Wolfe Tones, Mostrim ready for 30 hour challenge
By Cian O’Connell
In Longford a respect and fondness for hurling continues to be passed down through the generations.
While only three senior clubs remain in operation a burning desire for the game still exists. It is one of the reasons Wolfe Tones, Mostrim are eager to raise funds for the local hospice in the county through a wall ball challenge.
This weekend during a 30 hour stint hurlers of all ages will participate in a fundraiser with former Longford hurler John Newman stressing the sense and importance of community in the Edgeworthstown based outfit.
“It is a great club for that,” Newman admits. “In the club a lot of them came up together, those lads would all be in their 30s now.
“There is a big gap then to a load of young lads. Like a lot of clubs in the country fellas in their 20s are gone. We have very few lads between 25 and 30, we have a good few young lads and over the age of 30.
“Every family, we are including the underage players, signed up online to get one of the 30 slots whenever suited you.
“It can be done at home or at the back of a garage, use whatever wall you want. The response has been good, we have all 30 slots filled and in some of those slots we have more than one person doing it. So it has been great. It is a very small club, all the lads on the team are doing a slot.”
Newman stresses the role occupied by Paddy Cullen in Wolfe Tones, following in the footsteps of his father, who moved to Longford from Wexford decades ago.
“His father played underage for Wexford with the Rackards,” Newman explains.
“He got a job in Longford, he was huge for hurling in Longford. You'd have a few families the Cullens, Brownes, Connells, McLaughlins, Stakems, four or five families kept it going for years.
“Now their kids are coming to Under 6s and Under 8s. Underage they'd play in the Westmeath and Tain Leagues, it is very well done now the underage. Whatever age the club will always field. There is training from Under 8s up.”
In 2014 Newman finished up with Longford following the Lory Meagher Cup win at Croke Park, but his appreciation for loyal stalwarts in the respective club continues.
“Sean Stakelum in Slashers, he was a great fella keeping it going,” Newman says. “Himself and Sean Cullen kept it going for years in Longford. You also had a man involved with Clonguish, John Finucane, he kept it going there. Those three in my time got everything going.”
Hurling was always Newman’s preferred sport. A stint in NUIG enabled Newman hurl for Salthill/Knocknacarra in Galway, but either side of that spell six Longford senior club titles were gleaned.
The first was captured with Longford Slashers and when he moved back home Newman, a secondary school teacher in Cavan, played for Wolfe Tones. In the Mostrim club Newman emphasises that hurling is the number one sporting priority for a decent chunk of the senior panel.
“You'd probably have 15 or so,” Newman says. “Most of the panel would play football. We have Mickey Hussey, he played underage for Longford. When they won Leinster in 2002 he was the main man, he would be one of our main men.
“We have Seamus Hannon, who played for London when they got to the Connacht Final. They would be two footballers and Martin Coyle, who played for the county footballers for a couple of years. A lot of them, though, hurling is their first game.
“They haven't won the senior football for a long time, but they have got to a few semi-finals recently. A few of the older lads, and I would be one of them, are hurling only. You'd have families that are hurling only, but in a small club the same families keep it going the whole time.
“There used to be more Under 14, Under 16, and minor county teams, we had a great couple of years doing that. Now, though, it is more blitzes and we probably don't have the same amount of young fellas coming through.”
Ultimately these uncertain Covid times have merely reaffirmed Wolfe Tones’ passion and thirst for games. “We all play league, ourselves Leitrim and Cavan, we get a few games playing that,” Newman states.
“We played in the Tain a few years ago, but with lads working on a Saturday it was hard to get fellas out. We'd get about 10 or 12 games a year between challenges, League, and Championship.
“In the Championship the top two play off in the final, we didn't get to the final last year. We were missing two of our best players, Martin Coyle and John Mulhern, we are the same as every other club, if you are missing one or two like that you're goosed.”
Glory and pain is inevitable in sport. Results are only one part of the story, though, because what matters most for Newman is the friendships crafted and the willingness to help others.
It is why this weekend sliotars will ping of walls around Longford with the money generated providing assistance to those in need.