A Sporting Tale

 A Chance Encounter.


Garrett Howard

       Bank of Ireland Hall of Fame Award 1982.

With just a few weeks on from the `County Final (2007) debacle there is still an air of `Doom and Gloom` in the town of Croom and while elsewhere, and you know where, there is a pep in the step in the village of Adare. No! Its not poetry but you know what I mean. When we think of all those people who travelled from far-flung places to be with us in the expectation of a celebration, we feel this defeat and the manner of its execution a dreadful letdown for all concerned.There are not many now who attended the last one in `48 but Fr. David O’Regan did, and had to return from London for this one; or so he told us from the alter at Sunday Mass on the morning of the game.The weekend papers following the game were scathing in their account of proceedings on the pitch, and described the game as possibly the worst final ever. “It was like blocking windows with brown paper bags in the face of an atomic attack,” declared another.  The Atomic Bomb wasn’t invented when Croom last won a Senior County Championship (1941) but when we did win it; there were a number of their ranks that played with the County team. We have had no such group since then – a period of up on sixty years. Well, not until now that is, and who would say that they haven’t made a significant contribution to the Limerick team – come on, be honest; was this one of the most wonderful, exciting years in the history of Limerick hurling and we in Croom gaeldom had a group of lads that played their part in it.

When we speak of Croom’s proud hurling tradition there are few now who can recall those far off days of glory, and fewer still who wish to impart it for fear of the `deaf ear` or worse still no ear at all, but I’m going to risk all that – I’m going to chance an outburst of nostalgia!Limerick qualified to meet Kilkenny in the National Hurling League Final of 1983 to be held at Thurles on Sunday the 25th April having beaten Wexford in the Semi-Final two weeks earlier.

Due to a prior commitment Limerick had agreed to play Tipperary in a fund-raising match to be played at Newport on the Sunday before the final. This was an unexpected development and because the two engagements were so close it became necessary to find an entirely new team to take on Tipp, not wishing to risk any injury to the team for the League Final



.As we made our way up the hill from Newport town to the field on this April Sunday evening an icy blast came swirling down from Keeper Hill in whose shadow the Pádraig O Riain (Lacken) Memorial Park stands. The cold of the evening was no surprise as earlier that afternoon before we set out from Croom an enormous shower of hail left the streets covered in a shimmering mass of iceThe game had already commenced as I took up my position at the back of the goal nearest the entrance gate and Limerick had a point on the scoreboard. The interest for me in this somewhat insignificant game were the new faces to be called on to make up this second string Limerick Team. Sidelined for this game were the old `reliables` Len. Enright, Seán Foley, Liam O’Donoghue, Joe McKenna…  In, in their place came Pat Potter, Mike Barron, Dom Punch, Peter O’Connor, Frankie Nolan, Joe Mann… .   The first half was a mediocre affair with both teams level 1 – 6 to 0 – 9 at the interval. Our enjoyment of the game wasn’t enhanced any either by a light shower of hail that fell during the break. The game wasn’t long underway for the second half with Limerick playing in to the town goal, when not for the first time in his very significant but unassuming hurling career Frankie Nolan flashed the ball to the net from a melee outside the square. (Will I ever forget his wonderful goal taken from an angle on the left hand side in the first half of the Munster Final of 1973? Without it, club-mate Ritchie’s celebrated point with the last puck of the sliotar would be just another statistic in a losing game.)  I believe it was at this point that I first became aware of the elderly gentleman standing by my side, wearing a heavy overcoat and with a soft hat pulled well down on his forehead, and who like me peered through the wire mesh fencing that by now had become part of the modern Gaelic Park. Gone were the men with the `tag` tied with a piece of string to the buttonhole in the `lapel` of the bodycoat, declaring for all that they were `Maor`.  And with shouts of `back behind the line` back, back to the line, as the sliotar is lost in a forest of spectators. I stand to be corrected, but I think this came to head in Croom when Tournafulla and Patrickswell played here in a County Final. With about ten minutes to go and the players playing in a 20-yard strip from one goal to another and with the gap getting progressively narrower, the referee wisely called a halt to proceedings for another day and another venue. I digress; as we peered through the mesh, my companion and I began to shout encouragement to our goalie and backs that were now at our end of the field. “Come on Mike Barron, get that ball out of there.” “Well played Jimmy Fenton.” On a number of occasions my newfound companion remarked: “We’re tough at the back.” “Will you look at that? That’s the second blatant foul that hasn’t been penalized; I hope he is more alert next Sunday! (Same referee, Noel Dalton for final.) To be honest I hadn’t seen the fouls alluded to and thought this old man could be the typical hurler on the ditch – never played the game but could tell all others how it should be done.  As the game progressed into the last ten minutes or so we had to weather the proverbial storm from Tipperary and we eventually came out winners with the scoreboard reading 1 – 15 to 1 – 12.As we turned away from the wire my companion for the hour remarked: “Do you know that Tipperary hasn’t beaten Limerick in twelve years.” (Can this be true?) And followed up with: “With any luck it will be another twelve!”Where do you come from, he asked, by way of conversation as we headed for the exit.Croom, I replied. Do you know, I will have to shake the hand of a Croom man – I come from there myself? I’m sorry I said but I’m afraid I don’t know you. My name is Garrett Howard he replied!  Whatever else might be said by this Colossus of hurling lore in the fleeting moments before we parted in the gathering twilight was lost in the turmoil of my brain for I was trying to get to grips with the fact that I hadn’t recognised this masterful and unique hurler from Croom. And even as our farewell greetings were uttered I was trying to recall some of the honours he had achieved in an era long, long, gone by.

                   Seamus O Ceallaigh, in his `Great Limerick Athletes` written for the Limerick Leader (1954) began his piece on our own Garrett Howard thus:“Search where you may it would be difficult to find a hurler with a finer record than that to the name of Garrett Howard, the only Limerickman to win five All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship medals, and boasting other claims to fame in that he represented Ireland in both hurling and shinty at two successive Tailteann games; played for both Leinster and Munster in Railway Cup Finals; won National Hurling League trophies with Dublin and Limerick; figured on the successful side in eight provincial finals – four each in Leinster and Munster; and has a grand total of eight County senior hurling championship mementoes to his credit – five won with Garda in Dublin; two with the famous Tipperary Toomevara Greyhounds, and one- his first-won with his home club in Croom.” And now you know the difficulty I had in recalling the honours attained by this, my companion of a bitterly cold afternoon in Newport.   Time and space will not permit me to write all the superlatives and credits that O Ceallaigh attributes to this wonderful Croom sportsman but how fortunate we are now more than half a century on that he had the foresight to commit it to print.  Here is another piece from O Ceallaigh and as a Croom man I’m particularly pleased: “Garrett, who hailed from the rich lands of Croom proved himself one of the most versatile men in the game. A great defender with good hands, he was equally at home in the forward line and must have won more hurling gold medals than any other man of his era. And he often told me that whatever he knew about the game he learned it from the great Croom men of his young days-the Mangans, Feely, Shea etc and at the (dare we say it) Christian Brother Schools, Adare. Possessed of sprinters pace and infinite resourcefulness his grand judgement and ashcraft were bye-words in hurling circles during his long years service.”  I have read that last sentence over and over and all I can say about it is, – now that is pure poetry. Garret won his first senior medal when he played with Croom in the final of the 1919 County Senior Hurling Championship. And he played in his first Munster final in the 1920 Championship. Limerick qualified for the All Ireland final of 1921 when they beat Galway in the Semi-Final. The final wasn’t played until March 1923 the first final to be played after the changeover from British rule when President Cosgrave and seven ministers attended. Garrett joined the Garda in 1924 and won his first Leinster Championship medal and later that year won an All Ireland medal playing for Dublin, he was to go on to win Leinster Championships with Dublin in 1925,1927,and 1928. 

Playing with the Garda club he won five Dublin Senior County Championship medals in the years 1925 – 1929, and also won three Dublin Senior Hurling League trophies in the same period ,Garrett’s first National League medal was won with Dublin in 1929, after which he transferred to Portroe, Co Tipperary in early 1930; he turned out for Toomevara that same year to win a County Senior Hurling medal and added another playing with the same club in 1931. Picked to play for the Tipperary County team in 1931 he helped them win Thomond Tournament honours, but beaten by Cork in the Munster championship. In the same year (1931) he was picked to play with Munster in the Railway Cup and helped them beat Leinster with the score 1 – 12 to 2 – 6.


      Garrett Howard as he lined out for Limerick in the 1934 All Ireland Final.


 Garrett declared for his native Limerick in 1933 and by so doing joined the team that was to become known as `The team of all the talents` he played a significant part in Limerick’s four in a row Munster Championship titles from 1933 – 1936. In this meritorious and outstanding period in Limerick hurling, Garrett won two All Ireland Championship medals in 1934 and 1936.


1934 Limerick All Ireland Winners.

He won five National Hurling League titles in the years 1934 to 1938. And in the same period he won four Thomond Tournament trophies playing for his native Limerick. We have not discussed at all the `International Games` he played or the very many valuable `Tournaments` he won in almost two decades in top class hurling. Neither have we touched on the many outstanding games that Garrett played on losing sides and that count for little in the history books.Here is one that he did win, the occasion being the 1927 Railway Cup Final between Munster and Leinster of which it is said outclassed and outshone anything that Croke Park had seen previously and was talked about for long, long afterwards. Here is a descriptive passage from the period: “It was a struggle in which one can speak only in superlatives. The combined speed, accuracy and vigour exhibited were truly marvelous and in the closing stages it progressed rapidly to a crescendo of unforgettable hurling. Each individual player seemed to yield himself to some irresistible impulse that carried him to unapproachable heights of efficiency and exertion. It was truly an enthralling hurling exhibition won by Leinster in memorable fashion.” The score: Leinster, 1 – 11 Munster, 2 – 6. Fellow Limerickmen that contributed to the loosing Munster side on that memorable day were, Mick Murphy, (Goal) John Joe Kinnane, Micky Cross, and Willie Gleeson.   There were many other athletes in Croom and hereabouts that can lay claim to honour and glory on the sportsfield and rightly so, but none the equal of Garrett Howard.  All you who aspire to `mastery of ashcraft` and take the cáman in the láimh. One could do worse than take a copy of the above `roll of honour` around in the pocket of the `tracksuit` – every now and again take it out and ask yourself the question – can I achieve one or more of these in my hurling career?  Unfortunately, our experience in Croom in more than half a century of hurling is not encouraging.     What would Garrett say if he were with us today? “Cheer up, we went very close – our lads were great – we beat Tipp didn’t we?

As for myself, I feel privileged and humbled that on a bitterly cold spring evening by a chance encounter I find myself in the company of one of the all-time greats of hurling, who had won his first All Ireland medal all of 62 years before and he was here to see a Limerick second-string team in a fundraiser. Garrett Howard, you were a gallant sportsman, a Limerickman of high renown and without equal, we in your home parish of Croom salute you with pride.



Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dhilis.


Is mise Cú an scriobh sin. Cóipcheart © 2007

Written by Danny Quain



3 Responses to “A Sporting Tale”
  1. sallyhse says:

    Very pleased to see this piece on my uncle many thanks , Sally

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] Posted by croom on April 2, 2008 Croom and the Howard name is synomonous with the Maigueside and recently the daughter of Limerick’s famous hurling star Garrett Howard five All Ireland medals, who’s daughter Liz Howard was honoured recently as the Tipperary person of the year award .Liz would have close connections and would have visited the Maigueside in her schooldays and teens .Liz Howard is the President of Cumann Camogaiochta na nGael (Camogie).Because of her fathers role as a Garda she resided in different areas of the country during his time in the Gardai.Liz was born in Carrick On Suir ,the Howard family resided in Feakle for a period in the early 50’s ,Liz and her sisters were very influential in setting up the Camogie teams in Co.Clare.The Howard family returned to Newtown in Tipperary near Roscrea where she won Munster and National titles in 1977.Liz joined the Civil Service and then went to Aer Lingus where she took up a management position ,later she became PRO of the Tipperary Co Board during the 80’s, she  was also a sports panellist on the Sunday GAA sports reviews of the day. Liz Howard’s role as President of the Camogie will come to an end next year,Croom and the Maigueside District are very proud of the role that the Howard families have played in the sporting fields  at local and national level of administration in the GAA.Liz is cousin of  Garrett ,Martin ,Billy ,John ,Anthony, Sally and Kathleen .See our previous post on Garrett Howard  https://croom.wordpress.com/2007/12/07/a-chance-encounter/ […]

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