Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shels heroes of yesteryear

No.14 Tosh Moher

Shels’ fall from grace into the First Division for the season 1986-1987 lasted but a single year as they bounced straight back up again like a big bouncy football club.
It was around this time, the wizened old supporters say, that a man stepped out of the mists of obscurity and into the light; a man that would prove to be the saviour of Shels fans who had hitherto spent many weeks trudging painstakingly from one away match to the next; a man whose name is so hallowed in the history of Shelbourne Football Club, that many supporters genuflect when uttering his name. That man is Tosh Moher.
It would be no exaggeration to say that Tosh is probably the greatest person who ever lived. His omission from the current Greatest Irish person of all Time competition, currently showing on RTE, is a travesty that has had Bono and Mary Robinson squirming with embarrassment. Maybe the producers felt it would be a shoe-in?
Up to the mid eighties, away travel to matches had been one hard logistical slog. Remember this was a time of no mobile phones and no computers and if you needed to know the times of the trains to Waterford on a Sunday afternoon, you had to run down to Heuston and check the timetable.
Many fans chose to hitch-hike around the country or to ride asses and mules, as trains were infrequent and unreliable. Places like Ballybofey and Newcastlewest weren’t even on the train line and the CIE bus up to Donegal (via Sligo) often took in excess of 36 hours.
Then Tosh Moher came riding into Tolka on a white steed, his moustache flowing in the wind. He devised the revolutionary theory of ‘organising a bus’ to travel to away games. People gasped in amazement at the boldness of the scheme, though Ollie was heard to mutter that “it’s so crazy, it might just work.”
But Tosh was undeterred. Undeterredness has always been his greatest asset and when he finally shuffles off this mortal coil, he will be canonised as the patron saint of the undeterred. Using a phone and a phone book in tandem – rumour has it, that he would look up a number in one and then dial it on the other – he contacted private bus companies, looking for quotes. Thus was Tosh Travel born.
It is hard to believe that today’s multinational transport company once started out from such humble beginnings. Ireland at the time was inhabited by dark marauding savages and it was often incumbent on the passengers to stop in Harry’s of Kinnegad to take on provisions. Even if you were going to Dundalk or Kilkenny, a stop in Harry’s was a must. Today of course, Tosh Travel refuels at places as diverse as Urlingford and Monaghan and stopping at Kinnegad is no longer mandatory on the way to and from matches.
Of course, there have been many travel incidents that have gone down into folklore. Who could forget the story about one supporter who left his scarf on the bus when getting off at Leixlip and had to pick it up from Tosh the following Friday? Or the supporter on the way down to Limerick who had to request the driver to stop at a convenient hedge to relieve himself? Or the fan who was so slow coming out of Flancare Park, he nearly missed the bus home? This is indeed the stuff of legend.
And of course, the man himself! What can be said about this colossus that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? His ability to judge the exact arrival time at grounds to within fifteen or twenty minutes is well-known but how many people know that he once refused a third pint in Mallow on the way down to a match against Cork Unshakables? Or that he once missed a match back in 1991?
Such is the aura that now exists around this great man that many of our younger supporters now seriously doubt whether he even exists, this transportation guru of the past twenty years. Older supporters will claim to have met him, even talked to him, though few will admit to having understood his reply.
He is without a doubt.

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