I was delighted to be present at Peter Browne’s Bar on Saturday night to introduce two contemporaries. One of them is a famous rugby player – the other an infamous rogue. Both, however, are gentlemen.
Because of the fledgling Con Houlihan Memorial Weekend Festival in Castleisland, the town was more full than usual with characters and it does happen that they meet on such occasions.
I was having a drop with David Prendiville and we were minding our own business and watching the conclusion of the England V Wales Rugby World Cup game.
A man and woman came in and sat down a few spaces away from us and you know the way you know the face and can’t put a name to it.
It dawned on me eventually that the man was the one and only Tom Doyle and the lady, his wife, Elaine.
I made bold on them and welcomed them back to Castleisland. After a brief chat about life and times of the town and other bits and pieces we talked about that memorable night in 1968.
The night the Doyle brothers, Tom and the late Mick were given the kind of reception these parts hold in reserve for sporting heroes. They were the first set of brothers to play rugby for Ireland and, apart from anything else, were more that holding their own in the five-nations championship of the time. For added measure I remember a photograph on the front of The Kerryman from that time of Mick Doyle scoring a subsequently disallowed try against England with brother Tom right on his shoulder. A rugby photograph on the front page of The Kerryman was indeed a rarity.
Back to Saturday night: Knowing they were contemporaries, I beckoned the Dauber to join in the conversation after asking permission of the couple. An ever-ready smile is part of Tom Doyle’s make-up and it never left his face for the rest of our time in their company as they went through the characters of the rugby club and of the town of their youth.
Himself and Dauber were then joined by Charlie Nelligan – another of those rare locals to have been given a memorable reception in town – and the fun went on.
That’s just a tiny snapshot of what the Con Houlihan Memorial Weekend was all about. From that point of view and for the fact that it brought so many people together – it’s something that the great Con would be proud of.
There were events all over the place and more made to dovetail into the weekend. There was the return of the Hospice Ball, the wonderful concert in Currow, the rounds of golf and the contacts and the friendships made.
It’s an event which has a great future and its niche on the local festival calendar will be assured when all the snapshots of the weekend gel together into the bigger picture.
For the historians and the nostalgic: Photographer and Kerry’s Eye founder Pádraig Kennelly did a great collection of photographs on the famous home-coming night for the Doyle brothers in March 1968. Charlie Nelligan recalled being in one of the photograph to Tom Doyle on Saturday night.
The late Pádraig’s collection can be seen with a click here: