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By Joe McMahon

THERE was deep and sincere sadness in the parish during the past year at the passing to his eternal reward of one of Kilmaley’s greatest sporting sons— Tom Neylon. Though living in Ennis for the past fifty years, Tom was a Kilmaley man at heart.

He was born in Gortaganniv over eighty years ago into a household where there was a great interest in hurling and though not having the advantage of organised school or under-age hurling competition he was an accomplished hurler at the age of 19. At this time he was working as a drapery assistant at Griffins in O’Connell Square, Ennis and was coming to the notice of senior clubs in Ennis and Clarecastle. He was at this time, 1935, playing with the newly formed Kilmaley Junior team and also playing with Clarecastle Senior team whom he helped to their first ever Senior hurling final in 1936.

Playing at centre half back he was one of the stars of the Kilmaley team that won the intermediate championship by beating Ogonnelloe in 1938. He was a regular on the Ciare senior hurling team from 1936 to the early ‘forties and played in the 1938 Munster senior hurling final against Waterford. He also played in two Munster Junior hurling finals against Cork.
Tom went to live in Ennis in 1940 and joined Ennis Dais with whom he won a Senior championship, a Clare Cup medal and a few tournaments in 1941. When his playing days were over, Tom became involved in club and county affairs. He was a county senior selector for a few years and was a founder member of Eire Og G.A.A. Club in Ennis. in the late ‘fifties he expressed his great delight at being invited by Kilmaley Hurling Club to train their Junior hurling team. He approached his task with the utmost enthusiasm and due to his great dedication and expertise this team won two prestigious tournaments and made the big breakthrough by winning the 1963 Junior championship, beating Meelick in the final at Tulla. This team could certainly be called “The team that Tom built”. It had been 25 years since Kilmaley had won an adult championship and by coincidence the central figure in both victories was Tom Neylon—as the star player in 1938 and the successful trainer in 1963.
On a personal note I consider it an honour to have been part of that team under Tom Neylon. Without his guidance I know we could not have been nearly as successful. His enthusiasm at training transferred to the team and everyone on the panel had the greatest respect for him. It was my duty to take Tom to training every Tuesday and Thursday evening and an abiding memory I have is of him standing at the door of his home in Lower Market Street, “Mac” in hand, waiting for me to take him on his twice weekly trip to training in Kilmaley. He looked forward so much to coming out to training in Kilmaley and we certainly were delighted to have him.
Another highlight for Tom was his presence at Kilmaley on August 19th, 1984 for the opening of the G.A.A. Sportsfield there. A match was arranged between the Kilmaley and Kilnamona teams of 1963. Every available player of that Kilmaley team of 1963 played that day—most of them certainly not as fit as when Tom was training them—that in itself was a fitting tribute to Tom Neylon.
September 8th, 1985 for Tom was another special day. It was a day when Kilmaley and Eire Og met in the County senior hurling final at Cusack Park. It was a day when Tom couldn’t lose—he would have been equally happy with either result.
Tom was a great hurling man, a great family man, a great Irishman, he was simply a great man. “He will be missed by his family Des, Paddy, Marie and Ann. He will be missed by hurling people everywhere, but his memory will remain. Whenever and wherever hurling is discussed the name of Tom Neylon will invariably be mentioned.
I consider it a privilege to have known the man.
It was not surprising then that Gaels from all parts of Clare and beyond came in their hundreds to pay their last respects on the occasion of the removal of his remains from St. Joseph’s Hospital to the Ennis Cathedral and again at the burial ceremony on the following day. Eire Og club members formed a guard of honour on both days, his coffin was draped with the Eire Og colours and the chief celebrant at the funeral Mass was Bishop William Walsh, a great hurling man himself.
Tá fear uasal imithe ar shli na firinne. Cáilliunt mór é dá chlann agus do Chumann Luthchleas Gaeil an Chláir. I bParrthas na nGrást agus faoi bhrat Muire go raibh a anam.

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