FOR any sports club or
organisation, producing a history is more than a way to link the past with the present. It’s a way to save the word ‘tradition’, a term which often becomes ossified through overuse and ends up scoured of any meaning.

It’s also a way of contradicting the old saw that history is written by the winners, which couldn’t be more wrong: it shows that history is written by the participants, if they have a will to do so.

Cloyne GAA club launch their club history this evening in Ballymaloe.

It’s a handsome production, well written by Dr Diarmaid Ó Failbhe, and bears eloquent witness to decades of activity.

They’ve lifted a title from Stendhal — The Red And The Black — though he’d hardly mind.

Those interested in the Frenchman’s novel will hardly mistake the
adventures of Julien Sorel in 19th-century France for the stormy 19th-century game between Cloyne and Dunmanway in which a Cloyne player was stabbed in the face.

Then again, you never know.

The Cloyne book follows a template familiar to anyone who has a fatal addiction to such histories, this columnist included, tracking the progress of the club on and off the field from 1887 onwards.

There’s an innocent pleasure to
tracing the progress of club members from underage or minor success through to the adult teams in a club and, for many, from there to
administration.

The smaller the club, the clearer the progression — the player goes from the club’s top team, lining up grim-faced before a local divisional
final, say, to its Sunday-morning social outlet side, with barely a defined
jawline between them.

There may not be a decade between the photographs but, if the reader is alert, they give a full account of
99% of all GAA playing careers: wholehearted, enjoyable, obscure.

The player’s name then pops up in the results of agms, drifting between officerships, and eventually a son or daughter peers out from a photograph a couple of chapters down the line, eerily reminiscent of his or her father in a similar snapshot from 20 or 30 pages earlier.

The Cloyne history is no different. Family names are sprinkled through the book like seasoning and incidents which once made the blood boil
between parishes are given a context and resolution.

If the adjudication inclines in some of those instances towards the Cloyne viewpoint, well, maybe history is written by the winners after all.

Certainly there’s a politic discretion about a stormy game in 1972 against Glenville, in which a Cloyne offender was identified in the referee’s report as wearing a headband.

Maybe it was a crime against
fashion.

One of the voices heard in the book is Paddy Hoare, the Kildimo Sharpshooter, who bagged a hat-trick of goals in the 1938 East Cork Junior Hurling Final: still hale and hearty seven decades on, Hoare’s
reminiscences include offering to
swap with one of his team-mates, who was getting a hard time at wing-forward from his marker in the following year’s county junior final against Mayfield.

The Mayfield defender knew he had his hands full: the Cloyne wing-forward had scored 2-4 in his previous outing for the club, and his name was Christy Ring.

Cloyne have been represented on Cork teams since, with Donal Óg Cusack and Diarmuid O’Sullivan their most famous players in recent years, but naturally Ring is a person and a presence apart.

Small villages all over Ireland enjoy brand-name identification arising out of a the exploits of a hurler or
footballer. Valentia and Tullaroan, Knockroghery and Castleconnell — you could name them all night, but you wouldn’t have to wait until evening for someone to drop Cloyne onto the list.

For all his years with Glen Rovers, the maestro was intimately identified with his own home place, and the
history strikes a fine balance in
honouring the village’s most famous export while also ensuring that Christy Ring doesn’t overshadow
everybody else.

One of Ring’s long-time adversaries, Tipperary’s John Doyle, says it best in the book.

“Whatever you do, do it well,” says Doyle, “Because he deserves that.”

They’ve done it well. They all
deserve it.

Contact:
michael.moynihan@examiner.ie ;
Twitter: MikeMoynihanEx

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