Thursday, November 6, 2003

Castlemitchell Gaelic Football Club - 50th Anniversary

Last week many of the survivors of the Castlemitchell winning team of 1953 were guests of honour at a club celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of the club’s first success in county championship football.  The club had its origins in the late 1930’s and it’s generally agreed that the Wexford man, Bill Paire, who was then working in the area, played a big part in the initial stages of the club’s formation.  It was Bill who ordered the set of white football jerseys from M.G. Nolan of Duke Street in which the players, known locally as the “Sandpits”, togged out for their first matches.  These were tournament games played in Geraldine Park, Athy and “friendly” matches against other rural teams from the area.  After a year or so of such games they were encouraged by Fintan Brennan, District Court Clerk in Athy and a member of the Kildare County Board to affiliate and on so doing Castlemitchell entered a team for the Kildare Junior Championships.  The first team selected to play for Castlemitchell in a junior championship match included Jim Hendy, P.J. Hughes, Joe Bermingham, James Donnelly, Christy Myles, Bill Donnelly, Tim Fennin, Tom Donnelly, Jack Kelly, Pat Fennin, Mickey Myles, Peter Donnelly, Jim Connor, Jack Corcoran and Joe Luttrell.  Success eluded the club until it achieved its first victory on the playing field in a match played at the Bleeding Horse against near neighbours Rheban.

Castlemitchell Gaelic Football Club reached its first football final in 1943 when it contested the Junior Championship Final against Kilcullen.  That game ended in a draw and was not re-played until June of the following year when on the Ballitore pitch the Kilcullen men ran out relatively easy victors.  Another eight years were to pass before the men from Castlemitchell had another opportunity to win silver.  This time the Club was playing in the 1952 Intermediate Championship Final against Ballymore.  The match was played in Newbridge on 19th October, 1952 and again defeat was the sad lot of the South Kildare players who went under on the score of 1-8 to 1-6.  The following week the team returned to Newbridge to play in the 1952 Intermediate League Final against Kilcock and for the third time in a row were defeated in the last hurdle, this time on the score of 3-8 to 1-0.  Castlemitchell Gaelic Football Club seemed destined to be ever a bridesmaid and never the bride.  That team was trained by Bill Delaney and included Mick Donnelly, Jim Donnelly, Bill Donnelly, Tommy Donnelly, Peter Donnelly, Josh Hendy, Eddie Conway, Tommy Comerford, Joe Comerford, Danny Flood, Pa May, Peadar Dooley, John Bradley, Paddy Redmond and Danny Shaughnessy.

A change in the officers of the club occurred at the end of 1952.  Jim Connor, one of the players on the early Castlemitchell teams and Club Secretary from 1939 to 1952, emigrated to England.  His place as Secretary was taken by Joe Bermingham, while Josh Hendy on retiring from the playing panel took up the position of Club Chairman.  In no way disheartened by the defeats of 1952 Castlemitchell set out with ambitions to win some silverware the following year.  By now the team had lost Danny Flood who played full back on the Kildare Senior team.  New members on the 1953 team included Jimmy Curtis, Mossy O’Reilly and Brenny O’Reilly who joined five of the legendary Donnelly brothers, together with Paddy Redmond, Peadar Dooley, Tommy Comerford, Joe Comerford, Ned Conway, Pa May and Pashal Myles.  This was the team which in October 1953, almost twelve months to the day following the defeat of the previous year, brought the Intermediate Championship title to the rural club nestling on the borders of Kildare and Laois.  The famous victory, the club’s first success in a County Final, was achieved after a titanic struggle extending over three matches in the semi-final against Naas Gaelic Football Club.  The final was played in Newbridge on 18th October 1953 against Young Emmett’s, a team based near the Curragh.  Victory fell to Castlemitchell on the scoreline of 3-4 to 0-4. 

Last week John Bradley and Cha Chanders who were both subs in 1953 joined teammates Peter Donnelly, Brenny O’Reilly, Ned Conway, Peadar Dooley, Tommy Comerford, John Donnelly, Mick Donnelly, Jimmy Curtis and Paschal Myles as guests of honour to commemorate the Club’s victory of 50 years ago.  Josh Hendy who was chairman in the year of the Club’s first County Championship Final win was also a guest of honour.

In the years that have passed several members of the 1953 panel have gone to their eternal award and their names were recalled with pride and sadness.   Paddy Redmond, Paddy Fennin, Tommy Donnelly, Joseph Comerford, Pa May, Jim Donnelly, Dan Shaughnessy, Mick Doogue and Bill Donnelly R.I.P.  Mossy O’Reilly who played in the 1953 Final composed a witty ballad with which to remember the deeds of the Castlemitchell players.  I end this Eye on the Past with Mossy O’Reilly’s victory song for the 1953 Intermediate Champions Castlemitchell.

Come listen all supporters where you may be
And I’ll sing for you a verse or two about our victory
And if you pay attention I won’t detain you long
While I tell to you the principals in this our victory song
On the 18th of October we went to Newbridge town
To play the great Young Emmett’s for the Intermediate crown
With all our men in the best of form each one was loyal and true
We showed those boys from Emmett’s what we could really do
Now here is to Mike Donnelly a hero on that day
And the Amer Bux he did his stuff and gave a grand display
Also Peadar Dooley he caught balls brave and high
And so did Tommy Comerford who’s better known as dry
Here’s to Jimmy Curtis the baby of our side
He kept balls to the forwards some were scored and some kicked wide
And also Brenny O’Reilly who starred it on the wing
And John Donnelly was outstanding and should be crowned as king
Now here’s to Tommy Donnelly and I know you’ll all agree
That he outplayed Joe Winders in this great victory
Also Joseph Comerford I’ll tell you one and all
He proved to all in Newbridge he’s good although he’s small
Here’s to our three half forward’s they starred it on the day
Ed Conway was outstanding and a star was Paddy May
And if they were in trouble they always thought to cross
To O’Reilly on the other wing who’s better known as Moss
God Bless our three full forwards they never missed a score
Peter Donnelly he’s our captain and he’s sixteen stone or more
And Pascal Myles he scored two goals a gallant lad is he
And Jim Donnelly waltzed right through their backs in this great victory
Now thanks to all our substitutes who stood upon the line
And if they had been called upon I’m sure they would do fine
As when Paddy May was injured when he increased our goals to three
He quickly was replaced that day by Danny Shaughnessy
Now to conclude and finish up I wont tell you any more
But next year we’ll be Senior and we’ll hit up Ballymore
So follow us to Newbridge where ever you may be
And we’ll win another final as we did in fifty three

By Mossy O’Reilly

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