The news of the passing of one of Laois’s all-time greatest hurlers was met with sadness yesterday.
Clonad’s Joe McCabe, who was in his 100th year, was one of the most remarkable Laois men to ever pick up the ash.
Born in 1919, the Clonad President went on to play for the Laois minors for five years in a row – 1933, ’34, ’35, ’36 and ’37.
This record is unequaled and never will be – and Joe was recognised by Laois GAA for his efforts in 2010 when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
In a book called Vanishing Ireland: Further Chronicles of a Disappearing World by Turtle Bunbury, released in 2006, Joe was interviewed about his time representing the minors.
As a 15-year-old in 1934, Joe was in goals on the team that defeated Dublin 8-4 to 2-0 in O’Moore Park to win the county’s first ever Leinster title.
Laois went on to reach the All-Ireland final that year against Tipperary – a game they would lose by a point after a second half that lasted forty-five minutes.
In the book, Joe recalls the experience of being a Laois teenager in the 1930s and travelling to the capital for the first time.
He said: “‘None of us knew Dublin. We had nothing only our boots, tied together and thrown across our backs. And we carried our hurls in our hand. We had no cases, no pyjamas or anything at all.
“We walked along the quays and then up to Barry’s Hotel. We went to the pictures that night. The Plaza! I remember it was four old pence.
“We came out of it after and there was a chipper. We never had chips before but by jaysuz we got a tray of them and tucked in.
“I only had half a crown when I came to Dublin to play in an All-Ireland final.
“That’s all I had and there were lads who hadn’t even that. We ate the chips and went back to the hotel and we went to bed.
“We got up the next morning and went to mass and went on to Croke Park.”
Joe graduated to the Clonad senior hurling team in 1935 and was part of the team that won the senior championship that year.
He would go on to win eight more senior medals between that year and 1954 – gradually moving out the field and becoming a sharp-shooting forward.
He also won a JFC medal in 1940 and then an IFC title in 1954.
Joe also represented the Laois seniors from 1938 to 1942 and although finishing at senior level with Clonad in 1957, he went on to play for several more years with their juniors.
In an interview with the Gaelic Weekly back in 1961, posted on the Clonad GAA Facebook page yesterday, Joe offered some great advice to aspiring young hurlers – advice that still rings true today.
Joe said: “Get them out of their motorcars and get them cycling to matches.”
Joe is pre-deceased by his wife Myra, brothers Hugh and Liam, sister Eilísh. Deeply regretted by his daughters Mary, Sheila, Nicola (Bergin), Brioda (Kelly), Patricia (Walsh), son Hugh, sons-in-law Jim, Martin and Christy, daughter-in-law Rena, grandchildren Ciarán, Eimear, Eleanor, Maurice, David and Stephen, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends.
Removal to The Church of The Most Holy Rosary, Abbeyleix on Friday for 2pm Requiem Mass. Interment afterwards in St Patrick’s Cemetery.
May he Rest in Peace.
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