12 August 2008

Lorrha, Co. Tipperary

Lorrha, Co. Tipperary
Photographed August 2008 by S.Ryan

Information from HERITAGE WEEK project

Built into runis of Church of Augustinian Monastery
Restoration works in 1911, 1920s and 1940s

All the work was done by village volunteers. One problem with the alley was ease the ball was lost. Someone had to perch on top wall to watch where ball landed. Stories have it that Abbott's spaniel dog was very good at finding and fetching the ball.

1012- Lorrha entered the Tipp Championships
1940- Lorrha won Rual Week Tournament held in Mount St. Joseph's, Roscrea.
1954- Danny Ryan and Johnny Abbott brought the Murphy Cup to Lorrha. They also represented Tipperary in Senior Doubles

The following text was provided by Seamus King and is taken from his book
Lothra agus Doire 1884-1984 Iomáint agus Peil (Banagher 1984), pp 406-408

It would be an omission to exclude handball from an account of Gaelic activities in the parish of Lorrha. Not for the reason that Lorrha men excelled at the sport or made names for themselves at a county or national level. Rather because handball gave a lot of enjoyment to a lot of boys and men over a period of more than half a century.

Like so many other things the records of handball do not exist except in the minds of a few veterans of the ball alley. In another part of this book there is an excellent photograph of the Lorrha Handball club members of 1911. This group did trojan work in getting a 'ballcourt' built and in staging championships. The 'ballcourt' was built into the ruins of the Church of the Augustinian monastery. The previous year a handball tournament took place in the village and it attracted six teams and a large attendance.

During the years that followed Lorrha entered the North Tipperary championship on a regular basis and many championship matches took place at Lorrha. More exciting than championship outings were the local contests. Some of the greatest were among the Cronins themselves. Phil, Felix, Fr. Jim, Gerry and Mick had 'fierce' matches among themselves. Others to play at this time were the Mahons and the Bretts and Needhams.

During the 1920's the front wall of the alley was raised and the left side wall was plastered. Due to lack of funds they could not repair the right side wall and it remained rather rough. During the 'twenties the players were Matt Hogan, Johnny Gaynor, Charlie Dyer, Tom Burke, Paddy Darcy, Mick Cronin, Phil Cronin, Garda Mulcahy, Mick Gardiner, Lar Tuohy and Jack Kennedy.

A few years later Sonny Ryan, Michael O'Meara, Tom Darcy, Martin Darcy, Tommy Dyer, Ernie Dyer, Joe Gardiner, Jack Nevin, Pat Coughlan and Billy Abbott began to play. Between 1938 and 1954 Harold Dyer, Joe Abbott, Johnny Abbott, Gerry Dillon, Ted Flannery, Garda Ned Dan O'Connor and Garda Ned Ivory started playing.

During that time Alfie Dyer and Christy Houlihan represented Lorrha in minor championship games. Sonny Ryan, Tommy Ryan, Joe Abbott, Johnny Abbott, Harold Dyer and Ned Dan Q'Connor represented the club in tournament games and in junior champ­ionship games the club representatives were Sonny Ryan, Joe or Johnny Abbott.

Sonny Ryan and Johnny Abbott won a North Tipperary champ­ionship and were subsequently beaten in the county semi-final at Horse and Jockey. They also won out to represent Tipperary against Cork in junior doubles. However, Johnny dislocated his shoulder and his brother, Joe, played in his place. The match was played at Middle­ton, with Cork winning by a narrow margin.

In the late 'forties Lorrha won the Rural Week Handball tournament, held at Mount St. Joseph's Abbey, Roscrea. The team comprised of Sonny and Tommy Ryan, Joe and Johnny Abbott, Harold Dyer and Garda Ned Ivory. In 1954 Sonny Ryan and Johnny Abbott won a compeition in Tour, near Newport and brought the Murphy Cup to Lorrha.
During the 1940's some of the players got together and put on two plays and a concert in Lorrha hall. The proceeds from this entertainment were used to have the right wall plastered by the Dillon brothers and William Sharkey.

The one major problem with the alley was the ease with which the ball could be lost, once it went over the wall. It was necessary, therefore, to have someone perched on the top wall to watch where the ball landed if it went over the front wall. However, the Abbotts, who lived beside the alley, had a spaniel called Trix, who could find the ball every time it went over the front wall. Later, they got a terrier, Spot, who was duly trained by Trix to fetch the ball. Indeed, when the ball went into the graveyard, Spot was brought up a ladder and gently dropped into the graveyard. He would quickly find the ball and make his own way back to the alley. However, strangers, when playing in the alley, were always very sceptical about taking the ball out of Spot's mouth when he returned!

The alley was very hard on shoe leather and it caused the heels of shoes to burst open after a short time. Those who were lucky enough to own a pair of 'tennis' shoes were not so lucky after all; they had to loan them to feet either bigger or smaller than their own and they didn't last long as a result!

The participation in championship games ended about 1955 but Paddy Corrigan, Paddy Dermody, Alfie Dyer and Mike Reddin, along with a few others, continued to play for a few years. For a number of years the alley was totally forgotten but in the 'seventies the Coughlans, Houlihans, Needhams, Felix Cronin, Phelim Q'Doherty and Willie Fogarty started playing again. The floor, however was very rough and made play virtually impossible. So, the alley now stands unused except for the local children, who occasionally play football there.


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