By Christy Roche*
On November 6th, 1928 the Cork Examiner carried an account of the unveiling of a monument in Killavullen Catholic Church grounds on the previous day.
The report listed almost all dignitaries and clergy who attended the ceremony. They included the Lord Mayor of Cork and many prominent clergy from Cork city and county.
The monument that was unveiled that day was not to a soldier, cleric or politician, but to a Cork hurler – Timothy Nagle, a native of Killavullen who played with St Mary’s Hurling Club in Cork city and who was an All-Ireland medal winner with Cork senior hurlers in 1919.
The monument carries the following inscription:
Erected by his admirers of the GAA
In fond and loving memory of
TIMOTHY NAGLE of Killavullen
Captain of St Mary’s hurling club, Cork All-Ireland champion
Sincere Gael and faithful comrade Died 6th Jan 1925
but today, in each ray their glories still they cast
Those temples of the noble – sacred relics of the past.
Timothy Nagle was born in Killavullen in 1892 and was apprenticed to his uncle David Crowley, a blacksmith with a forge at 69 Watercourse Road in Cork. His uncle’s family were from Beennskehy, Killavullen. Tim joined St Mary’s Hurling Club in Cork and soon impressed the county officials with his speed, skill and strength. In 1911, Jamsie Kelleher (Dungourney) who was then captain of the Cork senior hurling team, said that: “at last we have someone to take on Tyler Mackey. Tyler was a renowned Limerick hurler and father of the legendary Mick Mackey.
Tim’s first senior hurling game with Cork was a tournament game in Killarney and even though Limerick won by a narrow margin, Tim had a great game on Tyler. This pair had a keen and sometimes heated rivalry over a number of years.
In 1915, the Cork Examiner gave an account of a match abandoned by the referee - ‘Mackey and Nagle came to blows four minutes into the game. Players from both sides got stuck into one another and the game was abandoned. However, both players became good friends and were seen in Limerick shaking hands and travelling together to a match’.
Tim spent 12 years hurling with Cork in the key positions of centre field or centre forward. In 1912 they reached the All-Ireland final, but lost to Kilkenny on the score line 2-1 to 1-3.They next reached the final in 1915 when Laois, who were complete underdogs, won on the score line 6-4 to 4-1.
In 1919, Cork defeated Waterford, Tipperary and All-Ireland champions Limerick to win the Munster title. The game against Waterford was the first time that Cork wore red jerseys. Their old blue jerseys with a big saffron C on the front were confiscated by the British army in a raid on the county board meeting rooms. Fr O’Leary’s TA Hall GAA Club which had joined forces with St Finbarr’s that year, were not using their jerseys which were a dark red in colour. They gave these to the Cork team but there were only fifteen jerseys and due to war shortages, no other red jerseys were available; the county board purchased five white jumpers for the subs.
Cork wore the red jerseys for the remainder of the year and they were considered lucky. It was unanimously agreed by officials, players and selectors to retain the red and white colours.
There were also a number of other firsts that year. It was the first time that a selection committee (and not the county champions) had picked a Cork All-Ireland winning team and the 15-a-side Cork All-Ireland winning team. At the Tipperary, game which was played in Cork, it was the first time that the admission fee was one shilling.
Galway were defeated in the All-Ireland semi-final and in the final, Dublin were defeated by 6-4 to 2-4. It was Cork’s first All-Ireland win for 16 years and Tim had played a leading role in all the games.
The war of independence disrupted the Gaelic games fixtures in 1920 and 1921. Tim won another Munster medal on April 2nd, 1922 when Cork defeated Kerry 2-5 to 2-3 at the Cork Athletic Grounds.
Tim also played some football. In 1913, he was vice captain of the O’Brien’s football team which were runners-up to Clonakilty in the intermediate football final. Indeed, football almost cost Tim his All-Ireland medal in 1919. Cork defeated Tipperary in the Munster hurling semi-final - Tipperary then objected. The grounds for their objection was that Tim had been a member of St Nicholas Football Club in 1918.
In that year, St Nicholas played Fermoy in two very rough games. There were several unruly incidents in the first game, which was played in Midleton and was abandoned at half-time. The county board fixed the replay for Sunday, June 16th, 1918. This game was also abandoned because of some more very unruly scenes.
The county board held an inquiry and awarded the match to Fermoy and after further investigations, the St Nicholas club was “expelled from the Gaelic Athletic Association for ever”. Tipperary got some information that Tim Nagle had played some match with St Nicholas in 1918 and was never reinstated and therefore was illegal and should not have played with Cork. Despite the fact that six St Nicholas club members travelled to Thurles to support Tipperary at the objection hearing, the objection was not upheld and Cork went on to the Munster final against Limerick.
The last report that I have of Tim’s playing career was a game between St Mary’s and Sarsfields. A Cork Examiner report on October 25th, 1922 stated: ‘old hands Halloran and Tim Nagle were prominent in every phase of the game’. The final score in this game was Sarsfields 3-3 St Mary’s 2-3.
A GREAT LOSS
Tim’s health declined and he died on January 6th, 1925. The Cork Examiner of January 10th carries an account of his funeral to Rahan cemetery, which is between Killavullen and Mallow. Over the following days the Examiner reported on the various clubs and associations that passed votes or sympathy to Tim’s relatives on his death. These included an account of a meeting of the Cork Workers Council where the chairman, Mr R. S. Anthony, stated that “since the last meeting the council had suffered a great loss by the death of Mr Tim Nagle, who for many years was the farriers’ delegate on the Cork Workers’ Council”.
A special meeting of the Cork County GAA Board was held on January 7th. The secretary, P O’Keefe, explained that the meeting was called to pay tribute to the memory of the late Tin Nagle whose death was widely and deeply regretted. The chairman, Mr Sean McCarthy, said that Tim had worked untiringly and successfully to bring All-Ireland laurels to Cork. On and off the field, he was an admirable and a sincere Gael and unassuming comrade.
Just a month after Tim Nagle’s death a meeting was held in the county board offices for the purpose of making arrangements for the erection of a suitable memorial for Tim. Clubs and individuals from throughout Munster contributed towards the memorial that now stands in Killavullen.
That Tim Nagle was a nationally admired figure is reflected by an article which appeared in the New York Advocate. The contributor was Mr Egan Clancy, a Limerick man: “It was with deep regret I read the account (in the Munster notes of the Advocate) of the death of Tim Nagle of St Mary’s HC Cork. “Taidg” as we used to affectionately call him, was one of the finest centerfield men I ever saw. When I recall the fierce duels and strenuous tussles for possession of the “horseskin” between himself and the famous Limerick center, Tyler Mackey the big round tears are rolling down my cheeks. I remember away back in 1911 Dungourney (Cork) were invited by the Killarney Feis Committee to play Castleconnell (Limerick) for a special set of gold medals. It was a glorious June day and there was hardly room to stand in the village, famed in song and story. Both teams were met at the station by members of the Killarney Feis committee and taken to the G S and W R Hotel for a light luncheon. Before the game my seat at the table happened to be next to the “one and only” Jim Kelleher, and after a friendly salute and handshake, Jim says in a stage whisper, “Egan, I want to introduce you to Timmy Nagle, the lad that is going to spike Tyler’s guns today. Watch his style. He is very fast and snappy. This is his first inter county game”.
These comments coming from the lips of such a wonderful hurler as Kelleher, needless to say, caused me to take a great interest in my new acquaintance, who not only lived up to his captain’s expectations by checking “Tyler’s” rushes, but he was acclaimed by all sporting writers as the outstanding star in the memorable contest, which Castleconnell won by 9 points to 7, only to have the decision reversed the following Sunday two weeks by Dungourney at Cork Athletic Grounds for the Ottway-Cuile Shield and gold medals by 6 points to 5.
“In this terrible struggle for supremacy, both teams were 5 points each at about four minutes to go; out of a ruck at midfield Nagle got possession, dribbling at top speed down to the left wing, “pucked the leather”, and, with a lovely shot, sent over the winning point. It was one of the most spectacular and thrilling passages I’ve ever seen in any game. Ever after, when Cork and Limerick met, you could hear on all sides along the lines “look out for the exchanges between Tyler and Nagle today.” They were truly worth watching.
“May the sod lay light and be ever green over the grave of Tim Nagle, and his memory be ever fresh in the heart of every Munster Gael, is the sincere wish of his old friend in Gaeldom.”
CONTINUING THE TRADITION
It is one hundred years since Tim won his All-Ireland medal and in that time, his relatives have player their part in the GAA. Tim’s brother, Michael (Mick) Nagle, gave a lifetime of service to the GAA in Killavullen and North Cork as a player, official and referee and his nephews, Tim and Sean Nagle, continue that great tradition today. The Gaels of North Cork can be proud of the man who played for 12 years for Cork, won an All-Ireland medal and 4 Munster medals.
Thanks to John O’Connor NT and to Tim and Sean Nagle who contributed to the research of this article.
* This article was first published in the The Avondhu’s Christmas publication ‘By the Fireside’ in which Christy Roche was the author, in December 2019. Copies of ‘By the Fireside’ are available to purchase from either Avondhu office (Fermoy or Mitchelstown) for anyone wishing to obtain the original.
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