Monday, 11 March 2013

Tony was one of natures true gentlemen.

Just weeks after Waterford G.A.A. mourned the death of one of its favourite scribes – John A. (Johnny) Murphy; the G.A.A. fraternity in Waterford are now mourning the death of another of its scribes, following the death of former Waterford Hurling manager Tony Mansfield.

The popular Abbeyside/Ballinacourty club man died at the Cork Hospital yesterday evening following an illness.

Tony was a great favourite with all that had the pleasure of knowing him. He was one of nature’s true gentlemen. When the need arose he could be a very serious person, the type of person you could talk to about something but he was also the type of person who when a situation arose enjoyed a bit of banter.

Tony was a hurler of note and was part of the Waterford Senior Hurling panel that won the 1963 Munster Final against Tipperary and which went on to contest the All-Ireland against Kilkenny.

After hanging up his inter county playing boots Tony got involved in coaching and managing teams. He was appointed the Waterford under 21 hurling team for the 1974 championship, and lead Waterford to Munster Final glory beating Clare in the final. In the All-Ireland semi final Waterford recorded a comprehensive 3-18 to 1-2 win over Antrim, but in the All-Ireland final against Kilkenny, Waterford had to settle for second best going under 3-8 to 3-7.

In 1992, the Abbeyside/Ballinacourty Club man was back at the helm at under 21 level.

He again guided Waterford to Munster Glory again beating Clare 0-17 to 1-12 at Thurles. In the semi finals Antrim again provided the opposition, with Waterford winning 4-17 to 2-8 at Parnell Park. Leinster opposition again were Waterford’s opponents in All-Ireland, this time Offaly. The game was played at Nolan Park in Kilkenny and resulted in a 4-4 to 0-16 draw with Waterford coming through 0-12 to 2-3 at the same venue in the replay, a result which helped make him possibly Waterford’s most successful manager winning one All-Ireland and two Munster Finals.

Success at underage level meant that it was a foregone conclusion that he would later be appointed as the county senior hurling team manager, a position he held twice.

Coincidently, both of his stints came following some of the darkest days in Waterford’s history and on both occasions he helped things to be turned around.

In the mid 1980’s he was appointed as senior manager for the first time and early in his reign lead Waterford to a National Hurling League semi final in the 1986/87 season, a remarkable result when you consider that a few years previous, Waterford were playing and loosing to the likes of Roscommon and Mayo.

In 1989 he was manager of the side that drew Cork in the Munster semi final and then beat them in a the replay, making him one of a small number of managers that could claim to have managed a side that beat Cork after a replay, but in the Munster Final Waterford had to settle for second best against Tipperary, with Waterford finishing the game with thirteen men. Tipperary went on to win the All-Ireland in ’89, their first since 1971.

In the mid 90’s Tony was again brought back as the County’s Senior Hurling team manager, and began to build a team with the players he had managed to win the All-Ireland under 21 final a few years previous and also with the minors that reached the All-Ireland final also in ’92.

It was not just at inter county level that Tony proved as success as a manager. He was involved with various Abbeyside/Ballinacourty teams that won county finals from under 14 to under 21 and while he was best known as a hurling man, his greatest achievements at club level came in football when he managed Ballinacourty to capture three county senior titles from the late 1970’s and in 1985 he managed/coached the Colligan Rockies to win Western and County intermediate hurling titles.

In was not just at coaching that Tony proved a success within the G.A.A.

He was the first secretary of the newly amalgamated Abbeyside/Ballinacourty Club in the 1960’s and for a long number of years up to his death filled the roll of Chairman of the club, a position he took great pride in and enjoyed seeing the under 5’s 6’s and 7’s turning up for their first training session at the club grounds as he did when he say the clubs senior teams compete and win titles in recent years. He was also the type of chairman that liked to oversee all that was happening within the club, and when it came to administration, he liked to do things the right way and to do things as well as possible.

He was also a referee of note for many years with the Western and County Boards, taking charge of the 1979 County Senior Hurling final. One of his last games as a knight of the whistle was the 1983 County Intermediate Hurling final in 1983 when Saint Mary’s beat Ballygunner at Walsh Park.

However, to most Tony will be best remembered within the G.A.A. for his weekly reports in the Dungarvan Observer.

For more years that most would care to remember, Tony would pen his weekly Gaelic Jottings column, as well as numerous match reports and previews of games to be played in the West of the county and at a county and inter county basis.

To do this was not an easy task, but over the years, Tony had build up a network of people who he could telephone and get details of games that he was not in attendance at. The reverse also happened, as he would give a comprehensive report of games he had attended that his fellow reporters were unable to attend.

He was a mind of information. You could ask him details of something that would have happened in the past and Tony was able to relay in detail the details of what you were looking to know.

He was hugely popular with all that he had dealings with. In the press box at a game when a sub went on and those reporting on the game had a feeling that the look of the player did not correspond with the name on the team sheet or programme Tony would head out of the press box to the area where the subs were located and when he came back not only was he able to confirm who the player was, but also he had an amount of information on the player.

Most that sit in the press box for games agreed that following Johnny Murphy’s death last month that the press box will never be the same again. With Tony now gone as well, there is a now be even quieter.

Go ndeine Dia trocaire ar a anam dilis.

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