Flying the flag for South Tipp

WHOEVER wins, history of some description will be written tomorrow.

Kilkenny’s pursuit of the immortal five in-a-row may be the dominant theme this weekend but, should Tipperary win, it will be a day of days in Mullinahone.

No South Tipp man has ever climbed the Hogan Stand steps to receive the Liam MacCarthy Cup but Eoin Kelly will change all that if Liam Sheedy’s men are successful on Sunday.

Add in the fact that Mullinahone are in the midst of their 125th anniversary celebrations and it is no wonder that some club members are beginning to speculate that the stars are aligning in their favour.

“I’m starting to think is there such a thing as destiny,” laughs club PRO Jackie Bolger and why wouldn’t he, given the fact that Mullinahone can boast previous in calling a halt to five in a rows.

Eight years ago, the club enjoyed its finest hour, defeating Thurles Sarsfields after a replay in the county final to claim their one and only county title and they did it the hard way. Their opponents in that year’s semi-final were Toomevara who had annexed the previous four titles but a late Paul Kelly 65 brought that dominance to a sudden end.

Mullinahone may have lacked pedigree but not talent as John Leahy, Eoin Kelly, Paul Kelly, Paul Curran and Brian O’Meara had all won All-Ireland medals with Tipp the year before. Leahy was the catalyst for their rise to prominence. Everyone in Mullinahone says so.

“Before John, everyone knew us as a football club if they knew us at all. People used to ask ‘where is Mullinahone?’ After John came along people would say, ‘oh yeah, Leahy’s place’, when you told them where you were from.

“If guys have role models they will progress in that game. That’s why Kilkenny have so much success. It is easy to promote a game when you have the players they have year after year.”

It all began with a South junior title in 1985 and nine senior equivalents have been won since as well as that county title in 2002 when Eoin Kelly hit Sars for 2-7.

The club’s commitment to hurling pervades all levels now. For the last five years, they have been running an U12 competition. Having started life with just four teams, this year’s event, played last weekend, drew visitors from 13 counties with 750 kids dotted around host homes in the parish.

Croke Park’s new Go Games policy and restrictions on competitive games at that level is threatening the competition’s future but days like tomorrow will probably do just as much to keep the game flourishing.

Mullinahone lies just two miles from the Kilkenny border which is crossed courtesy of a bridge that has had one half painted blue and gold and the other black and amber. The same divided loyalties can be found nearby in the Poulacapple NS which, though in Mullinahone parish, also caresses the border and draws kids from both counties.

So it is all across the parish and that Kilkenny infiltration has been mirrored in the local Kickhams club.

Johnny Kennedy, a Callan man married to a local woman, is chairman of the juvenile board while the secretary at the time of last year’s final was Oliver Vaughan, another from the neighbouring county.

“The amount of Kilkenny people here is incredible,” says Bolger. “I’m married to a Kilkenny woman. There are Kilkenny flags all over the parish. There was a joke the last time there was a census here that all they had to do was wait until next time Tipp and Kilkenny met in an All-Ireland and they could just tick off where people were from by driving past the houses.”


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