John Barron

The following was a tribute paid to De La Salle’s John Barron on his greatest achievement in 1959.

HURLING RIVALRY has always been keen between the people who live on the Kilkenny and Water¬ford banks of the tidal reaches of the Suir. Indeed, for that fact, every one of the 73,000 spectators who watched the drawn game between the stars in white and blue and the stylists in black and amber on the first Sunday of September may well be grateful. Waterford being the market town for south Kilkenny it is inevitable that there should be many close links between the two counties, links which make rivalry, especially in sport, all the more keen. Kilkenny hurling connoisseurs, and they are many, claim that among the men who are their greatest stumbling-blocks on the present Waterford team there are at least three with Kilkenny blood in their vein s--Tom Cheasty, Martin Og Morrissey, and the man who is our Pioneer Sports Star for this month -- John Barron.

De La Salle Boy

John is one of a family of eight, a brother and no less than six sisters turning out to cheer him in Croke Park on Final Day. His father, like Martin Morrissey's, is a native of Tullogher, a south Kilkenny parish which, strangely enough, is more concerned with football than hurling; that the fathers of two of the players on a team which so greatly enhanced Waterford's hurling prestige should come from a non-hurling area has not escaped the notice of those who are still discussing that wonderful game of September 6th. John Barron was born in Waterford in 1935 and began his hurling career with the school which in recent years has become one of the greatest nurseries of hurling and football in the Suir-side seaport, De La Salle College. When first tie caught my eye he was wearing the De La Salle colours; John was that day playing at mid-field in the Harty Cup competition, and to such good effect that he won his place on the Munster inter-provincial College side which won the Schools' All Ireland Cup in 1953. The Munster selectors, however, decided that he was a better defender than mid-fielder and placed him at right-full back and it is in the full-back line that John Barron has won the bulk of the hurling honours that have since come his way.

Promotion

He was barely in his twenties when he was promoted, in 1955, to the Waterford senior side, taking over at left-corner back from no less an exponent of the game than the great Jackie Goode ot Dungarvan; though success did not come immediately to John Barron his reputation as a hurler steadily grew throughout Munster and the adjoining counties. In 1957, when the present Waterford team really forged ahead, Barron began to come into his own. He was possibly the outstanding defender on the side that vanquished one Munster team after another to win the southern crown for the first time in nine years, and then, by defeating Galway in a hectic encounter in Croke Park, qualified to meet Kilkenny in that year's final. It is hurling history now how Kilkenny beat Waterford in the closing stages of the 1957 Final, one of the most thrilling ever played in Croke Park. It was no fault of John Barron's that his father's county-men triumphed over Waterford that day, for he played one of the best defensive games ever seen. In the Oireachtas Final of the same year he again played with a losing Waterford team but had some recompense in being selected to play at left full-back on the victorious Munster side, winners of the Railway Cup in 1958; this position he retained on the again victorious Munster team of 1959; in addition he was picked on the Rest of Ireland fifteen that fielded out against the All-Ireland champ¬ions. In' 1958, John Barron was between the Waterford goal-posts filling a gap in an early round of the championships, but he was in his customary position, left-full when his side lost their Munster title disastrously to Tipperary in Thurles, This set-back, which might have discouraged a less-determined team, only made the Waterford men all the more set on winning back lost prestige. They battled magnificently through last winter's League campaign and qualified for the final of that competition with a trip to New York at stake, against the same Tipperary team to whom they had lost the Munster crown. Again Barron hurled a wonderful game; again the hurlers from the Decies lost. Yet they set out grimly determined as ever on the trail of championship honours. This time the critics were silenced when Waterford had runaway victories, first over Galway, then over the champions, Tipperary.

Star Of Munster

When Waterford won the Munster Final of 1959, defeating Cork--plus Christy Ring himself, John Barron was again starring in the defence. Now a seasoned player, his outstanding qualities as a hurler were evident to all. A long striker, right hand or left, with an instinct for fore-seeing and averting danger, Barron combines unusual agility with a remarkable speed of recovery. A stylist when occasion demands, he can stand his ground unflinchingly even in the heat of a Munster Final, which sometimes makes more demands on a hurler than even an All-Ireland Final. Thus we find John, for the second time in three seasons, up against the Kilkenny team again on September 6th last and playing no small part in making that drawn battle one of the classics of the game. They meet again on the first Sunday in October, when, perhaps, John Barron will win that elusive Senior All-Ireland medal which his whole-hearted play has so richly earned him.

Recreation

John plays an occasional game of handball by way of recreation. He is a clerical worker in the Clover Meats factory at Christendom -- a portion of Waterford actually in County Kilkenny. His team-mate, Martin Morrissey, is a fellow-worker in Clover, as are also such Kilkenny notables as John Sutton, Paddy Buggy -- who figured as our Pioneer Sports Star last month -- and former All-Ireland star, Bobby Hincks, one of the mentors of the Kilkenny side. At the age of twenty-four, John is still only at the start of his hurling career, and Waterford should not have to seek for a new left full-back for many a year to come. He is a Pioneer of whom not merely the Waterford Centre, but all the Association, may well be proud-- a Pioneer since his schooldays in De La Salle.

 

Note

The above article on John Barron (RIP) appeared in the Pioneer Magazine of Sept 1959 (just before the All Ireland replay). John Barron went on to become the first and only De La Salle man to win an All Ireland Senior Hurling Medal having played in three finals 1957,1959 and 1963. John became a household name in the late 50’s and early 60’s and won four Railway Cup Medals playing with Munster.

 

However he always remained loyal to his beloved De La Salle and served in numerous administrative roles within the club. He won county minor football, junior football, senior football, junior hurling, intermediate hurling and Seargant Cup medals as a player and still found time to train some of the great juvenile teams to represent the club during the 60’s.To the very end John remained a dedicated and loyal De La Salle man until he passed away in 2008 (just months before the club won our first Senior Hurling Title). His family have also remained loyal De La Salle supporters and his son Donal is a current member of our Intermediate Hurling Squad and was a selector on the successful Under 21 Team of 2013.