O’Malley’s fond memories of ’65

This Saturday night the Roscommon County Hurling Board will honour the 1965 Roscommon County Hurling team that  won the All-Ireland Junior title by  defeating Warwickshire in a heartstopping final that was played before a huge crowd at St. Comans Park, Roscommon. Seamus Duke looks back on the day when one of Roscommon’s finest ever sportsmen – Gerry O’Malley – finally won an All-Ireland medal after twenty years wearing the county jersey in hurling and football.  Roscommon 3-10 Warwickshire 2-11 A crowd of over 5,000 people attended the match at St. Comans Park that saw Roscommon pitted against an exceptionally strong Warwickshire side which boasted many top class hurlers including Henry Shefflin senior, who is  father of the current Kilkenny player, multi All-Star and All-Ireland medal winner Henry Shefflin. Roscommon had defeated  Armagh in the ‘home’ final by 6-8 to 1-3.    The final was fiercely contested and it was Henry Shefflin who opened the scoring with a point after only two minutes of play. However Roscommon were playing well and points from Tom Boyle and Gerry O’Malley saw the home side lead after 6 minutes.   Roscommon led by 0-4 to 0-3 after 15 minutes before the first goal of the game came in the 17th minute when Martin Conroy crashed home a great Warwickshire goal from close range to edge his side ahead. However with Gerry O’Malley, Tom Boyle and Mick Hoare all playing well it wasn’t long before Roscommon established a lead and they scored two great goals before half-time through Tom Boyle (25 minutes) and Seamus Cormican (29 minutes) to leave the half-time score at Roscommon 2-6 Warwickshire 1-6.   The second half was fiercely contested and the sides recorded two points each before a vital score came in the 43rd minute when Mick Hoare scored the best goal of the game with a mighty strike from 20 yards to put Roscommon five points in front.    However Warwickshire mounted a strong recovery after that and, helped by a Hogan goal with five minutes to go, the UK champions narrowed the gap to a point coming close to the end of the game. When O’Malley set up Mick Hoare for the insurance point on the call of time the huge Roscommon contingent at the game knew that the All-Ireland title had been won.    At the final whistle Roscommon supporters swarmed on to the field to acclaim their heroes, especially Gerry O’Malley, who had done so much over twenty years for the Primrose and Blue in football and hurling. However every Roscommon player was a hero on the day  and there were lifted shoulder-high in celebration.    The President of the GAA Alf Murray was at the game and he presented the cup to the winning captain Mick Hoare to the cheers of the big crowd present.   Recalling that famous day the great Gerry O’Malley told The People this week that  the All-Ireland win held great memories for him.   ‘We were delighted to win it surely. It was a big breakthrough for Roscommon hurling to win an All-Ireland junior title. We had a good team in those years and I remember being beaten by Antrim in a semi-final a few years before that, in 1958’ he said.    ‘The biggest achievement we had before that was beating the Galway junior team which we did in 1952 and 1958. The players on the Galway junior team were chosen from senior clubs and it was always a big thing to beat them’ he said.   Gerry O’Malley would be regarded by many as the greatest footballer ever to play for Roscommon, but hurling was his first love.    ‘Hurling is what we started at in school. We brought hurls to school every Monday morning in Brideswell. There was a teacher there from Cork – a Mr. O’Sullivan who was in Athleague before that – and he was a great hurling man’ he said.   Over forty years on, Gerry O’Malley recalls the 1965 campaign well. ‘Our toughest game on the way to the final was against Kerry (a game also played in St.  Comans Park) who were very good and at that time were competing in the Munster Senior Hurling Championship. We played Armagh in the semi-final in Croke Park but we won that very easily’ he said this week.   ‘There was a very big crowd at the final, bearing in mind that it was a junior match, and it was certainly nice to win an All-Ireland medal having played football and hurling for Roscommon for so long. I suppose you could say it was the last hurrah for me!    ‘I remember Mick Hoare receiving the Cup from the GAA President after the game and the excitement that there was after we won’ he said.   Gerry finished by saying that he had great memories of his days playing hurling with Roscommon.   ‘There were great hurlers in those days surely – especially in Athleague and Roscommon town – and I enjoyed my days playing hurling and was very happy when we finally won that All-Ireland title. I am looking forward to meeting up with old friends this weekend’ the Roscommon great concluded. Roscommon: Tony Gavin; Tom Moylett, Paddy Lyons, Tom Murphy; Brian Mitchell, Jimmy Kenny, Martin Joe Keane; Martin Lafffey, Seamus Cormican; Gerry O’Malley, John Boland, Ray Fallon; Mick Hoare (capt.), Tom Boyle, Jimmy McDonnell. Sub: Michael Glennon for Boyle (injured).  Warwickshire: J O’Leary; P Cullen, M O’Leary, J Shire; J Nolan, J Burke, T Ryan; D Dunne, E Hanlon; M Conway, P Hallinan, W Hogan; T Buckley, H Shefflin, M Murphy. * The full Roscommon panel was: John Connor, Tom Moylett, Gerry Flanagan, Gerry O’Malley, Tom Boyle, Mick Hoare, Tony Gavin, Michael Murphy, Michael Glennon, Ray Fallon, John Craughwell, Jimmy Kenny, Jimmy McDonnell, Cyril Mahon, Martin Laffey, Tony Carr, Paddy Lyons, Tommy Murphy, John Boland, Martin Joe Keane, Noel Daly, Brian Mitchell, Seamus Cormican, Noel Roe.