Friday, June 11, 1993

Cuddy Chanders

Patrick Chanders, son of a gravedigger, spent his working life as a malt house man in Minch Nortons Maltings. He died in 1980 aged 72 years. Few would recognise in those bald statement of fact a man known to legions as a quite unassuming man who in September 1935 was the focus of national attention as the "Cuddy" Chanders affair unfolded. For it was as "Cuddy" that he was known throughout his life and it was as the County Kildare goalkeeper deprived of a possible All Ireland medal in 1935 that followers of Gaelic Football will recall his name.

Cuddy was born in Athy in 1908 and his sporting involvement began with Barrow Rovers, a local soccer team with whom he played in the late 1920's. Playing colleagues included Ned Ward, Johnny Kelly, Johnny Doyle, Chevit Doyle, Toss Carr, Jim Eaton and Paddy Looney. With the break up of Barrow Rovers, Cuddy began an association with Athy Gaelic Football Club which soon brought him to the notice of the County selectors.

He played in goal for the Athy Club when winning Senior Championship Medals in 1933 and 1934. Chosen for the County Senior team in 1934 he played his first inter-County game in Portlaoise on the 26th of November when he foiled the best efforts of the Laois forwards. Throughout the National League campaign he occupied the goalkeeping position on the Kildare team on six occasions playing in his home town of Athy on the 17th of February, 1935 when Kildare defeated Mayo.

The first match of the All Ireland series of 1935 for County Kildare was played in Tullamore on the 7th of July when Kildare defeated Laois 1-9 to 0-3 in the Leinster semi-final. The Leinster final played in Croke Park on the 28th of July saw Kildare defeat Louth on the score 0-8 to 0-6. In the All Ireland semi-final against Mayo on the 25th of August Kildare were again victorious winning 2-4 to 0-7.

No goals had been scored against Cuddy Chanders in the three Championship matches leading up to the All Ireland final which was scheduled for the 22nd of September. Cuddy was one of three Athy players expected to be on the County team for the All Ireland final, the others being Paul Matthews and Tommy Mulhall.

The 1935 All Ireland Championship saw the introduction of collective training, a concept which was then foreign to the purists of Gaelic football. The Kildare players trained for weeks prior to the semi final and final in Oakley Park, Celbridge at an expense which was to plunge the Kildare County Board into debt for many years afterwards. The sporting world and particularly the supporters of the Lily Whites were astonished by the news released a few days before the All Ireland final that Chanders was dropped for the match. He was to be replaced by James Maguire who had never previously played in the goal keeping position.

Athy Gaelic Football Club met in emergency session and sent a telegram of protest to the County Board. The local Club justifiably felt that there was no logical reason for Chanders to be dropped and the suspicion grew that certain members of the County Board, over confident of Kildare winning the All Ireland, were anxious for Maguire to have the honour rather than Chanders.

It is not known what effect the controversy surrounding the Chanders affair had on team morale and performance on the match day. However, Cavan who had been beaten by Kildare earlier in the season were to deprive the Kildare men of their expected victory and ran out easy winners 3-6 to 2-5. This was to be County Kildare's last appearance in an All Ireland Final and Cuddy who was sub on that day had local Club members Jim Fox and Barney Dunne on the substitute's bench with him.

The bitterness felt over the dropping of Chanders was reinforced by the unexpected defeat of the Kildare men and local newspapers for weeks afterwards carried letters from disgruntled followers which sought to lay the blame for the County's loss on the dropping of Cuddy Chanders.

Maguire was himself dropped after another three matches when the goal tally against him showed twelve goals in four games. Cuddy returned to the County colours on the 24th of November, 1935 in a League game against the All Ireland Champions Cavan. He continued to play for Kildare until the following year when he appears to have temporarily given up Gaelic football. He was to be replaced on Athy's senior team by Johnny McEvoy who was himself to be the County Kildare goalkeeper between 1937 and 1939.

Cuddy was to have one final involvement with Gaelic games when in the first round of the 1942 Senior Championship he played in goal for Athy due to the temporary indisposition of the regular goalkeeper. The Club went on to win the 1942 Senior Championship and a special medal was presented to Cuddy for his part in the Club's success.

He was later actively involved in establishing Athy A.F.C. in 1948 and in 1978 during the inaugural Athy Festival Cuddy Chanders was honoured by being appointed the first Lord Mayor of Athy.

He was a gentle and likeable man who despite being cruelly deprived of the great honour of playing for his County in an All Ireland Final in Croke Park never expressed any bitterness over the events of 1935.

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