Thursday, October 18, 2007

This sporting life in the 1930s

A scrapbook kept for over 30 years from the early 1930s provides the material for this week’s article. My attention was drawn to the many references in the book to sporting events involving Athy teams and sportsmen from the South Kildare town.

The first was a press report dated 5 April 1930 which, under the headline
Provincial Towns Cup Final, Athy v Wexford Wanderers, gave an account of the final played at Landsdowne Road in which the Athy team was W Keyes, TK Rossiter, GV Gibson, R McHugh, J Harvey, S McHugh, R Griffin, Jas Griffin, D Carbery, R Anderson, J Carbery, J Doyle, VM Gibson, T Maher and JB Maher.

The Athy team was playing that day in its second successful Provincial Towns Cup Final and at half time was behind by three points to nil. This, despite good play by S McHugh, his brother Des and full back W Keyes. Early in the second half, the Athy players made ground and R McHugh kicked ahead to put his team on the attack. Athy forwards, Griffin, Anderson and Griffin, were noted as ‘often prominent’. Despite good tackling by Keyes, the Wexford forward, Sheridan, went over for a try which remained unconverted. Persistent pressure by the Athy men led to a try by Carbery near the end, but again the kick at goal failed, to leave the final result six points to three in favour of Wexford Wanderers. Unfortunately, the press report does not clarify which of the Carbery brothers/cousins(?) scored the try for Athy.

A press photograph pasted into the scrap book showed the Athy rugby team which played and lost to Bective Rangers in what I believe was the same year, 1930. The names written by hand onto the photograph indicate some changes in personnel from the team which lost for the second year running the Provincial Towns Cup Final. I am interested in getting the full names of those on the rugby team and some background information on the individual players. If you can help, I would like to hear from you.

On Monday 26 May 1930, the Irish Independent carried a report of ‘The Athy 75’, a motor cycle race then in its sixth year, having been inaugurated in 1925. A handicap race, it attracted competitors from England and Ireland, all competing for the Dunlop Trophy, the Duthie Large Trophy and the Jackson and Melrose Trophy on offer for first, second and third placings over the 75-mile long course. The race, run off under the auspices of Athy Motorcycle and Car Club whose president was CW Taylor of Forest, started at Russellstown Cross and followed a roughly rectangular course taking in Fontstown Crossroads, Booleigh Crossroads and Tullagorey Crossroads before returning to Russellstown Cross. Under the headline Great Event with Thrilling Finish, the newspaper gave several column inches to the race, starting its report:“Seldom can there have been a race in which the finish was more in doubt right up to the moment the line was crossed than the motorcycle road race held by the Athy Motorcycle and Car Club Limited on Saturday afternoon last over a 9 _ mile circuit in the neighbourhood
of Athy. Until the winner actually flashed past the timing box, it was impossible to tell which one of at least four riders would secure the honour.

Almost from the first, as soon as the race had got properly going, one of the big handicapped men appeared to have the race well in hand, provided only he could keep going. Towards the middle of the race, he was regarded as a practical certainty. Then, however, it was noticed that he was being threatened from behind by two of the middle markers and then with only one more lap to go he pulled up at his pit with the engine obviously demanding attention.

His two pursuers roared through close together, hot on his now-slowing tracks but right behind them appeared a virtual scratch man travelling at a tremendous speed. One of these four was bound to win, but nobody could say which. It was a marvellous tussle and a wonderful bit of handicapping.”

A short separate piece reported the death of Peter Mooney of 72 Manor Street, Dublin, one of the race competitors who died from injuries received when his motor bike crashed at Fontstown Crossroads. He was the second competitor to die during the course of the Athy 75, as in the previous year Harry Sargeant of Naas, who worked locally in an Athy shop, was killed off his machine at the Moat of Ardscull.

Shortly after the 1930 race concluded, CW Taylor on behalf of the Athy Club indicated that the race would not be held again. I understand that an attempt was made around 1933 to revive the race, but without success and the following year Athy Motorcycle and Car Club ceased to exist. Whatever happened to the records of the club, which was once one of the most prominent car clubs in Ireland in its day?

I’d like to hear from anyone who has any memorabilia relating to the Athy Motorcycle and Car Club or the races, including the Athy 75 which the club organised between 1925 and 1930.

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