Sport plays an important part in most of our lives. Whether as spectators or one time participants we store up memories from which we can draw to replenish the fading joys of long forgotten youthful endeavours on the playing or athletic field. Funerals are always ensured to trigger the treasured bank of sporting memories; memories which were once casually put aside and apparently forgotten. However, they readily come to mind as conversation flows and names and events of a youthful past are mentioned.
Such were my thoughts when attending on the same day recently the funerals of two local men whose lives in a strange way followed somewhat similar patterns. Both John Dooley and Tom McCarthy were relatively young men, probably unknown to a younger generation, but in their time were active members of our community.
Tom was known as “shopboy”, a nick name which I once presumed came courtesy of a working stint with the L&N or some other local grocery. However, this was not so. His parents, Pat and Agnes who lived in No. 4 St. Joseph's Terrace, acquired in the early 1950's a messenger boys bike no longer required by one of the local shopkeepers and young Tom used it when cycling around the town. The readily recognisable messenger bike with Tom on board was a regular, if somewhat unusual site around Athy and inevitably the young Tom soon acquired the nick name “shopboy” McCarthy. It was to remain with him for the rest of his life.
When Tom left school at an early age he worked initially in Tegral before he became a Foundry worker in the I.V.I. There he spent the greater part of his working life and was there until the Foundry closed down. During his young days Tom played soccer for Athy A.F.C. second team, and Gaelic football for Rheban, the current members of which club provided a guard of honour at his funeral. As a member of the I.V.I. Factory team Tom won a Leinster factory league medal in 1962. After the closure of the I.V.I. Tom went to work for a while with the Co-op Foundry set up by Dom O'Rourke and Syl Bell which is based on the Kilkenny Road.
Tom, who lived all his life in the McCarthy family home at St. Joseph's Terrace, was the son of Pat McCarthy and Agnes Kelly who was originally from Canal Side. His brother Jim died in 1953 at 15 years of age from meningitis, while his younger sister Mary died 23 years ago. As Fr. Dennehy so eloquently put it when receiving Tom's remains in St. Michael's Church, “he went into himself in more recent years.” However Tom, or as we all knew him “shopboy”, was a man who gave offence to no one. Irrespective of whatever difficulties he may have had in later years he held the affection and respect of those who knew him. He was 67 years of age when he passed away, survived by his brother Pat to whom we extend our sympathy.
John Dooley was laid to rest the same day as “shopboy” McCarthy and strangely both were of the same age and in all probability classmates in the local Christian Brothers school. John died on the day of his 67th birthday. He was a son of John Dooley, a native of Paulstown, Kilkenny, who came to Athy in 1930 to work in the grocery section of Jacksons of Leinster Street. John Dooley Senior married Bridget Hyland and with their three children of whom John Junior was the eldest, lived in St. Patrick's Avenue.
John Dooley Senior was the man who almost singlehandedly over several decades held aloft the hurling banner as he attempted to keep alive the most exciting of Gaelic games in this part of the footballing kingdom of County Kildare. Athy had a hurling club in the 1920's and indeed had contested the 1929 Senior Championship Final which was won by the Curragh Army team, McDonaghs. For whatever reason the 1930 competition was not completed and the Athy Club apparently went out of existence to be revived in 1932 by John Dooley Senior. Looking back over the G.A.A. records it is clear that his efforts did bear fruit, for Athy won the Senior Hurling Championship in 1936 when John Dooley Senior played and also won in 1959 when defeat on the field was turned around with an objection upheld by the County Board. Athy Hurling Club also won junior championship titles in 1937, 1943, 1950 and 1958.
I well remember his efforts in the mid 1950's when he revived underage hurling in Athy after many years. The field at Chanterlands which was later to be acquired by the local G.A.A. Club was the centre of many of our efforts to master the camán and the sliothair. Hurling operations were directed from No. 3 St. Patrick's Avenue where the Dooley family lived and for years John Senior worked indefatigably to popularise the game of hurling in this area.
John Dooley Junior played hurling with Athy for several years in the 1950's and the 1960's and maybe later and in the latter years served as secretary to the club. His father retired after 37 years involvement with the Hurling Club having served at different times as secretary and chairman. He had also served as chairman of the Kildare Hurling Board and during his period of office the county won the All Ireland junior title of 1934.
At John's funeral I learned for the first time of the exploits of some of my old school mates who played with him in the 1964 Senior Hurling Final which Athy lost to Eire Og. Ted Wynne, always remembered as an excellent footballer, tells me he played in that hurling final and with my good friend Teddy Kelly on the subs bench that day I can only assume that Frank English was otherwise engaged or else he might also have been pressed into action. However, the story of the '64 final which saw Eire Og take the first of four consecutive senior titles was the coming on in the second half of Eire Og super sub Paddy Power. Paddy, who once taught in the Christian Brothers School in Athy and was later Minister for Defence, scored 2 goals soon after coming on in the second half and thereby sealed the Athy teams defeat. Eire Og would contest the senior hurling title each year thereafter for the following nine years and suffered its only defeat in 1968 when Ardclough won. Unlucky Ardclough were the defeated finalists on no less than seven occasions between 1965 and 1972.
John Dooley, when he left the local Christian Brothers school in the late 1950's, worked in Minch Nortons and figured prominently both on the playing and administrative side of the Athy hurling club following his father's death. His involvement in the club lessened in more recent years but his interest in hurling and the fortunes of the Athy club never diminished. Like Tom McCarthy John's latter years were troubled by illness but he was always available and willing to help with any queries on Athy's hurling past.
John Dooley was for many years a member of the committee of the C.Y.M.S. It was a sad coincidence that both himself and the last C.Y.M.S. chairman P.J. Hyland passing away within a week or so of each other. John is survived by his sister Mary and was predeceased by his younger brother Gerard who died in 1991. The members of Athy Hurling Club provided a guard of honour at John's funeral in fitting recognition of the contribution that he and his father made to the sport in Athy. Ar dhéis Dé go raibh a anam.
Two upcoming events deserving of your support are the Shackleton Autumn School to take place over the October Bank Holiday weekend and John MacKenna's new play coming to Athy Town Hall on Thursday, 28th September. The play, “My Father's Life” which premiered last week in the Moate Club, Naas is the story of John Clare, the 19th century English peasant poet and his relationship with his daughter Eliza. Incidentally, I hear that John MacKenna's new book, “Things you should know” will be launched in early November.
The Shackleton Autumn School will be opened by Senator David Norris on Friday, 27th October when he will deliver the Shackleton Memorial lecture which you will recall was given last year by Brian Keenan. The lectures which commence the following day and extend over the weekend will bring to Athy a number of renowned English and American writers. Programmes for the Shackleton weekend can be obtained from the Heritage Centre, Athy, Ph. 8633075 and by e-mail at email@example.com.
Finally, happy 90th birthday to Noreen Ryan who with family and friends celebrated the occasion last weekend. Noreen is remembered as the first secretary of the Old Folks Committee and in later years as a director of Athy Heritage Company.