John Hanley RIP
Clare GAA PRO Michael O Connor has issued the following statement and spoke to friends, teaching colleagues and fellow mentors on behalf of Clare GAA regarding the passing of one of the county’s longest serving administrators and club, county and nationally.
“Clare GAA was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of former county board chairperson John Hanly. One of the most revered figures in Clare GAA over the past 70 years the Clarecastle native made his mark at national level with instrumental moves to improve the understanding of the implementation of hurling coaching. The outpouring of sentiments and comments since the passing of John Hanly by those, especially from those who knew him best in Clarecastle pays due highlight to the wonderful connection he had primarily as a teacher but secondly as a community figurehead”.
John Hanly attended one of the first coaching courses at Gormanstown in the 1960’s with fellow GAA visionaries from all over Ireland and this in its own way became the bedrock for the commencement of the GAA coaching philosophy that exists today throughout the association.
Perhaps the greatest achievement of John Hanly was the love of sport and community that he espoused to those in his native Clarecastle. Known as the “Master” he helped to shape generations of Clarecastle natives in terms of education, sport and community involvement. The Clarecastle man before he finished St Flannans College in the mid 1940s captured three Harty and All Ireland colleges titles as part of the first great Colleges team produced by the Ennis nursery.
His role as administrator was renowned in Clare GAA circles, He served two terms as Clare GAA chairperson in a time when cultures, norms and values were changing in 1960s and 1970s Ireland at a heretofore unrecognised pace. He was manager of the Clare senior hurling team when they contested the 1967 Munster hurling final and three encounters in 1968 with Kilkenny in the national hurling league semi final before the Leinster side triumphed. He also served as a Clare senior football selector He was once again involved in the 1989 season when acting as a selector with Sean Hehir (manager), Father Michael McNamara (RIP), Trixie Toomey (RIP) and Paddy Duggan (RIP). The board meetings of the time which used to be held at different venues throughout the county contained some of the greatest debaters in the history of Clare GAA and it was indeed required of a Chairperson to be fully capable of handling the long discussions with candour and humour. This was indeed the hallmark of the Clarecastle native.
A number of friends and colleagues from his Clarecastle and county teaching, coaching and administrative careers have paid tribute:
ANTHONY DALY: My memories of John Hanly will live with me and all who were linked to the Master. He allowed us to hurl and did we love taking bits out of each other in the school and the Master looking out correcting our errors. He was instrumental to me in two of my biggest sporting days. Firstly, the Harty final of 1987. I had played in a Dean Ryan final in 1985 but did not make the senior panel in 86. Bishop Willie and Father Seamus were at the minor final in 1986 which Clarecastle won and it helped get me on Harty team for 1987. I was genuinely spooked before the final in Kilmallock in the tiny dressingrooms against the star studded Midleton CBS. I walked out to get some air and met the Master. “How are you today Anthony, great day to have four Clarecastle men in a Harty Final”. “To tell you the truth, I’m very nervous Mr Hanly”. His response was simple and awe inspiring. “What are you to be nervous about, you are playing the best hurling of your career and more to come”. I went back into the dressingroom thinking if the Master thinks I’m ready then I’m ready. “The second big day was the 65 in 1995 standing over it as Loughnane asking me was I ok for it. I said no bother. I was bluffing it a little (a lot actually). As I stood over the 65’ I thought of the Master telling me as a right hander free taker to stand with the left shoulder parallel to the left post and strike hard and true with no fear of failure. It was like he was standing behind me once again in the school field”. When the sparrow and I had a minor side that won a title the Master in his seventies would come down and take four lads aside for sideline cutting duties and when it worked the next match Sparrow and I would turn to each other and just say “The Master”. He did so much for all of us and we will miss him greatly concluded the double winning All Ireland captain.
SEAN HEHIR: The former Clare all Star and Manager worked with John Hanly and Eire-og’s Paddy Duggan when they coached Clare to the 1981 Munster minor hurling title. Sean refer’s to John “He possessed a fantastic reservoir of hurling knowledge. I knew him as a teaching colleague since the early 1970s as well as my father went to college with his uncle, Mick Falvey who captained Clare in 1932 so there was a strong link between the two families. We travelled to coaching courses all over the country and the respect John was held in Kilkenny hurling was highlighted by John being the head coach for a number of years at the St Kieran’s coaching camp for Kilkenny teachers and coaches. Other coaches that were his equals included Joe McGrath, Ned Power, Pat Gutherie and Micheal O Muircheartaigh to name but a few. He was respected by all, very generous in spirit, a great listener and a straight talking man who gave of his opinion without seeking favour. May I express my deepest sympathies to all his family and friends in Clarecastle.
NAOISE JORDAN (CLARE GAA JOINT PRESIDENT ): A man before his time. His coaching drills were brand new to us and perhaps to our own fault we did not pay enough attention to what this brilliant thinker was trying to teach us. If John Hanly was a GAA coach in the modern age he would be to the forefront with the very best. He was a brilliant communicator and all of us involved the 1967 and 1968 seasons when we had great wins held him in the highest regard. Deepest sympathies to all his family and those in Clarecastle GAA.
MICHAEL GUILFOYLE: A legendary trio of John Hanly, Sean Hehir and Paddy Duggan who were brought together by Michael O Neill (Kilkishen) coached us to win the 1981 Munster minor hurling title.. John Hanly headed up a group of men who challenged us as young men to be better than we were and thankfully we responded successfully. The methods they employed were wonderful in their explanation and their coaching outlook was ahead of its time and the minors of 1981 will always be thankful for the efforts of John Hanly and his fellow coaches.
JOHN CALLINAN: John was a formative figure in the lives of generations of Clarecastle people. In school he allowed us to hurl when we wanted and it was one of the first schools that hurling was part of the official curriculum and we embraced it. School games often witnessed the master himself partake and never took it to heart if the pupils hit him an odd tip. He challenged us as students of hurling to learn more and ask questions of ourselves to better our skills. He once asked us would we catch the ball below or above the hurley as it was dropping. It had us thinking for some time. This was the coaching guru breaking out and it served generations of Clarecastle hurlers so much that it led us all to love the game and love the man.
NIALL TOUHY (Clarecastle GAA Chairperson): The Master was larger than life. People queued up to be in the company of the Master as the pipe smoke offered a smooth reminder that the Master was around. To those who never had the opportunity to attend Clarecastle national school he was still Mr Hanly. He came to the pitch regularly to cast an eye over the next generation and his advice was always heeded, respected and acted upon. We, in Clarecastle will miss John and pay fulsome tribute for all that he offered the people of Clarecastle for years in the school and the GAA club. Indeed, one of the greatest successes as a mentor was the breakthrough win by Clare in 1981 when they won the Munster minor hurling title. Along with him were Sean Hehir and Andrew Walshe.
County Board Chairperson Jack Chaplin commented on the passing of his predecessor. “John Hanly was to the forefront of the development of Clare GAA in the 1960s as two term Chairperson of Clare GAA, county team mentor and coaching innovator. John will long be remembered for his huge role in delivering Clare’s first ever Munster minor hurling title as well as a forward-thinking county board chairperson. He served as a brilliant educator of people in the classroom and outside shaping their beliefs in the parish of Clarecastle for decades. At this time, we think of his family and friends as well those in Clarecastle who mourn the loss of one of their greatest characters who symbolised all that good about village, sport and community. Clare GAA mourn the loss of one of our greatest friends, colleagues and leaders. May he rest in peace.
John was predeceased by his loving wife Maura and son John Junior. He is survived by his daughter Nessa Cullinan and sons Tommy and Andrew.
Michael O Connor
Clare GAA PRO.