Cappamore club anniversary sparks thoughts of better times

To celebrate their 125th anniversary, Cappamore GAA club in Limerick will play host to a senior hurling challenge between Limerick and Dublin on Sunday, throw-in 4pm.

Its most famous son these days is John ‘Bull’ Hayes, former club player but more renowned for his exploits in a different field with Munster and Ireland. Before John, however, there was Liam Ryan, youngest-ever captain of a Munster championship-winning side, Mackey’s Greyhounds of 1955.

A retired priest, Liam (76) is back in his home parish for the past 11 years, and is vice-president of the club. Confined to a wheelchair after a recent illness, his mind is as sharp as ever, his memory impeccable.

“Cappamore GAA club is one of the oldest in Limerick, founded on June 3, 1887 and we still have the original certificate of membership. We have played in 10 Limerick county SHC finals, winning five, the first of those in 1904.

“The club was probably at its peak in the ’50s when we won three titles (1954, ’56 and ’59), and we won again in 1964 — that was our last title.

“We had a good team in the ’80s as well, won five East Limerick championships and reached three county finals but lost them all, lost in a replay to Patrickswell in 1988 and that was as close as we came.

Last year though, we won the county junior so we’re on the rise again.”

Liam played in the three wins of the ’50s, the first of those leading to him being named Limerick captain in 1955.

“I was 19 but my younger brother Seamus was still a minor, only 18, and he was centre-back.”

It was a team that came from nowhere. “After the Mick Herbert injury incident in a club game in 1949 [struck and nearly killed by a Limerick team-mate, it divided the team and polarised hurling in the county] Limerick went downhill, the next four years were the worst ever. 1954 was probably the lowest point of all, beaten by Waterford in Munster by 3-4 to 0-1, and the point came from a free. That was why no one had any respect for us in 1955, they thought all they had to do was turn up, tog out and the match was theirs.”

That they did manage to win was a minor miracle, says Liam. “We had too many selectors on that team — every member of the county board executive was a selector, every division had a selector and Cappamore, as county champions, had two selectors. Between everyone it was certainly 10 or more. They were useless during a match because no one would make a decision, not even Mick Mackey — no one in charge.”

Different times, and Liam Ryan is impressed with the current crop. “They have a good team, not entirely settled yet but they improved right through the league. They were very good against Clare in the final, though I still don’t know how they lost that game.

“They’re certainly on the rise, need very little to be really competitive again. This is a very important game for them, the last game before they play Tipperary in the championship.”


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