The Hurling Glory Years 1910-1919

The Hurling Glory Years 1910-1919

By Jackie Hyland

The 1910 Convention of Leix and Ossary GAA was held in Mountrath on 3 April. Club present Cullohill, Mountrath, Maryborough, Ballacolla, Clough, Clonaheen, Donaghmore, Kilcotton, Abbeyleix, Raheen, Rathdowney, Mountmellick, Rosenallis, O'Moore's Forest, Durrow, Vicarstown, Clonenagh, Ratheniska, Ballytersna, Ballyfin and Wolfhill.

The outgoing officers were unanimously re-elected, Fr. J. Kearney, President, Vice Presidents, Fr. Norris CC , Mountrath, Fr. W. Wilson, CC Wolfhill, Treasurer, Mr. J. Miller, and Secretary Mr. J. Drennan. Leinster council reps, on a vote T. Duggan (Leix and Mr. P Daly ( Ossary). Mr. J. Miller was elected rep. on the Central Council. The balance on hands showed a credit of £55-0-11, but it was pointed out the cost of the medals for 1909 would absorb most of In most unsummer like weather on 8 May at Maryborough, Leix recorded a double over Kilkenny at Division II Level. In the hurling the visitors were favorites. In arrears by two points at half time Leix quickly equalized and amid showers of snow and hail ran out winners by 0-8 to 0-4. in the football that followed Leix led 0-10 to nil at half time and dallied with their opponents in the second half, Kilkenny failing to score.

Several clubs competitions had overrun from '09. In the middle grade hurling on May 15, Cullohill versus Maryborough at Abbeyleix, Cullohill led 1-5 to 0-2 at half time to emerge winners 1-9 to 0-5. Kilcotton had prevailed over Clonaslee by a point in the '09 senior final in March.this balance.

A return engagement took place at Maryborough on 22 May for medals sponsored by the locals. With Clonaslee in arrears a disputed point for Clonaslee let to a walk out by Kilcotton with Clonaslee awarded the match. A tragic happening took place at Clough on 12 June at a championship match between Ballacolla and Rathdowney, John Fitzpatrick of Rahandrick aged about twenty years one of the stewards engaged in keeping the lines for Clough received a blow on the head from a hurley. The next morning about nine o' clock when attended by Dr. W. Carroll he was in bed and unconscious. The doctor ordered the priest and within a half hour he had died from his injuries. A post mortem confirmed the boy had died from a compressed fracture.

On 3 July the county footballers suffered a heavy defeat to a rising Wexford 2-10 to 0-2. At Jones Road on 14 August Leix had a double hurling engagement. The seniors opened the programme against Dublin and after scoring 2-1 without a reply, were snowed under with scores for Dublin. Leix were off form and never showed the dashof '09 when they defeated Wexford (twice), Galway and Kerry when going under to the metropoliticans. The second division hurlers had Wexford as opposition in the next game. The young team were too good for Wexford in an easy win 4-1 to 1-2. The goalkeeper and the accuracy and precision of the forwards was remarked on. A very pleasant function took place between the games.

Mr. Dan Mc Carthy later to become president of the GAA (1921-24) of Dublin on behalf of Leix presented an exquisite solid gold medal designed especially by Hopkins & Hopkins to Mr. M. McEvoy the Guard of the special trains used by the teams and supporters at this time. A very good rail system within the country was widely used by the clubs for County Championship matches at this period.

To improve the players and to put the best of the field and to realize the potential of the County hurlers it was proposed to start a hurling league among the four best teams for a set of gold medals, all games at Maryborough. It was stated if the proposal was accepted the County could annex the Croke Cup for 1910. At this time the county had not received the Dr. Croke Cup, the previous winners Clare not having released it to Central Council.

On 25 September at Portarlington Vicarstown defeated Ratheniska to take Division II Football honors. In senior grade Portarlington defeated Stradbally 0-2 to 0-1 in the semi- final played in November. Portarlington took the S.F. honors for 1910 beating 0'Moores Forest in the final. In a very busy year on the intercounty scene, the DivisionII Football team had advanced to the Leinster Final beating Westmeath 2-2 to 0-2 at Jones Road on September 11.

The county had a double date in both Leinster Hurling and Football Division II Finals on 6 November at Jones Road. In football Louth had four points to spare 1-5 to 1-1. The panel for the football read, Daniel Brady(goal), Patrick Connor, James Bergin, M Maher, J. Quigley, W Cuddy, Patrick Scully, C Mc Evoy, M Mc Murrough, M Dunne, W Quigley, R Reilly, M Nerney, Patrick Hayes, Subs J. Connell, J. Maher and J. Mc Evoy.

To the hurlers goes the honor of bringing the first Leinster Hurling medals to the county. On the double bill the hurlers had three clear goals to spare over Dublin 4-1 to 1-1, this game could have been a semi- final or possibly a practice game. In the final on 21 November at Jones Road Leix recorded a facile win over Meath 12-2 to 2-1. The hurling team, Farrian, Guiney, Daly and Farrell (Rathdowney), Collier,Fitzpatrick, Brady and Murphy (Maryborough), Henihan, Maher, and Fitzpatrick (Kilcotton), Farrell and Phelan (Mountrath), Moylan and Dunphy (Cullohill) Walsh andBergin (Ballacolla) 1911. The Senior hurling championship for 1910 carried over into the spring of '11.

On 19 March 1911 two hurling finals were down to be decided at Maryborough. In senior Kilcotton could not field but the Division II final resulted in a win for Ballacolla 5-1 to Ballytarsna 3-1. The senior final finally came off on 9 April with Mr. Quigley of Fontenoy's Dublin as ref., Kilcotton led 2-0 to 1-0 at H.T. but Clonaslee emerged champions by a point 3-2 to 3-1 reversing three losses by a point. In senior football there is no record of intercounty activity.

On the local scene on 25 June Stradbally defeated the holders Portarlington 1-2 to 0-3. In the final at Abbeyleix, Stradbally beat Maryborough 2-3 to 0-3. In intercounty hurling, the Division II team fielding a new outfit lost to Dublin in Round 2, while the seniors after beating Offaly after a replay found Wexford too strong at Waterford on 9 July. In the county senior hurling Rathdowney qualified for the final putting out Kilcotton.

On the other side Clonaslee defeated Maryborough. In the final on 15 October, Rathdowney had one of their easiest victories 7-1 to nil for Clonaslee.

In 1912 the county football team lost to Dublin 2-2 to 0-2 at Jones Road on 16 June. The juniors put Offaly out but were beaten 3-2 to 0-0 by Louth on 4 August. In hurling the juniors went out to Offaly in Birr. At Senior level the hurlers were on the rise reaching both the Croke Cup and Leinster Senior Finals. The Croke Cup final was leftuntil 1913. In the Leinster final Kilkenny beat Leix 6-6 to 2-4 and went on to win the All-Ireland beating Cork 2-1 to 1-3 on November 17. On the club football scene Stradbally defeated Maryborough in the semi-final at Vicarstown on 21 July, score 4-1 to nil.

In the final on 13 October Stradbally defeated Portarlington 1-1 to 0-2. However Portarlington objected on the basis that two players had taken part in an illegal sport at Ballybrittas. At a board meeting on 3 November 1912 Fr. J. Kearney ruled the Sports at Ballybrittas illegal and the two players Jim Gray and Jack Whelehan both from the Heath illegal. Portarlington offered the replay the match without the players concerned. Stradbally declined and the title was awarded to Portarlington. Rathdowney took the Division 2 or middle grade football title. Rathdowney were involved in a protracted hurling championship because of their dual involvement. The semi- finals on 1 September saw Kilcotton qualify, the other semi resulted in a 2-2 all draw between Rathdowney and Maryborough. Rathdowney won the replay and the championship again defeating Kilcotton.

In the junior hurling championship Mondrehid defeated Ballacolla 19 points to 5. The final of the 1912 Croke Cup was played at Maryborough on 30 March 1913. Tipperary beat Leix 5-3 to 3-2. The coverage in the local papers was quite patchy at this time.In February Leix ran Kilkenny to a point 2-6 to 3-2 in a tournament ran to perpetuate the memory of Dr. Croke. Kilkenny went on to win the All- Ireland 2-4 to Tipperary 1-2.

As a result of a Congress decision the number of team members was reduced from 17 to 15. In the S.H.C. Rathdowney eliminated Clonaslee after a replay. It took Rathdowney a further replay to oust Ballacolla. Kilcotton waited in the final which ended in a draw on 14 December. The replay on 21 December ended in a further draw 3-2 each. Mr. John Lalor of Kilkenny refereed both games. Before the replay it was accepted the proceeds would go into a training fund for the senior hurlers.

In the second replay on 25 January 1914 Kilcotton regained the title on a score 3-2 to Rathdowney 2-1. On the football scene the Heath re-entered senior football following a split in Stradbally over land division coupled with their loss of the 1912 final. The Heath natives with Stradbally and Maryborough returned to the club. These coupledwith some Stradbally players gave the Heath a strong combination. Portarlington eliminated Ballyroan. A refixture between the Heath and Abbeyleix on 12 Octoberresulted in a Heath win. On the other side Rathdowney had eliminated Maryborough to qualify for the final.

The semi- final between the Heath and Portarlington on 16 November at Vicarstown resulted in a Heath win 1-3 to 0-3. Portarlington objected on the same basis as the year before, that Jim Gray and Jack Whelehan had taken part in an illegal sport at Ballybrittas. At the county board meeting the president Fr. Kearney awarded the Heath the match as the as the posters stated under the GAA rules.

Portarlington appealed to the Leinster Council which delayed the final fixed for the last Sunday of March. The Heath defeated Athy 4-3 to 0-2 in a practice on that day.The junior final for 1913 was also played at the Heath on the same day. Vicarstown beat Ratheniska 1-0 to 0-1. The Leinster Council upheld Fr. Kearney's decision and the Heath had an easy win over Rathdowney on 5 April, score not recorded. At the board meeting on 2 May Ratheniska objected to Vicarstown and were awarded the 1913 J.F.C.

For 1914 Kilcotton had the honor of leading Leix per Jack Carroll. A concentrated training regime paid dividends. At Kilkenny on 24 May Wexford were beaten 4-3 to 1-4. In the Leinster semi- final in Tullamore on 12 July Leix had two points to spare over Dublin 4-3 to 3-4. In the final on 2 August against Kilkenny Leix had a narrow win 3-2 to 2-4. Leinster final team, Jack Carroll, Jimmy Jones, Ned McEvoy, P. Goulding, Bob O'Keefe, William Lenihan, Tom Finlay, Jim Carroll, Tim Hyland, R. O'Reilly(Goalie) T. Higgins, Jim Hiney, Joe Carroll, Fint Killeen.

Clare in Munster like Leix were newcomers to the big scene. A victory over Tipperary in a Thomand Cup game gave great encouragement to Clare. After beating Kerry inthe Munster SHC the team had a weeks full time training before beating Limerick. Cork were beaten by a point 3-2 to 3-1 in the Munster Final. The scene was set, twoconfident teams set out for Croke Park for the All- Ireland final in 18 October. Willie Redmond MP led Clare onto the field before an attendance of 15,000 spectators.

By half time the game was over. Leix not displaying their earlier form were 10 points in arrears 3-1 to 0-0, a rally after half time led to a goal, Clare added two further goals to run out winners 5-1 to 1-0. Leix made several changes from the Leinster final and the All- Ireland lineout included nine from Kilcotton. Team: Jack Carroll, Fint Killeen, William Lenihan, Tom Finlay, Bob O'Keefe, Jim Jones, Jim Carroll, P Goulding Ned Mc Evoy, Jack Daly, Tim Hyland, Tom Higgins, Jim Hiney, Joe Carroll, Har Jones.

Almost unnoticed the junior hurlers advanced to the Leinster Final where they had a facile win over Kildare 16-4 to 0-0 on 8 November. The team was Jack Finlay(Captain), John Phelan, Tim Costigan, Jack Walsh, John Phelan, J. Loughname, John Dunphy, Joe Dunphy, Joseph Moylan, M. Drennan, M. Carroll, R. Mc Evoy, M. Sheppard, M. Mc Grath, K. Begadon. The All- Ireland series was not played until 1915. In football Leix seniors beat Kildare 1-4 to 0-5 but were well beaten by Louth on 5 July, Five contested the county senior football championship.

The Heath beat Maryborough 2-2 to 0-2 while Ballyroan eliminated Abbeyleix and Vicarstown. In a rough tough encounter the Heath and Ballyroan met on 3 October in the senior football final. The replacement of the Heath captain injured with a broken collar bone necessitated a long delay. The Brady brothers and Foyle were stars forBallyroan winning 1-6 to 0-1.

In the J.F.C. semi-final for '14, the Heath advanced to the final defeating Mountmellick on 10 January. The final on 11 April the Heath v Stradbally was referred by Fr. J. Kearney the President. As there was a disputed score he suggested a replay which was delayed until 11 July because of a Stradbally objection. Heath won the replay 1-3 to 1-0. In senior grade for 1915 Portarlington eliminated the Heath and went on to contest the final. Ballyroan had Abbeyleix and Maryborough in their side of the draw and had a further easy final victory on 21st November, Ballyroan 0-8Portarlington 0-0.

In the senior hurling championship newcomers Ballygeehan took the senior title for 1914 over Kilcotton. In the resumed intercounty junior hurling championship Leix beat Ulster Champions Monaghan 7-3 to 0-0 on 17 January. For the second time the Banner county Clare provided the opposition in the All- Ireland. Again defeat wasLeix's lot, Clare 6-5, Leix 1-1. Team: John Finlay (Captain), John Phelan, Tim Costigan, Jack Walsh, John Phelan, J. Loughnane, J. Dunphy, Joe Dunphy, M. Drennan, M. Carroll, M. Sheppard, M. Begadan, W. Quigley, Jim Deegan, Pat Ryan. Subs Joseph Moylan, R. Mc Evoy, M. Mc Grath.

The benefit however to Leix from a Ballygeehan powered team was the extra players for the county senior panel. The preparations for the 1915 senior campaign were very intensive and the benefits were obvious. For the second year in a row Kilkenny were beaten by a point 4-1 to 2-6 on 6 June at Tullamore. The Leinster Final was at Kilkenny on 15 August against Dublin (Faughs selection) who had put out Wexford. The team had six points to spare 3-2 to 0-5. the team Jack Finlay (Captain), John Phelan, Paddy Ryan (Goalie), Tom Finlay, Jack Walsh (Ballygeehan), Jim Hiney, Jack Daly, Jim Deegan (Rathdowney), Ned Mc Evoy (Abbeyleix), Jack Loughnane (Ballacolla), Joe Dunphy (Rapla), Bob O' Keefe, Joe Carroll, Jim Carroll, Jack Carroll (Kilcotton). Cork (Redmond's) awaited them in the final on 24 October.

A period of intense preparation including two practice games with Dublin and Kilkenny followed. Mr. J. J. Higgins was mainly responsible for arranging the practices and the adoption of the system of training that proved so successful.

Both teams had a tough route to the final, Leix overcoming former champs Kilkenny and a rising Dublin team, winners in 1917. Cork had put paid to the cream of Munster, Tipperary in round 1, Limerick in the semi, and the All-Ireland Champions Clare in the final. Both teams traveled up on Saturday for the game. Leix wore black and amber hoops while Cork wore yellow jerseys. The teams took the fields amidst a drenching downpour.

Leix were first on field to be followed by Cork led on by the Barrack Street Brass Band. Though playing well, the first twenty minutes of the game was a nightmare for Leix. Wide after wide while Cork registered two goals. A point from a free by Phelan opened the Leix account but Cork were down for an other goal. Joe Phelan scored the first Leix goal after 21 minutes. Leix on top had a second goal from John Phelan. Leix finished the half with a point from Tom Finlay.

Half- Time Cork 3-0, Leix 2-2.

The bookies who before the game were four to one to Leix were now offering six to four. On the resumption Cork pressed but Leix got down to score a magnificent goal through Hiney. A second goal by Hiney had Leix in control. Stout defending by O' Keefe kept Cork out. The brilliant play of Tom Finlay was being appreciated all around the ground. After 21 minutes of the second half Jack Carroll had a goal for Leix. Corkgot down, a third goal. John Finlay never gave the Cork forwards a chance after this they could not pass him. A point for Cork was followed by Hineys third goal. Leix'sAll Ireland 6-2 to 4-1.

Among the 15,000 spectators was a heavy weight boxing champion Jack Johnston then in revue at a Dublin music hall "He appeared to be a supporter of Leix too"Congratulations flooded into the team Sir Algerman Coote Bart, of Ballyfin sending his best wishes per Mr. P. J. Meehan M. P., William Dill Fair Hill Cork sent his congratulations to Fr J. J. Kearney President whose efforts for the team and the county were widely praised. Joh T. Kennedy, Captain of the Wexford Football team sent congratulations also R. D. (Drug) Walsh (Kilkenny) Fr Power, CC (Kilkenny) Fr Coffey (Thurles), Dr Fitzgerald (Cork), M. F. Brennan (Macroom).

Abbeyleix Rural District Council was the first public body to offer congratulationsto be followed by the remainder of the bodies in the county.Some of the team traveled home on the Sunday a section of the team that remained in Dublin until Monday evening received a very cordial reception on their arrival by the 5.20 train at Abbeyleix. John Finlay the captain on alighting form the train was borne shoulder high through the town.

Abbeyleix pipers band and about 70 cars took part in the triumphal procession. The team for the final read John Finlay(Captain), John Walsh, Joseph Phelan, Thomas Phelan, J. Phelan, Patrick Ryan (Ballygeehan), John Hiney, John Daly (Rathdowney), E. P. Mc Evoy (Abbeyleix) John Carroll, Joseph Carroll, R O'Keefe, James Carroll (Kilcotton) Joseph Dunphy (Rapla), Patrick Campion( Rathdowney), Jim Kelly- Sheridan replaced P Campion injured.

A special meeting of the county board presided over by Fr Kearney with J Drennan (Secretary) and Jas. Miller (Treasurer) also present was held in the new parochial hall Mountrath on 31 October. Congratulations continued to shower in including Mr. John Lalor Kilkenny. Tom Finlay (Ballygeehan) on behalf of the team thanked the countyboard and all who helped the team get to the All-Ireland.

Mr. E.P. Tarrant (Castletown) praised Ballygeehan for the unselfishness they showed. The mundane appeared on the agenda in the form of a referees report on the S.F.C.semi-final won by Ballyroan 1-8 to 2-2 for the Swan. An objection by the Swan was left over but Ballyroan went on to retain their title beating Portarlington 0-8 to 0-0, thehurling championship was largely left over to 1916.


In the senior hurling championship Ballygeehan beat Rapla 2-1 to 0-2 in the semi final. The final Ballygeehan v Kilcotton ended in a draw. The replay at Rathdowney on 9 April resulted Ballygeehan 4-3 to Kilcotton 2-1.

The events of Easter Week 1916 commencing with the occupation of the G.P.O. on Easter Monday 24th April 1916 and the subsequent executions was the single most significant event in modern Irish History. The rising of Eater Week and the rise of Sinn Fein was to transform the political landscape of Ireland forever and greatly impacton the GAA.

On the intercounty hurling Leix advanced to the final of the Wolf Tone tournament beating Dublin 5-2 to 3-4 on 19th March. The final in August resulted in a Tipperarywin 5-6 to 2-3. At the first hurdle in Kilkenny on 17 September Wexford relieved Leix of their titles 3-2 to 3-0.

On the local football score Ballybrittas took the 1915 J.F. Championship while Abbeyleix took senior honors. Ballygeehan made it three in a row at Maryborough winning the 1916 SHC final by defeating Rathdowney 4-4 to 2-0 on 31 March. At the Green Roads, Ballybrophy on 24 July Offaly beat Leix by five points 3-7 to 3-2. It was the end of an era Leix was not to win another championship tie until 1923.

The footballers fared better at Tullamore, 1 July beating Offaly 2-7 to nil, Carlow 0-5 to 0-1 at Graguecullen on 26 August, before losing to Dublin at Croke Park on 23 September 0-5 to 0-2. Conceding a total of six points in three games and still no title. Political events are taking centre stage in the county with the games secondary in many instances. The Sinn Fein organizer E.C Fleming was active in the county and during the week of 24 -30 June held meetings at Ballyroan and the Heath to organize clubs. Both those clubs had an other close encounter in the semi-final. Ballyroan advanced to take the 1917 title at Maryborough on 25 November beatingAbbeyleix 1-0 to nil. The hurling championship still had to be completed at years end.

Press coverage was poor at this period, Ballygeehan taking the 1917 SH title. Offaly beat Leix by a point at Roscrea in the Leinster Championship hurling on 26 May. In areplay after an earlier abandoned match Kildare beat Leix at Maryborough on 30 June 2-2 to 0-3. Perhaps the most important event during the year was the proclamination of Sunday 4th August as "Gaelic Sunday".

In July the British Military authorities banned Gaelic matches throughou the country unless under permit. The central Council met to consider the situation and ordered under no circumstances were permits to be applied for, any club infringin this order to be automatically suspended. Further instructions were issued that matches without permits were to be organized for Sunday 4 August at all venues throughoutthe country.

The "Nationalist" reporting on the happenings in the Leix reported "Only in one instance was an attempt made to prevent a match being played without a permit and that occurred at the Heath near Maryborough. As the teams proceeded to the field of play they were met by the local sergeant who warned them if they attempted to play without a permit they would prosecuted and ran the risk of being sent to jail. The players however assured the sergeant of their determination to bring off the fixtureand they did so.

The sergeant retired to Maryboro for instructions and subsequently returned during the progress of the game with the tidings that it would be allowed". The teams, The Heath and Athy.

On the local scene the hurling championship ran late as usual the concluding stages being played in '19. In the SFC the draw paired the holders Ballyroan v The Heath, and Moyanna v Abbeyleix in the other semi- final. The Heath and Ballyroan played at Maryborough on 21 September at HT Heath led 2-1 to 1-2. The Heath scored after the interval and after ten minutes the ball burst and the game was abandoned. The replay did not take place until the following year.

The replay of the SFC semi-final The Heath v Ballyroan took place on 4 May. The champions Ballyroan going out to a fitter Heath 3-1 to 0-3. The final on 18 May paired Moyanna with The Heath, and Moyanna were accompanied by their pipes and drum band. At HT Moyanna led 2-1 to 1-0. Jim Gray scored four points to equalize 2-1 to 1-4. The following Sunday two games at Maryborough in aid of the Irish Republican Prisoners dependants Fund were played. The pairing in reverse of the SFC draw resulted in wins for Ballyroan and the Heath. Leix senior footballers in a busy period gave Kildare their closest run en route to the All Ireland 3-5 to 2-5 on 1 June at Newbridge.

The Feis finals at Maryborough on 15 June resulted in wins for Maryborough SH 3-1 to Abbeyleix 1-0. In the SF Feis the Heath beat Ballyroan 1-0 to 0-1. The replay of the SFC final resulted in a Heath win 1-1 to Moyanna 0-0, at Maryborough on 13 July. In the middle grade football final replay on the same programme Vicarstown beatBallacolla for the 1918 title. Borris in Ossary took the 1918 JF championship, while Portarlington were junior football champions for 1919.

In hurling it was July before the 1918 SH Championship concluded. Ballygeehan defeating Rathdowney, Rathdowney failing to register a score. On 2 August in the 1919 first round Ballygeehan again won on a score Ballygeehan 3-4, Rathdowney 1-5. As per usual the closing stages of the hurling championship was held over until 1920.

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