The late Con Houlihan was celebrated, remembered and his most quoted quips chosen and encased in glass plaques at 14 points around Castle Island.
All was revealed at the Con Houlihan Remembrance Day on Saturday.
A beautiful, autumnal day allowed the full programme of events to go ahead unfettered and visitors came from all quarters to be here on the day.
Organised by Castleisland Chamber Alliance, Brendan Griffin, TD was the acknowledged prompter behind the event – which is now well pinned to the local calendar of annual festivals.
Words of Welcome
The day began with a gathering at the River Island Hotel at 11:30am and a word of welcome from chamber chairperson Patricia Walsh.
Chamber member, Peter Browne was the master of ceremonies and he set the wheels of the day in motion.
First on the list was a special series of presentations to the young writers of the locality who submitted their works for adjudication.
They were presented with their prizes by Jimmy Deenihan. Mr. Deenihan then went on to chair an exploration of the life and times of Con Houlihan.
First he called on Jimmy Cullinane to recite a poem he had written for the occasion and the Bard of Cordal duly obliged.
Feidhlim on a Roll
Athlete and close friend, Feidhlim Kelly was clearly on a roll that morning as he had already won the ‘Park Run’ in Listowel and set a new record and a personal best.
He told of the mornings, noons and nights he spent with Con as his ability to write and get copy to the papers failed him. Feidhlim fulfilled all of these duties and more.
He told also told of Con’s less than conventional telephone manner, his peculiarities with tea making and his welcome for people bearing bottles of good brandy.
Frank Greally’s Marathon of the Moorlands
Frank Greally is the editor and founder of the Irish Runner Magazine and he was also one of those close to Con.
He became quite emotional as he recalled good times with Con and Christmas Days they celebrated with fine liquids.
He also gave the audience an insight into Con’s legendary modus operandi where convention also went out the door.
He would go to a sporting encounter of one kind or another and work his way home through a series of favourite watering holes. Often holding court until the small hours.
A Few Hour’s Sleep
However, his professionalism always shone through it all as he was up after a few hour’s sleep and at his table, pot of tea at his elbow and away he went.
Mr. Greally also threw out a great suggestion which may well be taken up here.
With an athlete’s instinct he thought that a run through the Stacks Mountains and over the ‘moorlands’ as he called it, between Castleisland and Listowel would be a wonderful attraction. Jimmy Deenihan had shown him around the area on their way from Listowel that morning and he was greatly taken with it.
Memories of Con
I was greatly honoured to be asked to take part and mentioned a handful of memories of Con during his Castle Island days.
These included one where I was walking up Main Street as a child with my mother. I was a few steps ahead of her and looked around at one point and finding no trace of her.
Con, the big man that he was, had hugged her and it was like she had been taken from the face of the earth for those few brief moments.
The Boys of Barr Na Sráide
After Frank Greally sang one of Con’s favourite songs, The Boys of Barr Na Sráide, that part of the day was wrapped up by Jimmy Deenihan and all present headed for the Latin Quarter.
There, an information board is now anchored and it points out the various locations where the plaques are situated and areas of the town special to Con.
Tommy Martin then took a huge party of locals and visitors on a tour of the plaqued premises.
A Trip to Old Castle Island
Duty called at that point as I met Sharon Doyle – a daughter of the late Mick Doyle. She didn’t know where her grandparents’ business premises were and we took the short tour to Brennan’s on Killarney Road and down Barrack Street to where Doyle’s Hatchery was.
The day continued at 4:30pm with a concert of local talent at the Ivy Leaf Art Centre.
That all led up to the Crageens in the evening for a Munster Junior Cup game and a barbecue on the grounds where Con sported and played on many a Sunday afternoon.
It was a busy day and a fitting tribute to the man who gave so many people all over the world a new kind of appreciation of newspaper reading and an awareness of sports-writing with an edge of unprecedented brilliance.
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