Written in 2013 for Peter O’Neill’s book Portlaoise G.A.A. ‘One moment in time’ – A Pictorial Collection of “The Town” 1887 – 2013
Born in Borris Little in March 1950, and growing up in a small cottage with older siblings, Saturday conversations always centered around who “D” Town were playing on Sunday. Our “day out” on a Sunday then was to walk to O’ Moore Park and sit on the “bank” to shout for Portlaoise. My late father, Tommy, was always raving about players that were household names in Portlaoise and so from an early age my enthusiasm grew to be part of that excitement. By six years of age I was a “helper” on a milk van, delivering before school, to the few housing estates that were in Portlaoise then.
Each Monday morning, we talked about who won, the rows, replays and objections, GAA being the sole topic of conversation. I remember one Monday morning particularly well. It was 1958 and Portlaoise had won the County Final the day before, an objection was lodged and the hearing was to be held in the Courthouse. The objection was upheld and the other team (The Heath) were awarded the match, and it famously became known that it was the first time a County Final was won in a Courthouse. My family moved to Dr. Murphy’s and I made many friends there, one in particular was Noel Tynan. Having been stopped for a few years, the Street Leagues were resumed and Noel and I organised a team from Dr. Murphy’s and we played our part in winning all before us.
We were now going to “The Field” as it was commonly known then, Superquinn is now on the site, to play matches and to train, and it was there that we discovered our “pass” into O’Moore Park to see the Sunday matches. On Saturday evening, hurls in hand, Noel and I would break down enough briars and bushes to form an entry to the match the next day. This went on for a while until our secret was discovered and the powers-that-be put up galvanise to stop us in our tracks. But we soon found another way in. The “Big Gate” beside our own pitch was to be our next free entry. By chance we had discovered that if you had a good run at it from Willie Aird’s field, you could leapfrog onto the lock and then over and into the match. Again, our secret was discovered. The top of the “Big Gate” was tarred and we found out the hard way when we got stuck to the tar.
After playing Juvenile, it was very hard to make the Senior grade so I resigned myself to be a “true supporter” of “D” Town. The sixties came and I was now seeing household names that were playing, one being Pascal Delaney, affectionately known as “The Red Lad”, a gifted hurler but a master of football. I well remember after Pascal had retired, we were playing a Leinster Club match and we were in trouble. But after a few pleas to the “Red Lad”, he was on the field much to the amusement of the opposition. But the laughing stopped when Pascal put the ball in the net twice and we won the match. Another day in “Port”, Pascal and an opponent were having a disagreement when things got out of hand and Pascal let them know who was boss, the referee took out the book which meant a “sending off offence” but a plea from Brian, Pascal’s brother to the ref “you can’t put him off-he’s your cousin,Teddy!”
We had a few lean years from 1971 to 1976, when a new crop of boys became men to win the County Title and go on to win their second Leinster Club Title.
Tom Prendergast or “Curly” as we knew him, was my idol. I was now married and had to settle down (as I thought) but my wife Breda knew how much I loved “D” Town and she supported me all the way! She even wrote a song about “D” Town in 1976. In 1977, I felt a great sense of pride as a supporter, when I watched my brother Tom win a county medal with “D” Town.
Now we were on a roll, winning County Championships to beat the band and in 1981 our hurlers made the breakthrough and went on to win four titles in a row. We now had dual players and fair play to them, they kept “D” Town name on the roll of honour for a long time!
When the 1982 County Final against Errill played in Borris-in-Ossory, I was confined to bed with the ‘flu’ and there being no local radio at that time, my temperature was guaranteed to soar if I didn’t get to see the match, so after nagging Breda, she agreed to drive me to it but confined me to the car which she parked on the roadside.
In our house, if “D” Town was playing at two o’clock, the dinner would be at twelve, after which our five children and myself, kitted out in our jumpers knitted in “D” Town colours with the club crest on them, would travel the county to follow “D” Town.
But 1982/83 will always be remembered in the history of the club when we travelled to Cloughjordan in Tipperary to win our first All Ireland Club Title. Travelling with me in my car that day was Noel Tynan, Frank “Crumb” Sides and Martin Lalor. Noel having been a former dual player for the club was now a great supporter as were Frank and Martin.
The ’90’s saw us winning hurling and football titles, and we now have a team of players who have just completed seven County Titles in a row. Long may it last, for the club, for me and all “D” Town supporters.
Some players that stuck in my memory Donal (Hackey) Dunne, Pat Dalton, Richard (Sonny) Browne, Phil O’Keeffe, brothers Pascal (The Red Lad), Noel and Brian Delaney, Michael (Rake) McDonald, Teddy Fennelly, Jim Hughes, and brothers Alfie and Sid Lewis. Tom (Curly) Prendergast/Noel Prendergast, Brown brothers Colm and Gerry, Eamon Whelan and so many dual players like Billy Bohane and his brother John, Pat Critchley, John Taylor, Mick (Gorta) Dooley