Greats should have a permanent legacy
Year by year we are having to say goodbye to some of the men that symbolise hurling in Tipperary more than most and this week it is added to with the passing of Theo English.
The famed Hell’s Kitchen of Kieran Carey, Michael Maher and John Doyle have long since being reunited on the great hurling field in the sky, where they have been joined in recent years by Tony Reddin, Michael Murphy, Mick Roche, Jimmy Doyle, Ray Reidy, Liam Devaney and now Theo English. They were names that tipped off the tongue nationally when stories of Tipperary hurling were told.
The legacy created by these men has been kept alive, with many trophies in their honour, such as the Michael Maher Cup for the county intermediate hurling championship, the Jimmy Doyle Cup for Under 21 ‘A’ hurling, while John Doyle has an under 16 ‘B’ inter-county cup named after him, and Tony Reddin has a trophy for Tipperary senior hurler of the year in his honour.
However, this isn’t enough. Where are the grounds and clubhouses around the county with the names of these greats to the forefront? There aren’t many! The most notable one is, of course, Semple Stadium, named after Tom Semple, who captained the famed Thurles Blues who represented Tipperary to three All Ireland titles in 1900, 1906 and 1908. In Holycross, their new indoor facility is named after their greatest son, John Doyle, Tipperary’s most decorated hurler with eight All-Ireland medals, while in Lorrha the club grounds where renamed from St Ruadhan’s Park to Tony Reddin Park and Community Centre in 2019.
However, they are mainly the exception, not only in this county, but around the country as the players that help make the GAA what is has become remain largely unrecognised with pitches and venues named after them.
Going back to Semple Stadium, the terraces are named after Michael Maher and Maurice Davin but not many people know that as they go by the Killinan (Maher) and Town (Davin) Ends. The two stands, the Kinane and the O Riain, are named after members of the clergy who played a key role within the GAA in the early days of the association.
This shouldn’t be construed as diminishing the role of the clergy and lay officials who played a key role in the development of the GAA, however, I would argue at this stage in the history of the GAA that our greatest players should be honoured with venues and stands named after them.
Pairc Ui Chaoimh, is named after Padraig O Caoimh who was Ard Stiurthoir of the GAA for 35 years. It’s hard to change a name at this stage but surely one of the two stands in the venue could be named in Christy Rings honour, their most famous son, even though Pairc Ui Rinn is named after him.
Here in Tipperary at a time when on the field activity is scarce to say the least, it is something clubs could look into the recognise some of the great players that put their respective clubs on the maps. A lot of grounds are named after saints, but aren’t our great GAA players the greatest sporting saints of all. Could St Cronan’s Park in Roscrea become Kieran Carey Park, or Lacken Park in Newport become Butler Coffey Park after their most famous son, Jimmy Butler Coffey.
If parks can’t be renamed for whatever reason, there is still scope maybe for viewing stands in club grounds to be named after club greats, such as maybe the Gaynor stand in Kilruane or indeed the Mick Burns stand in Nenagh. Indeed, if a club ground has two or three pitches, instead of calling them the main or juvenile field, give them a name!
There are so many ways in which clubs and counties can continue to honour the legacy of those who made Gaelic Games what it is. For instance, Dr Morris Park is well known as the name of the Tipperary GAA training ground in Thurles and that is something that will be difficult to change as people are used to it at this stage, however, something could still be done inside the venue, i.e., give each of the 3 playing pitches a name of a former player, or the Hurling Wall could be called the Doyle Maher Carey Wall, what could be more fitting for Tipp’s most feared full back line. Indeed, the refurbished pavilion which should be coming on stream this year could be named after a former hurling and football great.
The same goes for Camogie and Ladies Football. As far as I am aware, the Camogie grounds at the Ragg isn’t named after anyone and wouldn’t a proper title such as, maybe Biddy Phillips Park, be more appropriate than calling it just the Camogie grounds.
The legacy of these great people deserves to be more prominent than just having a cup named after them, which people only generally become aware of just once a year when they are presented.