Kilkenny v. Tipperary. Memories of epic hurling matches between the two counties immediately come to mind and never more so as when natives of both rival counties come together. As a Kilkenny native I will never forget the Liam McCarthy cup days of the 1950s when the Doyles superiority over the Walshes prevailed and Kilkenny men came home from Croke Park more often than not having failed yet again to topple the Tipperary men. The past decade and a half has seen the rebalancing of the hurling equation, with Kilkenny the victors time and time again.
All of this is by way of an introduction to this week’s piece, written by a man whose bones were fashioned in the Kilkenny hurling county and whose subject is a Tipperary native for whom hurling is a passion. Peter Barry, the man from Puddingfield, Tipperary, has been the Athy post master for the past five years and is retiring at the end of August on reaching his 60th birthday. At least you and I know him as the local post master, a title we still cling to after many decades of usage, even though I am told the title changed 15 years ago to branch manager.
Peter, one of the nicest persons one could meet, always cheerful, always ready with a pleasant quip or comment to pass on, first entered the postal service as a junior clerk in 1972. His first posting was to Drogheda, but he quickly transferred to Athy, arriving here in May 1972. The post master in those days was Wilf Meredith, who like the bank managers of old lived over the premises. Isn’t it strange to relate how much the business world has changed over the last few decades with bank closures and bank managers and post masters no longer living on the premises. Indeed the most extraordinary change in recent times is one’s inability to phone your bank or post office directly as all incoming calls are redirected to central units dealing with a multiplicity of different locations.
The young Peter Barry coming from a Tipperary background became, as one would expect, a member of the local hurling club. He did so even though, on his own admission, his hurling abilities were not on par with those of John or Jimmy Doyle. He moved to Wexford in October 1972 and remained there until February of 1975 when he transferred for the last time back to Athy. During his time in Wexford he met his future wife Maeve and they are the proud parents of four children, Aoife, Adrian, Wayne and Ciara and three grand children, Killian, Alex and Carla. Back in the south Kildare town Peter served under a number of post masters, or branch managers, including Paddy Begley, Tom Holland, Paddy Harrington and John Neede.
During the 1970s and 80s Athy Hurling Club was going strong and indeed neighbouring Castledermot had an excellent hurling club which won two senior hurling titles in succession in the late 1980s. Peter was a playing member of the Athy club and won a place on the Kildare Under 21 county team in 1975. He had to wait another 14 years to win his first county medal with Athy as a sub on the Intermediate winning team of 1989. That same year Athy hurling minors reached the county final.
Today, regretfully, Athy has no adult hurling team and the same situation applies in Castledermot. St. Laurences now fields an adult team comprised of players from their own locality as well as Athy and Castledermot. Peter who was very involved in the revival of the local camogie club seven years ago bemoans the decline in the hurling fortunes of the local club, but is hopeful that under the direction of Colm Byrne and others that the Athy underage hurling teams will eventually lead to a revival at senior level.
Peter was involved with the Athy hurling club over many years, not only as a player but also as club treasurer and club secretary. In addition as a Board member of Athy Credit Union for many years he gave sterling service to the local community here in Athy.
With his retirement the local Post Office will lose the services of a genuinely pleasant official who has proved himself popular with the people of Athy and district. I wish Peter well although even as I write this piece in advance of the upcoming Cork v. Tipperary semi-final I cannot hold out much hope of his native county on the first Sunday in September overcoming the best hurling team ever to have graced Croke Park – up Kilkenny!