The Kilkenny Observer takes a trip down memory lane with the Butts Community Centre
Photo credits: Community hall project; Mike Kealy; Pat Shortall
A question? What community in Kilkenny boasts the most All Ireland titles?
It’s an interesting question and would deserve to be included as a tiebreaker in a pub quiz.
One obvious answer would be Bennettsbridge with their haul of forty-seven All Ireland medals.
During their heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s Bennettsbridge gained an enviable reputation, featuring in many inter-county hurling tournaments and proving to be the major attraction.
The club produced marvellous teams, and one such team was known as ‘The Ring Dazzlers.’ It included Dave DeLoughry, Frank Brady, Dick ‘Stokes’ Power, Jim ‘Sam’ Carroll, Paddy ‘Galar’ Kelly, Seamus Cleere, Martin Treacy, Mick McCarthy and Larry Cleere. The team coach was James Hayes.
Other prominent Bridge players who won All-Ireland medals with Kilkenny were: ‘The Lovely’ Johnny Dunne, who hurled with the great Kilkenny team of the 1930’s. Later success came courtesy of Paddy Moran, Dick Carroll, Sam Carroll, Martin Treacy, Jim Bennett, Liam Cleere, John Kinsella, Timmy Kelly, Tony Kelly, Pat Lalor and recognised by many as the greatest goalkeeper of all time the legendary Noel Skehan, the first man to win nine senior all Ireland titles. In more recent years we can add James McGarry and Liam Simpson to the list. Some haul!
INCREDIBLE STATISTICS IN BUTTS COMMUNITY
However, you would have to travel a long way to top the medal haul accumulated by the Butts Community in Kilkenny city. Admittedly, we are comparing chalk and cheese. The Bennettsbridge tally is in hurling while The Butts trophy case includes a variety of sports such as, Handball, Basketball, Soccer, Snooker, Billiards, Darts. The list goes on.
Even more incredibly, one man is responsible for what can only be described as a mountain of trophies. That man is Michael ‘Ducksie’ Walsh
Here is a brief look at the legends tally. 16 All-Ireland 60×30 Senior Singles titles; 7 All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Singles titles;10 All-Ireland 60×30 Senior Doubles titles; 5 All-Ireland 40×20 Senior Doubles Titles; 1 Waterford National Crystal Singles; 7 Handballer of the Year awards; numerous underage All-Ireland, USA and World Titles.
Ducksie holds a record thirteen successive Senior Softball Singles titles 1985–1997.
Michael who died in 2016 put his sporting success down to the fact that he found a great mentor in the late Tommy O’ Brien when he took up the game as a nine-year-old on the outdoor, corporation courts adjacent to St Canice’s Church in Kilkenny City. Local rules dictated that winners stayed on court.
“I’d be there all-day Sunday and I’d come home with a good few bob,” Ducksie stated in an interview some years ago.
A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
Last week The Kilkenny Observer took a trip to St Canice’s Community hall to view a photographic exhibition that gives a social history of The Butts and includes sport, politics and community spirit.
Obviously Ducksie is included but so too are numerous other sportsmen and women who have contributed to bringing success and joy to the area.
According to Jenny Cooke, supervisor of the Community Centre, the idea of such an exhibition came from a casual chat. “I was just shooting the breeze one day with Kay Brennan and one word borrowed another. Before we knew it, the seed was sown to gather as many photographs as possible to remember and acknowledge the proud tradition of the Butts.” Jenny went on to say that it’s all very well coming up with an idea, but then you have to put it into action.
“All of us at the centre decided that we were going to have a positive approach and decide to work under the umbrella of ‘Community Project’”, added Jenny.
All these things cost money and the centre needed help explained Jenny. Enter Siobhán O’Brien from the Kilkenny and Carlow Education and Training Board (KCETB)
Siobhán explained that in summer 2021 KCETB launched its first Arts and Culture Grant. This grant was available to community groups to fund a project related to Art, with specific emphasis on Personal Development, Family and Community, Health, Well-Being, Education and Employment.
St. Canice’s Neighbourhood Hall was successful in securing the funding which allowed their project to develop.
Launching the exhibition Siobhán said “she was delighted to be involved with such a lovely project.”
Speaking at the launch Ms O’Brien thanked all involved and acknowledged those who donated photos. She was highly complementary of the great community spirit that culminated in such a wonderful photographic exhibition. Concluding her speech, Siobhán thanked the dedicated tutors who gave so willingly of their time.
Closing the event, Jenny Cooke said she hoped that residents of the local area and people from the wider community would visit the exhibition. “Viewing the photographs will bring the hall to life and allow us to remember stalwarts of the community who contributed so much to the area, and our intention would be to add to the exhibition in the future”, concluded Jenny.
The Butts Green got its name from the word targets or “butts’’ as the military practiced their archery in the vicinity. This location was often used as a meeting place for the people of Kilkenny as all roads intersected in this area.