St Joseph’s 0-7
One of the great legends of our club passed away in recent weeks. Tom ‘Nasser’ Lalor led the revival of Portlaoise hurling in the 1970’s and 1980’s. He was an immensely popular and inspiring figure and how fitting it was to see his former players carrying him to his final resting place. The club extends its sympathies to Tom’s wife Bernie and his daughter Ann-Marie and all of the extended family on their sad loss. With the permission of the authors of the Portlaoise GAA history ‘Cmon the Town’, we reproduce in full the article that Tom penned for this publication over 5 years ago.
I lined out at midfield for the Town in the senior hurling final of 1960.The club had not won a county title in the grade for 17 years. But with a string of successes at minor level in the early to mid-1950s, many of these young stars were filtering through in the later part of the decade and the senior squad became competitive. Borris-in-Ossory was the top team in the county in those years and they were the team to beat. We had them on the rack on that final day in 1960 but poor shooting and bad luck left us trailing by a single point at the long whistle. That was as near as I got, as a player, to win a senior medal. It would be seventeen long years before the Town reached the final again.
In the years after that football was thriving in the club but for some unknown reason senior hurling was dying a slow death. All through the sixties and into the seventies we had some great hurlers, the finest in the county. I can recall some tough and exciting games with Borris-in-Ossory, Rathdowney, Errill, Kyle and St Canices and our nearest neighbours Clonad when luck seemed to desert us on the important day. I managed the senior hurling team for many years but with football doing so well, hurling was not a priority in the club. Poor preparation and lack of proper management were major factors in our lack of success at the time. I am certain these were the reasons we were not winning the championship.
With this in mind a group of ex-players met under the auspices of the then chairman, Teddy Fennelly. Teddy, a former dual player, was anxious to try and revive the game of hurling in the town.This was the start of the clubs climb back to hurling prominence. We got in the Tipperary legend, Jimmy Doyle, to help coach the team and he was a huge help.With other great men for back up on the line I knew, as manager, or trainer as the role was known then, that we were starting to go places. The backbone of the team was formed by dedicated senior players who combined well with the skilful newcomers of the minor and U21 ranks. The aim of the management and selectors was to produce a skilful team combined with determination and dedication. They were also aware of the need to develop our club players to the level where they might compete for their county.
We gave the great Camross team a run for their money in the final of 1980 and then we won four in a row led by the ‘Old-Timer’ (John Joe Ging) and were a bit unlucky not to have made it five. We won two more in the ‘80s, so it was a time to remember. It was heartening to see Laois teams competing at top level with our players as backbone. We were all delighted when Pat Critchley won an All-Star award. He was very deserving of the honour but I was disappointed that a few more of our top players were overlooked. Players like John Taylor, a marvellous hurler, the Bohanes, John and Billy and later Cyril Duggan and Niall Rigney were all good enough to be All-Stars. We had great hurling men on the line, men like Paddy Critchley, Billy Bohane Snr, John Keenan, Peadar Molloy, Paddy Brennan, Tom Bergin and my brother, Jimmy. These men knew all that was to be known about hurling and how to win games. They were all great hurling men and great friends too.
One of my great disappointments was not winning the Leinster Club Championship. We went close a few times and especially in 1987 when we lost by a point. We were robbed as the referee kept the game going well over the time until Rathnure got the goal that beat us. It was not the only time we lost through bad decisions.There has been a lot of bias against Portlaoise in important hurling games. That has been evident up to even recent years. Why are they afraid of Portlaoise winning? And we play the game for what its worth. Those in charge of games should remember the ‘80s. When Portlaoise was strong the county was strong.
There’s a great interest now in hurling in the club and we have a nice young team coming through. I know we will be winning senior titles again soon.