The Avondhu - By The Fireside
I reckon that every new appointee to the prestigious office of ‘Irish Chieftain’ (Taoiseach) enters this political arena with an appreciation and a look-back at the Jack Lynch reign, and maybe harbour aspirations to follow his governing prowess. He has been described as the greatest of politicians since Daniel O’Connell, having studied Law at an early age and was called to the Bar in 1945 at the age of 28. His entry into the political scene came in 1948 when he stood for election and topped the poll to become TD in the 13th Dáil Éireann.
We think of Jack Lynch as Taoiseach, but it is also fascinating to hear the myriad of stories that are told of his hurling talent. He quickly earned his place on the team starting at age 18 in 1935 and lining out against the great John Mackey of Limerick. Then came the unforgettable 1939 game, which will be remembered in the annals as the ‘Thunder and Lightning’ All-Ireland hurling final. It was played on September 3rd, the day that Britain and France declared war on Germany following Hitler’s invasion of Poland. The Cork Rebels lost that fateful day to ‘The Cats’ by a single point and a disconsolate Jack was blaming his own ‘not-so-sharp’ shooting, in missing a goal chance.
He played on the Cork team up to 1950 and his achievements in that length of time have gone into the GAA history books, as one of the greats; he clocked up six senior All-Ireland medals including one for football and four-in-a-row hurling medals (1941-44). He has also another distinguishing record, as having played 3 games in the one day! He togged off with The Dubs Civil Service hurling team in the morning and wasn’t in the slightest out of wind for two afternoon thrillers with Railway Cup actions for both Munster hurlers and footballers. Now, could any of our present day dual GAA stalwarts rise to that feat?
‘The Real Taoiseach’ enjoyed many memorable occasions, both due to his political life legacy and his sporting achievements. His return to Cork, triumphant as Taoiseach in 1966, was spectacular, as witnessed by some of his teammates from the 1945 football final. Jack climbed to a makeshift platform, near Howe’s pub in Blackpool near the famous Glen Club, with no microphone assistance in those times and was clearly emotional at the sight before his eyes. There were two teams of lads from schools he had attended, lining out and their rendition of ‘A Nation Once Again’ didn’t need microphone assistance to be heard in perfect harmony, not only in the Blackpool air, but heard as clearly in the inner city.
Another historic sporting occasion was the Centenary final featuring Cork and Offaly, which was played in Semple Stadium in 1984 and in the pre-match ceremonies, the entire stadium erupted in huge applause when Jack Lynch stepped on to the pitch, slightly stooped now, approaching the golden age of 70. He was called on to the pitch twice to be honoured as one of the 38 surviving All-Ireland winning captains, not only that distinction, but as one of the 15 players making up ‘team of the century’. Those who witnessed it said there was such a display of warmth and pride when Jack stepped up to take the honours, that the whole crowd rose to their feet in applause.
I think Jack Lynch will always be remembered as ‘The Real Taoiseach’ and the gentle, quietly spoken statesman, sportsman not only in Rebel Cork regions, but beyond as well. There is that iconic picture of him on Cork’s own Shandon Street when he showed such shock and heartfelt sadness as the Echo Boy, Johnny Kelleher, showed him the Evening Echo of the day 3rd March 1979.
Another adored son of Cork, Christy Ring was gone from our midst and Jack felt the blow, the loss; we celebrate their well-lived reigns and rich legacy to this day and onwards.
An mbeidh a leithéidí in ár measc arís... ár ndóchas go mbeidh.