|Senior & Intermediate Hurling Title Wins ♦ Under 21's grab Glory too ♦ Club buys Grounds and embark on Development Plan|
County Senior Hurling Champions 1998
Front Row: (left to right) John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Joe Rabbitte, Brendan Keogh, Cathal Moran, Donal Moran. Back Row: (left to right) Michael Crimmins, Eddie Brady, Eamonn Keogh, Eugene Cloonan, Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman, Brian Feeney, Pat Higgins and Brian Hanley.
Having paid the price for a lack lustre half hour against Sarsfields in the previous year's championship, Athenry with a new manager were recharged and ready for action. There was considerable surprise that PJ Molloy had stepped down as manager with Pat Nally taking over control. The team's trainer for the previous two years, he was the ideal choice and was joined by Jackie O'Shea, Martin T Kelly, Sean Hynes, Luke Glynn and Mattie Gannon. As keen as ever, Athenry were a good bet to collect their third cup in five years and were installed as favourites to do so.
They could afford to shoot twelve wides and still win by nine points against Mullagh in their opening game at Clarinbridge, having still played well and done more than enough to record a convincing 1-16 to 1-7 win. With Eugene Cloonan leading the demolition of their opponents, scoring ten points, they were ahead 0-9 to 0-2 at half-time. The worst possible scenario unfolded for Mullagh at the start of the second half when Joe Rabbitte and Donal Moran combined to create an opening for Aidan Poniard to rattle the Mullagh net. Athenry continued their clinical display and Noel Carney in the Connacht Tribune wrote "Who will beat them? Considering the vast resources at their disposal it will take an exceptional performance to do so."
For Mullagh's new supremo, Pete Finnerty it was a baptism of fire on a day that Eamonn Keogh, Brian Feeney, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley Pat Higgins Joe Rabbitte and Eugene Cloonan impressed most for the winners.
The championship pacesetters pushed aside the Turloughmore challenge in the next round at Kenny Park with a devastating first-half performance scoring 2-12 to virtually end the game as a contest, Athenry were always in control and seemed to be able to move up a gear if required. All six forwards were on top of their game and it was evident that their younger players were measuring up to the championship hurling, while the likes of Pat Higgins was still clocking up the scores. The game ended with Athenry 3-18 to 1-12 ahead in what was supposed to be the biggest test for them in the group games.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamonn Keogh, Diarmaid Cloonan, John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley, Joe Rabbitte, Pat Higgins, Aidan Poniard, Eugene Cloonan, Pascal Healy, Donal Moran.
Gallant Pearses were no match for Athenry in their next game and they clocked up an impressive winning tally of 3-16 t 0-10. Sharper in every department, they had the points wrapped up well before half-time with their forwards again in excellent form.
Through to the quarter-finals there were shades of 1988 at Turloughmore when Abbeyknockmoy caused the shock defeating Athenry by 4-8 to 1-10. Played on a Monday evening the game started late and was poorly refereed by Joe Joe Larkin. Having already qualified Athenry were probably caught in the wrong frame of mind and the concession of four goals was a cause of concern.
On the eve of the Galway/Kildare All Ireland Football Final Athenry took the field against Clarinbridge in the county quarter final, knowing that any further lapses would be punished by the previous year's finalists. Twenty minutes into the game at Duggan Park the outcome was decided and Athenry were on their way to the semi-final, with only the margin of victory to be decided. Clarinbridge were in trouble when Michael Donohue and Michael Spellman both cried off with injuries before the game. Athenry backs were in control and with Brendan Keogh and Brian Hanley dominating midfield Joe Rabbitte led a fast moving attack that were 1-8 to 0-1 ahead after twenty three minutes. With Eugene Cloonan getting the goal, the outcome was heading firmly in Athenry's favour when the game exploded coming up to half-time with an ugly brawl. Referee Tony Carr singled out Pascal Healy and Aidan Quinn from the many involved and sent them off. Tempers did not settle at that stage and ten minutes into the second half Clarinbridge's Michael Carr was also sent off after a tackle on Eugene Cloonan.
From there to the end it was one-way traffic and the final whistle could not come fast enough for Clarinbridge who were well beaten by 2-16 to 1-6.
In a gripping semi-final, played at breakneck pace, Athenry had to call on all their reserves of experience and hurling know-how to edge out Loughrea at Kenny Park. This was a quality Championship match that went to the 62nd minute before Eddie Brady sent over the insurance point for Athenry. The winners were more than relieved to have survived such a stiff test and had proved to themselves that they were developing into a difficult side to beat. Their mix of defensive resilience and attacking power proved too much for the John McIntyre trained Loughrea side.
The winners were lucky to get a goal after eleven minutes when a cross by Donal Moran was misjudged by Loughrea goalkeeper Nigel Murray and ended up in the net. It was a huge blow for them but to their credit they kept battling on and were level 1-5 to 0-8 at halftime.
Joe Rabbitte moved to midfield for the second half and as a result, his side began to win more possession. The forwards managed to maintain a decent scoring rate with opportunistic points from Eddie Brady and Donal Moran keeping them ahead. It was too close for comfort in the closing stages as Loughrea squandered three good goal scoring chances but Gerry Keane, Brian Feeney and John Feeney closed down their opponents in the closing stages with good effect. Michael Crimmins gave an outstanding display of handling in the Athenry goal, while almost all the outfield players had their moments on a day when victory was as much about application as inspiration.
Athenry found the favourites' tag a heavy burden to carry into the County final at Kenny Park against Abbey/Duniry. The challengers came ever so close to pulling off a huge shock when holding Athenry to a draw in a low scoring contest. The estimated 10,000 crowd were disappointed with the standard of play on a day when the heavy pitch was a contributory factor and both sides seemed to relish a second chance to prove their worth.
Playing with a strong wind, Abbey/Duniry had a goal and a point on the scoreboard within three minutes, but could manage only one more point in the opening half. With Gerry Keane and Brian Hanley again outstanding in the Athenry defence, Abbey/Duniry got few scoring chances. At the other end Eugene Cloonan hit vital points to put his side 0-6 to 1-2 ahead at half-time.
Apart from the slenderness of their lead, Athenry appeared to be in total control and it seemed only a matter of time before a flush of scores would come when aided by the elements. However, that scenario never materialised and amazingly they only managed to score three points in the second half. Three minutes from the end Abbey/Duniry's Niall Shiel levelled the scores with a point, and while both sides had chances to grab victory, neither deserved to lose or win on the day. Athenry certainly had cause to ponder long and hard as to why they didn't press home their advantage in the second half after doing so well in the opening thirty minutes. Their lack of attacking penetration during that period was a huge factor and left the door open for Abbey/Duniry to win their first title.
Sometimes great expectations are not always matched by great deeds, but in the replay a week later at Duggan Park Athenry put in a spirited second half to capture their fourth County title. This time Athenry seemed better prepared and psyched up for the task and showed an abundance of courage and character throughout.
When Mattie Kenny edged his side ahead with a goal ten minutes into the second half, Athenry needed all of their craft and experience to survive. They passed the test with honours when Eugene Cloonan sent a priceless 21 yard free to the back of the net and Abbey/Duniry were stopped in their tracks. That score turned the game back in favour of the Joe Rabbitte led side and they held a firm grip until the end.
Athenry's scoring surge in the closing minutes of the opening half put them 0-9 to 0-5 ahead. But the Matt Murphy trained side launched a fierce onslaught on the resumption of play and put it up to Athenry, especially when Mattie Kenny goaled to give them the lead. There was, however no fairytale ending and the dismissal of Declan Donnelly for a tackle on Brendan Keogh and an off-the-ball tackle on John Feeney did not help their cause. Also a brilliant reflex save in the closing stages by Michael Crimmins to deny Kevin Broderick a goal, was vital for Athenry.
Jim Carney in the Herald wrote "A notable feature of Athenry's display was the lovely striking of their scores, such as Donal Moran's three points: three between them by outstanding midfielders Brendan Keogh and Brian Hanley: a delightful flashing point from the right wing by Cathal Moran in the first half and three tremendous second half points from play by Joe Rabbitte, Eugene Cloonan and excellent sub Aidan Poniard..... Brian Feeney also a tower of strength and dependability at centre back and Brian Higgins and Paul Hardiman so comfortable on the ball.... A lot of credit must go the tight marking full back line of Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane and John Feeney who comprised the team's best line over the two days"
In the heat of the battle two men stood out, Paul Hardiman for sustained excellence throughout and was rock solid and Pat Higgins who according to John McIntyre in the Connacht Tribune "produced one of his finest displays ever over a long career in the maroon of Athenry, apart form a typical hour of hard graft he was directly involved in Athenry's closing three points in the first half at a time when his side was struggling".
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane, John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley, Donal Moran, Pat Higgins, Eddie Brady, Cathal Moran, Joe Rabbitte, Eugene Cloonan, Sub: Aidan Poniard
In the Connacht Final against Toreen it was plain sailing all the way for Athenry and a very impressive score line of 3-25 to 0-5. The main talking points were the placing of Eugene Cloonan in goal and Pascal Healy's 2-7.
The abundance of talent in the club was evident with the wonderful success of the intermediate hurling side in the county championship. Managed by Pat Nally and his selectors their victory over neighbours Craughwell in the County final was a memorable day in the history of the club. When Declan Higgins stepped up to receive the Cup it was the first occasion that a club had won the two premier titles, Intermediate and Senior, in the county during the same year. This unprecedented achievement was even more admirable because of the manner in which it was achieved. A mixture of young and not so young players turned in a excellent team display in the final to make history with panache and style.
In the County semi-final in dreadful conditions at Ballindereen the spirit of this team was severely tested in the closing stages of a cracking match against Beagh. Struggling to stay in the game and down two points with ten minutes remaining, they brought on young Richard Brady and Kevin Higgins. Both immediately made an impact with Richard taking control at midfield and Kevin getting a vital goal that won the match with a final score of 1-1- to 1-7.
In the final it was a more seasoned player who stood out with a man-of-the-match performance – John Hardiman inspired his colleagues with a display of skill, craft and know how. His superb display along with that of Emmet Caulfield, David Donohue and Diarmaid Burns made the difference between the sides.
Craughwell got a tonic start when Michael Connolly hit a goal and a point in the opening minutes before Athenry settled. But seven excellent points without reply three from David Donohue, and two each from Dara Burke and Diarmaid Burns, in a blistering spell for Athenry gave them a lead which they never relinquished. Another two points by Emmet Caulfield who had a fine first half, kept the pressure on Craughwell who were fortunate to be trailing by just 0-10 to 1-5 at the half-time break.
Athenry stayed in control throughout the second half with John Hardiman having a huge influence in the final quarter, while a very solid defence gave little away. Michael Connolly got a consolation goal for Craughwell in the final minutes, but it was Athenry's day and they were well worth more than their two point winning margin of 0-17 to 2-9 at the end.
Team: Patrick Hession, Aidan Cahill, Michael Cahill, Kevin McCarthy, Richard Brady, John Conway, Derek Carroll, John Hardiman, Shane Donohue, Emmet Caulfield, Declan Higgins, Dara Burke, David Donohue, Dermot Monaghan, Diarmaid Burns Sub Kevin Higgins.
A decade littered with county titles at all levels was further enhanced when the club's under 21 side captured the '98 county title to complete a unique treble of titles for the same year. Though not played until the middle of June 1999, Athenry's latest crop of under 21 players defeated Loughrea by 0-11 to 1-6 in a keenly contested final at Clarinbridge.
Showing that they too had the winning knack, they deserved to carry the day if only for their better ratio of scoring compared at chances created.
Although the prestige of the competition continued to be seriously devalued by its belated conclusion in recent years, a reasonable crowd turned up to see if Athenry could overturn their group game defeat to the same opposition. This time they were up for the game from the start and were in control throughout, even when Loughrea cut the deficit to a single point by the 45th minute. The introduction of John Feeney recovering form injury, steadied the Athenry defence and with Eugene Cloonan, Aidan Poniard, David Donohue and Dara Burke taking their points they held on to record a deserved victory.
Team: Paddy Gannon, Aidan Cahill, Diarmuid Cloonan, Kevin McCarthy, Michael John Quinn, Richard Brady, Derek Carroll, Michael Freaney, Shane Donohue, Aidan Poniard, Emmet Caulfield, Darragh Burke, Kevin Higgins, Eugene Cloonan, David Donohue. Subs John Feeney, Thomas Howley.
Athenry also fielded 3 junior hurling teams. The junior "A" team reached the semi-final while the junior "B" and junior "C" teams gave a good account of themselves but failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the championship.
In juvenile circles it was a quiet year by Athenry standards but the highlight was the winning of the 13 -a-side-hurling schools championship for the first time ever by Athenry Boy's N.S. In the final they beat their long time rivals Loughrea to record a magnificent victory. The U-15 team won the Brian Daly tournament in Killimordaly for the third year in a row beating Sarsfields in the final.
The Club embarked on a major development programme and the purchase of over eight acres of land at Carnaun. The need for extra playing pitches and facilities to accommodate the growing number of members and teams is a major undertaking for the Club and community.
The Club organised a special function to honour P.J. Molloy and acknowledge his many achievements with Athenry and Galway. The function which was held in Dobbyn and Coffey's was attended by many celebrities which included Michael O Mhuirearthaigh and former inter-county players who played with and against P.J.
Joe Rabbitte collected his second Galway Sports Star award for his battling performance for Galway in the All Ireland quarter-final against Waterford and for his Club in the county championship.
The Club hosted a very successful reunion function to honour the players who were members of the 1948 county junior and minor football champion wining teams and the 1957 Junior hurling championship winning team. Former Galway greats, hurlers Jimmy Duggan and footballer Enda Colleran were guest speakers and presented plaques to the players at a function in Dobbyn & Coffey's after a concelebrated Mass for the deceased members. One of the co-celebrants was Fr Jim Stanley who played on the minor and junior football teams. In his homily he praised the spirit of the time and all those who had contributed in any way to the success of those years. Other speakers at the function that followed were players form that era Jim Kearns, Bobby Gardner and Martin Feeney.
Galway footballers defeated Kildare in the All-Ireland Final to win their first title in thirty two years by 1-14 to 1-10. The county hurlers performed poorly and were well beaten by Waterford in the All-Ireland quarter-final by 1-20 to 1-10.
The county minors defeated Clare 1-12 to 2-8 but lost to Kilkenny in the semi-final by 2-11 to 1-13. Diarmaid Cloonan, David and Shane Donohue were members of the team. The Under 21's reached the All-Ireland Final by defeating Kilkenny 4-18 to 3-7, but lost to Cork in the final by 2-15 to 1-10. John Feeney and Eugene Cloonan were members of the team.
Club Officers 1998
|County Intermediate Hurling Champions 1998
Front Row: (left to right) Shane Donohue, Emmet Caulfield, Darragh Burke, Patrick Hession, Declan Higgins, David Donohue. Back Row: (left to right) John Conway, Richard Brady, Michael Cahill, John Hardiman, Derek Carroll, Diarmuid Burns, Aidan Cahill and Dermot Monaghan.
|County Under 21 Hurling Champions 1998
Front Row: (left to right) Diarmaid Cloonan, Aidan Cahill, Kevin McCarthy, Paddy Gannon, Richard Brady, Shane Donohue, David Donohue. Back Row: (left to right) Emmet Caulfield, Eugene Cloonan, Aidan Poniard, Derek Cahill, Michael Freaney, Michael John Quinn, Diarmuid Burns and Kevin Higgins.
|Athenry captain Joe Rabbitte raises the County Senior Hurling Cup following the Final|
|Galway Bay FM's Gerry Rabbitt presents the man of match award to Paul Hardiman following the County Final.|
|Hurling Board Chairman Miko Ryan presenting the County Intermediate Cup to Declan Higgins.|
|Presentation to Sean McGree before his return to Australia
Front Left: John Hardiman, Noel Kelly, Maura Hardiman, Brian Feeney, Michael Quinn, Michael Crimmins, Brian Hanley, Ann Cloonan, Tom Cloonan, Tom Carr, Dermot Monaghan, Sean McGree, Mattie Feeney, Joe Rabbitte, Noreen Hanley, Conrad Byrnes, Martin T. Kelly, Tom Hanley, Eugene Cloonan, Kathleen Quinn, Mary Madden, Jarlath Cloonan, xxxxx Angela McGree, Vincent Madden, Sean McGovern and Mary McGovern.
|Athenry captain Declan Higgins receives the County Intermediate Michael Sylver Cup following the Final Edel Sylver with Hurling Board Chairman Miko Ryan.||Connacht Council President Phelim Murphy presents the Connacht Cup to Athenry captain Joe Rabbitte.|