Jim Fogarty lives in Meadow Way on the Castlecomer Road, a small housing estate close to the Newpark Hotel. It wouldn’t be hard to spot his house, with a large blue and gold flag fluttering proudly outside.
He’s been living there now for over 30 years and for 28 of those, he was the county librarian in Kilkenny. A fountain of GAA knowledge, you’ll often see Jim’s names referenced in various match programmes, while he’s also written two books.
The first, a history of the Tipperary championship entitled ‘The Dan Breen Cup senior hurling finals 1931-2011’ sold out.
Last year, he released ‘The Cross of Cashel – All-Ireland Hurling Under 21 finals 1964-2014.’ Given that it’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 hurling final weekend, it’s an apt time to revisit Fogarty’s tome.
Covering half-a-century of the competition, there’s plenty of ‘did you know’ trivia for those wishing to stockpile possible table quiz questions.
“Like Cork’s Mick Malone – the only hurler to have won four All-Ireland U21 medals,” Fogarty says.
“Like Michael Doyle (Tipperary), who captained and managed All-Ireland winning teams. He was captain in 1979 and manager in 1995.
“In 1974 and 1975, Ger and Kevin Fennelly captained Kilkenny to successive final wins and Clare played in and lost 12 Munster finals before winning in 2009.
“What about U21 finalists who later became priests? Seanie Barry from Cork, Martin Casey (Wexford), Iggy Clarke (Galway), Fergus Farrell (Kilkenny) and Peter Brennan (Tipperary).
“The biggest winning margin in a final was Tipperary in 2010, when they beat Galway by 25 points, and only two GAA Presidents won U21 medals, Galway’s Joe McDonagh and Nicky Brennan from Kilkenny.
“Tipperary won the first final in 1964, beating Wexford, but Wexford came back and won it in ’65, with ten of the starting 15 from the previous year’s heavy loss back on duty.”
In the book, you’ll find the obligatory photographs of winning teams and more recent listings of teams of the year and the U21 hurlers of the year, since the individual award was introduced in 2009.
“We start with Darach Honan before the man who was a huge loss to us on the playing field, (Tipperary’s) Seamus Hennessy in 2010.
“Aidan Walsh 2011, Seadna Morey, David McInerney, Colm Galvin…” Fogarty lists the award winners up until 2014 without drawing breath, before going on to explain the genesis of the book itself.
“I suppose I had done one on the Dan Breen Cup and I was just thinking of something else to do,” he explains.
“I figured the U21 finals would be a good one in that there’s so many counties covered and so forth.
“I was able to research them and it’s pretty accurate. I got a lot of colour photos for later years and while it’s called ‘The Cross of Cashel’, the new trophy is called the James Nowlan Cup, named after the longest-serving President of the GAA.”
In 2008, Fogarty took early retirement, which allowed him time to research the two books he’s had published.
He has cabinets in the garage jammed with old match programmes and on Thursday, Gerry O’Neill, who helps to compile the Kilkenny yearbook, stopped by with a copy of the 1951 Munster final programme.
“People know me generally as a bit of a nutter where programmes are concerned,” Fogarty smiles. “I collect them from every county, not just Tipp and Kilkenny. I only started it seriously in the 1970s and, for instance, I have a copy of the 1913 All-Ireland hurling final programme.
“One of the girls at work copied it for me and it turned out the very same as if it was the original.
“A man from Ballyragget was clearing out his house and gave me a loan of the programme to copy. He sold it on afterwards for about €5000. I think it’s the first ever programme produced for an All-Ireland final. Although I couldn’t be 100 percent sure of that, I’ve never heard of an earlier one.”
Fogarty, now in his late 60s, was born in Nenagh but his father died young and he was reared in Roscrea.
He hurled for a bit at minor and U21 levels, alongside such luminaries as Tadhg O’Connor and Francis Loughnane, but lost interest in hurling when he went to college in Dublin to study arts.
“I was going to study teaching but I decided that wouldn’t suit me,” says Fogarty.
Having gained some early hands-on experience in librarianship in Limerick, he went back to Dublin to study for a diploma in the field. It was a one-year course and after returning to Limerick for a spell, the Kilkenny vacancy arose in 1979.
During his time in Kilkenny, at least four new libraries were opened in the county and two vehicles placed on the road – a mobile library and a schools van.
“You always felt you were achieving something rather than just going through the motions,” says Fogarty.
“I worked with some great people, including a county manager at the time, a man called Paddy Donnelly. He was a gentleman to work with but I often think back that I didn’t have a cross word with anyone. If it was, it was about hurling!
“It was tough there for a few years, still flying the flag. I would say this – like every county, you have a few who would get your back up but they’ve been very gracious this week.
“I’ll just give you this instance. I’m involved in the Newpark Close Family Resource Centre, in what we used to call a working class area.
“Brian Cody was up to do something with us there not too long ago. They were all introducing me as ‘the Tipp man.’ Cody said: ‘sure I know that!’
“The Comerfords are neighbours of mine – Martin and Andy – and I’d know James McGarry very well.
“Some of the supporters, like in every county, you’re better off avoiding them but not this week!”