My Club: Liam Rushe - St. Pat's, Palmerstown
In this week's 'My Club' feature, Dublin senior hurling captain, Liam Rushe, tells us all about St. Patrick's GAA club Palmerstown.
By John Harrington
St Patrick's GAA Club, Palmerstown, is the most westward GAA club in Dublin city inside the M-50 ring road.
Surrounded by Ballyfermot, Clondalkin, and Lucan, a nearby landmark would be the Liffey Valley shopping centre on the other side of the Palmerstown bypass.
St. Pat's were founded in 1961 by John Daly, Jim Kelly, Peter Kavanagh, Godfrey Walsh, Tommy Manning, and Fr. Michael Cooney in the Parish centre in Palmerstown Village.
There were a number of suggestions for the name of the new club at the meeting, but as 1961 was the Patrician year, St. Patrick's won out.
Their red and white colours came about due to a free set of jerseys procured by Peter Kavanagh.
Traditionally more renowned as a gaelic football club, in more recent years hurling has also thrived in the area.
St. Pat's won the Dublin Intermediate Hurling Championship in 2004 to qualify for the senior grade for the first time, and in 2008 they won the Dublin Senior B Hurling Championship.
That same year the footballers won the Dublin AFL Division 3 title and the following year won the Dublin Intermediate Football Championship.
More recently, the club's hurlers won the 2013 Dublin AHL Division 2 title to win promotion to the Dublin Senior Hurling League.
The club remains very competitive in both codes despite having a small playing population relative to many Dublin GAA clubs and fields six adult and 15 juvenile teams in football, hurling, and camogie.
For more information on St. Pat's Palmerstown, visit their website http://www.stpatricksgaa.ie
Q: Can you remember the first time you got involved with the club?
A: Probably the first time I was involved, my Dad used to coach my older sister's teams so I probably would have just come down with him just pucking around on my own I suppose while he was coaching the girls teams.
Because he was going down, at five and six I would have been playing U-7s, U-8s, and U-9s. It's a small club and it was very common for players to play at multiple ages. Yeah, like any club I suppose.
Q: Did your dad coach you as well?
A: Yeah, my Dad coached me the whole way up. I won't say he's solely responsible, but he can take 90 per cent of the responsibility for where I am today.
Q: What was it like being coached by your Dad? Any disagreements?!
A: Oh there was a couple of tantrums alright! A few helmets broken when I wasn't happy sometimes! Your parents do make massive sacrifices and it's only when you look back at it now that you realise it. Even back then you would have been organising family holidays around massive championship games and different things like that so he could around to manage the team. Just looking back at the hassle he used to have, all the way up.
Calling players' parents just to make sure they'd be there. This was before WhatsApp groups or group texts. It was the early 2000s and he'd be calling all these players or parents just to make sure they could make it. Looking back you really appreciate the effort they put in to keep it going.
Q: Palmerstown wouldn't be regarded as a traditional hurling stronghold, but the club has made a lot of progress. Presumably that's because people like your Dad put a lot of effort into it?
A: I suppose there were several people. There were a couple of parents who would have been six or seven years ahead, the likes of Mick O'Hanlon and John Horgan and a few others. They brought through an age-group that would be in their very late twenties, early thirties, now, and there was a good crop of them.
Then my own father brought through the year ahead of me and my age-group. My team had enough players, and then a lot of us would play up to make another team with the older groups. Between himself and Richie Stapleton they managed them.
He went back down two more years and himself and Mick O'Sullivan managed my brother's age-group. Between that group of mentors and parents they brought through seven or eight age-groups that basically make up our senior team.
Q: Had you much success at underage level?
A: Yeah, we used to actually have good success at both my age and the year ahead of me. In my age-group we were at a cross-roads really. We were top of Division Two but always bottom of Division One. We won Division Two Leagues and would be up there in 'B' Finals and things like that. But when we'd get to the 'A' Championship or Division One we just didn't have the numbers or depth to compete. The same as a lot of clubs, I suppose, but we really enjoyed ourselves.
Playing with the year above, we had big success I suppose. We won 'C' and 'B' championships and an U-21 championship. We had a lot of success in football as well. We won a couple of minor championships and U-21s championships as well. I think we were the first team from the club to go into the Minor 'A' Football Championship and we got to the quarter-final which would have been a big achievement for the club at the time.
Q: You've had some success in Senior Hurling too? A 'B' Championship title and Division Two League?
A: Yeah, it's been the same thing, it's sort of carried over a bit. We were Division One for the last couple of years, but, yeah, you're right.
In 2008, I think, we won the Senior 'B' championship and got up to Senior 'A'. It was the first time in the club's history to be hurling at the top level in the county championship so that was brilliant for us. The following year we won the Intermediate football championship and that was our first year back up at senior football in, I think, two decades. There were massive celebrations again, so they were big years. I suppose when I was 18, 19, 20 I thought they'd continue. I thought we'd be in the mix at senior or competing for and winning things every year.
But it's not the same at senior level as it is at juvenile. The standard is that much higher. You need a lot more luck and probably a lot more depth to compete at the top level. But we still enjoy ourselves.
Q: Compared to lots of other Dublin clubs, it's fair to say St. Pat's would have a relatively small playing population?
A: It's strange, I think we'd almost consider ourselves a country club really, lodged in Dublin. It's one parish which is probably unusual for Dublin. One primary school, one secondary school. So it's not a big area by many means, no. Population-wise it would probably be bigger than a lot of country towns, but, you know, you're mixing with two soccer teams, a basketball team, and different things like that so it can be tight for numbers.
Q: Would Lucan Sarsfields be your biggest local rivals?
A: Ah yeah, in terms of a natural rivalry it would be Lucan alright. We haven't come across them too often. We played them in the football championship alright, but we never came across them in the hurling championship.
We've played them in the Leagues plenty, and they're always good fun.
A lot of us would would have gone to secondary school in Lucan and when I started in primary school, the Gaelscoil, it was very new. We had buildings in Palmerstown then so that's probably why there's a tradition of people from Palmerstown going to the Gaelscoil because it started in Palmerstown. The Lucan people used to bus down but then we got a permanent building in Lucan so the Palmerstown people had to bus up.
Gaelscoil Naomh Pádraigh, that was. Then we all went on to Coláiste Cois Life in secondary school which has grown and grown and is developing into a serious GAA stronghold up there.
Q: How healthy is the club at underage level now?
A: They're going well, yeah. The same as always. It is a small area by Dublin standards and your underage players are probably also playing soccer the day before, the day of, or the day after a game. And they're certainly playing up an age-group too, the stronger players anyway.
But there's a good community aspect to it and there probably is a renewed focus on the underage because we let it slip for a few years. We didn't have the conveyor belt bringing through two or three senior players for the past couple of years. Plenty in football, it's slowed down a bit in hurling. But there were good U-16 teams and minor teams this year.
Q: Would the club be 50-50 in terms of Gaelic Football and Hurling?
A: Generally we would. The problem for us would be the same for a lot of GAA clubs, we have a massive dual contingent. So I would say if we had everyone fit and ready to play, there would be 11 or 12 dual starters and 16 or 17 dual panelists on any given day.
There would be more footballers, a lot more lads who would focus solely on football than would focus solely on hurling. But with such a dual contingent I think injuries have derailed a lot of our seasons. Because if you lose a key player, a centre-back or centre-forward, the chances are they were that position in both codes so you're losing them from both.
I remember we were actually on a very strong run, not last year, the year previous. A great run. For the first time ever in years we had a clean bill of health and a couple of lads returning from Australia. We were just pulling in the right direction.
We got to the last 16 in the Senior Football 'A' Championship and we were up against Lucan. And we were in the promotion spots for Division 2 League to go up to Division 1 in football. And then we just had a disaster against Lucan, I've never experienced a game like it.
Our centre-back completely, cleanly fractured his ankle, so that was one ambulance. Our corner-forward then fractured his ankle, so that was him off in the same ambulance. Then our centre-forward broke his hand, and then our other corner-forward was sent off. And this was all in the first-half!
So that was the whole season derailed there. The centre-back and centre-forward were midfield and wing-forward for the hurlers. And the two corner-forwards were forwards for the hurlers as well. So that's what I mean about it sometimes being difficult if you're a dual club and you get a bad run of luck with injuries.
But, look, it's not all about winning, we have a good time. It's also about framing expectations. We were delighted we won our first senior championship game in the first round in a good few years this year, that was a massive win for us.
Q: Do you enjoy playing football when you get back to the club?
A: Oh yeah, club football is great craic. I play midfield and there's a lot more freedom there. It's very hard to get dispossessed in football too, especially in midfield. You just run and hop and solo and keep turning away. You get a lot more possession, it's a lot less frantic.
As well as that, in club hurling there's a lot more...not pressure, but there would be more of an opposition focus on you in terms of keeping the ball away or having a plan for you maybe. Or you might mark a centre-forward who decides to just run away from the ball every time it's near him and just drag you all over the place.
Whereas in football they don't care. You're just playing in midfield and away you go.
Q: There's probably a bit more expectancy on you that you'll be the main man for hurlers?
A: Yeah, there probably is. The club pressure is fine, it's more that if you're playing centre-back the ball is probably going as wide to the wings as possible or the centre-forward is going one way and the ball is going the other. That's just the nature of it. It's probably why you'd almost prefer club football.