It’s a Monday night in late October and Liam Hayes asks the Riverside Hotel to put out 400 chairs in the function room…
What he doesn’t expect is hordes of Tony Doran fans trooping through the doors until the function room is heaving and there are more people standing than sitting, but still they came.
Awesome is a word that’s over-used nowadays, but what we witnessed at the launch of Tony Doran’s autobiography ‘A Land of Men and Giants’ was truly awesome in the real sense of the word. They came in their droves from Buffers Alley, from all over county Wexford and from every corner of the country to see their flame-haired hero who had eventually decided to put down on paper his great hurling story.
The man who said it was a pleasure to sit with Tony and piece together the story of his hurling life is none other than Meath footballer Liam Hayes, a fine journalist, storyteller and a Giant in his own right.
Liam referred to Tony as a ‘Giant’ on many occasions during the evening and made sure we understood the difference between men and giants before we went on our way. He was speaking to the converted of course because everyone in that room knew they were in the presence of a hurling hero like no other.
Tom Dempsey spoke eloquently and probably could fill any venue on a dull Monday night in October with his sharp wit and storytelling ability. When he regaled us with yet another yarn, he’d have you thinking ‘well if that story isn’t true it ought to be’ – it’s definitely the way he tells ‘em! We heard how as a very young boy he wouldn’t eat carrots for his mother, who duly convinced him that if he did eat them, he’d hurl for Wexford and have red hair like Tony Doran.
Dempsey did hurl for Wexford but was slightly bemused that hair of any colour was a scarce commodity with him. He went on to describe what it was like to grow up with a real-life Giant living in his neighbourhood and how accessible Tony Doran was to the young lads of Kilmuckridge and Monamolin in the 70’s and ‘80’s. Playing on the same club team as Tony and being there with him when Buffers Alley won the club All-Ireland title in 1989 is a memory he treasures. Tony Doran who has every possible honour in the game and recalls March 17th, 1989 as his proudest day on the hurling field.
Dave Bernie told us about Tony’s days in the purple and gold of Wexford and of how he was a leader of men who inspired those around him. Tony scored 2-01 in the All-Ireland final of 1968 in a game where Wexford went in at the break eight points down, only to turn things around in the second half and come away with a famous victory. The reverence with which Dave Bernie spoke of his Wexford teammates gave the assembled audience a glimpse of the Giants of the game and what it meant to play for Wexford. Looking around the room, there were awesome men everywhere. The great Mick Jacob and Jimmy Pender who had many battles with and against Tony Doran, the slick townies Ned Buggy and Heffo Walsh, Teddy O’Connor and Mickey Foley of Rathnure, Pat Nolan the goalkeeping wizard were all there clutching their copies of ‘A Land of Men and Giants’.
Dave Bernie reminded us that they will be forever young because Tony Doran and Liam Hayes have brought their playing days back to life for us and the exploits of these men deserve to be highlighted for a new generation to appreciate.
In Buffers Alley, Tony Doran is referred to simply as ‘The Big Lad’. They always knew that he was a Giant and now it’s in writing for all to see. If you were lucky enough to get one of the 400 chairs or if you found a space to stand in, you were part of something special on Monday night.
It’s not often a real ‘Giant’ steps off the pages of a book and walks among us.
This article was submitted by “Mismatch.” To submit an article, please click here.