May 29, 1992
Wexford's Martin Storey with Westmeath All Star David Kilcoyne
Westmeath hurling's great survivor
It's been a stormy ride over the last half a dozen years for all involved in promoting the cause of Westmeath hurling. Having sped through the divisions in turbo charged fashion in the mid eighties, the increasingly choppy waters turned exceptionally nasty, after drowning their dreams of a permanent residency alongside the aristocrats of Division One. It proved a chastening experience for all abroad the previously buoyant Westmeath steamship. Few survived the experience, in truth. One who did and has sailed on even rougher seas since the county's best known hand, one David Kilcoyne.
Up north, the Donnelly's of Antrim are a renowned hurling species. To the west, the Connolly's still command respect while few families have had as big an impact on their county's sporting prowess as those with the surname of Fennelly of the Kilkenny ilk. To the list one can add the Kilcoyne clan of Westmeath fame. Mavericks of the ingenious brand. Hurlers, whose innate skills have have adorned Westmeath's more tastier servings over the last dozen years and more.
The Kilcoyne's have always represented the classier side of Westmeath hurling , that indefinable touch of artistry and extra slice of undiluted skill. Where once there were five (briefly) of the clan on the county team at the same time, nowadays David, the second youngest, is the only representative on the current county panel. In many ways a sole survivor, in many other ways still the flagship of Westmeath hurling. As the 1992 season crashes, hurtles and speeds its way on to terra firma, David Kilcoyne finds the going increasingly tougher. Despite the fact that he is at 30 years of age, he's still relatively young for an amateur sportsman, the Ringtown, county and inter provincial star seems to have been riding the tackles, shipping the hefty wallops and guiding the ball between the posts for a lot longer than his years would suggest. David Kilcoyne, has in fact being playing his considerable craft on behalf of his beloved Westmeath over the course of three decades now. Ever since making his debut in a National League match back in 1979, the telecom technician has been adding his own special brand of fizz into the Westmeath cocktail. Though he might try to tell you otherwise, there's no evidence to suggest that the Kilcoyne input has has become somewhat flat.
A certain degree of uneasiness can be detected from the county Longford based star when quizzed about his flair for slicing the sticks even when all around him are struggling to gain the confidence to copy him. A mild degree of amnesia, one suspects you perhaps the game of hurling does to its artisans after three decades of wear and tear.
Left without any semblance of a self publicist before you, research and your own objective assessment of the interview often make good substitutes in the absence of egoism. The past Christmas match reports the newspapers spelt it out in banner headlines, anyway. Once again a Kilcoyne figured prominently in the black and bold print of the match summaries. Pre Christmas spelt rest. Post Christmas spelt revelation.
He's a hardy warrior. Troublesome knee injuries (one operation followed another) and more recently a dodgy back allied to leg muscle trouble meant that wisdom, for once, got the better of valour in his decision to stagger his playing season, the first time he did so since taking his place on the Westmeath panel thirteen years ago. The younger brother of Michael, Padraic and James (he's older than Sean), David's return to duty marked a dramatic upturn in his county's Division Two League fortunes. Carlow's November 17th 0-12 to 0-8 victory over Westmeath rocked Westmeath hurlers back on their heels. It represented a rare victory for Carlow hurlers over their Westmeath counterparts. Significantly Westmeath's most consistent marksman wasn't on duty that day.
Married to Jacqueline (nee Peppard), a Ballinalack lass (the couple have three children, Aimee, Niall and Darren), the Ringtown ace made his mark in no uncertain matter in Westmeath's games after the winter break. A modest five point tally was recorded in early March in the 3-12 to 1-10 victory over Roscommon. That personal tally was doubled in a four star performance by Kilcoyne in his county's ten point win over Kerry later that month. Even at that, better was to come. Shades of Westmeath circa '86/'87 were to be resurrected in the county's win over emerging Derry. Neither Michael nor Sean were there to add their skills as in the county's hitherto halcyon days, but, in truth, they weren't needed by David and his colleagues at the end of the day. A brilliant second half display by the 5'11"- twelve and a half stone attacker extricated a win from apparent certain defeat. Westmeath played with considerable passion and physical power on that April day but it was the inexhaustible hunger, stamina and craft of Messr. Kilcoyne, which represented the difference essentially in Westmeath's one goal victory.
An All-Ireland 'B' Championship medal winner last year when Carlow were the vanquished, he's one of the few Westmeath players still providing a link with what some observers have cruely labelled as the "one hit wonders" who made such an impact n the hurling world on their way to the top division. The current Westmeath is, it much be recognised, far removed from that which represented the county some five of six seasons ago but the sifting and tuning of the subsequent talent flow promises much.
A county Championship Senior medalist with Ringtown in 1980 and '87 and an Under 21 Championship winners medal to boot, David Kilcoyne insists that the current county squad is far from a lost cause, as many scribes would have the country believe. He admits that in recent years the team have, at times, looked all at sea but he firmly believes its a long way off being shipwrecked.
"When the team were relegated from Division One and went down to Division Three, the causes were effected by the blow to their morale but a certain element of interest and commitment was lost also. I believe that that keenness is back. The minors look to be a very promising side and the Under 21's have shown the right attitude so far. I'm definitely more optimistic now than I have been for Westmeath hurling for a few years," the present Ringtown trainer declared.
A former county Minor footballer, the fourth eldest son of Patrick and Ann Kilcoyne reflects on the rapid breakup of the Tom Donohoe trained Westmeath side rather than futile sentimentalism. "Emigration played a major part in the subsequent struggles of the team as they slipped out of Division One. Players like Noel Fitzsimons and Dinny McCormack retired also to add to the slide. I suppose a couple a couple of hidings we got around that time against Kilkenny in the Championship and League really put the seal on our fall". Amazingly David had little or no run outs Underage runouts " there were no underage teams at the Ringtown in my day" but watching the training wiles of big brother Michaels was all the experience he needed to edge his way onto the club Senior side at sixteen years of age. David followed Michael's career at Thomond College, even even to the extent of cheering him, Pat Spillane and Co. to a Sigerson Cup football title. These days the ex-midfielder Michael, wing forward Sean and the rest of Kilcoyne clan follow David's exploits.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
29th May 1992
Most Read Stories