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Junior Griffin, a Fisherman and a Poem

Sugar Loaf, Co. Wicklow

Photo; Éamon ÓMurchú


Junior Griffin, A life in Badminton

Junior Griffin a true ambassador for the game

An Irish Independent article contributed by Éamon ÓMurchú

April 19 2001 12:11 AM

SURELY the most surprised person in the hall at the recent 30th annual Listowel Open Badminton Week tournament was Junior Griffin ‹ the genial Listowel man who writes the weekly badminton notes in this newspaper. Totally unannounced, he was presented with a specially designed copper plaque to mark his involvement with the prestigious tournament since its inception in 1972. The plaque is the work of Listowel man, Tony Callaghan.

“I had a piece of glass put in my hand and I thought it was only a committee photograph that was being taken without realising that I was being set up,” said Junior. “It really is a lovely plaque.

“I got the Open tournament going in 1972 and gradually we brought in other counties. Unfortunately this year a lot of them didn’t come because of the Foot and Mouth restrictions. Tipperary in particular have been really great supporters of ours over the years. They make it a kind of a social weekend. The tournament has grown over the years.”

Strangely enough, Junior Griffin’s first love was handball and he excelled at it in the old alley which is still to the good and which immediately catches the eye as you pass over the bridge on your way into Listowel from Tralee.

“The handball court was the place that kept us out of harm’s way,” he said.

Junior recalled how he became involved in the game of badminton.

“Eric Browne, the bookie, called me one night in 1964 and asked me would I go up to the badminton hall, which I did, and I became involved in it there and then. As I remember it, Eamon McSweeney,, of the ESB, and Louis Quinlan, of Tralee, collared me in 1975 and asked me would I go forward as chairman of the County Badminton Board. Then, in 1980, I became secretary of the Munster Badminton Council. Junior still holds both offices to the present day.

“Unlike the GAA, it is awful hard to get people to work as far as badminton is concerned,” he said.

Of course, Junior has been immersed in the GAA since he was a youngster. Badminton may take up most of his time, but he still manages to work as a stilesman at venues all over the county, as well as at all the big Munster championship games in football and hurling.

Junior works in the fancy goods department at McKenna’s in Listowel and is due to retire this year. 

“I started in McKenna’s on the Monday before Kerry played Armagh in the 1953 All-Ireland football final,” he recalled. “I started in the workshop. Now I’m in the Fancy Goods section where we sell everything from Waterford Crystal to pots and pans.”

At one stage he was secretary both of the handball and badminton clubs in Listowel. But then the man’s capacity for work and his organisational ability is second to none.

He loved his game of badminton himself “Unfortunately the old back has kicked up’.

He candidly admits that badminton has lost some ground of recent years.

“Indoor sports have gone down,” he said. “People today have far more choices. You have the leisure centres and then people like to play the Internet. You also have the Play Stations and all these keep people in at night when they would be better off at the badminton court. Like I said, people have far more choices today.”

Illustrating the point, he revealed that where there were 24 badminton clubs in the county nine years ago, today there are only 13 clubs. But the game is still thriving in Listowel, Tralee, Dingle, Castleisland, Killarney, Moyvane, Cahersiveen, Causeway, Ballyheigue and Sneem.

“Teresa Broderick from Tralee won the first tournament in Listowel in 1972 and she was back to win the Veterans title last week,” he said. “She has given great service to the game.

“A lot of places have built parish halls over the years and badminton always fitted in nicely with that kind of a set-up.

“We are after a very good year in Kerry. We won the Class 3 title for the first time since 1985 and that’s a really good achievement. Lorna Keane, who won the Supreme Sports Star Award a few years ago, was the manager of the team. Her mother, Sheile Hannon, is secretary of the County Board.

Reflecting on bygone days in the sport, Junior recalled such well-known names in Kerry badminton as Louis Quinlan, Paul Skuce, Paddy Drummond, Vincent Freeman, Mrs Kelliher (County Badminton Club), Jo O’Donoghue, Carmel Fleming, Angela O’Sullivan, Phil Moriarty and Dominick Foley.

The industrious Listowel sportsman intends keeping the momentum going in his efforts to keep badminton to the forefront in the sporting life of the county.

“A lot of towns are getting new houses which means that people are coming to work in these towns.

“You can walk on the beach in Ballybunion in the summer, but in the winter you need something to do,” he said. “Badminton is the perfect game for the winter and it also has its social side.”

Keenly aware of his long and faithful involvement with the game of football, I asked him what he thought of Kerry’s chances in this year’s championship.

“I’m always afraid of Cork and this year will be no different,” he said. “Of course, Kerry had a very hard campaign last year. But the four trips to Croke Park were wonderful.

“I remember my first trip to Croke Park. It was back in 1951 for the All-Ireland semi-final replay between Kerry and Mayo. That was won by Mayo and they went on to win the All-Ireland ‹ the last time they won it, in fact. 

You had men like Sean Flanagan, Paddy Prendergast and Paraic Carney playing with Mayo and the likes of Paddy Bawn (Brosnan), Eddie Dowling, Jackie Lyne and Jim Brosnan playing with Kerry.

“My next trip was for the ’53 final,  the week I started work. I was there again for the ’54 final in which Kerry were beaten by Meath. Then in ’55 we went up thinking we hadn’t a chance against Dublin and we all know what happened. One of my great favourites on those Kerry teams was John Cronin.

“I would give Kerry a good chance in this year’s championship and especially if Maurice Fitzgerald is fit. It’s the coolness with which he takes the frees and who can forget the first match against Armagh last year. The way he put the ball down forty yards out and booted it over the bar. It was absolutely wonderful.

“Mick O’Connell and Eamon O’Donoghue were able to read each other’s game. It’s the same with Maurice Fitzgerald and Mike Frank Russell. It was marvellous the way O’Connell could deliver a pin-point pass to Eamon. “He’d land the ball right in his hands.”

But Junior has a word of advice for Páidí Ó Sé and his players: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” he warned. “Kerry are there to be shot at.”

Meanwhile, Junior Griffin is happy that he has overseen another successful year for badminton in the county.

“We hope to see even greater honours come our way in the years ahead,” he added.

A great sportsman who has given a lifetime of service to his county in every one of the sports he has espoused.

He’s known to a huge number of people as the genial person manning the stiles at various GAA venues around Kerry and indeed Munster. But in the more intimate milieu of the badminton fraternity he is regarded as a doyen. A man with a passion for anything he puts his mind to.

It was a fitting tribute from his club in Listowel to honour him in the manner they did at the recent Open Week.

Junior Griffin a true ambassador for the game of badminton.


An Old Post box

This picture of an old unused box was shared on Facebook by Vanishing Ireland. It’s location is somewhere near Milstreet in Co. Cork.


Gone Fishing

Photo credit; Paddy Fitzgibbon


A Poem that will strike a Chord


by John McGrath

I wondered why the box

was so much bigger than the book;

why the book the poet sent to me

was so much smaller than the box.

Then I opened the book

that was filled with love and lore,

with longing and laughter

and weeping and rivers

and oceans and pain,

so much wisdom and wonder and joy

and so many people and stories,

that I marvelled at the miracle

of how a box so tiny

could hold so great a book.


Listowel Town Square, July 22 2021


The Beginning of the Pitch and Putt Club, O’Rahilly Family and Childers’ Park

Millenium Arch in summer 2021


Handball Ups and Downs

During the 1960s the handball club grew from strength to strength. John Joe Kenny was chairman for most of this time.

In 1964 Listowel won its first County Championship. It was a Novice Championship. It was played in Listowel for the first time. Breandán ÓMurchú won the minor singles title and partnered Richard Galvin to win the minor doubles. Tom Enright and Junior Griffin won the senior doubles title.

Aidan ÓMurchú ran a National School Tournament in these years.

At the AGM in 1996 John Joe Kenny stepped down from the chair and Aidan Keane was elected chairman.

At this meeting arrangements were put in place to run a Town League. Teams were to represent Bridge Road, E.S.B., Garda, The Boro and The Gleann.

Membership dropped off towards the end of the 60s.

In 1970 a move was afoot to establish a Pitch and Putt club in town. Bill Kearney approached the Handball Club with the view to persuading them to allow a few pitch and putt holes to be placed on the Alley ground.

A Pitch and Putt Club was formed with John Joe Kenny, chairman, Bill Kearney, secretary and Junior Griffin, treasurer.

It was decided that the area around the handball alley was too dangerous for pitch and putt and an approach was made to the UDC to include a pitch and putt course in the town park. Permission for a 9 hole course was granted.

John Joe Kenny and Kevin Sheehy who had been stalwarts of the handball club went on to give sterling service to the pitch and putt club for years after.


O’Rahilly Family of The Square

This house in Listowel Town Square once housed one of the most famous academic families in Ireland.


From The Advertiser


Childers’ Park

Childers’ Park wildflower meadow in June 2021

The council have helpfully mowed paths through the field. It is a joy to walk there.

Marsh Marigolds, Vetch, clover and scutch grass are all around.

I met a pigeon on my walk through the park as well.


In The Magic Hour

Jo Jordan was helping get everyone seated for The Magic Hour show in Listowel Handball Alley on Friday June 18 2021. On the right of the photo is young bilingual poet, Siobhán Ní Dhomhnaill who was to be the local interviewee.

We’re gathered on the slope opposite the handball alley and we are waiting for the promised incredible Arts experience. This man from Coiscéim is waiting to play his part.

This is local bilingual poet, Siobhán Ní Dhomhnaill. She is also waiting to take part.

Now this is what happens. Your man (Sorry, I dont know his name ) interviews Siobhán. His questions and her answers are not broadcast to us. We are asked to observe her body language. He videos her responses. This video is broken into individual images and the troupe of dancers in the Dublin studio, observe these images and translate them spontaneously into dance moves. The video of their dancing is then projected for us onto the back wall of the alley by the magic of technology.


Trees, Handballers Fundraising for an upgrade

Carrigafoyle Castle by Breda Ferris



Listowel is home to hundreds of beautiful trees and this leafy environment is reflected in many of the housing estate names. Here are two.

Cluain Doire literally means meadows of oak.


A Carpet of Daisies in Listowel’s Garden of Europe

Our new awareness of the role of wild flowers has led to sights like this, hundreds of daisies and buttercups among the grasses.


If we only had a four walled court

(Junior Griffin)

Scoil Realt na Maidine as we know it today was opened in 1959 and Halla Bhriain Mhic Mhathúna, the school hall. was built on the site of the old school and opened in 1961.

The Handball Club was one of the first customers to use the hall. They ran a series of Whist Drives on Sunday nights. They also secured a Sunday night to run a “monster” whist drive in Walsh’s Super Ballroom during the season of Lent. The committee of those years was very active in fundraising with the burning aim of raising sufficient funds to build a four walled handball court in Listowel.

Between 1961 and 1965 the club held 27 meetings and 5 A.G.M.s. They also held one EGM.

The one recurring theme in all of these meetings was the hope and ambition to build a a four wall championship handball alley in Listowel.

The minutes of these meetings record many details of fundraising, deputations to the the local government T.D. , a meeting with Listowel UDC, letters to the National Handball Organisation and to the GAA.

Promises were made and encouragement given but the heartfelt dream of a new alley for the members of that time was never realised.

The sale of membership cards to player and “social” members continued.

In 1961 124 cards at 2/6 each were sold, 77 in 1962, 103 in 1963 and only 63 in 1964 as the dream of ever achieving the championship court was fading.


Greenway Bridge

Emma O’Flynn took this photo for us of the new bridge at Kilmeaney.


One to Ponder


Handball in the 1950s and a Trip Home

Schiller in Listowel’s Garden of Europe in June 2021


New Path

Upgrading the entrance to Childers’ Park Listowel in summer 2021
How it looks today


Listowel Handball Alley, June 2021

Handballers Scattered

Junior Griffin remembers that after the war Listowel was hit by mass emigration. Some of those who emigrated were handballers. The 1950s , however saw a resurgence in the fortunes of Listowel Handball Club.

Along with the experience John Joe Kenny, Dick O’Connor, Kevin Sheehy, Jackie Fitzgibbon, Tim Shanahan and Mick Glynn, new enthusiasts such as Dermot Buckley, Tom Enright, Kieran O’Shea, Gene and JJ O’Connell, Junior and Bert Griffin, Thomas Hassett, Johnny O’Halloran, John Maher, Aidan Keane, Richard (Dick) Galvin, Joe Moriarty, Danny Enright, Darby Broderick, Tony O’Connor, Frankie White and John Keane began taking the game seriously

Tournaments were again commenced and an approach was made to Frank Sheehy, chairman ion the Gaelic Weekly newspaper to ask him to sponsor the singles tournament.

The first final of the Gaelic Weekly Shield tournament was an all family affair with Junior Griffin overcoming his brother, Bert in a close final.

Junior receiving his trophy from Fank Sheehy
in May 2021 Junior showed me his framed photo of Frank Sheehy presenting him with his trophy.

At the same tournament when Junior took the senior title, Breandán ÓMurchú took the junior one. I think it says something about both these men and their great love of handball they keep framed photographs of their most memorable moments in their houses.

Junior remembers that one of the main features in those years of the late fifties and early sixties was the immense interest in handball shown by the students in St. Michael’s College. Boys like Brendan O’Shea, Michael Enright, the four Murphy brothers, Batty Hannon, Eamon O’Brien, Tony Dillon, John Fitzgerald, Cyril Kelly, Seamus Browne, Bernie Murphy, Chas Chute, Brendan and Denis Quille, Buddy Scanlon, Jimmy and Michael O’Sullivan and Kieran Hayes brought a wonderful freshness to the club.


Finally a Trip Home

I’ve missed being able to visit my childhood home during lockdown. However when I visited recently, it was a bit of a Marie Celeste experience. In the fine weather everyone is in the fields.

Sunny day in the old homestead
An old milk churn is repurposed as a plant pot.
deserted yard on a sunny day in May 2021
Even the stables were empty

Carnivals, The Alley and Hannah Mulvihill

Church Street, Listowel, May 2021


In The Magic Hour

On June 18 2021, Listowel’s handball alley will come to life again with a projected interpretive dance display and interview session at dusk, 9.30p.m..

For many it will bring back the old days and the magic of the handball competitions that were the lifeblood of this place.

Here are some more of Junior Griffin’s memories.

In the days when there were 240 old pence to the pound, we would secure and old penny in some way.

After early morning mass on Sunday we would pay a visit to a lovely lady, Mrs Dowling. She lived about a mile or so out in Woodford and she had an orchard. She would sell us 8 or 10 apples for our penny and we would get back to the alley as fast as possible to sell the apples. The aim was to make four old pence. Anything more than that was a bonus and would ensure the price of the apples for the following Sunday.

When the magical four pence was made, our hearts were aglow. It meant 2 pence for the Sunday matinee and 2 pence worth of Cleeve’s slab toffee “in the fist”.

For the 2 pence 4 squares of slab toffee was purchased from Miss Eily Sheehy (sister of Frank Sheehy) of Upper Church Street. She had a little cutter for the purpose and cut off 4 squares in one piece.

Off we went across the road to the Plaza for the film. We used to break the toffee into four pieces by banging it off the metal chair legs. Inevitably some pieces of toffee would fall to the floor. The word hygiene was not in our vocabulary at that time. A quick wipe off the short pants and into the mouth as soon as possible. Our week was made. we really wanted nothing else….

Hear Junior tell this story in his own words and listen to Charlie Nolan relive the good old days in the recordings made by Coiscéim as part of this project.

In Your Own Words

By chance I passed by the ball alley on my walk on Saturday and there was a sight that would gladden Junior’s heart. A lovely lad who told me his name is Ethan Tritschler was practising badminton.

Remember the name. He looked to me like a very promising young player.


The Carnival

Do you remember when we used to have carnival? they were a highlight of the urban Ireland summer social calendar. This one was in Kanturk in 1956 but everywhere had them, complete with Carnival Queen and ladies in waiting.


Hannah Mulvihill, An Exceptional Lady

Hannah with me at the launch of my book, A Minute of Your Time in St. John’s in 2019

Hannah Mulvihill

Hannah Mulvihill has been volunteering with St. Vincent de Paul, Listowel Conference since 2004. Hannah worked at Imperial Stag for 31 years. She was made redundant when the company went into liquidation. For the first time in her life she had time on her hands. 

She was shopping one day in Super Valu when she was approached by Betty Quille. She said that Hannah’s name had been mentioned at a recent meeting of St. Vincent de Paul as someone who may like to volunteer. She attended the weekly meeting the very next week and she joined straight away. She became involved in the St. Vincent de Paul shop on William Street and she has made many friends there over the years.

Hannah has seen many changes in SVP over the past years. Last year, 2020,  has been the most challenging. She is glad that the Meals on Wheels service continued uninterrupted. Two ladies, Val and Martina, who work part-time  prepare and cook the lunches and have them ready to be delivered by a team of very dedicated volunteers. Hannah is very thankful to this dedicated group who worked continuously throughout the pandemic.

The shop on Upper William Street, unfortunately, had to close but is thankfully now re-opened. It has a large stock of lovely clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, bedding, pictures, jewellery. and much more. Much of the stock is new or good as new. It would be well worth anyone’s while to drop in and maybe bag yourself a bargain.

Hannah comes from a family of ten. She is well used to putting a shoulder to the wheel. Growing up in the forties and fifties was difficult. Hannah went to London after her Inter Cert. There she hoped to get a job and so ease the burden for her parents. She travelled to London with her aunt who was returning after a trip home. She lived with her aunt until she got married.

Her first Monday in London, Hannah was at home on her own and decided to set  off and explore her new surroundings. She came upon a branch of Barclays Bank and decided to go in to enquire about applying for a job. They were most helpful. They didn’t have an application form but they promised to ask head office to send her one. The form arrived. Hannah filled it in and sent it back by return post. She was called for interview and was successful. She was offered training. After her training she went to work in Barclay’s Wimbledon Hill branch. Hannah also worked at Kenco Coffee Company for a few years. She met her husband, Martin at a dance in The Hibernian Club, Fulham, Broadway and they were married in 1966. They came back to Listowel in 1973.

Hannah and Martin have one daughter, three grandchildren and two great grandsons in Canada.


Best Listowel News of the Weekend

Picture tells its own story on June 12 2021. Photo credit: Listowel Pitch and Putt Club


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