You’ll have heard me mention my two main muckers, Larry Maher and Ginger Farrell, in previous columns.
Ginger has a royal bloodline- his family were in the area before the Normans, he says, whereas my parents moved here in the early 1970s, so I’m still seen as a blow-in. Larry, on the other hand, is an actual newbie.
As the name might suggest, he’s Tipperary born and bred, moving here in the late-1990s through his bank job.
He commuted to play with the club at home for a while- we’re not far from the Tipp border- but eventually he switched and we got a good few years (and suspensions) out of him.
Larry is incredibly superstitious and, in the vein of male Irish best friends, Ginger and I do our best to lean on that weakness.
Always keen to make a venue 90 minutes before throw-in, he has occasionally found his watch working fast, while he puts our defeat in the 2010 league final- when the three of us were selectors- down to Ginger and I picking the wrong dressing room.
The most infamous incident caused Larry almost a decade’s worth of consternation.
Shortly before his transfer, he was playing a league game at home and saw a young lad wearing one of the jerseys that Tipp had worn when they hammered Clare in the 1993 Munster final.
For whatever reason, the Munster Council had decided both teams should change kit that day so Tipp wore a plain gold jersey with blue trimmings and Larry knew that the number 15 top had extra rarity value as it was worn by Pat Fox, who was usually 13.
A bit of bartering- telling him he was Fox’s cousin and giving him £20- secured the merchandise, though its shamanistic qualities remained hidden for a few years.
It was only after Tipp began to suffer at the hands of Clare, losing the Munster and All-Ireland finals in 1997 and then again in 1999 after a replay, that he felt the need to summon something.
Seeking to harness the spirit of that day in ’93, he wore it when Tipp beat Clare in 2000, but his wife Sharon had it in the wash the day of the Munster final, when Cork got the better of Tipp in Thurles.
Thereafter, Larry resolved to handwash it himself and it was at every match Tipp played in 2001, unbeaten league and championship up to and including the All-Ireland final win over Galway.
Tipp beat Clare again in 2002 and then saw off Limerick to reach another Munster final.
A guy in his 20s was celebrating wildly, aided by what was surely a good feed of Clonmel champagne
Larry maintains that he noticed a car tailing him home after the semi-final, but maybe that’s just being wise after the event. Whatever the truth, he looked out at the clothes line the week of the final, having again carefully washed the golden fleece, and there it was- gone.
Shorn of invincibility, Larry could do nothing to stop Waterford claiming a first Munster title in 39 years.
As he sat in traffic on the way home, slowed to a standstill as the Páirc Uí Chaoimh matchgoers merged with those who had been at the Irish Open at Fota Island, he vowed that, whatever it took, he would get the jersey back.
He was always on the lookout and in 2008 he accosted a lad outside the Gaelic Grounds, but it turned out he was wearing the Roscommon number 15 top.
“What in the name of Jaysus are you doing at a Munster final?!” Larry roared- it turned out the gasúr’s father had played in 1994, when the Rossies won the All-Ireland B.
Tipp won Munster that year after a few seasons in the doldrums, but Larry knew that they couldn’t hope to go all the way and the same in 2009, when they lost the All-Ireland final to Kilkenny after a questionable penalty call.
The return of the jersey
He didn’t hold out much hope when they made it to the decider again in 2010- after all, the stars had decreed that Kilkenny would win five in a row.
I went with him as his brother Harry was caught with an in-law’s wedding and, at the front of the upper tier of the Cusack Stand, I- like most- put Tipperary’s amazing win down to Lar Corbett’s hat-trick of goals.
At the final whistle, Larry stood transfixed. I thought it was the shock of victory but then he nudged me and pointed down to the lower tier.
A guy in his 20s was celebrating wildly, aided by what was surely a good feed of Clonmel champagne. More importantly, he was wearing a gold number 15 jersey with National Irish Bank on the front.
Larry said on the way home that he briefly thought about jumping down and hoping the mass of people would act like a trampoline. You can’t literally rip the shirt off a drunk fella’s back- you might win the battle but you will lose the war. Instead, he rationalised it all, looked at me and smiled: “At least he came.”
Now, after Tipp’s poor year, myself and Ginger were thinking maybe Larry needs to put out an appeal for the fella to bring the lucky jersey to matches again.