In the long ago, when this player raced out from the corner, shouldered opponents out of the way and grabbed hold of the ball, a raucous cheer went up from a gathering of spectators down at the terraced end.
Sometimes they roared out his nickname as he tussled ferociously with his opponents.“Come on Ganger, don't let him clear the ball.”
He was one of their own. He didn't come from a well-to-do background. Nor did he come from a fashionable part of the town. This fellow with a red, weathered face and a mane of fuzzy red hair had got no further than the Primary Cert. His people couldn't afford to send him to secondary school. He was very glad to get a job with the county council, mending and tending the roads. His family needed the money.
He didn't ask for any concessions either from life or from hurling. In tough games he gave a few belts and he got a few belts. Unless he suffered a serious injury he was at work next day in his big boots and blue overalls, and a shovel in his hand, filling in potholes or smoothing out steaming tarmac. He wasn't really a ganger. He was promoted only by nickname.
In a fearsome match he had taken a terrible blow that knocked out one of his front teeth and one at the side. He could have come off the field but he played on with bloodied mouth. He had this indomitable quality that endeared him to many, not just his own supporters. And he never went to the dentist to have a plate fitted. From then on, his gap-toothed smile helped to define him as a man who hadn't stood back when players were going in hard.
He really couldn't afford to spend much on hurleys. He made his own. He was always on the lookout for fallen or felled ash trees in the countryside. If he got permission, he took the roots to the sawmill and then had a supply of 'makings' to last him a good while. He never threw away a broken hurley but mended it with great ingenuity, inserting shaped pieces of ash and binding the bas with hoops.
If this man was a carpenter of sorts he was also a cobbler. He made his own boots and mended them when the studs fell off or the toe-cap became detached,
The history of the GAA is brightened by such stalwarts as 'Ganger'. They were the 'men of no property', fellows who worked on farms for meagre pay, laboured on roads and railways, rolling Guinness barrels at the back of pubs. All too often they had to emigrate.
There was a feeling, perhaps exaggerated, that when it came to picking the county team, players from the well-trained cadre of players from colleges got preference - St Flannan's, St.Kieran's. St Peter's or Christian Brothers' schools like Thurles or North Monastery or Mount Sion.
The men of no property sometimes felt that they had to hurl harder and train harder to win a place on the team. They earned respect in the parish or county by their skill, courage and endurance on the field of play. They weren't like the priest or the doctor or the teacher whose respect was automatic because of their qualifications and positions in the community.
Every club and every county had someone like Ganger. Perhaps somewhere around Croke Park a plaque should be displayed, showing a stalwart with hurley in hand and the inscription, 'The Men of No Property Made a Big Contribution to the Growth and Reputation of the GAA.'