What’s in a name? – The GAA’s obsession with peculiar monikers

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As a race we have almost an obsession with shortening the names our parents slaved over to give us. At times it is light-hearted, funny or even agreeable, but the christenings seem all in vain as we get tagged with another title to carry around.

Indeed, many people are more often than not recognised by their nickname in the GAA with characters like “Babs” Keating, ‘Brick’ Walsh, ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer etc.. and with many clubs and counties having lads and girls of the same surname sometimes a nickname is all they had to distinguish them.

I was alerted to this topic only recently when in conversation with my daughter. She was having a browse through some website and began laughing heartily about a young fella whose name was Enda May and he was called “June” by his mates. It got me thinking of some of the stranger, and maybe not so strange titles, bestowed on people over the years.

For years any big full forward in any club was simply known as “Bomber” after the great Eoin Liston. Anybody called Clarke was “Nobby”, a Maguire was “Molly”, the tallest player was called “Stretch” or “Lofty” or “Lurch” and the smallest “Butty” or “Titch” and many others too numerous to mention. It differed from the mundane way that our cross channel neighbours simply added Y or IE making “Scholesy” or “Brucie” (although my personal favourite was the Neville Sisters)

We Irish have a wicked sense of humour and many nicknames were parodies or even true stories about a player or team that were embellished in the clubhouse bar after a game. My own club had a player who was called “Chernobyl”, because he was considered a disaster! Another local lad was called “Chili” just because his surname was Carney!!!

Many famous GAA players have stories behind their moniker, John Troy from Offaly was known as “Sally” for his fondness of Harp Lager (Sally O’Brien and the way she might look at ya). As for the Lawn Twins from Tyrone, Chris was a defender so he was known as “Back Lawn” while Stephen was in the forwards so therefore known as “Front Lawn”. The “Ice Cream Twins” Ben and Jerry O’Connor came from Newtownmountshandrum, of course Shane “Cake” Curran and my own favourite Timmy ‘The Towel ‘ Ryan from Tipperary, who was a sub but was thrown in when the game was well and truly lost.

While it is a badge of honour (or dishonour in some cases) players have been titled with some very humorous titles over the years. A Kerry footballer was called “Pooch” because he was a pudgy version of the “Gooch”, a very famous Meath footballer was called “Pothole” because he was to be avoided at all costs, a Galway hurler was named “Brunch” rather unkindly because of his ongoing acne problem. An Antrim player was called “Shergar” because he was never to be found and a Mayo dual star was called “Suitcase” because the wife threw him out after every row.

I’m sure there are many more, too numerous to mention so feel free to add your own and maybe give the background behind the naming, but I will leave you with one of my own particular faves which is not a GAA player at all. Seemingly golfer Colin Montgomerie was known as “Mrs Doubtfire”!!!

I will let you draw (or name) your own conclusions.

Paul Doolin