February 14, 1992
Offaly captain Martin Hanamy raises the 1994 Liam McCarthy Cup
St. Rynaghs and Offaly craftsman Martin Hanamy holds onto the dream of All-Ireland glory
by Jimmy Geoghegan
Martin Hanamy experienced fame early in his career. At a time when most players are still learning their game, the Offaly man won an All Star hurling award. That was in 1988 when he was only 21 - one of the youngest players ever to win the prize.
Reflecting on it now, Hanamy says that he was probably a bit too young to fully appreciate the significance of it all. To completely indulge in the glow of recognition that it brought. His first reaction on learning that he was chosen was astonishment. "I was totally surprised because I was sure that Paul Delaney would get it. It was certainly a big of a shock."
One of the ironies of Hanamy's hurling career is that he might never have taken up or developed much interest in the game but for the promptings and encouragement provided by one man - Harry Gunning. Harry lived just a mile from the Hanamy home in Cloghan. He was obviously excited by the skills that he saw in the youngster from down the road.
The Hanamy household was never really one where hurling was passionately discussed. Martin Hanamy senior had in his day played football for Doon side St. Brigids but he never hurled much. Younger brother John showed considerable talent but drifted from the game, while another brother, Kieran, never really got involved in the sport. But Harry Gunning made sure that young Martin stayed on the right track. He collected him and brought him to games and training sessions. Watching closely as the youth's latent skills were fostered and polished. Providing encouragement when heads began to drop.
Hanamy was a self-confessed "late starter". He didn't play competitive hurling until he was twelve but with regular combat, he began to blossom. It wasn't very long before the county underage selectors began to scratch the name of the Cloghan lad in their notebooks. This was in the early eighties when the quiet revolution that had been simmering in Offaly hurling finally erupted to shatter the supremacy enjoyed by hurling's elite - the Corks and Kilkennys and the others.
In 1981, Offaly won its first ever senior hurling All-Ireland final. Outwardly, there were no warning signs that this was going to happen. There was no minor championship wins in the years before to indicate that a new crop of champions were emerging. Offaly hurling was small fry up to then; cannon fodder for the bigger guns.
But that all changed with the midfielders victory over reigning champions Galway. A win that was as fresh as it was exciting. Up to then the footballers, who had collected All-Ireland crowns in 1971 and 1972, had hogged the limelight. the names of Martin Furlong, Paddy "The man from Rhode" McCormack, Sean Lowry, Willie Bryan and tony McTeague were known everywhere.
But in 1981, this was transformed as Offaly's sudden emergence as one of the top teams in hurling grabbed the public's attention. Now players such as Damian Martin, Pat Fluery, Ger Coughlan and Mark Corrigan were in vogue. And the big splash that had been created in Croke Park in September 1981 inevitably sent ripples back home. Hurling now became a fashionable game.
Martin Hanamy was 14 when Offaly won in 1981. By then he was already well on the way to becoming an accomplished hurler himself, now playing regularly in underage competitions for his club St. Rynaghs. Hanamy's growing reputation was undoubtedly helped by the great success of his club over the previous twenty years.
St. Rynaghs was born in the sixties with the coming together of two existing clubs, Banagher and Cloghan. Amalgamation of clubs was common following the effects of emigration in the fifties. This was to prove a fruitful union. The new club became a major force in both hurling and football. County championships in most grades were quickly collected.
Partly through the influence of Harry Gunning, Martin Hanamy had developed a deep attachment to hurling. It was his game. He played football too, but never to the same extent. He never could get the same enjoyment out of the game as he did with the small ball. He ignored trials for various county football teams while eagerly answering the calls for the hurling sides.
The Rynaghs man was selected for the Offaly minor and under 21 sides. Yet, he was unlucky in missing out on a really big prize. In 1986, the Offaly hurling minors won the All-Ireland. Bit by that stage Hanamy was 19 and had just missed the boat. Major honours similarly eluded him with the under 21s. Yet, winning - even appearing - in an All-Ireland final is a dream that Hanamy dearly holds onto. At 25, he still has got time on his side, and he has been close on a number of occasions.
Since making his senior debut for Offaly in 1987, the St. Rynaghs' player has appeared in two All-Ireland semi finals. The second is the one game he would most like to forget. Losing to unfancied Antrim in 1989. On paper it appeared a formality. Antrim and Offaly provided the curtain raiser to the big clash between Tipperary and Galway. The big question was who was going to face Offaly in the final? But the day turned out a disaster for the midlanders as the Ulster side earned their place in the final. "I felt sick after the game. We were probably a little too confident. We were not right mentally and we were without Joachim Kelly. He was a big loss."
This defeat was added to by a similar disappointment in 1988 when Offaly was knocked out by Galway in the semi final by 3-18 to 3-11. Some compensation for such failures was gained last spring when Offaly won the National League, beating teams like Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford on the way. It appeared a very significant step towards glory in September and hinted at a strong revival. "Getting into the League Final took us by surprise more than anyone else. Down had beaten us before Christmas and we weren't too fussy about it all. We just kept winning."
But in the first round of the championship Offaly was unexpectedly beaten by Dublin. It was back to the beginning. This lack of consistency is something that concerns Hanamy. He can't just put his finger on the reason. It could be a lack of confidence, morale and inexperience. The reason may not become apparent until they actually reach an All-Ireland final.
Hanamy has no doubts that the talent is there - even more so than in the early eighties. It just needs to be moulded properly. He points to talented players in his own club who have also gained their place on the county side. Aidan Fogarty, Ray Mannion, Hubert Rigney, Michael Duignan and David Hughes. It was such talent that helped St. Rynaghs win yet another senior hurling championship last autumn twelve months - beating Birr in the final. This was a sweet moment for Hanamy who was also captain. While normally lining out at wing half or centre half back for his club,Hanamy usually takes up the right full back berth for the county. They are positions his sturdy, robust style is suited to.
Just recently, Hanamy and his intercounty teammates have started training again as the National League swings back into action. He is nagged by an ankle injury that is taking awhile to clear up. But he feels confident that he will be fully fit son. But fitness can be a problem Martin - who works as a carpenter with local builder Denis Corcoran - rightly points out that a hard days work on the site is hardly the best preparation for a tough training session that evening.
Yet, he is determined to keep at it. In search of that elusive All-Ireland medal that has escaped him. And perhaps even another All Star award.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
14th February 1992
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