In Conversation With:
Out of Town with Diarmuid Mullins
Hello and welcome to the 1st issue of Portlaoise GAA Club’s new newsletter, TownTattler. The newsletter was created to act as a focal point for information and increase engagement in our club. At a time when we are currently unable to meet in person in Rathleague, we also hope this will fill the void of GAA in our lives at the moment. We have loads planned for future issues and we hope you all will get involved in some of the fun and spread the word. Most importantly, remember #ClubIsFamily and we will be reunited before long, but for now, take a look inside the first issue of Town Tattler.
Cathal & Aedín
In Conversation With:
To Portlaoise GAA people Declan McEvoy is often referred to as Maka’s dad. But with the impression the man is making as newClub Treasurer since 2020 they’ll soon be referring to Maka asDeclan’s son
So who is Declan McEvoy?
Born and bred in Portlaoise. I lived in Coote Street, where the entrance to the Midlands Park Hotel is, beside the old Leinster Express. I moved to Kilminchy and still live there today. I also lived in Carlow, and when I met Sadie and we married moved back to Portlaoise. I have a passion for politics and current affairs and sport.
A motor car nut too, especially fan of German BMW/Audi and Italian supercars. I have three children; Ciaran(Maka), Cathal, and Aoife. I went to college in Carlow and Dublin and am now head of tax with IFAC – based out of Dublin. My uncles were the Murphy’s of Clondouglas, all whom played with Portlaoise and my earliest memory was my uncle Mick winning a county title with the Town in the 70’s.
Earliest memories of Portlaoise GAA?
I grew up watching those super dual teams and in football no favourite – like everyone adored the team. In hurling that famous match v Camross still is remembered (we take it Declan is referring the year of the ‘row’ –1989!!)
Why did you decide to get involved?
With supporting the club and with Ciaran involved, I felt it was time to contribute something myself. I felt the club needed new blood and felt I could make a difference.
Are you enjoying being involved?
Yes absolutely. But COVID has limited what can be done in 2020/21.
What are your hopes for the club in the short, medium and long term?
We need to be open, communicate better and promote the history of one of the best and most successful dual clubs in Ireland. Financially we need to put a better secure source of income into the club to develop the grounds. In addition we need to invest in player development and facilities.
What are the clubs greatest challenges going forward?
We need to increase our number of members –failure to do this will make the every day running of the club a huge challenge.
Out of Town with Diarmuid Mullins
We caught up with Diarmuid Mullins, former dual player with the Town, and the manager of double Munster minor champions, Limerick.
He has recently been appointed Limerick U20 Hurling manager. He is also the principal of Crescent College Comprehensive in the city.
Diarmuid’s Dad, Sean (RIP), was also a great Portlaoise clubman and sadly passed away last August after a short illness.
Earliest Memories of Portlaoise GAA:
Games that I attended with my Dad when he was managing underage club teams in the late 1980s. He tended to be involved with less successful teams as far as I remember. Footballers such as ‘Flicker’ at corner back, Doc Fitz, Nocky Kerry, Mossy McDonald, Fergie Morrin were names I remember in underage games. I also vividly remember the Leinster club hurling final in 1987 vs Rathnure and Jimmy Houlihan hitting close in frees miles over the bar and the drama at the end of the game as Rathnure stole the win. Portlaoise had one last chance in the last moments to claim a draw and I remember a conversation on the way home about how Portlaoise were the better team. The football replay vs Parnell’s in Newbridge stands out too and I remember the semi vs The Burren in O’Moore Park. Those days sewed the seeds for the Sunday morning underage leagues and training that soon began. Football and Hurling every second Sunday was a great start as a player but more importantly long-lasting friendships were developed.
Outside of my Dad, who encouraged me but also didn’t suffocate me with advice, (Indeed he used to predict my many mistakes down through the years in a funny way!) there were so many people who gave of their time to young players. JimmyWrest, P.J.O’Brien, Ollie Byrne were the hurling coaches. Ollie had a Cody-esque element of managing and we had great days from U12 to Minor winning plenty, learning loads and travelling the county and beyond. In football; John Mulligan, OllieHughes, Joe Daly and the duo of Murt Parkinson and Brian Delaney led the way for us in football. Great days and plenty of good advice. All of these men wanted us to play hurling and football the right way and were always willing to allow players to express themselves as much as possible. I think we were fortunate to have such people involved. Central to this success was the administration of the club with John Costelloe (Sec) and Joe Phelan Snr – great chairmen and secretaries who gave their time. Fun was the name of the game! At senior level in hurling Cheddar, John Taylor and Damien Fox all were involved along with Atch, Mark Kavanagh, Mick Lillis, Tommy Conroy and Niall Tully in football. All different approaches and plenty of learning that I have taken forward.
Hurling or Football:
Portlaoise was and should always be a top dual club. I loved playing both codes and despite the success at minor level in football in 1996 and 97, I enjoyed hurling more but only just! I think in my time the real GAA person in Portlaoise supported both codes and the need to divide both codes needs to be always discouraged, although I used to enjoy Cheddar as senior manager debating training schedules with Mark Kavanagh, and Peadar Molloy as chairman hopping onto his tractor to avoid mediation! I still think playing both must be encouraged at least until senior – until players may wish to concentrate on one or another. I enjoyed training most nights and playing loads of games as a dual player. Portlaoise have had really the top hurlers and footballers in Laois down through my years…John Taylor, Pat Critchley, Niall Rigney…Colm Browne, Tom Prendergast, Atch, Kevin Fitz, Ian Fitz, Kieran Lillis etc. and the ultimate dual player in Cahir! So dual is the way to go and plenty of players to look up to for young players.
There was plenty, but probably losing the minor football final in 1996 with 6 of the All-Ireland winning panel. Ballylinan Gaels scored a last-minute goal. We also lost a few hurling finals and semi-finals to a good Castletown team in 1999-2002 which we could have won after beating them in 1998. Obviously as a panel member in 2004 in the All-Ireland Club was a disappointment as the lads played such great football vs. Kilmacud in the Leinster semi and vs Crossmaglen in the All-Ireland semi. Generally, I used to move on after a loss fairly quickly, maybe I didn’t invest enough as player in my latter years.
Definitely the double minor hurling win in 1996 and 1997. Great games vs Camross and The Harps. The first senior football championship final win vs. St Josephs was great as we hadn’t won one in 9 years and the hurling final win in 1998 was great. Beating Graigue/Ballycallan in the Leinster semi-final and the fun after those wins was great also. At a really young age the Feile Hurling and Football All-Ireland wins were fantastic fun also. Winning 5 U21 championships in a row was great too.
Feelings after you transferred:
Obviously, a sense of sadness. However, the travel was tough and also I had really enjoyed Limerick since I started college at 18. It was time to make it easier for myself to enjoy GAA locally and it wasn’t possible to commit to Portlaoise. Despite transferring Portlaoise will always be where I learned to play and it is the club that I still look out for. I don’t think I was missed that much!
Playing Days in Limerick:
I had coached Mungret in my last year with Portlaoise so I transferred to them. I really enjoyed my time with Mungret winning a few county titles in football and hurling. More importantly I found a great outlet for my interest in GAA Coaching & Management: By chance I got involved with Mungret in 2004 training the footballers. After that I had stints with Ballysteen, Limerick U21s, Burgess, Kilmallock, Limerick Senior Footballers, UL Sigerson, Mungret Hurlers and Limerick Minor Hurlers. Some success but really I think coaching is all about improving players and making sure that the club teams are in a better place than before I got involved. It’s a hugely satisfying experience learning from players and developing different systems of play for different challenges, etc. The key also I think is to maintain the fun element and positive relationships are vital.
Structures in Limerick v Laois:
The Limerick structures in the underage academy are very good. Each age group is working to an overall ethos and plan. The decision, by agreement with clubs, that Saturday is strictly an academy training day with no club fixtures has worked. All the coaching teams work in unison, all are volunteers contrary to a perception of huge investment in Limerick. The investment is in people and time. The onus is on developing players for senior and success at underage is a bonus. Culture and skill development is the key. I can’t comment hugely on Laois but it would appear that a more coherent plan is needed. I think some counties look for short term fixes, for example recruiting Derek McGrath for just a minor team when maybe a 3 to 5 year plan to allow Derek to assess and guide development at all levels etc is what’s needed. But one area Laois has a definite edge is the superb Centre of Excellence that they have. Limerick have no such excellent facilities so credit to the county board there. Maybe we shouldn’t have moved!
Keeping In touch with Portlaoise:
My closest friends are still the Portlaoise lads but I don’t meet them enough. The size of the town has changed but the decency of the great friends I played with is still there for me thankfully!
Busy times with my wife Davnet and 4 young kids, great days ahead watching the 4 of them playing GAA, I hope. And I recently was appointed principal of a great secondary school Crescent College Comprehensive and that’s a great new challenge!
Two great years and hopefully an All-Ireland semi to come. It was a great experience to play in front of the seniors and to win the double in the Gaelic Grounds was a great day. Just privileged to be involved.
Dad really enjoyed his second but longer life in Portlaoise, from playing in 1976 at the start of that great team and all his years involved in the club. He really enjoyed the characters of the club and believed that participation was the key. He would prioritize the 16B football team as more important than the marquee team and rightly so!! Despite winning Leinster clubs with with Vincent’s and Portlaoise…hurling was his huge love really and he rarely missed a home Laois hurling game in recent years. A big loss to us but he lived his life well and Portlaoise GAA was one of his many passions.
Hopes for Portlaoise:
I hope Portlaoise continues to be a flagship club in Leinster. However, it takes hard work to keep a big club like Portlaoise evolving and developing. Hurling appears to need work and a dedicated plan around primary schools might help. Portlaoise should always be aiming to produce top hurlers and footballers but also compete at the highest level. Central to this has to be a player development pathway which needs constant review and to be resourced in terms of quality coaching.
What Portlaoise GAA means to me:
Fun, memories, great friends and a source of great pride to have played with this club.