Athy from the South, Carbery from the North – it’s almost as if the American Civil War is to be played out once more on the playing fields of Droichead Nua. This year’s Kildare Senior Football Championship Final is between two protagonists who have previously contested finals against each other in 1941, 1942 and 1946. The records show a two to one advantage to Carbery, with Athy winning in 1942. That was a good year for Athy for after drawing with Carbery on 11th October the Southerners went on to win the replay 15 days later.
Carbery had won the 1941 final by three points and in winning the last final contested between the two Clubs in 1946 the Northerners had stretched their advantage to four points. Since then Carbery has contested more senior county finals than Athy, losing 12 finals and winning 7. In that same period Athy has won one senior championship final and lost two.
The men who played for Athy in the 1941 or 1942 finals have, I believe, all passed away, but a roll call of their names will bring back memories for the older readers. Peter Keogh, Richard Donovan, Tom Wall, Michael Birney, Michael Mulvey, Tadgh Brennan, John Rochford, Matt Murray, Thomas Ryan, Ned Wynne, Joe Byrne, Joe Gibbons, Pat Mulhall, Paul Matthews, William Chanders, Michael Higgins, Tom Fox, Dan O’Shaughnessy, Lar Murray and Barney Dunne. The 1946 team still featured Richard Donovan, Tom Wall, Matt Murray, Tom Fox, Tom Murray, Dan O’Shaughnessy and Tadgh Brennan and included several new players. These were Pat Murphy, Peter Murphy, Finbar Purcell, Michael Lynam, Jim Malone, Denis Fox, Munsie Purcell and William Ryan.
Before the 1942 County Final Tim Clarke, who was Secretary of the Kildare County Board, penned the following lines:-
‘The Athy men, always stylish
Since the days of Tom Mulhall,
Were a joy to all spectators
By the way they played the ball.
But the final wont be easy,
Perhaps they’ll get the works,
From the evergreen Bill Hynan
And half a dozen Burkes!’
At half time in the 1942 final Athy were losing by 4 points to nil and seemed destined for defeat, especially when Pat Mulhall missed a 14 yard free. However, 6 points in the second half earned the Athy players a draw and an early Athy goal in the replay saw Athy the victors on the scoreline of 1-6 to 0-6.
On Sunday 15th April 1990 Athy G.F.C. honoured the surviving members of the teams which contested the senior county finals from 1923 to 1946. Amongst footballers who were awarded honorary life membership of the club that night were members of the Athy teams which contested the three finals in the 1940s against Carbery. One of those honoured was Joe Byrne, a native of Levitstown, who started his footballing career with Kilkea and Castledermot before joining the Athy club in 1939. He was on the 1941 Athy team which lost the County Final, following which he emigrated to Bermingham. At the end of his playing career he was a member of St. Anne’s Gaelic Football Club in the English midland city where the team manager was the local Parish Priest, Fr. Dowling. Both men played in the 1941 Kildare County Final when the future Parish Priest helped Carbery that day to defeat Joe’s Athy team.
I don’t know how the Athy team will line out next Sunday, but the panel includes many with connections to Athy players of other years. James Eaton’s grandfather Jimmy was an Athy club player, while Tony Gibbons and his brother Stephen are sons of Tony who played on the championship winning team of 1987. Their grandfather Joe won a senior championship medal with Athy in 1942. Sean McGovern of Athy and Kildare County fame has two sons, Liam and David, on this year’s team panel. The Kinahan clan who have featured prominently on the football pitch for Athy for many years are today represented by Joe Kinahan and his first cousin Brian, whose father Pat was on the 1966 Athy minor championship winning team.
Athy’s senior team for this year’s championship final is a young team, many of the players having achieved success with the triple minor winning teams and last year’s Under 21 county champions. There are 12 players under 21 years of age and two who are eligible to play minor football next year.
Athy and Carbery have met twice this year, with Athy winning both matches in the League and in the qualifying round of the championship. Sunday’s final will be a tougher test for the reds, but here’s hoping that the Athy management team of Mark Brophy, Ger Clancy, Dinny Sullivan and Paul Hicks will have cause to celebrate yet another long awaited senior title.