Ahead of this Sunday’s unique Roscommon Senior Hurling Final, Dan Dooner made his way to Tremane and Athleague to get the thoughts of three local hurling stalwarts…
The Tremane club is steeped in history, as far back as the first reports of an organised game of football in the area in 1945 and the odd anecdote of local men togging out in their Sunday best to make up the numbers.
The club only made the switch to hurling in 1949 and by that stage Fuerty had taken over responsibility for football in the parish. Tremane won their first junior county title that year before the glory years arrived in the 1970s with one Connacht title (1977) and five Roscommon titles in that decade, culminating in a famous county final win over Athleague in 1980.
Club stalwart Joe Coyne has literally written a book on Tremane, and earlier this week he explained how the club came to be. “Well, I think there was a bit of a falling out over players in Athleague,” Joe began.
“I think a few lads were left off a team, and they weren’t too happy and so it was decided to set up a club here.
“There was an old school down there called Scardaun school; there’s no church or shop on this side of the parish. The hills around here were always known as the Tremane hills and that’s possibly why they called the club Tremane.
“We’re kind of like the branch of the tree that fell off – the missing branch!”
From 1949 to the early ‘80s, which includes most of their championship winning years, Tremane trained on a bit of land known locally as Lanes’ Field.
“We used to park the cars along there. If I had a euro for every time I ran laps around that field…” Joe says as he looks out over the former hallowed turf.
Tom Daly was busy cutting the Tremane pitch on Tuesday, a job that takes roughly three hours when the going is good. It’s all for the love of the club, he says.
Tom wasn’t part of the panel for the 1980 county final but flew home from England for the occasion. He’d fly home quite a bit during Tremane’s glory years of the ‘70s; most notably for the 1972 county final against Roscommon Gaels, a game which saw him enjoy “one of his greatest ever hours in the club colours”.
A preview ahead of that famous 1980 final described Joe Coyne as having “a superb eye for the slimmest scoring chance. In his day, he has been known to score from seventy metres out. He will take some watching on Sunday”. Joe will be watching on with those sharp eyes this Sunday as the ‘Class of 2021’ look to repeat history.
“We got on top early on in 1980 and led by 1-7 to 1-1 at half-time. They came at us in the second half and brought us back to three points. People said afterwards that they never thought we’d lose it but we weren’t to know that out on the field! It was a good final and we just held on to win it,” he said.
“We brought the cup to the pubs in Athleague and we had players from Creggs so we always did a night there. But we were soon back in training for Connacht.
“There was always a bit of rivalry and you’d have the odd skirmish due to the fact that we were so near each other. You’d have one family for Tremane and the next for Athleague but it never got out of hand or anything”.
“There’s always a bit of bite,” Tom Daly quickly adds as both men share a chuckle.
Both Joe and Tom agree that a county final appearance has done wonders for the game locally.
Joe said: “This final is building excitement and at the recent press night every little kid from the age of four up had a hurl in their hand”.
As for Sunday’s decider, both men also agreed that it was very much “50-50” but a fast Tremane start is crucial.
Joe recalled another occasion back in the ‘70s when the parish rivals were due to meet.
“We won six titles between 1972 and 1980 and the Connacht Club Championship. We got this reputation as a ‘wet day team’ because by sheer coincidence we had a few good days out in the rain,” Joe said.
“There was a man in Athleague, who, when it came to hurling, hated us. He gave an account of one match and he said: ‘I got up on Sunday morning, I looked out and then I cursed and went back to bed because I knew them f****** over the road were going to win again!”
“Somebody said it it’s supposed to be showery this Sunday too,” Tom adds as the two men gaze out over Tremane’s modern ‘field of dreams’.
Down the road in Athleague, Robbie McConn was due to play in the 1980 final against Tremane but picked up an injury in the semi-final against St. Dominic’s.
“I broke my kneecap and it put me out for the rest of the year. Back in those times there was an even bigger build-up…especially among the older generations where neighbours wouldn’t be talking to neighbours,” he said.
“Things have changed now. I would have been involved with the underage players and our junior teams are Athleague-Tremane so I’d know every one of them”.
Robbie reckons Tremane’s secret weapon will be their hunger following 26 years in the county title wilderness.
“We had a very lean period from 1978 – the last time we beat Tremane in a county final – until 2003. 25 years. So I can see where they’re coming from because they’re now on 26 years (without a senior title). They will have a huge hunger for this game…this is a life’s ambition for them. My big fear is if our lads aren’t up for this and dig in we could get into a bit of trouble,” he said.
The Athleague man reckons there will be “little or nothing” between the two sides on Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to this; it’s a great parish rivalry and it’s historic. I don’t believe there’s another rural parish in the country that has two senior hurling teams. We also join up to play football for Fuerty who were senior just a few years ago. The normal thing is for two parishes to join up to make one team, never mind have three teams in the one parish…and that’s not even counting our camogie team and ladies’ footballers,” he said.
While the final itself is too close to call, Robbie believes there is one guaranteed winner this weekend.
“Most of the pubs have closed down over the years…Waldron’s has closed and that was like our clubhouse for many years. Fitz’s is closed and so too is The Bridge House so that just leaves Hamrock’s. Somebody said to me recently that the only real winner in all of this is Henry Hamrock!
“As for the Tremane lads, I’ll meet them there on Sunday evening win, lose or draw. I’ll be the first to congratulate them if they defeat us on the day. I’m very hopeful in our own lads though. It all comes down to who’s up for it on the day here at Waldron Park in Athleague”.