Fr Tommy Maher

(25/04/1922 - 25/03/2015)

Fr. Tommy Maher was born 25 April 1922, the youngest of eleven children of John Maher a smallholding farmer fand his wife Annie (née Fowler) both from Whitepark, near Gowran, Co. Kilkenny,  He was priest of St. Agnes Church in the late 1940s, early 1950s helping popularising hurling in Crumlin and later in life becoming a famous hurling coach for Kilkenny.

Four of his siblings died before he was born, two of them in the one week in 1912, and he was orphaned at the age of five. His uncle, Thomas Maher, stepped in to manage the farm and to look after his nephews and nieces. Tommy attended a three-teacher school nearby in Dungarvan, Co. Kilkenny.

By the time Maher reached adolescence, two of his older brothers were earning enough to pay for him to go to the diocesan seminary, St Kieran’s College in Kilkenny city. There, he excelled both as a student and on the hurling field, winning three Leinster senior colleges medals with his school (1939–41), playing variously as a right-half forward, in midfield and in goal. . Contemporaries describe Maher as a fast, elusive and sporting player, but lacking in height and strength. Sitting the leaving certificate exams in 1941, he obtained six honours and was one of the local bishop’s two nominees to study for the priesthood at the national seminary, St Patrick’s College in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. He made his inter-county debut for Kilkenny in 1945.

After being ordained in 1948, his first posting was as chaplain at Sion Hill convent in Blackrock, Co. Dublin. From 1949 he served as a curate in St. Agnes Church, Crumlin, Dublin for a few years, where he became involved as a trainer at the local hurling club – St. Columbas, part of the local Christian brother’s school. He helped popularise hurling in Crumlin, training 300 local youngsters and stated he “could, use 2,000 sticks if I had them.”. Not content with hurling, he wanted the children to learn native Irish dancing as he felt “Crumlin is probably the most ceili-conscious part of the city at the moment.”.  He also got involved in other community activities, once collecting local famous tenor Dermot Troy from the airport, then driving him to his home in Cashel Road, where 4000 people lined the streets to welcome him home having come second in “The Great Caruso” singing competition in London.

Despite a brief playing career, he transitioned into coaching and management, guiding the Kilkenny team to numerous victories and titles over the years. Known for his focus on technique over tactics, Maher emphasised the importance of diligent practice and honing individual skills. He led the Kilkenny hurling team to seven All-Ireland titles between 1957 and 1975, mentoring players like Ollie Walsh, Eddie Keher, and Brian Cody. His attention to detail, focus on skill development, and strategic insights set him apart as one of the most successful and revered hurling coaches of all time.

After retiring from coaching, Maher continued his work as a parish priest in Mullinavat. After being taken ill in 1999, he retired from his ministry at Mullinavat in 2002. He spent his final years in Archersrath Nursing Home outside Kilkenny, where he died on 25 March 2015. He was buried in St Beacon’s Church cemetery, Mullinavat. A practical, low-key hurling visionary, Fr Tommy Maher was one of the most significant figures in the history of the game.

Person Photo
Connection with area: Hurling coach who served as curate in Crumlin where he became involved as a trainer at the local hurling club.