The main room in the Killeshin Hotel was full to capacity on Friday morning for an All Ireland hurling championship preview breakfast fundraiser for The Harps GAA club.
Big names from across the sporting, business, political and Garda communities were in attendance for a breakfast that concluded with a discussion panel comprised of the last two All Ireland hurling winning managers John Kiely from Limerick and Micheal Donoghue from Galway as well Laois hurling manager and multiple All Ireland winner Eddie Brennan.
The panel was chaired superbly by local commentator Jack Nolan with speeches too from Killeshin Hotel and Supermacs owner Pat McDonagh, Billy McEvoy, who is one of the founding members of The Harps GAA club and its first chairman – and The Harps treasurer John Scanlan, who is also Chief Superintendant of the Laois-Offaly Garda division.
Among those in attendance were Laois Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming, former GAA President Liam O’Neill (an election candidate for the upcoming local elections in the Borris-in-Ossory/Mountmellick Municipal District), Laois football manager John Sugrue and a host of big GAA names including former Kilkenny hurler Richie Power, former Clare hurler Ollie Baker and former Tipperary hurler Ken Hogan.
The Harps GAA chairman Joe Deegan – a tireless worker for the club – was unavailable to attend so the speaking duties on behalf of the club were taken on by John Scanlan, now very much embedded in the club and new to the top table.
“It was a unique privilege to be asked – I’m a blow in, I’m new to the area,” he said.
“But it’s a privilege to be involved in the Harps GAA club,” he added before encouraging everyone involved to do what they can to improve their club.
“You must strive to be the best you can be. You can always be better.
“If you are asked to go play for your county you should walk, drive or crawl to get there. Commit to it.
“Joe Deegan has got Cullahill to 10 Cumann na mBunscol hurling finals in a row and we have every right to aspire to achieve.”
Billy McEvoy also addressed the attendance and told of how The Harps GAA club came into existence in 1984.
They had previously operated separately as Durrow and Cullahill but after considerable success at underage level came together to form a new adult club.
“Anyone that has ever been involved in amalgamating clubs, know of the the hurdles we had to get over.”
But while the club hasn’t ever won a senior hurling title, they did appear in the final in their first year together in 1984 which they lost after a replay to the great Portlaoise team of that era.
They later lost finals to Castletown and Portlaoise in 1997 and 1998 respectively. They have also won a number of underage and junior titles as well as having a very vibrant camogie club that famously won three All Ireland junior titles in a row from 2006 to 2008.
Last year The Harps appeared in the Laois U-17, U-19, U-21 and Senior ‘A’ hurling finals.
Their only success came in the U-19 decider but their competitiveness across the grades has always been quite consistent.
Billy McEvoy also told how the club won junior and intermediate football titles and competed at senior level for three years in the 1990s – “not a bad achievement for a club in the hurling part of the county and on the Tipperary-Kilkenny border”.