In this weeks Kiladangan Abroad, we make a return trip to the USA where we chat to Colm Egan who has living in Chicago since 1994. Colm talks about his memories of the club and how life is treating him in Chicago. Enjoy
1. So, let’s wind the clock back to a time before you left Kiladangan and tell us what your connection was with the Club?
My connection to the club was immediate. My father Jim was playing for Kiladangan at this stage and I was around the team in the field from the early times.
I suppose the biggest success at the time was the 1976 North Intermediate Final against Burgess which they lost in a replay. I was born for the ‘71 team but I honestly don’t remember it, although there are pictures in our house of plenty of hairy men having a good week after County finals and after the All Ireland Intermediate win.
I would’ve had close connections to the Moneygall County Final winning teams of ‘76 and ‘77 as my Uncle Donal Kennedy played wing forward.(brilliant team)
The truth is at that time Kiladangan weren’t great and I lived for games with Moneygall, Kilruane, Roscrea, Borrisileigh and Lorrah all fighting it out around North Tipperary. Jims friend, Mick Cowan of Borris Ileigh made those games all the more interesting and getting home was often a magical mystery tour.
In 1980 Kiladangan had a great run and Sean Fay and myself built many a bonfire that year. More than one good tire out of Slattery’s was burned at the grotto as we weren’t connoisseurs of the tire industry. There was a Nealon Cup win for the minors in 1982 with the fruits of the juvenile work on the field. My father Jim and Dennis Flannery took an under 12 team in 1976 and in that year there was success in the Hurling against Burgess and a loss in the football to Nenagh. A certain local publican with world famous dinners out of Dromineer scored the only point of the game to win the under 12 North football against us. I think thirty something of us were presented with Hurling plaques by the great Martin Kennedy in Ballycommon hall that year.
It never seemed that we were not in the hunt at under age but honestly looking back I’d say we had room to improve:) There is a danger here in naming names but Jimmy Foley, Pat Gavin, Jim Callaghan, Jimmy Hogan, Martin Gleason Ballyhogan, Dick Mulcahy, Timmy Ryan, Paddy Kelly, and Johnny Gleeson all worked very hard to keep the juveniles going in those years.
We had many great times but didn’t win much.We did travel to Leixlip for a couple of years for weekends which honestly was like traveling to the moon . They also brought us as a group to the 1980 All Ireland (Galways breakthrough).
I couldn’t wait to get on the field and I did get a chance probably earlier than I should have as the numbers weren't great.The influx of young lads to the RHO definitely did boost the juvenile club.
Colm pictured 5th from left in the back row ahead of the 1992 North Intermediate Final
2. When did you move and what was it like getting settled in and established?
I moved to the USA in 1994. I didn’t really have many plans but I knew I was going to play hurling for the Cu Chulainn Hurling Club Chicago. About three weeks before I left, Sean Kelly inquired if there would be a seat for him on the plane. This turned out to be three great summers together in Chicago, before he moved to San Francisco. On a star studded Cuchulainn team Sean was the baby but won Hurler of the Year in Chicago two years in a row for ‘94 and ‘95.
Cu Chulainn Hurling team in 1994
Kieran Ryan came to the World Cup of ‘94 and forgot to go home. Later that summer, Cathal Egan came out in July and played in the Chicago final marking a young Thomas Dunne .
I don’t think I was ever fitter than those times, working construction, having the craic, hot summers, plenty of work, and messing .The standard of hurling was very high as there was no back door in Ireland so as teams were knocked out at home the standard went through the roof here .Having said that we had exceptional Chicago based players, with lads like Declan Carr Holycross, Colm O'Neill of Cork, James Treacy Abbeyknockmoy, Sean Kelly and myself all living here.I did get to play with and against some exceptional summer lads , many of whom are All Ireland winners.
The winters were tough but I used to go to California for the first couple of winters and come back to Chicago for the summer hurling .
I have many lifelong friends in Chicago with really solid men and women from all over Ireland and the USA.All really great times and I did meet Michelle in the summer of ‘94.Twenty-six years, two kids and 4 mortgages would tell you that story
3. Can you briefly describe to us your life now, work, family (if any) and have you time to be involved in GAA activities?
After 26 years I would have a very settled life here and honestly life is much like many of my friends in Ireland and the USA.
Work has been solid over the years although we did get our ass kicked in the bust years of 2009-2011.
I mentioned earlier that I met Michelle in 1994, but I held out until 2001 to get married.
We have two girls, Ciara, 16 Sarah, 12.
Michelle is a schoolteacher, Ciara is in high school and Sarah is in middle school.
Both my girls have a great connection to their Irish roots and to their granny, aunties, uncles and cousins in Ireland (even if some are in Clare.)
Poor Michelle’s family I’d say they don’t know what to make of us but they have welcomed me with open arms. It would be easy to pick them out in the stands with the looks of fear as everyone around them is effing and blinding.
Thankfully they weren’t in tune with the Irish accent at the start, so I survived.
On the GAA side I continued to be involved after my playing days. I started a youth hurling program adding to an existing youth Gaelic Football team in Chicago, the St. Jarlaths. I am now the Games Development Officer for the city. We have nearly 300 kids playing GAA in Chicago and that keeps me very busy.
I have been involved nationally with the USGAA County Board as Hurling Development Officer. In the last 10 years there has been a huge growth in USA hurling mainly born out of American lads and ladies taking up the game. This has been very satisfying and I’m proud to have been involved at a coaching level, youth development level, and as a referee. Me reffing! I know the lads that I played with in Kiladangan will laugh their arse off as I was the biggest pain in the hole that ever took a field.
Definitely a poacher turned gamekeeper.
Much of my family’s summer is surrounded by GAA with days in Chicago Gaelic Park playing and spectating. In the youth program here we have a national tournament each year that rotates among the cities and my kids have played in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Buffalo, and San Francisco. Many of our local clubs’ families make their summer holiday surrounding this national tournament.On the hurling development side I have traveled the length and breath of the country working with clubs and that has been really satisfying to be honest.
Colm with his wife Michelle and daughters Ciara & Sarah
4. Looking back again at your time in Kiladangan, what would be your prominent memory of being around the GAA field in Puckane?
I was always a kid of the village, I really did have the run of the place for a long time as I was one of the first kids to be born in the village in those years. I did have Eamonn Kelly just up the lane, RickyO’Brien, in the middle, the Daly boys from the wilds of West Cork and then there were others that came as the years went on.
The big change in the village was when the RHO was built. All of these aliens appeared from places like Nenagh, Limerick, Clonaulty, and many exotic locations in between. That brought a great influx of kids to the village. In the mid 70’s the hurling field was alive with all of us ranging between the ages of six to maybe 12/14. I think the best craic we ever had was when the 1978 World Cup was on in Argentina and we recreated the whole thing game by game,minute by minute down in the hurling field.
Our bikes were king and a ten pack of Carrols lasted all of us from 1977 to 1983.
5. We’ll assume you manage to get back ‘home’ for the odd family reunion, holiday etc, can we ask what do you look forward to the most?
I have been very lucky that I’ve been home more than most of the USA based lads. I absolutely love getting home to the village to spend time with Mam, Darragh, and Grainne and going to Clare to hook up with Cathal and Muireann as well as all the inlaws, nieces, and nephews in between.
I haven’t missed an All Ireland, or County final, and each January I get a couple of days at home with Mam which is great to look forward to.
You can’t beat walking down the village having a pint in Kennedys and making your way back up to see Niall McGrath and his merry men.I have been luckier than most in that regard.I didn’t really know where I was going to work in the friendships that come from the parish.
Christy Hayes, Paul Gavin, Kieran Ryan and I would talk regularly and when we meet it’s like we’ve never left hanging out at the wall across from Kennedys.We trooped together from u12 to intermediate and had the time of our lives each and every time .Most of our time spent now involves recalling stories that wouldn’t be fit for print or for Mary Egan’s reading :)The Boys are still bold by the way, Im now an angel.It is very hard to put in writing the connection that I would feel to my family, my friends and neighbors even though I’m 4000 miles away but as you read this please know that there are so many of you I have in my mind.
Colm with his brother Cathal, Kieran Ryan, Paul Gavin & Christy Hayes celebrating the 1990 County Junior Football victory
6. Tell us a little bit more about your life away from Kiladangan, for instance, what’s your weekly routine, how do you attack the weekend, and what’s a holiday from where you currently live?
It’s very easy to get into a weekly routine, all my girls are at school for 7:30/45 am , so the house is up and ready early.I work for myself so over the years I’ve been responsible for picking up the girls after school and in general getting them to where they need to go.My girls do quite normal American things like basketball, ballet, plays, etc. but thankfully they also enjoy hurling and football and have a great social life surrounding the local youth GAA club, St. Jarlaths .Michelle keeps the show on the road and any woman married to an Egan is definitely destined to go straight into heaven.The USA as you can imagine offers plenty of activities and we have had some great holidays in New York and San Francisco and every place in between.The 2020 Covid lockdown has honestly slowed us down a bit and hanging out in the backyard has been a real treat again.Can’t beat hanging out with Michelle and the girls, a few tunes, and a burger, and maybe a Babycham.
Colm with his mother Mary, father Jim and wife Michelle after the 2002 Chicago fina
7. Do you have a message to send home to Kiladangan?
I can truly say that I loved every minute of Kiladangan as a club,boy and man. My friends and neighbors are hugely important to me and I believe the club ties a lot of that together. The Kiladangan club can be rightly proud of their success on the field in the last 15 years and I have no doubt that they will keep that up all the way to Dan Breen success and beyond.I am also very proud of the prominent role the club has played in the community and that the connection to every person in the parish is important to the club.Keep up the great work on and off the field and always be proud of our home place.
8. Who is your favourite Kiladangan player, past and present?
This is an impossible question! As a youngster Seamus Hogan, Dromineer and Maura Hackett, Urra had something special. I loved playing with my brother Cathal, but unfortunately never got to play with Darragh. I have seen Darragh do exceptional things on a field from when he could walk all the way to last September 2019. So unless I mention Jim and Mary too, I will leave it at that.
Colm, Darragh & Cathal Egan ahead of the All Ireland Under 21 hurling final in 1990
9. Have you any funny memories/stories from your time involved with Kiladangan, be it whilst playing, supporting etc.
We definitely had some craic over the years. Stories should be told with friends, but we’ll commit this one to print. A curly haired lad from Ballycraggen who will remain nameless, often came to matches pre injured. In a county football semi final in The Ragg, a magic rub was concocted to cure a lower back injury. Vincent Mulligan gave a rousing speech and the team headed for the pitch with our hero running back to the jacks. Curiosity got the best of Jim Egan who went back in to see our corner forward with his arse in the sink trying to get the rub out of where gravity had put it. None of the team knew how our hero played so well that day until Jim told us the story in Stapleton’s on the way home. So now we have this on the record thirty years later(performance enhancing drugs?)
10. If there was a transfer market in hurling, who would you buy for Kiladangan?
The next great Kiladangan hurler might be in the Puckane field right now.
11. Name any 4 people (dead or alive) that you would invite to dinner?
Enda Nolan (has to be there after his memorable piece for this series)
12. What’s your favourite sporting moment of all time?
2010 All Ireland with all of us in the stand, knowing that Darragh had won his All Ireland.1979 FA Cup Final, Jim bought a color TV from Mick Dunne on the day of the match. By the time he had it plugged in, every child in the village was in our Living Room and it was magic!
Kiladangan GAA Club, in partnership with North Tipperary Hospice, will be running a Euro Millions Draw. The proceeds of the draw will be split 50:50 between Kiladangan GAA & the Hospice. For just a once off €20 entry, you will be entered in the Euro Millions draw and Euro Millions plus draw for the year as part of the syndicate with 1,600 chances of winning.. The draw will be starting on September 24th. You can purchase a ticket online at https://kiladangangaa.com/products or by texting 083 861 7641 or contact any club officer or player. Tickets will also be available to purchase in Tonys Tipp Top Shop in Ballycommon or Kennedys shop in Puckane.