Minors Rise Up 1947 - 1999
Laois G.A.A. History 1947 - 1999
by Mick Carroll
The years 1936 to 1946 were the golden age of Laois Football, four Leinster Final wins, the epic encounters with Kerry in 1937 and the U.S. Tour of 1938. In Hurling the early 40's Laois Minors Hurlers won two Leinster Finals, beat Offaly and Meat lost to Dublin in the Leinster Final, won on an objection and was beaten by Antrim by one point 5-3 to 4-5.
In 1941 Laois drew Dublin in the first round of the Leinster Minor Championship at Portlaoise and won on a score 4-6 to 4-4, beat Kilkenny in a delayed Leinster Final by 3-5 to 2-4, played Galway in Roscrea beaten by one point. The Rovers Club won the Junior Championship in 1942 and Intermediate in 1945 and 1948 and contested the senior final in 1951 against Kyle and lost by three points. They won five county minor hurling championships from 1942 to 1946 and two football in 1943 and 1944. Dan Kerry one of the founder members of the club is still alive and well and in his early nineties. Dan was a selector with the 1964 minor hurling team. The last hurling team to reach an All Ireland. One more selector Tommy Hickey from Rathdowney is still hale and hearty.
Our Minor Hurlers contested the Leinster Final again with wins over Offaly and Wexford only to be defeated by Dublin who went on to win the All Ireland. In 1947 both Minor and Senior Hurlers lost to Wexford, the seniors losing on a score of 3-10 to 2-10. Also beaten by Limerick in the League Semi Final in Limerick by 3 points, 1948 our senior qualified for the Leinster Final with win over Westmeath in Tullamore, beat Kilkenny in Kilkenny on a score of 4-5 to 2-7, qualified to met Dublin in the Leinster Final in Tullamore, Dublin won on a score of 5-9 to 3-3.
1949 we reached the Leinster Final to make it two years in a row, with good wins over Offaly and Dublin, went on to win a memorable final against Kilkenny in Kilkenny and defeated Galway in the semi final by 4 points. They qualified to play Tipperary in the All Ireland and lost heavily. The county's last provincial senior final win was the hurlers of 1949.
In 1950 St Fintans Hospital won the Junior Football Championship for the first time and again in 1959 and 1964 and the Junior B in 1975. They won the Intermediate Championship in 1951, 1960 and 1970. In 1951 again we reached the Leinster Hurling Final by defeating Offaly in Portlaoise on a score of 4-3 to no score, they beat Kilkenny in the Semi Final in Portlaoise 5-10 to 2-7, lost to Wexford in the Leinster Final in Croke Park by 6 points.
Kyle won the Junior Championship in 1944 after losing two finals in 1930 and 1942, won the Intermediate in 1947, beat Blansfort 3-3 to 2-1. In 1951 they took the senior title defeating The Rovers by three points, they also contested the 1953 final, losing to Clonad by seven points and 1955 losing to Cullohill in a delayed County Final on a score of 5-9 to 2-7.
Bob O'Keeffe became County Secretary in 1947-49. In 1949 the Juvenile Board was founded by Sean Barrett, Fr Maher and Jack Bates. In the fifties also we had four County Secretaries, Sean Barrett 1949/50, Matt Ryan (Ballyfin) 1950-52, Paddy Lalor (Abbeyleix) 1953-56. During those four years Ned Stenson, Rathdowney was Treasurer.
1956 Borris In Ossory won the Senior Championship for the first time, beating Cullohill 2-9 to 2-6, got walk over from Cuddagh in 1957 and was defeated by Clonad in 1958. In 1957 both secretary/Treasurer positions were amalgamated, Willie Brennan became Secretary/Treasurer.
The fifties were lean years in both hurling and football, but in 1959 we produced one of the finest senior football teams to wear the blue and white. In Tullamore we faced Dublin in the Leinster Final, after a blistering first half we led Dublin at half time but failed in the second half to keep up the pace and Dublin won comfortably. Camross won their first senior final by defeating Cuddagh by one point 2-5 to 3-1.
The 1960's began with the Senior Hurlers winning Division two of the National League in 1959/60 and in 1964/65. In 1960 The Heath won three senior football championships in a row defeating annanough, O'Dempsey's and Portlaoise. The next disappointment came in 1963 after reaching our first Leinster Football final in four years. Again Dublin provided the opposition, yet in the first half we played magnificent football. The game belonged to Tom Browne, he was magnificent. Unfortunately his midfield partner Fintan Walsh carried a leg injury into the game and this was to prove the undoing of the O'Moore men and Dublin went on to win.
O'Dempsey's won the Senior Football Championship for the first time beating neighbours portarlington by two points 2-5 to 2-3. Jack Conroy became County Chairman in 1964 and served the county until 1969.
In 1964 we were back at Headquarters again, twice within a month, in two All Ireland finals. On the first Sundayin September we were in the All Ireland Minor Hurling Final. We had won a great Leinster final against Kilkenny and hopes were high as we went through the motions of defeating Mayo in the All Ireland semi final at Birr in the spills of rain. The players trained hard and we set out for Croker full of hope. Our opponents were Cork. We did not feel undaunted as the only All Ireland hurling title we won previously in 1915 was against the Rebels. Cork ran out easy winners in the end.
A couple of weeks later we returned to Headquarters. This time for the All Ireland Under 21 Football Final. It was the inauguration year of the competition.
We had done well in defeating Offaly in the Leinster Final at O'Moore Park. We were at home to Donegal in the All Ireland Semi Final. Again we were successful. Now, only Kerry stood between history and us. It was a great performance. We lost a player sidelined, so we finished with fourteen men and, sadly, that was too much of a burden. Kerry had won the very first All Ireland Under 21 title.
Our 21 Hurling Team also reached the Leinster Final defeating Kildare and Offaly was beaten by Wexford in Wexford 4-7 to 2-2. Mick Fennell from Graiguecullen played in eight finals in 1964, three Leinster Finals, two All Irelands, two County Minor Finals and one Senior County Football Final, winning two out the eight.
1966 was our next appearance at Headquarters. We had won the Leinster Minor Football Championship and three weeks later held Down to a draw in All Ireland Semi final. A week later at Navan our hopes were dashed again.
Portlaoise appeared in six county senior football finals from 1966 to 1971 winning five by defeating O'Dempsey's in a replay, Emo, Timahoe St Joseph's, The Heath and losing out in 1969 to Timahoe by five points. St. Conlets sister club of O'Dempsey's won the Junior Hurling Championship beating Ballinakill 2-7 to 1-2 and Intermediate in 1968 defeating Mountrath.
In 1967 we retained the Leinster Minor Football title and qualified for the All Ireland. Again our opponents were Cork. We were confident, but Cork again won easily. The following year we were back at Headquarters this time in search of our first Leinster Senior Football Title since 1946. Our opponents, Longford, were real outsiders. After all we had beaten a good Offaly side in Tullamore in the Leinster Semi Final. Longford had never won a Leinster title.
In 1968 this was a unique final. For the first time in history all thirty players were seeking a first medal. The result was very disappointing. Longford turned in their finest performance ever to win on the score 3-9 to 1-4. We lost the minor final to Dublin the same day on the score 1-11 to 0-8. We got some consolation by our junior footballers winning the Junior Leinster Final by defeating Westmeath. We lost to Mayo in All Ireland semi final. Tom Cushen (Park) became County Chairman in 1969-1972.
In 1969 we won our second Under 21 football title at the expenses of Wicklow, but a good Roscommon side put paid to our hopes in the All Ireland semi final. In 1971, 1975, 1978 and 1979 Offaly ended our football hopes, after we had looked good on all occasions for long periods. Borris In Osory won their fifth title by defeating Ballyfin making their first appearance in a senior final on a score of 3-4 to 2-8. Emo won their first Senior Championship at the expense of Graiguecullen 2-11 to 3-4.
From 1973 to 1988 Sean Ramsbottom (Timahoe) was County Chairman. 1973 was our most glorious year on the football field. We won the Leinster Junior Football Final beating Meath. We travelled to Longford for the All Ireland final and won the home final against Sligo. Then it was on to London where we collected our first every All Ireland Football title. That same year we contested the Leinster minor football final, this time to lose to Kildare. Apart from these two teams in 1973, the seventies were barren.
The seventies saw the advent of the club championships and we gave a good account or ourselves. In 1973 Portlaoise came from eleven points down to defeat Athlone in a thrilling Leinster Final at Carlow, only to lose the All Ireland semi final to Bellaghy by a single point in Derry.
In 1974 Mountmellick GAA Club Question Time Team of Michael Hickey, Ger Conroy, Michael Lenihan won the All Ireland Scór Competition. Camross beat Clonaslee on a score of 1-15 to 0-5. Clonaslee making their first appearance in a final in sixty three years and went on to take the title in 1975 after they defeated Clonad 0-13 to 0-8.
In 1976 they were playing in their third final beaten by Camross by a four point margin. In 1975 Laois reached the Under 21 Football Final for the third time and were beaten by Dublin by three points in Carlow.
On then to 1976 when Laois won both Leinster Club titles, Portlaoise captured their second title by beating Cooley Kickams at Croke Park. A week later Camross made history by becoming the first Laois Club to win a Leinster Hurling title when they defeated reigning All Ireland champions James Stephens of Kilkenny by a single point. Michael Delaney became Leinster Council Secretary. In the All Ireland semi final Portlaoise turned in a fine performance before bowing out to Austin Stacks at O'Moore Park. Camross went one better defeating Ballycran at Ballycran in County Down, and the scene was set for an All Ireland appearance. Again the opposition was proved by a Cork Team, Glen Rovers. Again a great first half, the second was dismal, and we were well beaten at the finish. Our sad record on the big day continued.
Next big disappointment was 1978, a great Under 21 hurling team defeated Kilkenny in the semi final and qualified to meet Offaly for the anticipated thriller. Wexford had beaten us in the Under 21 final of 1964 and we were determined to wipe out that memory. A couple of days before the game PJ Cuddy had been sidelined in a club game, he was the captain of the team. Without him we lacked leadership and again we were only second best. Offaly went from, strength to strength and that side formed the basis of their All Ireland title side of 1981. Our Minor Hurlers also contested the minor hurling final against Kilkenny and Kilkenny had an easy victory.
Newly formed hurling club Miltown sister Club St Joseph's won the Junior Hurling League, they overcame Slieve Bloom 2-7 to 1-8, they went on to win the Junior Championship in 1979 by beating Timahoe 3-9 to 0-5. In 1977 and 1979 our Senior Hurlers won the Senior B Championship.
Michael Carroll Abbeyleix became County Secretary in 1979. On then to the eighties. Would we continue on where we left off. Yes, a good senior hurling team put up a great show against Offaly at O'Moore Park, conceded tow early goals and lost by four points. Six weeks later Offaly won their first Leinster title. Much was expected of our footballers also that year, after their National League semi final showing against Dublin in 1978. We expected victory at our favourite hunting ground O'Connor Park. This was a Leinster semi final, but Brian Mullins destroyed our hopes for yet another year.
Earlier in 1980 Camross and Portlaoise had reached the Leinster Club Final and we were favourites for the double but the only memory we have of that day was the drenching we got in Athy, a double defeat by Crumlin and Walsh Island. O'Dempsey's was crowned champions by defeating Graiguecullen 1-5 to 0-7, their second title, their first was in 1963.
In 1981, we were full of hope as usual. In April our hurlers created the biggest shock in years by defeating Tipperary in the quarter final of the National Hurling League. We had qualified to meet Offaly in the League semi final. They were Leinster Champions, a trilling hours hurling unfolded, but again the agony of a one point defeat. However, we pledged we would get revenge in the Championship. On to Croke Park in June. Offaly were the opposition. Only one hour of hurling stood between us and a Leinster Final. Another classic encounter and then that unforgettable long range point by Pat Kirwan which was the decisive score. The Footballers were still in the hunt. We beat Dublin at long last in Tuallmore in the semi final and we were back in our first Leinster Final since 1968, the opposition was neighbours Offaly. They were reigning Leinster Champions. We played well but they beat us by three points before going on to qualify for the All Ireland final. Laois Senior Footballers toured America in October 1981. Also in 1981 Portlaoise qualified for the Leinster Club Football final only to lose again to Kildare representatives, Raheens.
Portlaoise won their third Senior Hurling Championship after a lapse of 38 years. They beat Camross in Rathdowney who were going for a record six in a row. Portlaoise footballers made a senior double by defeating Graiguecullen and in 1982 they beat Errill in Hurling and Annanough in Football, this gave an unique double by winning both senior titles two years in succession. Sean Ramsbottom was elected trustee of the association in Croke Park in 1982 In 1982 our hurlers played very well in the league but were relegated. We had however gained experience and faced up to the Leinster Championship with confidence. Our opponents, yet again the old enemy, Offaly. In June at Croke Park they stood in our way of a Leinster Final. An hour of spell binding hurling failed to produce a result, the score 3-14 each, after another thriller.
A week later it was the footballers turn to face Offaly at Tuallmore. We played very well and led for three quarters of the game, but again the old story and Offaly won. They went on to win the All Ireland. Two weeks later we were back at Croke Park for the hurling replay. The scribes were still writing about the match of the year (the drawn game). Again we turned in a fine first half that dazzled the Offaly men, but they were made of stern stuff and overhauled us to qualify for their third successive Leinster Final courtesy to a controversial goal and they went on to win the All Ireland.
In 1982 we won our third Leinster Under 21 Football title. We travelled to Longford for the All Ireland semi final, the opponents Donegal. On a terrible day we lost by a single point and Donegal went on to win the All Ireland. In 1983 Laois won the Leinster Under 21 Hurling Final for the first time after our third attempt. Portlaoise won the All Ireland Club Football Final in Clough Jordan against Clan na Gael of Roscommon.
In 1984 we reached the Centenary Hurling Final against Cork, after disposing of Limerick, Tipperary and Galway. Cork won on a score line of 2-21 to 1-9. Our County Senior Finals both went to replays in football, Portlaoise beat Ballyroan and beat newly formed Harps Club (Durrow/Cullohill). Portlaoise made it a memorable year by winning both minor and senior championships in both codes. The Harps got some reward by winning the Junior A Hurling title, it also went to a replay. They defeated Timahoe by a point3-6 to 3-5. Laois held the Centenary celebrations on the 4th of June in Portarlington. The Centenary Hurling competition was won by Clonad beating The Harps on a score line of 5-5 to 1-10 and the football title was won by St Joseph's defeating The Heath on a score of 1-10 to 1-5.
In 1985 Laois contested the two Leinster Senior Finals. In the footballer decider against Dublin and against Offaly in the Hurling Final. Dublin won on a score of 0-10 to 0-4, while Offaly defeated us by 5-15 to 0-17. In 1986 Laois won the National Football League after a lapse of sixty years, defeating Monaghan by a one point margin 2-6 to 2-5. The Junior Football Final went to three games, Courtwood defeated Ballyroan by 3 points on a score 0-11 to 1-5. O'Moore Park was officially opened by former President Paddy Buggy, all clubs were represented by their officers. Laois played Dublin in hurling and Kerry in football, both trophies were presented by the Laois Association in London and Laois won both games. The first coaching scheme teamwork commenced in 1986 and its first Chairman was Teddy Fennelly, Portlaoise, Coach Organiser Pat Critchley, Portlaoise, the two Supervisors were Tom Flynn, The Harps and Liam Irwin, Ballyroan. Errill Junior Scór Team won the All Ireland Novelty Act and Errill Senior Set Dancers won the All Ireland.
In 1987 the Under 21 Footballers claimed the Leinster title for the fourth time. They lost in the All Ireland semi final to Donegal by one point 1-7 to 1-6. Both senior finals were one sided games, Portlaoise defeated Ballylinan in football and Clonad in Hurling. The Intermediate football went to a replay, Courtwood emerged by a one point margin, defeated Portarlington 1-7 to 1-6. The previous year they won the Junior, it took three games to decide the winners.
In 1988 Bill Phelan, Portlaoise became County Chairman. Camross regained the senior hurling and also won the junior A & B final to make it a treble. Portarlington won the football defeating Timahoe in a low scoring game 0-6 to 0-5. In 1989 Sean Ramsbottom was elected Chairman of the GAC Croke Park for three years. Ollie Byrne, Portlaoise became co-treasurer then on to the nineties which has proved to our best decade since our affiliation to the Association.
In 1990 Tom Hassett, Errill became County Chairman. The Under 21 and Minor Hurlers were defeated by Kilkenny in both Leinster Finals. St Michael's from the Ballylinan/Arles Parish won the Minor Football County Final for the first time they defeated Portarlington 1-12 to 2-7. They took part in the inaugural Leinster Minor Club Championship, they were beaten Ferbane Offaly champions in the divisional final.
In 1991 the Senior Footballers lost to Meath in the Leinster Final. Noel Delaney, The Harps was appointed County Coach. Ray Fogarty, Cullohill won the Under 17 Handball Singles 60x30 Leinster and All Ireland Championship, he also won the 40x20 Leinster Championship and was beaten in the All Ireland. Portarlington contested four football finals, senior, Intermediate, Under 21 and Minor A, winning the Intermediate, defeating The Harps, Under 21 Don Bosco and Minor Spink, losing out to Portlaoise in Senior. Portlaoise were victorious in both codes, repeating their achievements they attained in 1984 and 1987.
In 1992 Clonad and Ballyroan regained the County Senior Hurling and Football Championships after a lapse of over twenty years for both clubs. Two old clubs were back in senior ranks, Barrowhouse and Kilcotton. Both Intermediate finals were fine sporting games. Camross won their first minor competition by defeating Abbeyleix and Graiguecullen taking the minor football title defeating Portlaoise.
In 1993, Jim Kavanagh, Stradbally was elected as treasurer. The Senior Footballers won the Senior ‘B' All Ireland Championship by defeating Sligo in Pearse Park Longford on a score of 0-17 to 0-5 and the Junior Footballers won the Leinster Football Final after a period of twenty years at the expense of Carlow in Portlaoise. They defeated Lancashire in the semi final were defeated by Cork on a score line of 0-12 to 2-3 at Cashel. Both senior finals went to replays, Camross defeated Portlaoise 1-13 to 2-9. The Heath defeated Ballyroan 2-17 to 2-15. The Junior ‘A' Hurling Championship went to three games between Portlaoise and Ballypickas. Portlaoise won the third game on a score of 3-11 to 3-8.
In 1994, Laois won the Leinster Under 21 Football title for the fifth time, beating Meath in a replay in Newbridge. St Joseph's took the senior championship after a lapse of four years, they beat Emo 1-16 to 2-7. They went on to reach the Leinster Club Final only to be beaten in a replay by Senchalstown, Meath. Graiguecullen won their first Junior Special Hurling Titles by beating Kilcotton.
In 1995, the Senior Footballers were beaten by Donegal in the League semi final by three points. The start of four great years at Minor Football level began. Three great games against Westmeath in the Leinster Final, losing the third by four points. The county won the Fair Play Award sponsored by the Bank of Ireland for agreeing to a replaywith Carlow in the Senior Football Championship as there was a controversial Laois point awarded. Castletown won their first County Senior Hurling Title by defeating Portlaoise 1-12 to 0-11. Portarlington taking the Senior Football title, they defeated St Joseph's 1-10 to 0-7.
In 1996 we won the All Ireland Minor Football title for the first time, defeating Kerry on a score of 2-11 to 1-11. We lost the Junior Football Leinster Final to Meath and lost the National Hurling League Semi Final by two points against Tipperary in Kilkenny. St Joseph's appeared in their third final in a row, regaining the senior football championship reversing last year's decider by defeating Portarlington 0-10 to 1-5. Camross became senior hurling championship for the 22nd time by defeating 1995 champions Castletown.
In 1997 we lost to Kerry in the National Football League Semi Final by six points. The minors regained the All Ireland Minor Football Championship Title Final defeating Tyrone. Fiona Carroll was appointed full time clerical officer. Stradbally won the senior football championship title after a lapse of 56 years, they defeated Portlaoise 2-10 to 0-10.
The two Arles clubs contested the Intermediate Football Final, a very sporting game with Arles Killeen emerging winners on a score of 2-6 to 0-10. Castletown emerged victorious over a gallant Harps team to take their second County Championship, they went on to contest the Leinster Club Final, going down to Offaly Champions Birr 0-11 to 0-5
In 1998 we won the Leinster Minor Football Championship, making it three in a row, and contested the All Ireland Final, with Tyrone winning by six points. Our Under 21 Footballers also won the Leinster Final and reached the All Ireland Final by defeating Galway in the semi final. Our opponents were Kerry in the Final, played in Limerick. Kerry won on a score line of 2-8 to 0-11.
Portlaoise regained the Senior Hurling Championship after a lapse of seven years defeating The Harps in a very sporting game on a score 0-13 to 0-11. In football Stradbally defeated The Rock in very poor conditions, they went on to reach the Leinster Club Semi Final, defeated by Kilmacud Croke by three points. Tony Walsh became County Treasurer.
And so to 1999, the last year of the decade. No honours came our way, we contested two Leinster Final - Under 21 Football and Intermediate Hurling. We commenced the year competing in the O'Byrne and Walsh Cup competitions. We lost to Westmeath in the O'Byrne Cup, and reached the final of the Walsh Cup by defeating Dublin in Abbeyleix in the semi final. Owing to a fracas between players, mentors and supporters just at the end of the game, Laois were disqualified from participating in the final.
The 1998/99 National Football League was completed. We were demoted to division 2 after losing the last four games against Kildare, Down, Clare and Derry. In the National Hurling League we remained in Division 1 winning three out of the six games, beating Wexford, Cork and Down. We lost to Kilkenny, Waterford and Tipperary. The first team into the Championship race for 1999 was our Under 21 Footballer. Our first game against Meath in Navan was a draw. Laois won the replay in Portlaoise by four points. We beat Louth and Dublin and qualified for the Leinster Final for the second year running and our sixth appearance in the Under 21 Football Final facing Westmeath in Tullamore. The game ended in a draw as Westmeath won the replay by two points. Westmeath went on to win the All Ireland Final. Our Minor Footballers travelled to Louth for the first round, and won by thirteen points. We lost to Offaly in Portlaoise in the second round, having completely dominated the second half and kicking over twenty wides in the game we were beaten by two points - this was a very disappointing result. Out Junior Footballers lost the semi final to Dublin in Portlaoise, after beating Carlow and Kilkenny in earlier rounds at Carlow and Portlaoise. Our Senior Footballers has a good result over a fancied Westmeath team in the Senior Football Championship Quarter Final. Dublin again were our opponents in the Semi Final. After a fine performance and leading by four points with time just up Dublin equalised and they went on to win the replay by a two point margin.
The Minor Hurling Championship was played on a round robin basis, excluding Wexford and Kilkenny who were ceded. With good wins over Westmeath in Portlaoise, Dublin in Parnell Park, but losing to Offaly in Birr. Laois were on four points and booked a semi final place against Wexford. After conceding two early goals the team found it very difficult to level the game and in the end Wexford won by five points. In Under 21 Hurling for the fourth consecutive year we found ourselves at the end of a heavy defeat by Wexford. Our Intermediate Hurlers reached the Leinster Final against Kilkenny, after a good win over Wexford in Portlaoise. On the day Kilkenny were far superior. Our Senior Hurlers were very disappointing going down to Kilkenny. After doing reasonably well in the league, holding on to Division 1 status and the two previous years performances in the Championship, only losing to both Offaly and Kilkenny by three points. Castletown became County Champions for the third time, defeating Portlaoise on a score 2-6 to 1-6. In football Portlaoise took the Senior Championship after a lapse of eight years defeating St Joseph's 1-13 to 1-11. Shanahoe emerged over Ballypickas to collect the Fr Phelan Cup for the first time at the fourth attempt and the Junior title after a lapse of fifty years.