Last Sunday the sporting people of Kilmead, Booleigh, Narraghmore, Ballitore, Calverstown, Kilgowan, Brewel, Blackhall, Ballymount, Usk, Moone and Mullaghmast celebrated their local team’s highly popular success in the Kildare Senior Football Championship Final. St. Laurences, founded in 1957 had become Senior County Champions for the first time in the Club's 52 year old history.
On the same Sunday and in the same venue, St. Conleth’s Park, Newbridge, Athy’s minor footballers became Kildare Minor Champions for the second year in succession. Meanwhile back home in Athy that same Sunday afternoon yet another club, Woodstock Celts, still in its infancy as a club, won another match in its unstoppable march to securing a league and cup double in Division 2 of the Kildare District Football League.
Athy Gaelic Football Club, founded in 1887, played its first County Senior Final in 1923 when it got a drubbing at the hands (feet more appropriately) of Naas who scored two goals and 5 points to no score for the Athy men. Some of the names from that game bring back memories. Tom Moore and his brother John, Jim Clancy, Mickey Grant, Mick Mahon and Tom Forrestal of Castledermot. Twenty years ago I was privileged to interview Tom Forrestal who was then 92 years of age. He recalled for me many of the players who played for Athy in the 1923 final. Men such as Eddie ‘Sapper’ O’Neill, who later emigrated to America and captained the New York team which defeated All Ireland champions Kerry and Tom, otherwise known as ‘Golly’ Germaine. He told me that the then Club chairman presented each of the players with a medal inscribed with the name of the recipient. I wonder how many of those medals have survived?
Athy’s defeat in the 1923 Senior County Final was to be repeated in 1926 and 1927 before the mantle of Senior Champions finally came to rest on Athy shoulders in 1933. It was a success repeated the following year and again in 1937.
St. Laurences first footballing success came with the winning of the Minor Football Championship in 1974 when Athy were the defeated finalists. The Club’s first appearance in a County Senior Final was on 12th September 1982 when Sarsfields, who had been defeated the previous year, gained the upper hand by two goals and 11 points to 4 points. Three further County Final defeats awaited the St. Laurences men before last Sunday’s victory. The 1992 final saw Clane run out winners, while Allenwood defeated the South Kildare men 12 years later. The following year St. Laurences suffered another disappointing Final defeat and the prospects for success in 2009 did not augur well after the team played three games in 15 days leading up to the County Final. Awaiting them were Moorefield, generally regarded as the best team in the County and heavily tipped to win.
The final score tells the tale. St. Laurences won convincingly and by a margin of 10 points brought the Dermot Bourke Cup to Narraghmore for the first time. It was a great victory for a great Club which in its short life has made extraordinary strides in developing a club structure which is the envy of the Lilywhite sporting world.
In contrast Woodstock Celts is a small club centered on the Woodstock area of Athy which plays its matches on a local pitch in the shadow of the nearby 14th century castle. The enthusiasm of the local lads is matched by skill and a competitiveness which has secured for them victory in Division 2 Club Championship in their first year back in the Kildare District Football League. Last Sunday as the Athy Minors and the St. Laurences Seniors won their matches in St. Conleth’s Park, the Woodstock Celts team playing at home beat Allenwood Celtic on a score line of 5 goals to nil. This victory put them 6 points clear in the Division 2 League and well on their way to becoming League champions. Theirs is a remarkable feat which in the light of last Sunday’s victories in Newbridge is likely to be overlooked. Well done to Tommy Connell, Gary Foley, Michael Lawless, Patrick O’Brien, Robbie Donoher, Kieran Walsh, Ricky Moriarty, James Fennell, Dean Connell, Jonathan Fennell, Kirby Fennell, Mark Brennan, James Lammon, Brian Lawless, Kiwi Mulhall and Mick Doogue, all of whom make up the Woodstock Celts playing squad.
Athy Gaelic Football Club has struggled for success on the football field in recent years. Long gone are the halcyon days of the 1930s and 1940s when Athy figured in many County Senior Finals. Even success in the lower grades over the years eluded the sportsmen of Geraldine Park. Victory for the Athy Minors was achieved for the first time in 1936, repeated in 1937 and not again achieved until 1956. Ten years were to pass before the next Minor County Final victory and 1973 witnessed the last Minor championship for Athy until last year. 2008 was Athy Minor’s first championship final win for 35 years when the team, captained by Brian Kinahan, defeated a more fancied Sarsfield team.
Last Sunday before St. Laurences took to the field Athy Minors lined out against a fancied Naas side. At half time the Athy lads led Naas by 5 points to 2. At the end of full time the lead had been reduced to one point but the victory went to Athy for the second year in succession. Only twice before has Athy Gaelic Football Club won back to back victories in County Finals – the minors of 1936 and 1937 and the seniors of 1933 and 1934. Unfortunately, Club records for those years no longer exist but I would imagine that many of those who played for Athy Seniors in 1941 and 1942 were Minor players five years earlier. The Minors of 1933 and 1934 may have included Richard Donovan, Tom Wall, Michael Birney, Tadgh Brennan, John Rochford, Thomas Ryan, Joe Gibbons, Pat Mulhall, William Chanders and Dan O’Shaughnessy. We might never know if they did play on those Minor winning teams but what we do know is that in 2009 a team of young fellows brought the Minor title back to Geraldine Park for the second year in succession. Their names are worth recording, James Roycroft, Sean Ronan, Luke Thomas, Wesley Clare, David Hyland, Barry Purcell, David O’Toole, Liam McGovern, Kevin Feeley, Niall Kelly, Darroch Mulhall, Corey Moore, Tony Gibbons, Cian Reynolds and Keelan Bolger. The team manager is Joe Kinahan, assisted by Minor selectors Denis Sullivan and Ger Clancy.
The men of St. Laurences, the youngsters of Athy and the players of Woodstock Celts have achieved great sporting success within the past week. The Athy Minors victory is another addition to a chequered club history which with all clubs tends to be measured in terms of success on the playing field. For St. Laurences the 2009 Senior Championship represents a milestone which will forever be recalled, whatever the future holds for the Club. Well done to all concerned.