Our hurling heroes of 1961 return to Parnell Park
Last team from Capital to make All-Ireland final to be honoured on Saturday at county SHC final
The Dublin squad ahead of the 1961 All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park that lost by a point to Tipperary. Photo: Connolly Collection/Sportsfile
IT’S sixty yers since Dublin were last in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final. The men of ‘61 will be honoured this week.
On Saturday, before the Dublin Senior Hurling Championship final, they’ll gather for a pre-match meal before travelling to Parnell Park where they will be introduced to the crowd at half-time.
Sadly, eight of their number have passed on. Including last week Des Ferguson, who played on the full-back line with his St Vincent’s team-mates, Noel Drumgoole, the Dublin captain, and Lar Foley.
Dublin played Tipperary in the final. They lost by a point, 0-16 to 1-12. 68,000 were in Croke Park. And even the Tipperary papers admitted that Tipp were somewhat fortunate to have won the game.
In the build-up to the match, the MacCarthy Cup was on display in the front window of Clerys of O’Connell Street.
The programme for the game cost 6 old pence. It contained a page ad for Clerys. It said: ‘Visit Clery’s Restaurant and Grill Room. Try our Tea Lounge downstairs.’
Hurling was different back then. Dublin won two matches to get to the All-Ireland hurling final. They beat Westmeath in the Leinster Championship semi-final at O’Connor Park before overcoming Wexford in the Leinster final at Nowlan Park.
Larry Shannon was on the team. He was reared in Cabinteely. Near to where he lives today.
There’s a picture of the Dublin ’61 team in his front room. Larry played for Scoil Uí Chonaill.
On a summer’s afternoon he looked back on his hurling years. When he was a child, the family moved to Wexford. “That’s when I started to hurl,” he explained. “There was a field at the back of the house.
“I was a big admirer of the Wexford team of the 50’s – the Rackards and Ned Wheeler. But Christy Ring was always my number one.”
When the family moved back to Dublin, Larry was playing with Geraldine Morans. He got a trial for the Dublin minor hurlers. They won the Leinster Minor Hurling Championship in 1953.
“I got to know Dominic Bohan and his son, Mick. And that’s how I joined Scoil Uí Chonaill. And Mick was on the ’61 team.”
The 1961 Leinster final was the last time the Leinster final was played outside Croke Park. It was a steaming hot July day.
“There were no showers in Nowlan Park in those days, so the fellas involved with the team had to go off and get buckets of water to sponge us down at half-time,” recalled Larry.
The Dublin players had met in Parnell Square and had travelled down to Kilkenny in large cars.
Wexford were the favourites. They were the All-Ireland champions. They had beaten Kilkenny in the semi-final. But the Dublin side had a fresh look about it.
Kilkenny had beaten Dublin in the 1959 Leinster final with a last-minute goal. “Years later I was talking to Kevin Heffernan and he told me he had the ball in his hand ready to knock it over the bar for the equaliser when the full-time whistle blew.”
And as Larry lamented: “It’s always the little things.”
There was a huge crowd in Nowlan Park in ‘61. Larry can’t remember much about the game, or his own display, but looking back over the newspaper reports, they stated that he played well. So well that he got the Irish Independent ‘Sports Star of the Week’ award. A big deal back then.
After the Leinster final, the players had a meal and went home. Dublin trained twice a week. Sometimes in O’Toole Park but usually in Parnell Park. After training, they’d get a pint of milk and a raw egg.
Larry can still see the Dublin dressing-room after the All-Ireland final. Not a word was spoken. And it was the same at the reception that night in Lucan.
52 years on, he was at home watching the television when Dublin won the Leinster Championship for the first time since 1961.
He was thrilled to see his pal, Jimmy Gray, present the trophy to Johnny McCaffrey. Jimmy was the goalkeeper on the ’61 side.
“Jimmy was a smashing goalkeeper. A lovely fella. Always was. We had some wonderful personalities on that Dublin team.”
Larry is again looking forward to meeting up with them again on Saturday. When they’ll smile about the good times and honour the memory of absent friends. With Dessie Ferguson uppermost in their thoughts.
It’s Kilmacud Crokes against Na Fianna in the final. Na Fianna – Jimmy Gray’s club. Jimmy, the President of the Dublin GAA.
Larry Ryan, of course, will be cheering for Crokes. He was reared in the shadow of Semple Stadium.
Last week he told the story of coming from a match in Cork. His car got a puncture at Glanmire. The car behind pulled up to help.
And out got three men – Jimmy Gray, Christy Hayes and Des Ferguson.
Christy also played for the Dubs of ’61. His wife, Nóra, sent on a treasured, autographed picture of the 1961 Dublin team. Heroes all.
Dublin 1961 All-Ireland Senior Hurling finalists
GOALKEEPER: Jimmy Gray (Na Fianna)
FULL-BACKS: Des Ferguson (St Vincent’s), Noel Drumgoole (St Vincent’s), Lar Foley (St Vincent’s).
HALF-BACKS: Liam Ferguson (S Vincent’s), Christy Hayes (New Irelands), Shay Lynch (St Vincent’s);
MIDFIELD: Fran Whelan (Eoghan Ruadh), Des Foley (St Vincent’s);
HALF-FORWARDS: Achill Boothman (St Columba’s), Mick Bohan (Scoil Uí Chonaill), Larry Shannon (Scoil Uí Chonaill);
FULL-FORWARDS: Bernard Boothman (St Columba’s), Paddy Croke (Young Ireland’s), Billy Jackson (New Ireland’s).
Subs: Mick Kennedy (Faughs), Eamonn Malone (St Vincent’s), Joe Lenihan (St Vincent’s), Séamus O’Brien (Eoghan Ruadh), Paddy Maycock (St Columba’s).
Management: Christy O’Driscoll, Joe Drumgoole, Sean McCabe, Paddy Lillis, Mick Ryan.