The death of Johnny Browne, Castletownroche. An inspirational hurler.

Guest Blog, I guess.

Something my Dad wrote (I was his typist) after the death of his friend. I like this because I can hear his voice in it and because it was important to him that the story be told.

It was with sorrow that I learned last Friday of the death of my friend Johnny Browne, one of the finest sportsmen ever to grace the hurling fields.

My first encounter with Johnny was in 1951. Castletownroche had reached the North Cork Minor Hurling Final, playing against Doneraile. Castletown’s chances were poorly and so they sent a scout to Glanworth, where he collected three hurlers: myself, my brother Cal and Jim Lawton (RIP).

At half-time the Cork Minor centre-back, Seánie Regan, playing for Doneraile, said to my brother Cal, “We’re beaten tonight and we’re shamed. This was supposed to be a cake-walk”. In the end they won but even then only marginally.

That was my first time meeting Johnny Browne. He came in at half-time, offering advice. He was over-age for minor level and he said “ye’re going well lads and I’d love to be in there with ye”.

I had no hurling for three or four years after that until John O’Brien, the schoolmaster from Castletownroche, arrived at my house one day. John was a very shrewd man who did great work for Castletownroche, both in education and hurling. He put it straight to me, “will you play for Castletownroche?” I agreed and I met with my minor team-mates. I was pitted two years behind Johnny Browne and was moved then to right-half back. Dennis Mellerick, a fine hurler, joined the team and he wanted to play on the right side so I was shifted to the left and spent another three years there.

I was privileged to be playing so close to Johnny Browne for he was a thorough gentleman. His feats were extraordinary. We dominated North Cork and though we were beaten in County Finals and Semi-Finals it happened that in 1960 we went right through, winning all before us. I recall winning six matches in a row, including Kilworth, Ballyduff and Midleton; Ballyhea, Charleville and Mallow.

We went one evening to Passage, dropping off Johnny’s brother Richie at the Athletic grounds, as he was playing senior for Cork against Tipperary. Passage were intermediate champions that year and Castletownroche won that one too.

In 1960 we won the Cork County Junior Championship and in 1961 we reached Intermediate Final against Glen Rovers. We drew that day with them and how many times did Johnny refer to that, when we met in later years, that we threw it away? The score was Castletownroche nine points and Glen Rovers two goals and three points. Glen went on to easily win the replay but that is a different story.

In my eight years playing with Johnny Browne I can recall that if ever we came under pressure, Johnny would lift his game a gear and all the team would respond to him. He was absolutely brilliant at all times. In 1960 and ’61 he came up against seven or eight senior Cork County players and I could see no-one to match him. To prove my point, after the 1966 County Final, Jack Lynch came into the Avondhu dressing rooms to congratulate him: he was man of the match at thirty-six years of age. He was surely one of the best that ever swung a hurl.

Johnny Browne was a most intelligent man: he was witty and he was wise and above all he was a gentleman.

 Ar dheis De go raibh a anam.

– John O’Keeffe 15/11/2011

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