Off to match in Killarney.....on a bike

The 1937 All-Ireland senior hurling final is remembered for the fact it was played in Killarney.

The 1937 All-Ireland senior hurling final is remembered for the fact it was played in Killarney.

Young readers might like to know a bit of the background of what was a most interesting time and season for Kilkenny.

Getting to matches wasn’t easy in those times. Dan McEvoy takes us on a trip down memory lane as he recalls a little known story of one dedicated fan.

In Kilkenny the 1937 final is remembered for all the wrong reasons. Up to then Kilkenny and Limerick had been the two leading teams of the 1930s, but this was the day the black and amber hit the wall, if you like.

At half-time they trailed Tipperary by 2-8 to 0-2, eventually losing by 3-11 to 0-3.

That point in the second half was scored by Lory Meagher, who had come on as a sub. It was the last time Lory, the ‘Prince of Hurlers’, wore the county colours.

Among the supporters who travelled to Killarney was Paddy Cantwell, a building contractor from the Waterbarrack in the City. He was a long time member of Kilkenny Corporation.

Went on bike

Mr Cantwell got the loan of a sports model bicycle from Jimmy Quigley, a neighbour, and headed off to the match on the Saturday morning.

On reaching Killarney - which is around 120 miles away - he discovered the town was packed for the match. He had to cycle another seven miles to find a bed for the night.

On Sunday he attended 7am Mass in the Friary in Killarney before returning to the bed and breakfast for his breakfast.

Paddy’s prayers may not have been answered on the field that afternoon, but fortune favoured him in another way.

Mick Burke, the Borough Engineer, gave permission to the Corporation workers – among them Jack Shasby and Johnny Neary - to use the scut truck to bring Paddy home.

They met him on his way back from Killarney. He put the bicycle in the truck and hopped in, still sad after Kilkenny’s defeat, but delighted with the lift.

Those who travelled by train to Killarney didn’t have a luxury experience. There were no corridors. Ten or so people sat cramped in each compartment.

The toilet situation was solved by the expedient of letting down the window and spreading ammonia to kill the weeds (if there was a female in the company, tough).

Kilkenny supporters who went by train in 1937 weren’t home until 8am on Monday. Maybe Paddy Cantwell had had the right idea!