Paddy Hitler is remembered with pride in Knockainey

On April 11th 1911, Nicholas Cooke of Knockainey was a CC in Liverpool and his duty on that date was to baptise William Patrick Hitler. He was the child of Alex Hitler and Brigid Elizabeth Dowling.
Elizabeth was Irish born and she and her husband were Catholics.

William Paddy became a fully fledged Catholic and it was Nicholas who performed the baptismal ceremony. The certificate is in the home of Tommy Cooke, a prized possession of a man nearing 90 years of age.

William Paddy was a nephew of Adolf Hitler who died in his bunker in the closing days of World War 2. This, the belief of Tommy who in the process of leaving this historic document to some safe place where it will forever be in good hands.

Nicholas Cooke, is now resting in St. Michael’s cemetery in Tipperary town.

His association with Paddy Hitler is remembered with pride in the Cooke household in Knockainey.
Tommy, a noted horseman until a few years ago was a leading point to point jockey for the better part of 70 years. He bred Definite a winner of some six races in 1940 and Rusty a winner of 9 events from such places as Killmallock, Kilteely and Herbertstown.

When he was making a name for himself in hurling he was advised by Canon Punch to forget the horses, but his reply was affirmation of his love for the stables and all that went with it. Last year he sold his last remaining horse, something he regrets and now the only link with the racing game is the many horse shoes that adorn his outhouses. Tommy has his doubts regarding the immediate future of hurling in Limerick.

There is a definite lack of commitment in the present panel, if they could shake off the lethargy he could see a definite turn for the good.

Hurling has changed since his playing day. In the weeks preceding the 1940 All Ireland he was selected to man the right half back sport, the training was in the Gaelic Grounds.
Stephen Gleeson would collect him in his car and call for Paddy Clohessy on the way. Clohessy had hay for sale and Tommy would pike seven or eight wynds of hay for Paddy before travelling to Limerick.

Robby Lawlor was the trainer and he understood what hard work meant and only concentrated on those players who did work of a light nature.

Compare this with the training regime of today. It was all about hurling in Tommy’s time and this is somthing that should be pursued by those in charge at the present, opined the man from the ancient and historic parish of Knockainey.

In 1939 the Munster junior football crown rested by Shannonside. Tommy was playing his club football with Knockane. Beaten by Roscommon in the All-Ireland semi final, he was also engaged with the County senior hurling team.

Asked about the training of the football team, he simply replied it was never done.
You hurled on a Sunday and football whenever a date became vacant. Football was a luxury and a break from hurling. “The footballers of today would never last the pace if they were to indulge the football training that we did in 1939”.

In 1939 he also won an Oireachtas medal. Limerick defeated Kilkenny who had triumphed in the famous thunder and lightning final a few weeks previous.

Tommy milked the cows on the farm, then took the milk to Gormanstown creamery, then Mass in Knockainey. Back in home for a car drive to Croke Park with a break to have a few cuts of bread and jam in Barry’s Hotel.

This gaelic festival was a promotion for the native language and Radio Eireann broadcast the match in Irish. Tom Lee was the man in charge of the broadcast and people in the Knockainey district were well acquainted with his brother who was CC in the parish at the time. Dean Lee from West Tipperary died only a few months ago.

Tommy and his team mates were at the Ceili in the Mansion House after the match in Croke Park. Mick Mackey was called upon to collect the medals and fearing that he may be asked to speak in Irish, he refused to go to the stage. Eventually the medals were given to Mick in the middle of the dance floor, where he dished them to his Limerick team mates.

Tommy was introduced to hurling in Bulgaden NS, but swung a spoc in Bottomstown school for a period before graduating to Bulgaden. In Bottomstown he was taught by Vere Foster Ryan, the father of Frank the famous Republican who died in Germany.

Today he likes to travel to Kilmallock when his native knockainey are in action. He listens to the radio when Limerick are playing. He did follow Limerick during the three All Ireland U21 wins, but his last time seeing the seniors was in 1996 when defeated by Wexford in the final.

It’s a long way from the halcyon days of 1939 and 1940. Tommy remains hopeful that these great years can be rolled out in the not too distant future.

Tommy’s wife Nan, passed on a few years ago. His son John is presently running the farm. When I spoke to Tommy a this home last week, his daughter Catherine O’Brien, a Professor of Italian in UCG was staying with him in his reminisces of his hurling times and his hopes for the future of the game in Limerick.

The tv in his home in Bottomstown will be a focal point for Tommy next Sunday. Although not happy with the approach of some of the Limerick players, he still has high hopes that they can turn the corner against Cork.

Play a man in the best position is his advice to the selectors and impress upon all the panellists of the pride in wearing the Limerick colours.

Courtesy of the Wexford People