Jimmy Halpin

Jimmy Halpin (by Con Woods)


The 1960s was a remarkable decade in that a whole range of developments took place in society at large – it was the decade of pop music, The Beatles, long hair, television, industrialisation and so on.


Sport, of course, was touched by these developments and changes. It was a time when sports people began to take an interest in training methods, fitness, coaching, diet, etc., and their place in moulding the athlete. No longer would training merely be a matter of going to the hurling field and pucking a ball about. Instead, individual skills were practised, tactics were discussed, various exercises and sprinting routines gone through.


Into these new developments Jimmy Halpin fitted very well as he had a keen interest in the science of hurling and training.


Apart from this new flair which Jimmy brought to training, he also got complete commitment from his players. They trained nightly, got ample sleep and refrained from any harmful excesses that could reduce their performance. The combination of Jimmy’s enthusiasm, discipline and training techniques brought three championships to Newmarket in 1963,

’64, and ’65.


It is always a pleasure to discuss the game of hurling with Jimmy and he has often said to me that one of his great beliefs is that the team that   could perfect ground hurling would be unbeatable. To me this is an idea of considerable value. In conclusion, I welcome this publication in not only paying tribute to people like Jimmy Halpin but in also recording   in print some of their ideas and qualities, – qualities which will thereby exist for future generations to study.


Jimmy Halpin-An Appreciation 1927-1997


The sad news of the death of the late Jimmy Halpin on 12th July, 1997 was received in his native parish and especially among the GAA fraternity with much sadness. Jimmy was one of the most noted and important figures in Newmarket’s GAA story.



Jimmy first came to prominence as early as 1940, when at the age of ·thirteen years, he, along with brothers Billy and Pat, won the only Juvenile competition in the county, an Under

15 championship. His display in this victorious championship run was to be the fore-runner of many outstanding displays with his beloved ‘Blues’, culminating in a famous Senior Championship victory in 1955, a victory that bridged a 19-year gap. Jimmy captained the team on this great occasion. The amazing strength and fitness of Jimmy was truly remarkable because in 1949 he developed a serious asthmatic condition, which was to cause him much anxiety and many, many sleepless nights during his hurling and athletics career. From 1945 to 1948 Jimmy took a break from playing hurling and concentrated on a very successful athletics career, the highlight of which came in 1948 when he became an All Ireland cross country    champion, a huge achievement in those days.




Jimmy was a well-known hurler and athlete, but he will be remembered most vividly for his successful transition from competitor to trainer. He was appointed trainer in 1961 to a very young Newmarket senior team. His training techniques were radical and modern. His athletic experience was to be hugely influential in the future success of Newmarket teams in the sixties.

He commenced training in 1961 and Newmarket reached the county final. Jimmy was a strict disciplinarian who was endowed with a strong will and a great insight into what a player had to do to achieve success. While Jimmy was a quiet man, even casual, his total dedication and determination was always an influence on those who trained under him. He increased the training nights from two nights a week to five nights a week with a hurling game on Sunday. These training sessions were stamina, sprinting and skill orientated with a strong emphasis on combination hurling. The picked matches at the end of each session were unbelievably competitive and often ferocious, but always enjoyable. He moulded an almost unbeatable team that were much admired by hurling critics. He was the most successful trainer in the history of Newmarket and Clare hurling. He trained Newmarket to win championships in 1963, ’64, ’65 and ’67.  He also trained the Clare team in 1962/63/64.    Clare won their first round Munster championship match in 1964 when they defeated Limerick. It was Clare’s first victory since 1955.




Jimmy certainly marshalled his players like nobody did before or since. He accepted no excuses if you were late for training. If you were late you got two extra rounds of the field, and the players did not refuse to do it. Anybody who trained under him will appreciate how demanding and difficult the training was. Jimmy was not a drinking man, but it was not unknown· for him to visit pubs· and hotels to ensure that his players were not indulging in any frivolities on the nights before a game. There was a famous dance hall in Ennis – Paddy Cons. One Friday night before a senior championship game Jimmy appeared, walked round the   hall, spotted a ·number. of players and ordered them home, two such players were Tom  Keane and John Duggan and both players left immediately, (Tom Keane related this story).




Jimmy was not just a trainer of outstanding merit, he was a shrewd tactician. He always chartered a sure and safe course, eliminating errors as much as possible. Jimmy was greatly admired and often a little feared by those who came under his stewardship. While he would always be sympathetic to those who through no fault of their own did not play up to their best, he had little sympathy for those who did not give one· hundred per cent. Jimmy sacrificed alot for Newmarket and Clare hurling and his success as a trainer is unlikely ever to be equaled.




Jimmy had a great love of nature and in particular gardening with roses his specialty. He would spend hours quietly working in his garden, which was a haven of colour, beauty and peace. He was also an accomplished golfer which he took up after his retirement from work. He used golf as a means of exercise and as a social occasion to meet his retired friends.




One of Jimmy’s first jobs was as an Insurance Agent with New Ireland Assurance Company. He travelled extensively throughout the parish and was a welcome visitor to many homes.  He was a great conversationalist and thinker on many subjects and people got to know, respect and admire him for his prudence and broad outlook.


In the last year of his life, Jimmy was in declining health. This he bore with dignity and patience. However, shortly before he died, Fr. Ml.McNamara visited Jimmy in the General Hospital in Ennis with the Munster Championship Cup. A little tear was shed but also a big smile graced his face as he held the cup and congratulated Clare on their great win over Tipperary. Even as death approached, hurling was still very much part of Jimmy’s life. Finally, the guard of honour that accompanied his remains was the biggest ever as old and young paid their respects to a unique man who had contributed so much to his club and parish.


To his brothers and sister and extended family we extend our sincere sympathies.


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