Credit; Michael McCarthy
The Definitive Short History of Tipperary Hurling in the 1980’s,Part 1
The start of the decade of the 80s saw Tipperary Hurling in the doldrums. We hadn’t won a championship game since 1973 and there was no end in sight for this famine. By the end of the decade we would be All-Ireland Champions but what a rollercoaster of a 10 years it turned out to be.
As with all years there was hope in the air as Tipp headed to Thurles for the first of 7 battles with Cork during the 80s. The great Pat McLoughney was in goal, Pat Fitzell of Cashel was at no. 5, A young Annacarty man by the name of Pat Fox held the No.9 jersey while upfront Eamonn O’Shea was on one wing with Droms Tommy Butler at 14. O’Shea would score one point with Tommy Butler hitting 1-04 but Tipp would once again fall to Cork in Thurles by 2-17 to 1-12.
’81 saw us play an exciting draw with Limerick in Thurles, Tipp 3-13 to Limericks 4-10, John Grogan with 2-06 and Peader Queally with the other goal would shine, before travelling to Limerick only to return with our tails between our legs as Limerick beat us by eight 3-17 to 2-12. Clonmore’s Seamus Bourke would come off the bench to hit 2-03 for us. Funnily enough a Limerick man by the name of Mossie Carroll would line out at 6 for us which might have just spurred on the Limerick team.
In 1982 we had a younger line up with Nicky English, Donie O’Connell, Ger O’Neill & Bobby Ryan all starting in the forwards with Pat Fox again in midfield. This time there was two Limerick men in our ’15 as Mossie was joined by brother Brian who played at wing-forward. Cork put paid to our chances with a comprehensive 1-19 to 2-08 victory. Our goals coming courtesy of Noel O’Dwyer and sub Martin McGrath.
A collective sigh of relief swept the county following our 1st victory in ten years in 1983 as we got the better of Clare by one goal 2-11 to 1-11. Nicky English was the only surviving forward from the previous campaign in a much changed Tipp line out. Waterford would be the semi-final opposition and would come out on top by five 4-13 to 2-15. John Grogan was our top scorer with 0-7 and the majors coming from either side of the Carrick divide with Ralph Callaghan and Tom Waters raising the green flags.
The duck was broken and centenary year of 1984 brought much hope, The All-Ireland was to be played in Thurles and it was all to play for. Clare were once again dispatched in our first game this time by one point with Nicky English 0-04 & Seamus Power 0-05 leading the way for us. An epic Munster final was played in Tom Semple’s field but once again we came up short to Cork side that would go onto All Ireland glory. Seamus Power again led the way with 1-06.
Clare would again be our first game in ’85 and a dour affair would end 1-08 a piece, the replay would see one of our better performances of the decade scoring 5-14 in an eleven point win. Nicky English & Seamus Power with two goals a piece and Ger O’Neills 1-03 set us on our way.
That set up a second Munster final in a row with Cork, this time in Pairc Úi Caoimh. Another titanic battle would see Cork come out on top 4-17 to 4-11. Nicky English would lead the way with 2-04 while ably assisted by Ger O’Neill with 1-03.
Clare would eventually get over us in 1986 scoring a 2-10 to 1-11 victory over us. Nicky was absent through injury, Seamus Power would score five points with Boherlahan’s Liam Maher getting the goal. It was a disappointing year but one that brought about much needed change.
The first 7 years of the decade had seen us play a paltry 12 games in total, and win only three games all against Clare. New blood and fresh minds were needed and in came Michael ‘Babs’ Keating with Theo English & Donie Nealon in tow.
The impact was immediate and Kerry were dispatched with ease in round 1. Only 5 players would make the team from the previous year. Pat Fox took up position at 13 and was scorer in chief with 1-10. Clare were again our Munster Semi-final opponents. The game was played in Killarney and a draw 1-13 a piece was the end result. Pat Fox again to the fore with 0-7 but Nicky was back and notched 1-03.
The replay again was in Killarney and we duly dispatched Clare with a rousing 4-17 to 0-08 victory. Nicky with 2-04 & Pat Fox with 0-07 in Tour de force from the West men. We were into our third Munster final in 4 years and Cork would again be the opponents.
A rip roaring contest in Thurles saw us draw 1-18 each. Fox had 0-09, Nicky 1-01 and big Donie O’Connell chipped in with 0-04 points. Following a row over the venue for the replay Tipp got their way and back to Killarney for our fourth game of the campaign there.
Cork would storm into the lead and were up six after twenty minutes. But Tipp would fight back into game and with five to go it was level at 1-16 each. Fenton would point again from a free. Tipp had a chance to level from a ’65 but Delaney drove wide. Cork had a chance to stretch the lead but it was wide.
Hogan gave it everything on the puck-out as time was nearly up, Nicky English was onto the break like a flash and after dodging the Cork defender was through on goal with two Cork bearing down on him, He took the sensible option and palmed the ball over to tie the game.
Terence Murray blew the game up on the puck-out and extra time would be needed. Michael Doyle & Donie O’Connell would be Tipp heroes in Extra Time as the Munster Cup returned to Tipp for the first time since 1971 and Borrisoleigh’s Richie Stakelum got to utter those famous word ‘The famine is over’
The All-Ireland semi-final would see us meet Galway in Croke Park. A good game was played but Galway would win by six 3-20 to 2-17 . Nicky English with 0-06 and Pat Fox with the two goals.
The following year brought about much hope, Finally the munster hoodoo had been broken. Cappawhite’s Pa O’Neill took over from Richie Stakelum as Captain and Tipp marched to a NHL final victory over Offaly with the Cappa man notching 2-1.
Limerick were first up in Munster and a trip to Cork was in store. Mullinahone’s John Leahy would make history and don the blue & gold for the first time. Pat Fox would score 0-07 with fellow West men Joe Hayes and Pa O’Neill chipping in with two points each as Tipp won 0-15 to 0-08 by the banks of the lee.
With the home & way agreement fractured the previous year Limerick and it’s yellow posts would host a Tipp v Cork Munster final. Babs made two changes with Sharkey Gibson in for Richie Stakelum and Nicky English returning for John Leahy. English would score 0-09 as Tipp retained & Pa O’Neill lifted the cup in a 2-19 to 1-13 victory.
Antrim would be our semi-final opponents and while the men from Glen put up a good performance Tipp won 3-15 to 2-10 to set up a tilt at Galway in the final. The run into the final was overshadowed by controversy as Keating replaced captain Pa O’Neill with John Leahy for the final. Nicky English would captain Tipp instead but Galway again had too much for us and won by four 1-15 to 0-14.
1989 again brought hope of an elusive Liam McCarthy victory, Limerick again our Semi-Final opposition in Cork, English scored 2-05 and Fox 1-05 as Tipp won 4-18 to 2-11 . Waterford were surprise opposition in the final but couldn’t keep into a rampant Tipp in a nationally televised game.
English was again scorer in chief with 0-13 as Tipp won 0-26 to 2-08. The All-Ireland semi-final vs Galway again courted controversy as Galway centre-back Tony Keady was suspended for playing illegally in New York. In a somewhat fractious affair Tipp finally got the better of their western neighbours 1-17 to 2-11. Pat Fox with Tipps goal.
An All-Ireland final V Antrim lay in store. Antrim had surprised Offaly in the other semi-final but were no match for Tipp in the final. English was on fire and shot 2-12 of Tipps 4-24, Pat Fox & Declan Ryan would get Tipps other goals. Bobby Ryan was Tipp’s victorious captain, raising Liam McCarthy aloft.
It was a fitting way to end a decade that at times offered hope and also heartbreak. The final three years of the decade saw us play fourteen games in total, Win three Munster titles & one All-Ireland. Win 10 of the 14 games played, draw 2 and lose twice to Galway.
Tipp’s 26 games in the 80’s
|Tipperary in the 80’s|
|1982||MSHC Rd. 1||Cork||Tipperary||2-08||Cork||1-19|
|1983||MSHC Rd. 1||Limerick||Tipperary||2-11||Clare||1-11|
|1987||MSHC Rd. 1||Killarney||Tipperary||1-21||Kerry||2-06|
|1987||AI SHC SF||Croke Park||Tipperary||2-17||Galway||3-20|
|1988||AI SHC SF||Croke Park||Tipperary||3-15||Antrim||2-10|
|1988||AI SHC F||Croke Park||Tipperary||0-14||Galway||1-15|
|1989||AI SHC SF||Croke Park||Tipperary||1-17||Galway||2-11|
|1989||AI SHC F||Croke Park||Tipperary||4-24||Antrim||3-09|
Tipperary’s Win/Loss % in the 1980’s
Next up……. Part 2 Scorers and Starters