Borrisokane GAA Club
Borrisokane G.A.A was Founded in1885.
Currently there are nine hurling and seven football teams from under eight upwards.
All teams play on a weekly basis throughout the season, and training commences in February for most of the teams. Seen within the community as an invaluable service for the youth in our area.
Intermediate Hurling (8) 1940, 1952, 1958, 1973, 1982, 1995, 1996, 2010
Year titles won- 1981
Year titles were won- 1963
Year titles were won –1938, 1977
Under 21 hurling
Year titles were won– 1960
Under 21 Football
Year titles were won – 1980
Year titles won- 1957
Year titles were won-1979
Mackey McKenna One of the best
By Gerry Slevin.
Mackey – the jewel in Borrisokane’s greatest sporting family
The McKenna clan in Borrisokane is one of the great sporting families, going back several decades. In 1930, Jack and Paul won All-Ireland senior hurling medals in Tipp’s first triple crown year. Twenty-three years later their nephew Frank won an All-Ireland junior medal with Tipp. Frank’s first cousin Joe holds an All-Ireland senior medal won with Limerick in 1973. But the jewel in the McKenna dynasty is surely Mackey who has four All-Ireland senior medals in his cabinet, won between 1961 and ’65. Mackey celebrated his 70th birthday earlier this year and recently he spoke with GERRY SLEVIN about his hurling career and all that the game has meant to him. He also highlighted another outstanding sporting link with the McKenna family, greyhound racing and the proud place his brother Ger holds in that sport as, probably, the most successful Irish trainer ever.
To be asked in a quiz how many All-Ireland medals John McKenna has won and with which county might stump some people. John McKenna? A
difficult one that. However, instead of ‘John’ say ‘Mackey’ and a reply would come swiftly enough. Ah yes, Mackey McKenna, Borrisokane’s most famous hurling output, winner of four All-Ireland senior medals as a member of that all-conquering Tipp team of the 1960s, the team that for all its greatness is finding itself in the view of many being superseded in the annals of greatness by the present-day Kilkenny machine. That doesn’t bother Mackey. He readily acknowledges Kilkenny’s greatness too but for him to have been a part of Tipp’s wonder team of four decades ago is something he still finds difficult to get his head around in terms of the spirit that then abounded within the camp and the excellence of those great hurlers around him.
Hurling was always foremost in Mackey’s life. Where did the Mackey come from? Whenever John (or Son as he was known to his family) and some of his school pals took over The Square in front of his house for ‘a few pucks’ there had to be a link with famous players and John had eyes for no one other than Limerick’s Mick Mackey. Everyone else could be anyone else but he was Mackey and there was no arguing with him. Hence the name that would remain with him to this day.
He was the outstanding young hurler in Borris then and it was thought to be only a matter of time before his skills, pace and general play would become known to people involved with Tipp teams. He was guided greatly by his first cousin Dinny Doorley, who won a Munster medal with Tipp in the ‘foot and mouth’ year of 1941. However, club hurling in Borrisokane was hardly of the calibre as to cause any great interest. The under 15s won the North final in ’54 and followed up with the first ever minor title three years later, under 21 honours coming in 1960. Mackey was over-age for all these teams but he still managed to catch the eye in several games, notably in junior grade and 1958 saw him don the blue and gold for the first time when he lined out in the number 15 jersey against Cork in Mitchelstown in the Munster junior championship. Not an auspicious start, Cork getting there by 8-8 to 3-3. The following year with club mates Seanie ‘Scrapper’ Phelan and Jimmy Cahill also in tow, Mackey was to experience defeat again, against the same opposition, Cork, this time in Thurles. It was a much narrower defeat, 4-7 to 3-8 but defeat nonetheless. Yet, Mackey’s performances were coming to the attention of influential people and Borris was starting to make waves in senior grade.
The turning point came in a letter in the Spring of ’61 informing him of his selection on the Tipp senior team to play against Cork in Buttevant for a set of suit-lengths – a very popular prize in those tournament-laden days. “I remember well when I got the letter I went to my father and I said, ‘Dad, am I good enough?’ He said if the selectors think you are good enough for the first fifteen then you are. I lined out and was pitted against Jimmy Brohan, one of the great corner backs. I scored three goals in that match and was then selected on the team to play Waterford in the league final. There, in my first time ever in Croke Park, I scored two goals on John Barron and that was really the start of my inter-county career,” says Mackey. It was indeed quite an achievement to win a National League medal in one’s competitive debut and it set the scene for a marvellous inter-county career that ended eight years later during which time Mackey won four All-Ireland medals, six Munster, four National League, four Oireachtas medals.
His first All-Ireland medal, Mackey is quick to admit, was a very fortunate one to win. Dublin were Tipp’s opponents that 1961 September Sunday. “We were steeped (in luck). Willie Jackson got the ball in the last minute, He came in and Donal O’Brien (Tipp’s ‘keeper), a great goalkeeper, cut off his angle and Jackson stuck it (the ball) just an inch or so outside the post. We were gone only for that,” he says.
Looking back on the ’62 final against Wexford Mackey says he was at centre forward, up against no less a player than Wexford’s captain Willie Rackard. “Everyone was giving me instructions as to how I should play him. He was a very big man, very tall and he was several inches above me. I had my own ideas. Willie would put his hand up and catch the ball with one hand and shove his opponent away with the other. He couldn’t shove me, I was so small! I’d get in at whatever side the ball was coming and pull. It’s maintained that was my best ever match in Croke Park”.
The ’63 Munster defeat to Waterford still annoys him, he says. “They beat us 0-11 to 0-9. One of those days when nothing went right. I remember at one stage a ball coming in. Larry Kiely at centre forward was bursting through. He drew a belt at it and the ball hit the
goalpost. It came back out to Donie (Nealon) and his shot hit the crossbar. (Liam) Devaney caught it off the cross bar and with Ned Power (Waterford goalkeeper) after diving across the goals, the goals were completely open but Devaney put it over the bar. It wasn’t to be”, says.
Mackey who feels they were in with a real chance of making it five in a row, since ’64 and ’65 saw them back on top again. Mackey considers 1965 to have been his own best year overall and winning the Cidona (Tipperary Sports Stars) award that year to add to his four All-Ireland medals made it all very special.
Limerick knocked out Tipp in the ’66 Munster semi final but they came back to regain the provincial crown in ’67, losing the All-Ireland to Kilkenny. The same in ’68, Wexford coming back from an interval deficit of eight points to exact a two point defeat. Mackey was there through it all and he feels that if they had held out against Wexford there might have been one more All-Ireland in them in ’69. Again, it wasn’t to be and with so many of his colleagues he stepped down from the inter-county scene after the ’68 defeat. Truly, the end of an era.
Throughout his senior inter-county career Mackey was greatly influenced by mentor Paddy Leahy. “He was a genius. There’s no other way to describe him”, he says. “And he’d hardly say anything. There was no such thing as getting up on the table, effin and blindin’, smashing hurls and all that. Before a match he’d say, ‘now lads, we have a job to do and sixty minutes to do it. I know ye won’t let me down. That’s all and, sure, everyone adored him and would go through the wall for him. But he wasn’t shy to make a switch and he could read a game so well.”
There were still a few years left in Mackey after he had put the blue and gold jersey aside. The green and white of his beloved Borrisokane was still calling and Mackey responded with every bit as much determination and enthusiasm as when lining out with Tipp. He helped them to win a North junior title in ’58, an intermediate title in ’73. He also won provincial and All-Ireland inter-firms medals with Roscrea Bacon Factory. 1976 saw Mackey in the Burgess colours and good fortune also accompanied him there as he won both North and county intermediate honours with his adopted club.
Looking back on his career, Mackey feels that it was his pace that was his greatest asset. His acceleration and speed were so vital to him because of his stature and the need to get away from stronger, better built defenders. Where did this speed came from? His father was very much involved with the training of greyhounds, a gift he passed on so well to son Ger. They had kennels out Nash’s Road (Ballinderry road) at a place called The Laurels and there a run was laid out for the dogs. It also became Mackey’s training ground for speed. “I’d be up at eight o clock every morning and my father would be there with a stop watch, timing me on the run for thirty or forty yard dashes. That’s how I built up my speed. I’d be out in the field hurling ‘til ten o clock. We’d have the Uptowns playing the Downtowns, organised by Tony Murphy. Tough matches. There was nothing else to do, no television, you hadn’t the price to go to the pictures, nothin’ in your pocket. Everyone was in the same boat and we all loved the hurling,” says Mackey.
Hurling and greyhounds have always gone hand in hand in the McKenna household, brother Ger the trainer of over fifty classic winners and whose charge ‘Prince of Bermuda’ was one of the all-time greats and whose successes set Ger on the road to training greatness. Ger’s son Owen continues the trait and trained the Irish Derby winner two years ago.
Married to Bernadette (Nealon) sister of Donie and residing in Newtown for many years, Mackey McKenna still loves his hurling and relishes nothing better than a chat about the game and those who made it all happen. The McKenna’s have a family of four. Laureen works with the Irish wheelchair Association; John is a teacher in Laurel Hill; Ruairi is studying in the College of Art and Design in Dublin while Aoife, on receipt of a very successful Leaving Cert result recently is set for a career in art.
Fully entitled to take his place among the great Tipperary forwards of any era John ‘Mackey’ McKenna is an example of how little size or stature matters as long as the determination and the intensity are there to complement the skills factor.
By Gerry Slevin.