He admitted he was “part of the tribe” on the day, but when Sean Doherty was called to duty he answered the call like a real trooper, writes John Knox.
Saturday, July 6, 2013 opened like any ordinary day for the Galmoy clubman who, as he said himself, has been around microphones since he was a boy. His is a familiar voice at coursing meetings up and down the country, and at the National Coursing championships in Clonmel each year.
This day he manned the Public Address system in Nowlan Park.
This time the focus of the day for S. Doherty (pictured), proud son of Galmoy and Kilkenny, was the All-Ireland Phase III Qualifiers senior hurling game between age old rivals, Kilkenny and Tipperary.
It terms of the GAA, it was a day like no other ever in the history of the organisation. It terms of occasion, it was a day like no other. Nowlan Park was packed to the rafters. There was county pride at stake. There was fervour. There was excitement.
For all present, the Nowlan Park experience was a special memory for life. Kilkenny won the match 0-20 to 1-14.
Sean Doherty walked into the ’Park as giddy as a young boy. He was as excited as the players and bursting with the unique passion that only those who live on the borders can fully understand.
A grand title
He left with the grand title of “Stadium Announcer”. He left his mark!
“The whole story snowballed afterwards,” Sean laughed when he recalled that lovely Saturday afternoon. “I just walked in, without a note or anything. I had done the announcements before for county finals, National League game and so on.
“Seamus Reade (the Nowlan Park event organiser) gave me music, but sure I never played it. I don’t believe in that. People like to talk before games so I let them at it.
“I remember Conor Denieffe (Co. Board vice-chairman) went down to the dressing-rooms and got the teams. Suddenly I had an awful lot of information to get out, and the place was full. I remember Paul Murphy wasn’t to play. T.J. Reid wasn’t to play. There was doubt about Henry (Shefflin). Tipp were missing a lad too.
“This all added to the anticipation among fans, and I was one of the few people in the place with all the information.”
He was slow and deliberate in putting out the information, using the old style he favoured: “In goal for Kilkenny, wearing No. 1 is Eoin Murphy; the full-back line is, No. 2 Paul Murphy; at full-back wearing No. 3 is J.J. Delaney etc, etc.
When it came to announcing the subs, there was one addition. He teased, slowing the delivery to a drip. The addition was Henry Shefflin.
“The place went silent,” Sean laughed again when he recalled those few deadly seconds. “Then I mentioned Henry Shefflin would be wearing No. 28. The place erupted. It was the biggest roar I ever heard in Nowlan Park. Boy, did I feel good then!
“Everyone was on a high. I was high as well. I have to say, I think it went fierce well. I knew when I started things were going well because I was looking around to see were people taking notice. There was fierce curiousity about the teams and I had the information.
“The occasion was massive. People told me afterwards it was very obvious I wasn’t just making announcements. I was caught up in the excitement of the day. They were right. Normally you would be there doing the announcements as the announcer. This time I was there as one of the Kilkenny lads. One of the tribe!”
The hackles had been raised. The previous week he went to Fennor Hill outside Urlingford. Tipp fans had erected a sign that shouted about the ‘final nail in the coffin’. Their favourites had ended Kilkenny’s ‘five in-a-row’ bid in 2010. And now for the kill!
“Jasus, that was hard to take,” Sean said, but he understood. A bit of mischief is not beyond him, either.
“I barely had the information before I started talking,” Sean rewinded to the start again, “and Conor Denieffe was shouting to me Henry is wearing No. 28. I was as excited as anyone. I was already excited over knowing Paul Murphy and T.J. were playing. Now Henry was in too. I was totally wrapped up in the whole thing just as if I were a fan in the stand.
“I was reading out the information to myself as much as the crowd because I wanted to know the team. I got carried away and I was working as if I was on my own. Most times people know the teams. This time they didn’t. I probably milked it a bit.
“It was a chance I won’t get again. It is a memory for life. I was really and truly thrilled by what happened.”
He felt Kilkenny manager, Brian Cody milked things a bit too. They ran Shefflin up and down the line a few times before eventually committing him to the game.
“The crowd went wild,” Sean recalled. “The lads on the field went mad as well. When Henry came in it was Sean Breathnach, who makes the announcements of the subs from the sideline, who lifted the place with the No. 28 H-E-N-R-Y S-H-E-F-F-L-I-N cry. That wasn’t me. I got the blame or the credit, whatever you like. It was a great day though.”