What type of men win an All-Ireland in time of war?

In considering these men, it is impossible to ignore the political climate of 1917, writes Paul Rouse.

What type of men win an All-Ireland in time of war?

Back row: Pat Cullen, Tim Gleeson, Harry Boland, Seán O’Donovan, Andy Harty, Prof. A Cleary, Luke O’Toole.

Middle row: Jim Murphy, Frank Burke, Jim Cleary, Joe Phelan, Seán Hyde, Brendan Considine, Martin Hayes, Hugh Burke, Fr Timothy Corcoran.

Front row: Martin Hackett, Mick Neville, Bob Mockler, Dr John Ryan (capt.), Pat Kennefick, Charlie Stuart. 

In front: Tommy Daly, Tommy Moore.

One hundred years ago, in October 1917, UCD Collegians (representing Dublin) were crowned All-Ireland hurling champions. It was a victory that came as a shock to the hurling world, following a championship that was memorable for the intensity of the games played. Players trained as never before and newspapers lauded the “speed and dash” of the hurling.

The UCD Collegians had actually begun their season by claiming the Fitzgibbon Cup for the third year in a row, overcoming UCC 3-2 to 3-1. One piece of silverware collected, Collegians then entered the Dublin championship.

The Dublin County final between the Collegians and Faughs was billed as a “brilliant exposition of hurling”. UCD ran out winners on a scoreline of 3-1 to 1-2 that day, marching on to the Leinster Championship.

In the first round, Meath put in an honourable performance against the superior Collegians but greater challenges lay ahead against Offaly and Kilkenny. Indeed, Offaly had shocked 1915 All-Ireland winners Laois in the previous round, while Kilkenny had dominated the All-Ireland series since the turn of the century.

Nevertheless, the Collegians overcame both obstacles to face Tipperary in the All-Ireland final.

The final proved to be a “sensational” affair. 12,000 spectators turned out to see the 1916 champions, Boherlahan of Tipperary, battle against the athletic UCD side. They were not disappointed: the final scoreline of 5-4 to 4-2 in favour of Collegians was a testament to the intensity of the affair. Scenes of unbridled joy followed as the Collegians celebrated this historic occasion.

Men from a variety of counties and backgrounds, united by their passion for hurling, lined out for the UCD team. Under the rules of the time, Collegians were able to supplement their Dublin championship-winning team to compete in the Leinster and All-Ireland championship with some of the best players from other Dublin clubs, most notably Faughs.

The success of the team was based on the astute recruitment of players and on the coaching and physical training of the radical Republican Harry Boland and team captain John Ryan. Like all the Dublin All-Ireland winning teams, it was filled by hurlers who came from outside the city.

In considering these men, it is impossible to ignore the political climate of 1917, considering that two of the Collegians on the field that day, Sean O’Donovan and Frank Burke, had already been interned due to their involvement in the 1916 Rising.

Others, such as Sean Hyde, an intelligence agent for Michael Collins, later entered the realm of militant nationalism as foot soldiers and officers of the Irish Republican Army during the War of Independence.

But what type of men win an All-Ireland in time of war?

Here is a snapshot of the hurlers of 100 years ago:

John Ryan (Captain)

Having ‘learned his hurling in the Golden Vale country’ around Pallasgreen, Co. Limerick, John Ryan had just completed his medical studies at University College Dublin when he captained the Dublin team to All-Ireland victory in 1917. Described as a ‘6ft 3in powerhouse from the Limerick-Tipperary border’, Ryan was a commanding player and leader who also captained UCD to three Fitzgibbon victories in 1915, 1916 and 1917.

Arguably, it was Ryan who was responsible for deciding that the Collegians would utilise their youth and speed in order to attain success. Owing to this, it was he (aided by Harry Boland) who coached his Dublin teammates on sprinting methods ahead of the 1917 championship. Their efforts were rewarded and contemporary newspapers admiringly described the 1917 Dublin team as being as “fleet as deer”. Ryan was known for his “boyish enthusiasm” for both UCD and university athletics. He maintained close links with both when his career as the First Medical Officer of the Dublin Metropolitan Division of An Garda Síochána allowed. Alongside serving as President of the Athletic Union Council, Ryan held a range of honorary positions within UCD’s Athletics’ Club. Following his untimely death in 1943, his association with Higher Education sport was commemorated by the creation of the Ryan Cup Football and Hurling tournaments.

Tommy Daly (Goalie)

‘The greatest goalman to ever clutch a ball’, Tulla native and medical student Tommy Daly was one of the linchpins of the 1917 Collegians and Dublin teams. Playing with the Collegians, Daly won a total of six Fitzgibbon Cup titles. In addition to his senior All-Ireland medal won in 1917, Daly had already won an All-Ireland junior medal with Clare in 1914. During his playing career with Dublin, he would win another three All-Ireland senior hurling championships as well as five Leinster titles.

In 1930 (following the amendment of the GAA’s non-residents rule, which initially stipulated that a player must play for the county where he lived) he was able to line out with his native Clare, which resulted in him securing a Munster title in 1933 as well as his second Railway Cup medal, (this time with Munster), having won his first in 1927 with Leinster. Once described by teammate Bob Mockler as a ‘wizard’ in goal, Daly was a formidable opponent on the pitch but was universally liked off it. Following his retirement from playing, he became a popular referee and had the dubious pleasure of refereeing the 1935 All-Ireland final between Kilkenny and Limerick in a torrential downpour. Tragically killed in a car accident in 1936, Daly was eulogised in Bryan MacMahon’s famous GAA ballad, Lament for Dr Tommy Daly, which includes the verse:

‘No more shall limewhite goalposts

Soar tapering and tall

Above the greatest goalman

That ever clutched a ball.

Nor yet he’ll rouse the echoes

Of ash in native air,

Nor heed the throbbing thousands

Tense with pride of Clare.’

Sean Hyde

Having completed his academic and hurling studies at St Finbarr’s College, Farranferris (known as ‘Farna’ to its alumni) it was only natural that Sean Hyde would continue his playing career when he moved to Dublin. Capable of playing in various positions, Hyde had played a definitive role in helping Cork secure a Munster title in 1915. With Dublin, Hyde frequently lined out as a full-back and proved instrumental in defending throughout the 1917, 1918 and 1919 seasons. Along with his 1917 All-Ireland medal, Hyde won two Leinster medals (1917 and 1919) and three Dublin senior hurling championships (1917, 1918 and 1919).

Increasing involvement in intelligence work for Michael Collins’ Irish Volunteers and his prominent role in organising the successful plot to kill William Redmond (Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Irish Constabulary) in January 1920 led to his retirement from hurling. Hyde was transferred to Cork following his involvement in Bloody Sunday 1920. Injured in an ambush by anti-Treaty forces in January 1922 when working as an assistant to Eoin O’Duffy, Hyde resumed his Veterinary Medical studies in 1923. Once qualified, his sporting involvement centred around hunting and horse-racing. Along with his brothers Tim Hyde (a professional jockey who won a number of Irish Grand Nationals and Aintree Grand Nationals) and Patrick Hyde, he founded the San Peel Hunt.

Sean O’Donovan

Described as ‘the best midfield man’, Sean O’Donovan was instrumental in helping the Collegians to attain success during the 1917, 1918, and 1919 seasons. Born in Clonakilty, O’Donovan moved to Dublin in order to study Veterinary Science at UCD. He helped the Collegians to three consecutive Dublin senior hurling championships (1917, 1918, and 1919) and won two Leinster medals (1917 and 1919) in addition to his 1917 All-Ireland medal. His performance during the aforementioned final was described as ‘brilliant’ by various newspaper reports and he was commended for his accuracy in placing the ball as he pucked it towards his forwards.

Following a short delay owing to his involvement in the 1916 Rising and subsequent internment in Wakefield Prison and Frongoch internment camp, O’Donovan graduated as a Veterinary Surgeon in December 1918. Involved in the anti-Treaty side during the Civil War, he was a founding member of Fianna Fáil in 1926 and would serve in the Seanad for prolonged periods from 1938 until his retirement in 1969.

Frank Burke

Considered one of the most outstanding players of his generation. Kildare native Frank Burke’s first match playing hurling for Dublin’s senior team was the 1917 All-Ireland final. An experienced dual player, Burke had lined out for the Collegians for both the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup competitions in 1912. He would go on to win five Sigerson Cup medals and four Fitzgibbon Cup medals between 1915 and 1924. He had also won two junior All-Ireland hurling medals with Dublin in 1914 and 1916.

Having attended Patrick Pearse’s St Enda’s, Burke returned to teach in the school during 1916. His active support of Pearse during the 1916 Easter Rising, resulted in his arrest and internment in Stafford Jail and Frongoch internment camp until his release ahead of Christmas of 1916. In total, Burke would win two senior All-Ireland hurling medals and three senior All-Ireland football medals with Dublin. Infamously, Burke was marking Tipperary captain Mick Hogan during the All-Ireland football final played in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920. When the British forces began shooting, Burke and Hogan had been contesting the ball — they tried to escape by crawling across the pitch to safety, but Hogan was fatally shot.

Charlie Stuart

Hailing from Ogonelloe, Co. Clare, Charlie Stuart, (brother of the 19th GAA President JJ Stuart) had contributed to Clare’s successful campaign to win the junior All-Ireland final in 1914. In 1917, he had captained the Collegians hurling team to victory in the Walsh Cup and played an integral role during Dublin’s All-Ireland 1917 campaign and final. Stuart later captained Dublin in their unsuccessful All-Ireland campaign of 1919. Having completed his medical studies in 1922, Stuart joined the Irish army and rose to become Colonel Stuart, Chief of the Army Medical Corps. His interest in sport remained undiminished and he served as captain of Milltown Golf Club during the late 1950s.

Joe Phelan

Scorer of the opening goal of the All-Ireland final for Dublin, Joe Phelan had already won an All-Ireland senior hurling championship with his native Laois in 1915. Once described as ‘one of the most dangerous forwards in the history of the game’, Phelan’s ability to score from acute angles made him indispensable. Bob Mockler anecdotally recounted how Dublin secured the 1920 All-Ireland win after he and Tommy Moore convinced Phelan, who was studying medicine in UCD, to join the Dublin team three weeks before the final against Cork. Phelan went on to score a hat-trick of goals and secured a third All-Ireland.

Robert (Bob) Mockler (Faughs)

A celebrated midfielder, Bob Mockler had previously lined out for his native Tipperary. In particular, he had travelled to Brussels in 1908 to play an exhibition hurling match against Cork and had been part of the 1909 and 1913 Tipperary teams which had lost their All-Ireland hurling finals against Kilkenny.

After moving to Dublin in 1914, he joined Faughs GAA club, with whom he would win seven Metropolitan championships and nine league titles. Playing for Dublin he served a pivotal role in securing All-Ireland victories in 1917, 1920, and 1924. Noted for his skill and accuracy at taking frees, Mockler frequently proved to be a steadying leader on the pitch and among his younger teammates. A natural sportsman, he was a talented footballer and a successful handballer who competed in the Tailteann Games. When his playing career finished, he immersed himself in the administrative side of the GAA, working as chairman of Con Colbert’s GAC and as a member of Dublin GAA’s Board and Central Council.

Tommy Moore

‘These were tough times, tough games and tough men that played in them’. That was the recollection of Ballyragget-born Tommy Moore when asked about the 1917 All-Ireland final. Working as a barman in Dublin city centre, Moore was often described as a “swift and reliable winger” who regularly lined out for Dublin and his beloved Faughs. Though he enjoyed a distinguished inter-county career, winning two All-Irelands with Dublin in 1917 and 1920, it was Moore’s commitment to his club which sealed his reputation as ‘Club-man supreme’. During his playing career with Faughs he won 12 county championships and four Leinster titles.

After hanging up his boots and acquiring his bar on Cathedral Street, which he renamed ‘Gaelic Bar’, Moore devoted himself to Faughs and gave over 40 years of service to the club acting as both chairman and Honorary President. As one of the founding committee members that purchased and presented the Sam Maguire senior football championship trophy in 1927; it was only fitting that after his death, Faughs commissioned and donated the Tommy Moore Cup, senior All-Ireland Club hurling final trophy to the GAA in 1974.

Jim Cleary

A North Tipperary man by birth, Jim Cleary’s hurling career was Dublin-based. Moving to the capital at an early age to work as a barman, Cleary joined Faughs. Described as ‘one of the greatest exponents’ of the game, Cleary enjoyed a fine career with Faughs and Dublin. By the time he hung up his boots in 1922, he helped Faughs to eight senior championships and two All-Irelands (1917 and 1920). He was later imprisoned for his patronage of the First Dáil Loan in 1920. A gifted footballer and handballer, Cleary chaired the Great Southern Railway Handball Board at the time of his death in 1938. Unsurprisingly, given his links with GAA, his pub on Amiens Street (J&M Cleary’s) remains a popular haunt on match days.

Hugh Burke

Forced to retire early in the first half owing to a shoulder injury picked up during play, Lorrha’s Hugh Burke had played an influential role throughout Dublin’s 1917 championship campaign. Though this has often been forgotten on account of Brendan Considine’s (who replaced him) impressive performance during the 1917 final. Burke himself was a player of great skill and repute, who looms as a ‘legend in the hurling lore’ of his adopted club Faughs.

As a forward, Burke was capable of great accuracy and was frequently responsible for staging ‘rushes’ on opponents’ goals. Such ability helped him secure two All-Ireland medals when Dublin won their finals in 1917 and 1920. Though he resided in Dublin for the rest of his life, his close links with the GAA community of his native North Tipperary are commemorated in the Hugh Burke Cup, the trophy awarded to the winners of North Tipperary’s U21 hurling championship, which was named in his honour.

Mick Neville

Kilfinny native Mick Neville lined out for Faughs and Dublin for almost a decade. During that period of time, he almost exclusively occupied the full-forward position on both teams. With Dublin, he won four Leinster medals (1917, 1919, 1920 and 1921) and two All-Irelands (1917 and 1920). During the early 1920s, Neville returned to live and hurl in Limerick. Subsequently, he secured a Munster medal and lost an All-Ireland final to Galway in 1923. Upon returning to Kilfinny, Neville focused on rebuilding his local GAA club. As a result, Kilfinny’s senior hurling team regularly competed for glory during the hard-fought Limerick championships of the late 1920s. When his playing career came to an end, Neville turned to refereeing and was later appointed Treasurer of the West Limerick GAA County Board for a number of years.

Martin Hackett

A native of Toomevara, Martin Hackett had joined Faughs GAA when he moved to Dublin as a young man. Unlike his younger brother Stephen (who lined out for Tipperary during the 1917 All-Ireland final), Martin’s inter-county career was short and only lasted for the 1917 championship season. However, by the end of the season he had won both a Leinster medal and an All-Ireland medal.

Pat Kennefick

A stalwart of Dublin GAA, Pat Kennefick was an experienced Dublin player by the 1917 All-Ireland final. Belonging to the Rapparees GAA club, Kennefick had lined out regularly for over a decade with both club and county, prior to the 1917 All-Ireland victory. Subsequently, he became a popular hurling referee and officiated the 1923 All-Ireland final between Limerick and Galway at Croke Park in September 1924. He took a leading role in facilitating the amalgamation of the Grocers and Rapparees hurling clubs to form the Young Ireland Hurling Club in 1923. Elected to Dublin GAA’s County council in January 1917, Kennefick was appointed President of Dublin’s County Council in 1925. He was serving as Vice-President of the Dublin GAA Board at the time of his death in 1927.

Martin Hayes

A native of Crecora Co. Limerick, Martin Hayes was one of the best-known hurlers of his generation. In 1911, he had narrowly missed out on an All-Ireland medal, when Limerick had beaten Kilkenny. After moving to Dublin in 1915, he played, typically in the full-back position, for Commercials Hurling Club as well as Faughs. He won three All-Irelands with Dublin in 1917, 1920 and 1927- having come out of inter-county retirement and nearing 40 years of age to win the latter. One of the founders of the Garda Hurling Club, he also won an Army championship medal.

Brendan Considine

If things had gone to plan, Brendan Considine should never have taken to the pitch on the day of the All-Ireland final. Despite having performed well during the earlier Leinster Championship, he had been benched for the final on account of allegedly not having trained enough. However, after Hugh Burke, playing at corner-forward suffered a shoulder injury in the first half, Considine took to the field. He made his presence felt and contributed two goals to the final score. One of seven brothers, including Willie ‘Dodger’, who helped Clare hurlers secure their 1914 All-Ireland final and Turlough ‘Tull’ who won a Munster medal with Clare in 1930, Brendan was also a gifted footballer and rugby player.

By the time he retired from playing in 1930, he had lined out as a senior hurler and footballer for Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Clare, as his career with the Munster and Leinster Bank meant he frequently moved around the country. Arguably, Considine still holds the record as the youngest player to ever win an All-Ireland senior medal as he was only 17 years of age when he lined out for Clare in 1914. He had actually won his first county championship with Ennis at the age of 14 in 1911.

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