Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Athy Gaelic Football teams of the past

During the week Con Ronan gave me a photograph of an Athy Gaelic Football team which had a note on it indicating that the photograph was taken “about 1937”. The photograph had the following names reading from left to right at the back, Jack Dunne, Michael Ryan, an unnamed spectator, Patsy Ryan, Dick Loughman, Matt Murray, “the Great Tarman” Cunningham, Jack Lawler, ? Wall and J. Mahon. Middle row “old man” Mulhall, Billy Chanders, Patrick Mahon and Michael Mullery. Front row John Campbell, M. Higgins, “Skurt” Doyle, “Bunny” Chanders, Lar Murray and S. Kelly. Amongst my own GAA papers I found a photocopy of the same photograph with a note indicating it was of an Athy junior football team, winners of the County Kildare league. Athy teams won the Senior Championship in 1937 and in the same year the 1934 Junior Football League. The final of the 1934 league was played in Kildare town on the 21st of March 1937. The names typed on the photocopy by and large confirmed the names as they appeared on the back of the photograph I received this week. However the names of the first four men at the back from the left are given as J. Dunne, M. Ryan, R. Ryan and M. Birney. The man second from the right at the back is named as P. Coogan. The photograph is definitely not of the senior team which won the County Final in 1937. Was it then the junior team which won the 1934 league final that same year? I had doubts as to whether the photograph is of a 1937 team. A newspaper report following Athy’s success in the senior championship final in 1942 referred to “youths played a big part in Sunday’s triumph. Seven members of the Athy team are under 22 years and one under 18 --- such youngsters as D. Shaughnessy, T. Fox and L. Murray are notable newcomers to this year’s team”. Why Lar Murray was described as a youngster in 1942 I do not understand as he was a member of the successful senior team of 1937. Can anyone help me determine when the team photograph was taken and at what level the team played. In the very front of the photograph is pictured the team trainer “Skurt” Doyle. The origin of his nickname is unknown to me but Jack Doyle was a unique character. Born in 1883 he joined the Dublin Fusiliers and served in India and Egypt. He played rugby for his regiment and also ran in marathons with some success. Jack was captured with many of his army comrades following the battle of Mons and was imprisoned in Limburg for the duration of the war. He was one of the first Athy players to be selected for the County Kildare senior team. He was the County senior goalkeeper between May 1921 and April 1922. Looking through the team records for the 1930’s I find Jim Cunningham who played centre half back for Athy and who won senior championship medals with the club in 1933 and 1934. He was not a member of the successful 1937 senior team. Was he I wonder the player referred to in the photograph as “the Great Tarman Cunningham”. On the left of the middle row is pictured a player described as “old man” Mulhall whom I believe may have been Martin Mulhall who featured on Athy’s intermediate team of 1931. While going through the notes of an interview I had with the late Ned Cranny many years ago I noticed for the first time that one of the players on the Athy teams of 1922 and 1923 was Paddy Hayden. Was he I wonder Paddy Hayden of Offaly Street who was imprisoned during the War of Independence. That war and the subsequent Civil War had a detrimental effect on the town’s Gaelic Football Club which in its early years was known as the Geraldine’s. It was a junior club then and won its first junior championship in 1907 but went into decline soon after losing the 1913 junior final. Enlistments during the 1914 – 18 war caused the club to lose many members. The local Christian Brothers started a new club for minor footballs which was called the Young Emmets and it was during that club’s existence that a playing field was secured from the South Kildare Agricultural Society. The football players of the distant past are understandably unremembered today but it would be a great pity if we did not try to revive their names, their images and details of their playing careers as members of Athy Gaelic Football Club.

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