December 20, 1996
- A star for both
Tipperary and Dublin
Think of Tipperary in terms of Gaelic games and you think of the
Premier County's glorious record in that beautiful, ancient sport of hurling. On 24 occasions the All-Ireland Senior Hurling title has been won. Only two counties, Cork and Kilkenny have had more success at the highest level and that's marginal.
When people talk of the traditional hurling counties, they are talking about Tipp, amongst others.
But that's not all they play in this Golden Vale County. They've got big balls there as well. O'Neills ones that is….. as in footballs manufactured by O'Neills, not….let's put it simply, they play football as well as hurling in Tipperary.
And they have a bit of tradition too, you know.
The All-Ireland Senior Football title has been garnered four times, admittedly in the pre-Sam Maguire era - 1889. 1895, 1900, 1920 - but its more than Offaly or Derry or Roscommon or Donegal have.
There are actually some clubs in Tipperary where football is the primary game, with hurling very much in the back seat. Ardfinnan would be an example. Okay, this is the parish that produced one of the county's and indeed the country's best ever hurlers - Michael 'Babs' Keating was a top class footballer himself.
Liam Myles played alongside the current Laois manager in both codes and considers himself fortunate to have done so. But do not allow this statement to deflect from Myles' own ability, for he was a top class footballer, a man who represented his county. Having said that, Keating was special.
"No-one would have heard of Ballybacon Grange, which is what the hurling club is called, until Babs began playing for Tipperary. He made it famous. Almost anything I ever won, he nearly won it for us.
"He was a super footballer. He was very strong physically. I remember him scoring three goals for Munster one year. He was brilliant".
Liam himself lined out for Tipperary footballers at Minor, Under 21 and Senior level and considers it a huge honour to have been chosen to do so, even if recognition for such an achievement was never great.
"To a large extent, football was the poor relation, but I was always proud to play for the county team. There is no doubt though that we were treated differently, but I understand that. I wouldn't be sore about it….you have to be realistic. Nowadays there is as much money available for the preparation of the county footballers as there is for the hurling, which is a good thing.
"I have to say this though. I was mainly a footballer but hurling was always a more exciting game. Some of the best moments in sport are hurling related. I recall the club winning an Under 21 south championship in 1968 when it would have been unfashionable for us. Babs had moved on and it was great for us to win one on our own. Locally, you were expected to win the football, but if you won anything in hurling, it was against the head. In 1968, we were beaten in the county football final but we won the south hurling. That was the only medal at senior level Babs ever won with the club in hurling".
As Liam says, the days when the hurlers experienced glory, were few and far between. When he made his debut with Ardfinnan in 1965, the club was going for their fourth senior football title in the trot.
They didn't achieve it, but it gives an indication of their standing in Tipperary at the time.
Liam played on two successful sides but Ardfinnan haven't experienced that ultimate glory for 22 years now. According to Liam, this is just one of those things, but he hopes there will be a turnaround sooner, rather than later.
He is no longer a member of the club having been forced by the burden of travel to switch allegiances. He was reluctant to make the move…. It took him a long time to do it.
"I played with them until I was in my early 40's. Then I was appointed team manager at an AGM one year. I looked after them for two seasons but I just couldn't keep driving up and down from Dublin. After 19 years, it was finally beginning to catch up on me.
"It is only in recent years that I have become involved with the Civil Service club, coaching and training the junior hurlers".
And he still plays.
"Yeah, I still stand in goals".
He also lined out for the Dublin Masters side that reached successive All-Ireland finals, in 1992 and 1993. They were beaten by …. You guessed it, Tipperary in their initial appearance, but exacted revenge on Liam's native county the following season.
"I enjoyed that immensely, but to be fair the whole competition is great crack. It is actually a great innovation. It is a very enjoyable outlet and it is a pity that it is not fully recognised".
Despite his appearance in a Dublin jersey, and his connections with Civil Service, Liam Myles remains an Ardfinnan and Tipperary man at heart.
"For so many years, there was never a question of not staying loyal to Ardfinnan. It never came up. When I qualified from UCD as an Ag graduate, I got a job teaching in Kilkenny. Then I went back to UCD and got my Masters in 1970. In '72 I got a job on the Farm Apprenticeship Board. Then I went to work for an auctioneering firm, Keane Mahony Smith for 1 ½ years, before in December '77, I became Chief Executive of the Farm Apprenticeship Board. I have been in Dublin since and all the time I stayed with the club until a few years ago. My wife Olive and our four kids used to travel home with me for the games".
Olive is an Offaly woman, who surprisingly enough, is not overly interested in GAA affairs.
"I remember in '75, we (Tipp) were playing Kerry in the championship. I was dropped through and was very annoyed about it. I had played well in the challenges before hand. As it turned out we had a few injuries and I ended up playing.
"For a long time, we were running this great young team close. Olive had been behind the mound of the hill at Clonmel, not watching the game. Curious about why everyone was getting so excited, she came up to see what was happening and from then on we began to lose our way. I told her afterwards that she should have stayed behind the hill! We got hammered, but as it turned out, we got closer to Kerry that year than anyone else did".
Liam's involvement with the county didn't end with the cessation of his association as a player.
"Four years ago Seamus McCarthy asked me to train the Tipperary footballers based in Dublin. I was delighted to do it. The boys put in a lot of hard work and reached two Munster Finals".
"After that however, the players just didn't seem to put in the same effect, particularly in the league, they had put in two years of hard training and had nothing to show for it. That's demoralising. It's easy to keep at it when you're winning. It's very difficult though when you're not'.
On a professional level life is good. Liam's main role as Chief Executive of the Farm Apprenticeship Board is to oversee the running of an apprenticeship programme in farm managing.
"We have a core of 300 master farmers and we apprentice people with them to learn the ropes. We have been unique over the years in that all our graduates find employment. The reason for this is that they are well versed in the practical side of things".
It is not all rosy in the garden though.
"Our biggest concern in relation to the future of the whole agricultural business is to maintain the numbers interested. The country is becoming more urbanised. Good jobs are available but people must be convinced of the fact that there's a future in it.
Let's face it, a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job looks more appealing than farm work. It is our job to convince people of the future in farm work".
And Hogan Stand backs Liam and Co to succeed.
But what about the future for Tipperary? Is the impetus gone or will they be a threat again in '97?
"The one thing about Tipperary in that they have the best midfield pairing in Munster in Brian Burke and Derry Foley. If you are top in midfield you should really go on and win a game, but Tipp aren't always able to capitalise on midfield superiority.
"Paddy Morrissey (Tipp manager) will be looking for key players to fill key positions allowing (Peter) Lambert to concentrate on scoring. If he finds the right men, they could be there or thereabouts come the summer".
We'll just have to wait and see.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
20th December, 1996
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