January 01, 1993
The great Tommy Quaid
Listed inadvertently in one of the nation's horse racing publications, the recent All Star hurling nominations would have caught the eye of even the most undiscerning of punters. For listed among the runners and riders in the race to win the number one jersey was one Tommy Quaid (nap). Loyally supported by Limerick folk for the past 17 years and consistently backed by hurling fans nationwide for his stickwork and clever positioning in goal, Quaid was a banker for the goalkeeping position. As such it was hardly a surprise to fans across the country when the Charleville born Limerick veteran romped home first past the post to grab, along with Ciaran Carey, his county's 27th and 28th All Star Hurling Awards.
The race for possession of the number one jersey in the All Star hurling premier fifteen is never anything less than interesting, sometimes controversial and more often than not debated upon by aficionados across the country in exhaustive fashion. This year was different though. While Quaid's selection was never going to be a fait accompli and Kilkenny's Michael Walsh (the bete noir of the nominees), Cork's Ger Cunningham, Tipperary's Ken Hogan and Offaly's Jim Troy all had their backers, the Feohanagh clubman's award was nothing if not belated. It was a long time coming, and extremely well deserved.
Apart from playing a hugely influential part in Limerick's 1992 National League success, Tommy Quaid was one of the few players to have held true to his form in the white heat of the championship fare that followed. His non-selection in fact, would have been a much bigger surprise than, let's say, Brian Corcoran's omission from the All Star full back line or the mooted inevitably of Gerard McGrattan's selection as Down's first ever hurling All Star. Granted, a few surprises did emanate from the selectors pow-wow but they were spot on with their choice of goalkeepers. Quaid's selection evoked no protestations or cries of tokenism. A popular and unanimous winner, was our Tommy.
A true blue Limerick citizen (despite the fact that he lived in Charleville, the home of his mother Brigid, 'till he was of primary school age), Tommy Quaid hails from a rich vein of hurlig stock. His father Jack was one of the mainstays of the Limerick team which beat London by 4-6 to 2-4 in the 1954 All-Ireland Junior Final and was on board the county senior team in the following year when Limerick put an end to Cork's bid for a four in a row series of All-Ireland titles, duly clinching a 2-16 to 2-6 final win over the Banner County. The senior Quaids did their bit for Limerick's hurling renaissance of the modern era. They bred four fine hurlers, Seamus, John, Pat and of course, Tommy. Seamus was a stalwart of the Feohanagh club until Australia called him aside. John went on to represent his county at minor and under 21 level while Pat is currently a member of the county under 21 panel. Then there's Tommy, the All Star.
A product of Feohanagh National School and a tailor-made prodigy for the local Feohanagh-Castlemahon GAA club, the would-be household name in hurling circles was one of a limited number of dual players in the local gaelic games catchment area. The same faces were to be seen either side of the sideline for the club's home and away, hurling and football ties, numbers were small in the player stakes and accordingly horizons were never raised to high. For an ambitious young Quaid, underage forays were excruciatingly painful and frustrating. For twelve years in fact, Quaid beavered away, defending the nets behind him like a poacher would his catch on the banks of the River Shannon. Twelve years, seasons that is had passed until he had the pleasure of winning something with his beloved home club.
In Tommy Quaid's formative days on the hurling field, weaknesses in the Feohanagh-Castlemahon parish attacking formation tended to be the team's achilles heel. Despite the best motivational efforts of local underage mentor Sean Sheehan and the buffer of a well-organised underage set-up in the Castlemahon area, the forces assembled and trained by Brother Dwane at Adare CBS helped seal Adare's pole position at underage level in Limerick during Tommy's juvenile career. Later in years to come defeats in two Minor finals and an amazing quintet of Under 21 West Division final set backs hardened the club's last line of defence to the bitter taste of defeat.
A junior club player at the tender age of fourteen, goals was always the operative word in the Quaid lexicon as an apprentice craftsman of the game of hurling. "I was light and probably one of the smallest lads of my age group so I reckoned it was safer to go into goals, and with players like Sean Kenny, Mick O'Mahony and Billy Quaid for protection in front of me, I knew I'd never be touched," remarked the fully qualified fitter. Reckoned by the countys electors of the day to have been too small in stature for county minor action in 1973 (clubman John Flanagan was on the team) he rebounded from this omission to star on the Limerick minor sides which went down to Cork in the Munster's final of 1974 and '75, losing out on a prized provincial medal in the former year on the strength of a four point (2-11 to 2-7) replay defeat.
By the time he opted out of minor ranks, Tommy Quaid was a seasoned member of Feohanagh-Castlemahon's premier team. The club consolidated it's respectable junior ranking but never, in Tommy's early period with the club, came near to matching the 1954 side's achievement in winning the county title. Significantly, Tommy's father Jack and uncles Jim, Tom, Oliver, Dave, Liam, Mike and Joe Quaid all played handsome roles in that success. Stints at Newcastlewest Secondary School and later the local technicals school promoted a move towards using his hands as tools of his trade, just like his father had done before him in the carpentry business. Coming under the influence at school of Cork born mentor Seamus Kelleher helped to smooth any rough edges off the nimble keeper's sporting art while as a keen apprentice, Golden Vale turned him out a polished and capable fitter.
Sure footed with an accurate puckout and an inordinate sense of anticipation, the young Quaid was already co-opted on to the county under 21 panel by the time Cork scuttled his Munster minor championship medal hopes. Two months after the summer of 75 had waved adieu, his burgeoning status as an unequalled keeper in Limerick had elevated him on to the senior county scene. However, taking over the mantle of the legendary Seamus Horgan seventeen years ago didn't turn out to be the mission accomplished that Quaid's supporters, at least, might have expected it to have been.
To say that the then eighteen year old debutant was afforded a baptism of fire back in 75 would be akin to saying that David was up against it in taking on Goliath. Manning the goals for Limerick against Kilkenny in the national hurling league quarter final had all the makings of a sink or swim scenario for the Cork born net minder. Already unsure of his right to grace the Thurles sod, being pitted against a Kilkenny front three of Pat Delaney, Kieran Purcell and Eddie Keher was the stuff from which nightmares are engineered. The young Limerick keeper took stage fright and had the proverbial stinker. It was a lesson in how to lose your composure that Tommy Quaid would never forget. Most importantly it was an invaluable lesson and one which help to eventually make him a master of his art. Conceding three goals made it a lesson he would later pas on to those youngsters willing to learn at club and county level thereafter. "Nerves can destroy you, can destroy any player but especially the raw newcomer," Tommy mused.
Three weeks before Limerick's 1976 championship clash with Clare, Quaid was handed his chance to regain his team place in a tournament game in Cork. Although asked to negate the best efforts of Ray Cummins, Sean O'Leary and Charlie McCarthy, Quaid was in no mood to seek out the sympathy vote. His 1992 All Star award is practical proof that the Cork trio were unable to bury Tommy Quaid's inherited ambition of starring for his beloved county for many seasons. Limerick stalwarts like Hartigan, Foley and O'Brien could retire in the surefire knowledge that at least one defensive position was covered securely for days ahead when renovation work would begin on the Limerick senior squad.
Now partnered by Seamus Lyons in their own engineering firm , 1980 was a watershed for both Feohanagh-Castlemahon and Limerick hurling and as such the affable Quaid was an integral factor involved in both. Married to Kilkenny girl the former Breda Grace (the couple have two children, Thomas and Nickie), winning the west divisional title in the 1980/81 season with his local club was somewhat overshadowed by Limerick's 1980 All-Ireland defeat to Galway. From then on there was no Grimes, Cregan or Hartigan. Shortly Quaid would become one of the elder statesmen of the side but sadly his 1981 provincial medal would becoming his last such souvenir. A handful of Railway Cup medals brightened up the Quaid sideboard though as did National League winners medals in 1984 and 85 and of course, again this year but no Liam McCarthy liaison. Winning the Limerick intermediate title in 1986 and the senior west divisional titles in 87 and 89 added to a highly respectable roll call of medals.
Twelve and a half stone and 5'91/2 inches of reliability, courage and nerves of steel, Tommy Quaid has long since buried the tag of being a hurling lightweight between the sticks. Proud to have won another National League medal last year, he still regards himself as being like a man half dressed at his own wedding. The man's apparel will not be complete until a successful day out is had by his beloved county in September next. If Limerick get that far, Quaid will be there as the team's elder statesman. Trust Limerick's newest All Star award winner to lead his county into the promised land and out of the wilderness.
Taken from Hogan Stand
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