A bicycle ride from Laois to Limerick and all for hurling

At the age of 87, John Carroll, who lives in Church Road, Knocklong, will make one of his many trips to support Garryspillane on Sunday. A native of Emly, he has hurled with his native parish and Knocklong.

A very active man, he is a regular at the monthly poetry sessions in Holycross.
His renditions of his poems are all oral and not read from books like the others who gather for this well established social evening. And not only does he recite from memory, he is also a dab hand at writing verse.

These have been published in local publications and have now gone to far flying places. His party piece “The Kerrigan Brothers”, a tale of two brothers in Australia who lost everything in the horse racing game, is told when there are visitors or some special person at the sessions.

John, will be at the match next Sunday with his sons, James and Pat. They will be in the comfort of a Motor Car, but it was far from this mode of transport that John was reared in Emly after coming into the world in 1917.

From Emly National School he went to work on the farm of Ballyfin College. His devotion to hurling and Emly was such that he cycled from the farm in Laois to Emly, a stretch of 90 miles and back again.
John, who was born in the townland of Drumcomogue, later took up employment with the Ryans of Scarteen and later with Mick O’Neill of Hospital.

His last hurling match was in 1953, when he played inter firm with O’Neills and by chance his son, James, was at the match in Hospital and was drafted to play beside his father. He was living in Knocklong at this time, married to Ellen Bourke of Knockcarron.

While he played with Knocklong in the Pat Sampson era, he gave much of his time to the Garryspillane club formed in 1952. He saw sons wear the club colours and now his pride and joy, his grandson, Rory is playing under 15 with the Bouncers.

His happiest moment in hurling may come next Sunday. He will as usual be cheering for Garryspillane and is confident that Davy Ryan will bring home the Daly Cup to Knocklong and Garryspillane next Sunday.

Win or lose, John, a noted hurley maker in his time - he still repairs sticks for the young lads in the district in his spare time, make handles for forks and shovels for local farmers. A man with a chequered life is John Carroll who will be giving his full support to Garryspillane in their quest for honours.

Courtesy of the Limerick Leader
October 2004