Mick Bermingham, Dublin Hurling Legend
Mick Bermingham, Dublin Hurling Legend
(by Diarmuid Ó Gallchobhair)
Mick Bermingham was one of the best players never to win an All Ireland medal. Not just hype – in 1984 he was named on the Centenary Team of players who hadn’t won All Ireland honours. He was in good company; with the likes of Seanie Duggan, Josie Gallagher, Joe Salmon of Galway, Jimmy Smith, “Goggles” Doyle of Clare, Wexford’s Colm Doran and Martin Quigley, Kevin Armstrong of Antrim and Westmeath’s “Jobber” McGrath. In 1971 he was also selected at right-corner-forward in the first ever All Stars team, Dublin’s first All Star, having finished the season as one of the top scorers. Before that he was selected on the Rest of Ireland Team in 1965. This was a bit like the fore-runner to the All Stars, a team sponsored by the now defunct “Gaelic Weekly”.
Mick played his first game for Crokes in 1951 and, with a few interruptions, continued to play for the club until 1983, when business pressures put him off the panel. “I was still fit as a fiddle and training hard, but pressure of work meant I couldn’t train with the team, with inevitable consequences”, he explained. Over four decades of competitive hurling he managed to amass an impressive haul of honours. This included six Railway Cups with Leinster, including four-in-a-row, between 1971 and 1974 (the other two were achieved in 1964 and 1965). He also won ten club championships, seven playing in New York - the first in 1965 and the last in 1974. Senior Club Championships in Dublin came in 1973 and 1975. There was also an Intermediate Championship in 1982.
Mick felt the ‘76 team might have won a Leinster Championship. “We were leading against Camross, with seconds to go, when they scored a goal to win by two points. They went on to win the Leinster and contest the All Ireland Club Final. We had a few too many injuries and an aging team”, explained Mick.
As a juvenile, Mick played in many memorable games, at all ages. “During the early 1950’s we played Scoil Uí Chonaill in the Under 15 Final”. He played on the Under 16½ team that won the championship in 1955. He was also particularly proud to have played in the first ever Under 13 Juvenile Championships (beaten in the Irish Press Shield final). One of the biggest influences on Mick was the great John Howard. “He was a man way before his time. He really got juvenile hurling in Crokes up and running. He helped the lads both on and off the pitch, sorting them out with school, jobs and so on”.
John Howard was also one of the reasons Mick didn’t opt to play for Faughs, despite the fact that his father Ned was a committed Faughs supporter and his cousin Mick Gill was a star of the team in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Faughs didn’t have a juvenile team and, as the young Crokes stars developed and bonded under the guidance of John Howard, there was every incentive to stay put.
There was a temporary split in the club in the early 1960’s, which resulted in the formation of Dalcassians. Many younger Crokes players left to join the new club and even won a Minor Championship, captained by Mick, in 1960. Differences had been resolved by 1962 and in 1963, with forces joined afresh, a team (boasting a substantial majority of Crokes players) representing the Junior Hurling Board won the Senior Championship and the Intermediate Championship was also won by Crokes that year.
Due to injury Mick didn’t get to play in the All Ireland Final in 1961, when Dublin were only just beaten (by two points) by Tipperary. There were a number of times in that period when Dublin were only narrowly beaten in Leinster Finals. One wonders how the profile of hurling in the capital might have changed had Dublin managed to win a trophy at that time. “Hurling was much bigger than Football in Dublin in the early Seventies. The attendances at our games were much bigger than at the football. For instance, I remember a football league game between Dublin and Clare in Croke Park in early ‘74 when there must have only been 1,500 in attendance”. Then Kevin Heffernan and the Dubs swept to All Ireland glory later that year, taking wonderful hurlers like Gay O’Driscoll and PJ Buckley (and later still Mick Holden) with them along the way. The rest, as they say, is history.
The former Dublin great believes the county could conceivably get to a Leinster Final and even win it. “With the obvious exception of Kilkenny, other teams are not as strong as in previous years. It wouldn’t take much to bring the boat up a few feet. Even Kilkenny can be beaten on their day”. There are probably five or six players needed to strengthen the squad. “But they are out there”, Mick believes. With recent Féile, Colleges and Under 21 successes Mick thinks the foundations are there. “Hurling is actually very popular in Dublin”.
The “back door” also offers possibilities. “It wasn’t the end of the world that Westmeath beat Dublin this year when they did. Aside altogether from Dublin, it means we get a chance to see the great teams competing in the All Ireland final, rather than just in the Provincial finals”. Mick thinks it would be good to run the initial stages of the Championship on a league basis. He also thinks that more space could be created by breaking up the two Championship codes more. “Hurling is more of a summer game”. Neither does Mick place much faith in dieticians, psychologists or the like! Why a team would need help to pump themselves up for any game is beyond him. Why indeed!
Mick continues to be involved in Crokes and was part of the Senior Team Management until 2005.
Mick Bermingham – Dublin Hurling legend