Friday, March 5, 2010

Eye on the Past 744

Eddie Delahunt and Barney Dunne died during the past week. Their passing is a sad loss to a local community which was enriched by their contributions over many decades.

Eddie was a native of Athy, the son of Patsy Delahunt, a postman, and Kathleen Wright of neighbouring Castledermot. Barney was a Cavan man who came to Athy 75 years ago to work for Mrs. O'Meara in the family pub in Leinster Street. The Breffni man was a talented footballer and it was in the sporting sphere that Barney first made an impact when playing for Athy Gaelic Football Club. Barney was the sole survivor of the Athy senior teams which successfully contested the Kildare County Championship Finals in 1933, 1934, 1937 and 1942. He shared with the late Paul Matthews the distinction of being the only players to have contested all four county finals and both were the only Athy football players to have won four Kildare Senior Championship medals.

Eddie Delahunt was, like Barney Dunne, a member in his younger days of Athy Gaelic Football Club and played in the Kildare County Minor Championship finals of 1942 and 1943. Uniquely both finals were replayed following drawn matches and unfortunately Eddie and his teammates lost out on both occasions by two points. However, success marked Eddie's involvement at the Athy street league competitions in the early 1940's when playing for St. Josephs. His team reached the finals every year for the four years of the competition and victory was achieved twice, losing out in the other years to teams representing Barrack Street and the Starlights.

Barney Dunne's success on the football field gave him winners medals in the Leinster Leader Cup competitions of 1932 and 1936 and honours with his adopted county of Kildare when winning a Leinster Senior Championship medal in 1935. Kildare went on to contest the All-Ireland of that year and their opponents were Barney's county men, Cavan. It was a final which Kildare were expected to win, but controversy raised its head when Athy man, Cuddy Chanders, the team's regular goalkeeper, was left on the sideline to be replaced by an outfield player who had lost his place. Barney joined Athy players Cuddy Chanders and Jim Fox on the subs bench for that final when Kildare was captained by Paul Matthews of the Athy Football Club. Playing with Paul in that All Ireland Final was Athy Club mate Tommy Mulhall.

Barney played senior football for County Kildare between 1935 and 1937, but never again had the opportunity of playing in another All Ireland final. He retired from football following the 1942 County Championship Final which was won by Athy. I interviewed Barney many years ago and I recall him telling me that for a while he served as secretary of Athy Gaelic Football Club. I assume it was after he had retired from playing but even the redoubtable Cavan man could not pinpoint the years he occupied that prestigious position.

Eddie Delahunt spent his working life in his native town, starting off in Flemings Sawmills in Chapel Lane where he spent eight years. The sawmills like that of Blanchfields at the top of Leinster Street are long gone and nothing remains to remind us of the bustling activity which surrounded the everyday life of the local sawmills. Eddie left Flemings and went to work in Duthie Larges which was located across the lane from the sawmills. This was when Duthie Larges was one of the most substantial employers of male workers in the town of Athy. Like Flemings Sawmills, Duthie Larges is no more. Eddie was later employed in the local Asbestos factory where he spent three years before he started work in the Wallboard factory and where he remained until it closed in the mid-1970's. His final work place was Canada Dry factory where he was employed for eight years before retiring at the age of 65 years. During this time Eddie was a member of Athy Fire Brigade, as was his father Patsy before him and during his almost 40 years fire service he served with men such as Tom Langton, Jack Webster, Christy Dunne, Matt McHugh and many more fine men whose names are not recorded here. All of these men and their colleagues were an important part of the community fabric of Athy during the 1940's and later, contributing to and participating in many activities in the town. Eddie was a member of the swimming pool committee which gave Athy its first swimming pool. He was also a member, and sadly the last of the original members, of the Marian Shrine Committee which in 1954 erected a shrine at the town end of St. Joseph's Terrace.

Barney Dunne spent a lifetime in the bar trade, firstly in O'Meara's and then moving to Kelly's of Leinster Street before he acquired Ned Carroll's pub in Duke Street in 1945. It was there that Barney was to be seen up to recent years standing occasionally in the doorway watching the passing traffic. When his footballing days were over Barney became involved in greyhound racing and I can remember him in the 1950's walking out the Carlow Road every morning with four or five greyhounds to be schooled in some field or other as I walked to the local secondary school.

On 5th April 1990 the Athy Gaelic Football Club held a celebratory dinner in the Geraldine Park Clubhouse to salute past players and officials. Honorary Club memberships were presented that night to Barney Dunne, Tom Forrestal, Johnny McEvoy, Mick Birney, Tom Wall, Joe Byrne, Ned Wynne, Matt Murray, Willie Chanders, Lal Murray, Danny O'Shaughnessy, Mick Murphy, Finbar Purcell, Tim O'Sullivan and Denis Wynne. I prepared a programme for that night which incorrectly described Barney as the only Athy player with four county senior championship medals. However, it was an honour Barney shared with his teammate Paul Matthews. It is unlikely that their record will ever be achieved.

Apart from his involvement as a worker and a community activist Eddie Delahunt was a staunch member of the Labour party. His father Patsy was for many years secretary of the local branch and inevitably Eddie joined the party when still a young man and remained a committed member for the rest of his life. I recall talking to him some years ago about the Labour party which for so long had been dominated at national level and in this constituency by the famous Bill Norton. Labour was always the smallest of the three main political parties, but some measure of success at local level was always assured when men such as Eddie took to canvassing the local voters. Eddie's son Christy was a Labour Councillor on Athy Urban District Council for at least two terms and other Councillors who Eddie helped to get elected over the years included Chevit Doyle, Jim Fleming, Mick Rowan, Tom Fleming, John Norman and the legendary Tom Carbery.

Eddie died in his 81st year and Barney in his 95th year. Both men were part of the recent history of our town, each having contributed in his own way to the social and sporting life of our community. In their passing we sympathise with their families and express gratitude for the memories they have left us.

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