Gerard Buddy McMahon

Gerard Buddy McMahon (by Michael Kennedy)

Where did hurling begin for you, Buddy?

We lived at Carrigoran Lodge on the road to Shannon and the earliest memory I have is of banging balls off the entrance wall. I used to do this for hours on end. Of course, there was no Club na nÓg so it was not until I got to juvenile age that I came into the village pitch to do proper training. There was not the same interest taken in youth at that time as now and my two years at juvenile level were uneventful. I think we hardly passed the second round at any stage.. Then I played Minor for two years. We won minor Championship in the late forties beating Ennis. This was my first county medal. Around this time we moved house to Stonehall Cross and when I outgrew the Minor age I began hurling with Tradaree at junior level.

What was this Tradaree?

At that time in the late forties and early fifties, the Parish was dotted with junior clubs. Moohane was one, Ballinacragga was another, the village, of course, and so on. Tradaree was the name adopted by the club in the Stonehall area. They all contested the county Junior Championship but amalgamated for the Senior Championship under the umbrella of Newmarket-on-Fergus.

When they played each other, there were some stirring tussles as one can imagine. In one particular junior county final – the year escapes me – Newmarket played Tradaree.. A lot of the older people still reckon this game to be one of the best ever played in Clare. All the clubs then came together around 1955 to form one big senior club.

I won my first Senior Championship medal in 1955 although I did not play in the final. It was not until 1960 when we won the McKaigney Cup that the great era began. We reached the County Final in ’61 only to be defeated by Whitegate. We won the Clare Cup in ’62 after that famous game against Sixmilebridge in Kilkishen and in ’63 we won the Senior Championship against Whitegate.. I eventually won 5 senior medals and retired in 1967.

What was it like to play and train with that team?

It was great. They were a brilliant bunch of lads who trained five or six days a week for several hours each day. A big crowd of locals used to turn up just to watch us play. While everybody that saw them play are in agreement that they were a great team I feel that the team of 1947/1948 were equally good if not better. That team of the late forties never won a Senior Championship but were just as skilful as the sixties team. It would be interesting to see. them play against each other. A great game would be guaranteed.

Did you find it difficult to watch rather than play after retirement?

Yes, it was a huge re-adjustment. Our leisure time revolved around the cinema, dances and hurling. As the first two are of a short duration, hurling filled a huge gap. Suddenly, it was there no more. Watching games does not substitute for the active involvement of playing. It took me a long time to fill the void that retirement left. I stayed involved with the Club and was a selector of the team that won the two Munster Senior Club Championships in ‘68 and ‘69. This, of course, helped me re-adjust.

What about work and family?

I joined Sales and Catering in 1952 and I am still there. I first met Mary, who is from Wexford (and is a very avid fan of hurling, in Ballybunion). Actually I was sporting two black eyes the first time she saw me because I had received a belt of a sliotar on the nose while training. This helped me make a big impression on her and we were married in 1965. We have one daughter, Una, and four sons,. Brendan, Fergus, Gerard and Joseph.

Who were or are your favourite players?

In my younger days there was Christy Ring, Pat Stakelum, Sean Bannon and Seanie Duggan. In Clare at the same time, there was Dan McInerney, Pappy Callinan and Mick Leahy. From the sixties, I liked Eddie Keher, Pat Cronin, Pat Hartigan, Paddy McNamara and Liam Danagher. There are many more.

What differences do you see in today’s game as against your days?

The main difference is one of approach to the game. Today there is a huge emphasis on physical fitness to the detriment of the skills. There is much more carrying of the ball, which I believe slows the game down. The doubling and overhead play, letting the ball do the work, is almost lost to the game. These two skills ensured that the game was played at a very fast pace and made it more enjoyable for players and spectators.

I also believe that players who practise the skills help their natural cuteness, craft and guile to enable them to extricate themselves from situations on the field of play that players who do not practise them would find impossible to do..

Did you always play at corner back?

No. When I first came into the village as a juvenile I was positioned at corner back mainly because my father played in that position. I preferred playing at wing back because of the freedom and some of my personal favourite games I played in were in the latter position. I felt it was my best position..

You are now manager of the senior team, how do you see the team coming along in the years ahead?
Over the last five years I have been in charge of the current senior team both at Minor and Under 21 level. A number of them have all the skills. There are more good young players coming through the system.

At the moment, Newmarket is like what Tipperary was like up to the last couple of seasons. What is needed is a breakthrough. Tipperary won the Senior All-Ireland this year and went on to win the Under 21 and Junior also. This is what I mean by a breakthrough. If Newmarket can get that break, they will be off.

You must have seen many changes in your place of work since 1952?

Yes I have seen them all from the DC4’s to the Concorde. .Many changes were for the better. I do feel that while the government makes a lot of noise about protecting Shannon as the country’s number 1 International Airport, they could do more. For example, a lot of buildings around the Airport were put up in the 1950’s and are now an eyesore. This would not be tolerated at other airports of the same stature.

What about changes in the country?

In recent times we seem to be getting our act together and great strides are being made. Unfortunately a lot of money is being made by a number of people and they are not re-investing that capital in jobs for the people. This of course, would reduce the poverty and emigration. People have changed though. The main change I see I can only refer to as that they are using short term gains to the detriment of long-term and other people’s interests.

What about changes in Newmarket-on-Fergus?

There are a few I would like to comment on. I feel that the youth of the village today are missing out on the fact that we do not have a cinema anymore. There has been a huge change in the housing situation. People do not have to go elsewhere to get a house anymore. Consequently, their sons and daughters’ talents are not lost to the clubs and organisations here. Most of the changes in Newmarket that I can think of have been for the better.

Finally, where did you get the nickname ‘Buddy?’

I got it from my sister. When she was very young she could not pronounce the word ‘brother’ properly. It sounded like “butty” so “buddy” became a part of me. Even my sons have that nickname now!

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