By Tommy Walsh (1997)
Kathleen Ni Houlihan your road’s a thorny way,
And tis a faithful soul would walk the flints with you for aye
Would walk the sharp and cruel flints until his locks grew gray.
The above verse could very well be attributed to the man about whom I am to write now and who I had the privilege to know in my youth, Sean Coughlan of Craughdarrig.
The future scholar, soldier and patriot was born near “The Cross” in 1894. He had one sister, Bridget; their parents died when they were very young. Sean lived at home and spent his younger days between Walsh’s “The Store” and Ferris’s; both houses had shops and Sean’s job was drawing meal and flour from Tarbert and Ballylongford.
While still a teenager he formed a drama group and their play, the resurrection of Dinny O’Dowd, was staged many times in Hanlon’s loft of Asdee East and Hanrahan’s loft, Inch, Lisselton.
He started writing for the “Kerry Reporter” about this time and also became a member of the Gaelic League and quickly became a master of the Irish language. He taught a number of Irish classes at night in Asdee and Beale schools, and played football with Faha in the 1919 and 1925 North Kerry leagues.
When the Volunteers were formed in 1916 he was one of the very early members and became captain of the Asdee Company. During the campaign of the Black and Tans he was on the run and took part in many ambushes. He remained on the Republican side in the Civil War and was captured and interned in Limerick and Mountjoy, which lasted 43 days.
On his release he resumed his work as an Irish teacher and then turned to journalism. In 1934, he became GAA editor of the Irish Press, a job he held for many years. Sean died in Dublin in 1947 at the relatively young age of 53; he had been in poor health for some years. Almost certainly the hardships he endured in the fight for freedom contributed to his failing health in later years.
The following tribute was paid to him by his colleague in the Irish Press.
“We Will Miss Him”
By the Sports Editor
Farewell, Sean, farewell, an esteemed and valued colleague. We will miss you. As “Green Flag” and “The Rambler” you made a name and established a reputation few can hope to equal.
Acknowledged authority on Gaelic Football and Hurling, on Coursing and Greyhound racing, you had no peer.
Yes, we will miss Sean Coughlan. Of him it can be truly said that he died in harness. Yesterday we published his last article on GAA activities.
Though he was unable to come to the office, he steadfastly refused to cease writing on the sports he loved so well. He took his illness philosophically, but his one regret was that he was unable to attend his GAA matches on Sundays and his coursing meetings in midweek.
How he wished he could have attended famed Clounanna for the Irish Cup meeting last January, and the Mayo United meeting at Ballina a few weeks ago! His knowledge of coursing and the merits of Greyhounds was astounding.
Possibly his greatest achievements in this sphere of sport were his successful forecasts of the winners of the Irish Cup in 1945 – and in 1946 – Robert Robertson.
His cherished ambition was to bring off a hat-trick by naming the winner last January. Three of his four fancies for the semi-final justified his opinion, but in the final his selection – the hot favourite – Ballymaquin Glory – was beaten by Dash Off Dick.
His GAA articles and reports were equally well-informed and his enthusiasm and zeal for the welfare of our native games was known in every parish in Ireland.
Yes, we will miss Sean. To his widow and four young children, we extend our sincerest sympathy.
Go ndéanaid Dia trócaire ar a anam.