IT is Seachtain na Gaeilge and as Coolderry await their eagerly anticipated St Patrick’s Day Croke Park appearance the Irish proverb “mól an óige agus tiocfaidh sí” can certainly be applied to their journey to club hurling’s showpiece clash.
‘Praise the young and they will flourish’ and when Coolderry captured back-to-back U-12 titles in 1993 & ’94 and followed this up with U-14 glory in 1996 along with an All-Ireland Feile na nGael title, little did anyone know what lay ahead for these youngsters or did someone?
Well Mick Murray hadn’t a crystal ball but as trainer of those underage sides he felt the seeds of something special were being sown.
“Mick Murray would always keep saying to me this is not before its time. Coolderry were due this. He always believed they would reach this stage,” said Ken Hogan of his co-selector.
Ten rising stars from that 1993 to ’96 era included Mick’s son Damien
(U-12 captain ’93), Joe Brady (U-12 captain ’94), Brian Carroll (Feile captain ’96), Martin Corcoran, Barry Teehan, Brendan O’Meara, Kevin Brady, Andrew Hall, Paddy Teehan and Shane O’Connor. And now they’re the leaders in Coolderry’s quest for All-Ireland glory.
Coincidentally, when Coolderry captured the Canon Fogarty Trophy (Feile na nGael Division 2) in ’96 at Walsh Park, Waterford they defeated O’Donovan Rossa (Antrim) by 3-1 to 1-3 in the final and on Saturday it is Antrim opposition they are confronted with again.
Remarkably, and quite similarly, Birr defeated Dunloy Cuchulainn’s of Antrim by 5-10 to 3-2 in the 1985 Feile na nGael Division 2 Final at Wexford Park and in 1995 (3-13 to 2-3 after a replay) and 2003 (1-19 to 0-11) they defeated the same opposition in AIB All-Ireland club finals.
In 1997, ’99, 2000, ’01 & ’08 Coolderry minors were ‘A’ county champions and they were also U-21 ‘A’ kingpins in 2000, ’01, ’02 & ’10.
Former Coolderry Central School Principal Paddy Bates (1987-2000) writing about ‘local club heroes’ in the book ‘I Can And I Will – Remembering Pat Carroll, The Hurler’ which was published in June of last year to mark the official opening of the Pat Carroll Memorial Library said, “Coolderry has won three SHC county titles in Offaly since 2000. Many talents and much hard work by many people combined to bring about these successes but if one man was to be acknowledged for those successes, I would nominate Mick Murray.
“He was never too busy to do many of the tasks that we all take for granted. Someone has to organise side-line flags, goal posts and all the other necessary details. Young hurlers who had a favourite hurley with a crack or needing a plate usually turned to Mick and they were never turned away.”
Mick was Coolderry goalkeeper in 1977 and ’80 when they won the Sean Robbins Cup with 1-8 to 1-6 and 3-3 to 1-5 victories, respectively, over Kinnitty. And he helped the club secure back-to-back intermediate county final wins in 1985 & ’86 at the expense of St Rynagh’s, 2-10 to 1-8, and St Carthage’s, 2-9 to 0-6, respectively. He was also part of Coolderry’s ’86 SHC winning panel.
Interestingly, the third member of Coolderry’s current selection team is David Dooley and he lined out between the uprights when the club won its third IHC in 1988. Mick’s youngest son Ray wore the number one jersey in ’05 when Coolderry secured their fifth and to-date, last, IHC success beating St Rynagh’s by 3-4 to 0-7.
When it was put to Ken Hogan that Damien Murray’s free taking was crucial, particularly against Oulart-the-Ballagh and Gort who spurned frees, he agreed and added, “We are very lucky that we have a number of free takers. They’d be queuing up to take frees and it is a funny situation to have because Eoin Ryan took frees for his county at minor level and with Tipperary VS. You’d have Brian Carroll, an outstanding free taker and you’ve David King, an excellent free taker. So in that regard you’ve any of the lads that would step up to the plate if needs be and Damien is cool. He is a cool card. He doesn’t make any big fuss about it. Free taking, he is at it since he was knee high. I’m sure his father has been a huge influence on him in that regard. He is a specialist. It is part of his trade. And as we well know, in club matches, the team that will score seven or eight points from frees has a big chance of winning.”
Coolderry captain Brendan O’Meara tasted underage success under Mick Murray’s guidance and the importance of looking after the young players of today isn’t lost on him. “The ’96 Feile is a long time ago.
A lot of those players are now hurling senior. We’d an U-14 team that won the county championship last year and we would have been talking to them recently and saying that is where we started.
“Mick (Murray) has been involved with a lot of our players’ right the way up along from U-12 and possibly earlier. He is still there and still doing it now. It is great to have him. Mick has put a huge amount into Coolderry hurling and we’ve a lot of people putting in a huge amount of work in the club coaching.”
So the message is quite clear - the young players of today are the stars of tomorrow and it is imperative they are nurtured carefully, just as Mick Murray did.
He always believed.