August 14, 2007
Tom Cheasty - hurler, farmer and legend
The news that Tom Cheasty had died was received with much sadness throughout County Waterford and much further afield, by the survivors of the Cheasty hurling era.
Tom's contribution to those glory years is legendary and vividly recorded in the memories of surviving witnesses. His speed in getting possession, weaving and swerving through opponent lines of defence were daring, exciting and a joy to behold, creating panic amongst opposing teams and supporters. When the chips were down we looked to Tom Cheasty to produce the effort that would provide the inspiration for team-mates to up their performance.
In the 1959 All-Ireland final his point near the end, having made his way through the Kilkenny defence ignited the Déise resurgence that resulted in the goal that produced the draw. That score in the aftermath has been referred to by sports writers as 'Cheasty's Point' and is acclaimed as a watershed by hurling fans of every county.
His occupation as farmer and his moderation in lifestyle ensured his ever-ready fitness for whatever might come his way in his occupation or the sporting career he pursued with intensity.
Without the trimmings of television and media hype of today's sporting activities, the situation was totally different. No managers, collective training was restricted, and preparation for games was very low key. Hamstring problems weren't' heard of, the demands of every day life (such as the lifting and bending) was ample preparation for mind and body for one's sporting activities.
The local junior hurling and football fortunes had priority over what was happening on the inter-county scene also.
Tom was a Ballyduff man and his mission was to elevate his Ballyduff Parish and later Portlaw's status in the county. The duels between club players in neighbouring parishes, who also shared county team duty, were eagerly looked forward to. Temperatures almost at all times at boiling point, as opponents hatched plans to contain Tom Cheasty. These were seldom admirable intentions but designed to extend his endurance of what could be inflicted unnoticed by the ref.
His contribution to the enjoyment of that era was the subject for conversation among those assembled for his removal from WRH to St. Patrick's Church to the Folly, especially recounted among the older ones in tones of nostalgia.
A shy man
Tom was a quiet, almost shy man. He didn't thrive on being a celebrity. His social life was no different to those that shared his environment, going to the local dance halls and so on. It wasn't his nature to project celebrity status. His company was always pleasant and jovial.
His hurling career over, he married local girl Kathleen Kelly and settled down, having purchased a farm in Killure. He applied the same dedication to his home and family as he did to his sporting career. An out and out family man, they got priority and they were sustenance to each other when overtaken by the grief on the untimely death of their daughter Siobhan, almost coinciding with the diagnosis of the illness that was to eventually claim Tom.
His forbearance under the awful trauma of his illness was immense. His medical team were astounded by his bravery, positive attitude and extraordinary level of pain tolerance.
While still undergoing rehabilitation on an occasion while waiting on a helper he was unable to resist the temptation of a Kango hammer, taking it up and having a go at using it as a possible means of restoring a little of his strength.
He appeared to be winning his battle. A lesser man would have long before succumbed.
In recent months Tom featured in a television programme, his personality had changed little, he was his usual calm and unaffected self, describing himself as hurler who did a bit of farming. His many hurling fans were unaware of the battle he had been fighting over a number of years to regain a fraction of the strength of his glory days. It was fitting that providence "it would appear" had a hand in his exit from this mortal existence, timing it to coincide with an All-Ireland hurling semi-final. The minute's silence in Croke Park, filled with over 80,000 spectators, was an edifying and eloquent tribute to a legend that had graced and electrified such a gathering some four decades previously.
The GAA are continuously accused of greed and insensitivity towards players but is seldom found wanting when an occasion for recognition for impact on the part of a player, or individual who gave services worthy of special acclamation.
Solace in respect
The family of Tom Cheasty will find much solace in the tributes paid during his obsequies to Tom, by those he played with and against him both at club and county level. Administrative officials, both county and national, television, local radio, all contributing with friends to make a sad event edifying and eloquently memorable.
Michael O Muircheartaigh in his grave side oration revealed much of Tom Cheasty's personality, that was only revealed in a person to person interview.
The rendering of 'Farewell to Lovely Déise' by Michael O'Regan brought down the curtain on the legend that was Tom Cheasty, hurler and farmer.
Tom Cheasty was comparable with the legendary Matt Donovan. 'Matt the Trasher' of Kickam's Classic "Knocknagow". He was a modest man, a crowd puller in his hurling days and very much in evidence at his obsequious.
The handshakes between old friends that had not met for years, some propped up with stick or crutches, balding or grey. Activities curtailed by the ageing process, we meet only on occasions such as this, with a tear in the eye and a lump in the throat, all present to pay our personal tribute, on the departure of one that had made an impact on our passage through life.
We revere him and cherish his memory for joy he brought us. We tender our deepest sympathy to his wife Kathleen, daughters, Margaret and Catherine, son Geoffrey, brother Edmond and other relatives and friends that mourn his passing. Go ndéine Dia trócaire ar an anam.
- Courtesy of Waterford News & Star
September 7 2007
Fitting send off for Déise hurling legend
Many well-known GAA figures from around the country joined members of the local clergy, the farming community, the commercial sector and people from all walks of life in bidding a fond farewell to one of Waterford's greatest-ever sporting legends, Tom Cheasty, as he was laid to rest in his native Ballyduff Lower.
After bravely battling a serious illness for the past decade, Tom passed away peacefully at Waterford Regional Hospital on Friday morning last at the age of 73.
Two weeks before his death he suffered a fall and then contracted pneumonia.
A member of the Waterford team that won the All-Ireland hurling final in 1959, Tom also played in the 1957 and 1963 All-Ireland finals and in the latter year he also won a National League medal. He won five Railway cup medals and at least one Oireachtas medal.
Born in Knockaderry in the parish of Ballyduff Lower/Portlaw in February 1934, Tom began his hurling career with Ballyduff Lower, later joining forces with the combined Ballyduff/Portlaw team, winning five senior championship titles in 1970, 1971, 1973, 1976 and 1977.
He also won a county intermediate football medal with Portlaw and captured a junior hurling championship title with Ballyduff Lower at the age of 49.
Powerfully built and fleet of foot, Tom was also a successful athlete and rugby player but it was on the hurling field that he left his indelible mark.
He usually played at centre forward but he was likely to pop up in any part of the field, especially in club games where his passion and power drove him to cover literally every blade of grass on the pitch.
His swerving, weaving runs struck fear into many defenders and his trademark scooped finish (making it difficult for defenders to "hook" him) often led the celebrated broadcaster Michéal O'Hehir to describe him as "the unorthodox but effective Tom Cheasty".
Many of Tom's colleagues on the 1959 Waterford team including the captain, Frankie Walsh, Martin Og Morrissey and Ned Power were among the hundreds who attended the Requiem Mass at the Sacred Heart Church on Monday last, when the clergy were led by the Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, Most Rev. Dr William Lee and the retired bishop, Dr Michael Russell and Very Rev. Sean Melody, PP, the chief celebrant.
In his homily Fr. Melody spoke of Tom's great courage - "the great virtue that characterised that Tom Cheasty we all knew," he said.
Because hurling was such a huge part in Tom's life Fr. Melody said that he had a feeling that the half forward line in heaven's team had been strengthened by his arrival.
"Tom had a huge interest in the fortunes of the Waterford hurling and I know that he deeply appreciated Michael Walsh bringing the league cup to his home in Killure on the Monday night after it was won last Spring - in addition to the Get Well card sent to him by the whole county squad - these were treasured moments and memories," Fr Melody told the congregation at the Church of the Sacred Heart.
Continuing he said that Tom would love to have seen the Liam McCarthy Cup back in the Deise in 2007 and he added "we're cross with him that he didn't arrange that with God for yesterday." Continuing, he said, "Tom would want me to thank the present squad for all the pleasure they have brought to us in 2007 and we hope that they will go all the way in 2008."
The honour and memory of a minute's silence in Croke Park on Sunday, was a fitting tribute for a great hurler and it brought pride to every Waterford heart.
In addition to all his hurling and football exploits, Tom was a cross country runner in the 1960's and later in life began throwing the sheaf and beating men who were half his age.
He was a pioneer in most things and throughout his life was a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association - he was a great role model and used his status to help and influence others for good.
"Tom was as straight as they come and if he had something to say to you, it was said. In addition to farming all his life, he was an avid reader and always found time to give it a few hours each day. He had a particular liking for the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh and I suppose that is very understandable given the common rural roots," stated Fr Melody.
Waterford team manager Justin McCarthy, Tipperary's Michael (Babs) Keating and Kilkenny legend Eddie Keher were amongst the many hurling greats present at the final obsequies.
Draped in the Ballyduff Lower and Waterford colours, the coffin was borne by former teammates past others who formed a guard of honour as Tom was taken to his final resting place.
The graveside oration was delivered by RTE commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh.
Michael O'Regan, who also played with Tom for Ballyduff Lower sang the ballad, "Goodbye Lovely Déise.'
Tom Cheasty, who moved to farm in Killure, near Waterford airport in the 1970s, is survived by his wife Kathleen, son Geoffrey, daughters Catherine and Margaret, brother Edmond, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, the Murphy family, Grange and other relatives. He was pre-deceased by his daughter Siobhán.
- courtesy of Waterford News & Star
8th September 2007
In any era and in any company he stood proudly tall. A legend in his own lifetime, a man who epitomised the gladiatorial aspect of the ancient game of hurling in a way that few others ever did or could.
That was Tom Cheasty, the farmer who saw the light of day in Ballyduff Lower, who moved to Killure in subsequent years, and who remained at the very heart and hub of Deise gaeldom until he took his final breath last Friday morning at the Waterford Regional Hospital.
Tom was just seventy three years old, but sadly he had not enjoyed good health for some time past. I suspect he knew the score regarding his health for some time past and was more than ready to answer that final call when it came.
Tom's senior inter county debut came on an October day in 1954 in the most unusual of circumstances. He had travelled to Walsh Park for a National League game against Kilkenny to support the team, but when several players, for whatever reason, failed to put in an appearance the late Tom Penkert went in search of replacements.
The man from Ballyduff Lower as only too willing to answer the call, and while his big championship breakthrough didn't immediately follow he was to become an ever present in the side from 1956 until he finally decided the time was right to call it a day.
Into the glittering career he crammed some momentous, even unforgettable, times with the winning of the 1959 All-Ireland title the undoubted highlight.
He was voted joint "Star of the Week" with the late, great, Kilkenny goalkeeper Ollie Walsh after the drawn game, and then went on to score two goals and two points in the replay to inspire Waterford to a magnificent 3-10 to 1-8 victory.
His three Munster championships, an Oireachtas win in 1962, and a National League title a year later make up his medals haul for Waterford, along with five Railway Cup medals won in the blue of Munster. Impressive to be sure, but with any small measure of luck it would have been so much more.
Then there were those halcyon days with Ballyduff/Portlaw in the first instance and subsequently with Portlaw. He won the first of five county senior hurling championships in 1970 with Ballyduff/Portlaw and went on to win four more in that same decade in the blue and gold of Portlaw. The last of the five was won in 1977 at the age of forty three.
There was another championship medal very special to him, the last he was to win at the end of his memorable career. Ballyduff lifted the county junior hurling title in 1983 with Tom playing a stormer that day just weeks short of his 50th birthday!
On the field of play Tom Cheasty was as near to indestructibility as you could ever encounter. There were days when I thought the man's finely honed frame was made of granite as he powered his way through defences and defenders as if they didn't exist. Fearless almost to a fault, he was impervious to personal danger.
Off the field though Tom was a very different character. Kind, friendly, gentle and caring, his affable company was both a delight and an honour to share. Thank God I had the pleasure of knowing that delight and savouring that honour many, many times.
Waterford has had great hurling men since Tom put away his trusty caman almost a quarter of a century ago, and doubtless in the years ahead our country will produce many more great hurling men we surely will never have better than the man from Ballyduff Lower.
Tom is now enjoying the fruits of his exemplary life, and in the company too no doubt of many more of his fellow countrymen who graced the playing fields of Ireland with such distinction.
The great man was laid to rest in his beloved Ballyduff last Monday and the attendance was immense. Hurling colleagues and opponents of his era were there in strength from virtually every country and it truly was a fitting final tribute to a legend.
To Tom's wife Kathleen, his son Geoffrey, daughters Margaret and Catherine, his brother Edmund (a former chairman of the East divisional GAA Board) and all of the other members of the extended Cheasty family the heartfelt sympathy of the column and columnist is extended. Go ndéine Dia trócaire ar a anam.
Courtesy of Waterford News & Star
August 17th 2007
Tom Cheasty RIP
Defeat in the All-Ireland semi-final wasn't the only loss suffered by Waterford hurling at the weekend. One of the county's greatest ever hurlers, Tom Cheasty, died on Friday last in Waterford Regional Hospital at the age of 73. He was born in Ballyduff in 1934. His father was a native of Ballyduff and his mother Kathleen was a Kilkenny woman. At the age of four he went to live with his mother's uncle and aunt in south Kilkenny. It was in a small field near his grandmother's house in Grange, near Mooncoin, that he played his first hurling.
He first played with the Ballyduff minors in 1949 at the age of 15. He played at left half-forward for the county minors in 1950 and he was full-back on the county minor football team the same year. He played junior hurling with Ballyduff and in 1954 he made his debut on the county senior team. He was on the panel for the senior championship against Limerick in 1955, the year Limerick won the Munster championship. He played against Cork in the championship in Fermoy in 1956 and scored five points from play. He was picked on the Rest of Ireland team later that year. Waterford won the Munster title in 1957 and reached the All-Ireland final that year only to be narrowly beaten by Kilkenny. The Decies won the Munster title again in 1959 and went on to win the Liam McCarthy Cup, beating Kilkenny in a replay. They won the league title in 1963 beating Tipperary in the final and went on to Munster title again the same year. Kilkenny beat them in the All-Ireland final. He won Munster championship medals in 1957, '59 and '63 an Oireachtas medal in 1962, a National league medal in 1963 and an All-Ireland medal in 1959, as well as Railway Cup medals in 1958, '59, '60, '61 and 63.
Tom was a farmer who was noted for his speed and strength. He wasn't a very big man, 5'-8" and 13st, but he was powerfully strong. He has been described as "strong, fit and fast, uncompromising in exchanges, he held his own with the leading centre half backs of his day." He had an unorthodox style. He would run at a defence and then he would scoop the ball with a short swing that was impossible to hook. He was described as 'indestructible' as he jinked and weaved his way through the tightest defence with very little regard for his own personal safety. He was a fearless player who would go through the proverbial stone wall. He was a most durable player whose hurling career spanned three decades. He starred for the county senior hurling medals with Ballyduff-Portlaw in 1970, '71, '73, '76 and '77 when he was 43. In 1982 he was asked to train the Ballyduff junior team and he agreed, jokingly adding "and I'll play with them next year." He was true to his promise because in 1983, a few months before his 50th birthday, he won a county junior medal with his native Ballyduff. He played at centre half-forward in the final even though he had suffered a broken bone in his hand in the semi-final. Truly a great character. May he rest in peace.
Courtesy of Roscommon Herald
14th August 2007
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