I was proud to fly the Athy Gaelic Football Club flag in the days leading up to the recent County Final and equally proud, after the unwelcome defeat on Sunday, of the players and the Athy supporters. Both represented the club honourably during the match and in the aftermath of defeat. Seamus Malone, now long dead, but once the leading light in the resurgence of Gaelic games in Athy would be justifiably proud of the Club he revived following the devastation wrought by emigration in the 1920s.
To be a member of a club, whether sporting or otherwise, is to be an active member of the community. The local GAA Club is the heartbeat of every local community in Ireland and here in Athy the community although disappointed as a result of the County final defeat is nevertheless immensely proud of the Athy clubs senior team.
To have been involved in one of the best County Finals played in recent years in County Kildare, it’s a matter of some pride for the Athy club and its members. Despite Sunday’s defeat, the quality of Gaelic football in South Kildare is confirmed by the success of local clubs in a variety of Gaelic Football Championship finals in the last few weeks.
Castlemitchell Junior team under the captaincy of Ray Fitzgerald recently won the Junior A Football title. Interestingly, the team’s manager is Billy Delaney from Stradbally whose father and name sake played for Laois and was team manager of the Castlemitchell team which won the clubs first County title in 1953. Our near neighbours Castledermot won the Intermediate Football championship within the past few weeks under team captain Oisin Doherty and team manager Tony Gray.
Although situated next to the Kildare border and within the adjoining County of Laois, Barrowhouse is for me more Kildare than County Laois. Barrowhouse is part of the Parish of St. Michael’s and historically both Athy and Barrowhouse are intrinsically linked by events during the War of Independence. For those reasons, the success of the Barrowhouse Junior Team in winning the Junior Championship this year is another boost for Gaelic Football in this region. The team captain of the Barrowhouse Juniors is Mikey Langton while John Larkin is the teams manager. Barrowhouse last won the Intermediate title twenty three years ago when many of the current team members’ fathers were on that team. Four grandsons of Billy Malone played in this year’s final while Liam Langton had the honour of his son Mikey, captaining the team while two of his grandsons were on the team panel.
Both Athy and Rheban played in County Finals this year but neither came away with the hoped for victory. Rheban unfortunately lost the Minor B Football Final to Suncroft. The Rheban Captain Darren Lawler can however take some consolation from the Leinster Minor medal he won with the Kildare County team earlier this year. The Rheban Team Managers were Martin Germaine and Alan Shaw.
The heartbreak of Athy’s defeat in the Senior County Championship final was somewhat lessened in the knowledge that the final was one of the best displays of Gaelic Football witnessed in a Kildare County Final for many years. Much praise must go to the management team of Brian Cardiff, Joe Kinihan and Timmy Dunne whose commitment and dedication to the cause of Gaelic football in Athy is immense. Team Captain was Mick Foley, one of the finest footballers ever to have played football with Athy Gaelic Football Club and the only former All Star player from the south of the County.
Gaelic Football and hurling are part of our Irish sporting heritage and the performance of the five local clubs in this year’s football championships is one worthy of acknowledgement by the different local communities which they represent.
A few days after the Athy Club won the 1942 senior title the following report appeared in the Nationalist and Leinster Times.
‘Over a fortnight ago, while walking along the Carlow Road, Athy, the writer saw a number of shapes moving about in the dark in ghostly fashion in a field some 200 yards from the road. Overcoming a sudden impulse to return hastily to the brightly illumed town, the writer made for the field to find the Athy senior football team doing a strenuous bout of training. The benefit of the course of training which had been carried out regularly for a month was evident on Sunday when Athy wrested the county senior championship from Carbury. Youth played a big part in Sunday’s triumph. Seven members of the Athy team are under 22 years and one under 18. The team showed a number of changes compared with the side that went under to Carbery in last year’s final. Such youngsters as D. Shaughnessy, T. Fox and L. Murray are notable newcomers to this year’s team.’
The defeat by Carbury in the 1941 final was followed a year later with Athy’s victory over the same team. Hopefully history will be repeated next year.