Thursday, December 12, 1996

Rheban Football Club

He was a very persuasive man. This was expected given his day job as an Insurance Agent. However Tom Moore did not have to give too much encouragement to his young neighbour in Offaly Street on the day that he first broached the subject of playing football with Rheban Club. After all Tom was the long serving Secretary of the rural Club first formed in 1929 and his listener was an eager if unpolished player of the Gaelic code who up to then had plied his skills with the Athy Club. I was no great catch for the Rheban Club but nevertheless the relevant Transfer Forms were passed to the County Board and I was free to line out in Tierney's field with Rheban Gaelic Football Club.

The only other times I had ventured out into the Rheban area was when I accompanied my father and my brothers to our plot in the bog. The plot in fact was not ours at all but apparently my father had for many years rented one of the many banks available for cutting turf. With my brothers I was employed in what for a very young lad was back-breaking work of footing and stacking the sods of turf which would later provide the winter warmth in our house in Offaly Street.

But to return to Tierney's field, it was to be found on the right hand side just over the Railway Bridge leading to the bog. It was there for one season that I played my football, travelling to and from Athy by bicycle accompanied by Michael and Willie Moore, my friends from Offaly Street and sons of the Club Secretary Tom Moore. Success did not mark my efforts in the Rheban jersey and I was soon to return to the town team but not before I had acquired a life-long interest in the rural Club which this year has achieved remarkable success on the football field.

The Club's successes in 1966 read like a football litany. Junior A Champions, winners of the Jack Higgins Cup, Minor B Champions, Junior League Division III winners and Special Club Award Winners for 1996.

The founders of the Club would have been justifiably proud. It was on the 6th of February 1929 that a group of men gathered in a field in Rheban intent on forming their own football club. County Kildare had won two successive All Irelands in 1927 and 1928 and understandably every young man in the County wanted to emulate the feats of such great footballers as Larry Stanley and Jack Higgins.

The first Club Chairman was John Moore and his younger brother Tom was appointed Secretary and Treasurer. Tom was to remain in that position for over 50 years, the longest serving Club Secretary in the County, if not in Ireland. The cricket field in Rheban was the venue for the Club's early practice games while Mary Moore's field in Rheban was used for inter-club games. Rheban won its very first game of football when playing in Geraldine Park, Athy, against opposition provided by Suncroft Club. The team on that occasion was Peter Taylor, Christy Myles, Owney Pender, Mick Hickey, Jack Kavanagh, Paddy Myles, Jack Foley, Willie Hutchinson, Mick Flynn, Jim Haughton, Tom Moore, John Moore, Christy Keane, Dick Tierney and Paddy Mooney. The Club Captain was Paddy Fitzpatrick, a former Athy Club player who had played with Co. Kildare in 1928.

Another Rheban player to wear the County jersey was Paddy Myles who was on the Kildare County Junior team which won the Leinster title in 1931. Paddy also played for County Kildare at right half-back position on the Senior team defeated by Kerry in the All Ireland final of 1931.

The newly formed Rheban Club was to suffer many disappointments before winning its first Championship in 1940. Before that it lost the 1937 Junior Final to Kilcock and in 1938 lost to Rathangan. The 1940 Final played between Rheban and Ardclough ended in a draw but in the subsequent replay Rheban Gaelic Football Club defeated their opponents on the score of 0-8 to 1-1 thus giving Rheban its first major success on the Gaelic football field. The team on that day included Alf Keane, Mick Hickey, Owney Pender, Tony Keogh, Mick McEvoy, Billy Marrum, Tom Hickey, Arthur Lynch, Hugh Owens, Pat Fitzpatrick, Paddy Myles, Jack Foley, Willie Moore, Jim Keane, Pat Connolly, John Cardiff, Bill Tierney and Joe Barry. It fell to an Athy man, Fintan Brennan, then Chairman of the Leinster Council, to present the medals to the victorious team. Further success soon followed and in 1942 the Club won the Intermediate Championship while on the Kildare Junior team of 1943 there were four Rheban Club players Arthur Lynch, Tom Hickey, Paddy Myles and Mick McEvoy. The post-War years were lean periods for Rheban and it was not until 1969 that the Club achieved further success when winning the Junior A Jack Higgins Cup. This was soon followed in the following year by success in the Intermediate Championship and in the League. Other notable successes by the Club down the years included a League win in 1985 and last year Rheban Gaelic Football Club won the U-16 B Championship and the U-16 League.

The success of the Club has been secured by the contribution of many young players and Club officials over the last 67 years. To Tom Moore, my old neighbour from Offaly Street, must go a substantial measure of the credit for keeping Rheban Club going through the good and bad times. Like myself he played Club football with Athy before joining Rheban but unlike my one year sojourn on Tierney's field Tom devoted the rest of his life to the Club he helped to establish. He was "Mr. Rheban" inspiring a great community of players and workers who down the years made Rheban one of the proudest Clubs in County Kildare.

This year the Club has achieved remarkable success on the playing field. Everyone involved in Gaelic games applaud their achievements. No doubt Tom and "Skinner" and all the other players who have passed to the other side are looking down today on their beloved Rheban basking in the limelight of the Club's hard won success.

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