August 30, 2007
The death of Liam Connolly on July 4th removed from our community a true Gael and a true Fethard man who will be sadly missed in his native Fethard. Held in the highest of esteem by all, he will of course be best remembered as an outstanding Fethard and Tipperary hurler and footballer.
Starting his playing career in pre-official juvenile GAA competitions with a group of local boys from Garrinch and Cahir Road in a local field eh graduated to school league competitions at Fethard Patrician Brothers NS. I recall the boys who played with him in those games coming and telling me, "Liam Connolly was great he can get the ball at one end of the field, solo to the other end and score a goal". Graduating to Fethard and Coolmoyne minor teams he quickly gained recognition from county minor selectors in both football and hurling, winning an All-Ireland minor hurling medal in 1953. Liam also won an intermediate All -Ireland medal and brought his native parish its first All-Ireland S.H medal in 1958 going on to collect a second in 1961 and another, as sub, in 1962. Liam was also an outstanding footballer. While he will perhaps be best remembered for his hurling exploits with Tipperary, people sometimes forget he was a member of the Tipperary senior football team for twelve years in the fifties an sixties giving some outstanding displays for Fethard and Tipperary during that period.
Indeed, as in his schoolboy days, he always could be depended upon to collect the ball, go through and score a goal when his team most needed one. Liam Connolly played the Gaelic Games by the rules as he played the game of life. The only time he ever fouled was going low with one hand to pluck the ball he sometimes went a bit too low and took a piece of the grass as well. I can see him still, approaching a defender in almost nonchalant style then with a drop of his left or right shoulder getting the defender to commit himself, with a brilliant side-step and a snipe-like swerve to left or right Liam was gone, leaving his opponent wondering "how did he do that, or where is he now?"
At the end of his playing career, which continued until he was almost forty years old, Liam took a keen interest in all local teams. A regular attendee at all Gethard and Tipperary games with his great team mate, Sean Moloney, who played with Liam from the first days in O'Donnell's field. Liam attended this last game at Monroe, Moyle Rovers home ground, the U14 South final between Fethard and Commercials having attended the Tipperary - Limerick match in Limerick earlier that day.
Liam played probably his greatest game in the game of life. His father died when Liam was just sixteen years old. Obliged to leave school he became the family's chief provider taking over his father's job driving the Fethard Laundry can. When Fethard Laundry closed, he took up a position of bread server with the Cork based Mothers Pride Bakery. This meant a pre 5am start from Gethard, six mornings per week, to meet the feeder van in Clonmel. It is doubtful if Liam ever missed a morning during his time on the Clonmel - Kilkenny bread run, getting through on icy and flooded roads when many others failed to do so. He continued until Mothers Pride closed the route and then became the mini-bus driver taking the senior citizens from surrounding areas to Fethard Day Care Centre. He really enjoyed this experience, the old folk loved Liam and Liam certainly loved them. Unfortunately through ill health he was obliged to retire.
A devoted son, husband and brother. Liam visited his late mother every evening while she lived. Liam was devoted to his wife Annie. When she gave a term in hospital Liam's words were "I miss Annie terribly". He did indeed miss her and she will miss him. The great faith of both of them will now stand to her in her sad loss.
In retirement Liam lead a Fethard man's simple life, not asked for more. A man of deep faith, down every morning to ten o' clock mass as which he was a daily communicant, home with the paper, study a few horses, down to the betting office in the afternoon. Here, Liam invested a modest few euro daily on his naps for the day never leaving out a horse named as Gaeilge or one with "Annie" in its name. A visit each evening to his brother Jim and in the summer a trip to an evening game with Sean Moloney and his friends. That was Liam Connolly's day.
Sean called on him to attend the Fethard - Commercials game in Kilsheelan on Sunday, 17th, June last. Liam said, "Sean, I think I'll give it a miss tonight, the old legs are not too good and I am going for a check-up tomorrow, I'll be back during the week". Alas, it was not to be.
Liam usually left you with the words of Sean Og O'Ceallachain, 'sin a bhfuil ler chursait spoirt don lae inniu'. Well the final whistle has blown for Liam, as it will blow for us all, an chursai spoirt don la amarach inniu agus do la amarach is complete.
There was a huge turn out of Tipperary and Fethard players for the removal of his remains and funeral. The number of All-Ireland Senior hurling medal winners seen in the guard of honour, walking beside the hearse, will never be seen in Fethard again. His immediate opponent on many a hard fought Tipp-Cork Munster S.H clash of the fifties, the great Jimmy Brohan, whose ancestors came from Gethard, visited Liam during his final illness sin Cork University Hospital.
Liam, from all your many friends in Fethard, especially those of us who were privileged to play with you, go dti an la go mbeirimid go leir ag imirt le cheile i bPairc an Tigherne ar neamh, slan go foill.
One thing for sure, we many have great men but we'll never have better. A lot of water will flow down the Clashawley by Fethard's storied walls before we will see another to wear the Fethard blue like the peerless Liam Connolly. Ar dheis laimh Do go mbeidh a anam usail dilis.
Courtesy of The Tipperary Star. 11 August, 2007.
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