of occasions but was always just pipped. Pat was the star of that team, great skill along with everything else, at the time he would have made any team in the country. Was the first All Star from Laois and has since given a lot back to the county. An outstanding coach.

10. JOHNNY CALLINAN

Clare/Clarecastle

The Magpie, the baby of the Clare team of the ’70s that won two National League titles and he had a few good minders! An absolute speed-merchant, gave countless outstanding displays for Clare. Could also play in midfield or even in the half-back line. Like so many others, another great clubman and never gave less than his best for Clarecastle when he was playing.

11. MARTIN QUIGLEY

Wexford/Rathnure

Had a lot to live up to in coming after his older brothers, who had become such legends for Wexford. Always a good man to score a goal, he didn’t just continue that legacy, he built on it. Had many a great tussle with Kilkenny’s Ger Henderson, from another great hurling family. Then again he had great tussles with a lot of great hurlers, and came out on top in many of those. Won four consecutive All Star awards, a measure of his talent and his consistency.

12. PADDY KELLY

Limerick/Kilmallock

Another speed merchant, a national hurdles champion as a youngster. Very accurate from play and from placed balls, part of a team that was so unlucky. How many Limerick teams have there been who were good enough to win an All-Ireland title, but failed? Another great clubman, won six county titles with Kilmallock. A major player in a great period for that club.

13. DAVID KILCOYNE

Westmeath/Ringtown

Great to see a Westmeath hurler being honoured, and no-one more fitting than this man. When people talk of Westmeath from this period — and they had a fine team in the early ’80s — the name David Kilcoyne will always crop up. One of a fine family of hurlers (five brothers played for the county), Westmeath were in division 1 for a few years and deservedly so, led by Dave. He is another man to have won the first (and so far only) All Star for his county.

14. PJ CUDDY

Laois/Camross

There was tough in the 1980s, and there was PJ Cuddy. He feared nothing or nobody but he put fear into a lot of defenders! When the ball was in around the square one man you could depend on to be in the right position was PJ, got many a Laois team across the line. Outstanding hurler and outstanding finisher. Proud Camross man in a time when big clubs from the big counties were dominant he and his six hurling brothers inspired them to two All-Ireland finals.

15. JIM GREENE

Waterford/Mount Sion

The goalpoacher supreme was Jim Greene. Oh, he got many a great three-pointer for Waterford. Was never too worried about diets or stuff like that when he was playing, but boy could he hurl. Strong too, could hold off the defender while doing what he needed to do. Sign of a great player, could always be depended on to get a goal when most needed. Didn’t enjoy great success with the county but it was a different story with his club, Mount Sion, where he won eight county titles, the last one won with his son Brian. Not too many hurlers did that!


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