Irish rugby has a new sporting hero. Joey Carbery made his international debut on the Irish rugby team last week during Ireland’s first win over New Zealand. The Soldier’s Field in Chicago was the scene of Joey’s entry to the ranks of an Irish international player.
The New Zealand fifteen whom the one time Athy club player lined out against shared with Joey a country of birth. A New Zealander by birth Joey has however lived a large part of his young life in the South Kildare town where the Carbery family links stretch back to the dark oppressive years of the Luggacurran evictions.
It was his great great grandfather Dan Carbery, who evicted from his small holding in Luggacurran in June 1889 by agents of Lord Lansdowne set up home in Athy. It was here that Dan Carbery established the business which on his death in 1896 was continued and expanded by his 31-year-old son, also named Dan. The Carbery building legacy is to be found in several local schools, numerous housing estates in and around the town of Athy and in the more recent refurbishment by the Carlow branch of the firm of the local Courthouse.
The name Joe Carbery has passed down through several generations of the Carbery family, the last four generations of which have been actively involved with Athy rugby football club. Joe Carbery, great grandfather of the current rugby star, was a playing member of the club in the 1920s, as was his cousin Donal. Joe continued to play through the 1930s and was club captain in 1933/’34 and played on the provincial club team of 1938. Twenty years after his club captaincy he was elected president of Athy Rugby Club for 1953/’54.
The next generation Joe was also a stalwart of Athy rugby club. A veterinary surgeon by profession he played, as did his brother Jerry, for the Athy club in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Joe Carbery and his clubmate Jack Ryan were members of the Leinster Junior squad in 1961/’62. Joe Carbery emigrated to New Zealand for a period and on returning to Ireland played for Naas rugby club and in 1981/’82 trained what is now regarded as one of Athy club’s most successful teams. It was the third team which hold the unique distinction of not having lost a match while Joe Carbery was their trainer.
The name Joe and the involvement in rugby passed on to the next Carbery generation. This was Joey’s father who was born in Athy. As a young child, he moved to New Zealand with his parents, but now lives in the south Kildare town where he is employed by the Irish Rugby Football Union as a youth coach. He is also coach to the Athy senior rugby team. His son Joe, known to the media and public alike as Joey, is the fourth generation of the Carbery family to have had an association with Athy rugby club. Educated in Athy and Blackrock College he played underage rugby for Athy and later with Blackrock College and with the Clontarf senior team.
We have to look back many decades to find another Athy player who reached the high status of Irish international senior team player. The only one I have located is John B. Minch, son of Matthew and Elizabeth Minch of Rockfield House who was born in 1880. John’s father Matt Minch was elected a Member of Parliament for South Kildare in 1882 and remained an M.P. for the following 21 years. John B. Minch, like Joey Carbery, also attended and played for Blackrock College. He won the first of his five international caps playing for Ireland against South Africa at Lansdowne Road on 30th November 1912. The following year he was capped twice, playing against England at Lansdowne Road on 8th February 1913 and against Scotland in Edinburgh on 22nd February. His final two caps were earned in internationals against England at Twickenham on 14th February 1914 and against Scotland at Lansdowne Road two weeks later.
Joey Carbery, Irish rugby international, follows in the proud footsteps of a father, grandfather and great grandfather, all bearing the name Joe and all associated players with Athy’s rugby football club. The Carbery family association with Athy R.F.C. is one which was mirrored by the family’s active involvement with Athy Golf Club. That association started with Dan Carbery, eldest son of the Carbery father who was evicted from Luggacurran. Dan was captain of Athy Golf Club on six occasions between 1915 and 1932 and was followed in that position by three other Carbery family members including Joe Carbery, great grandfather of the rugby international. Both the aforesaid Dan and his son Joe also held the position of Golf Club President each on three occasions.
The people of Athy and district rejoice in having a rugby player of the calibre of Joey Carbery whom they can say is one of their own, as is that other international sportsman, boxer Eric Donovan who won his second professional fight on the same night as Joey Carbery earned his first international cap.