|Senior Hurlers win Title ♦ Unique Under 16 Hurling & Football Double ♦ Junior C's are crowned Champions|
|Athenry County Senior Hurling Champions 1996
Front Row: (left to right) Eamonn Keogh, Pascal Healy, John Feeney, Colin Byrne, Michael Crimmins, Brian Feeney, Brian Higgins, Donal Moran, Back Row: (left to right) Paul Hardiman, Eugene Cloonan, Pat Higgins, John Hardiman, Joe Rabbitte, Gerry Keane, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley. Mascots: Adrian & Kieran Healy
The defeated 1995 finalists Portumna were Athenry`s opponents in the first round of the senior hurling championship played at Loughrea. In an incident packed game Athenry had six points to spare at the end, 2-9 to 0-6 and finished the game with thirteen players. Pat Higgins and John Conway were both sent off while Portumna`s Sean Treacy got his marching orders for an unprovoked off the ball incident involving Eugene Cloonan. Athenry`s championship débutante, who scored four points, was lucky not to receive a serious head injury. Brendan Keogh moved to centre back for the second half and went on to be the games most influential player. The promising Donal Moran and Eddie Brady also sparkled for the winners and scored a goal apiece.
Athenry had too much power for Loughrea in a rather disappointing game, which preceded the Galway v Leitrim Connacht senior football championship game at Tuam Stadium. In the second minute Loughrea carelessly failed to line the goal for a twenty five-metre free which Eugene Cloonan promptly blasted to the net. Cathal Moran added another to give his side a 2-5 to 0-5 at the interval. On the resumption Michael Haverty goaled a penalty for Loughrea to keep them in the game, but Athenry moved up a gear and had a comfortable 2-12 to 1-10 victory.
Athenry`s devastating performance against Gort in their next game was a warning to other teams with championship ambitions. The south Galway side simply had no answer to Athenry`s power and precision. Although favoured by a strong wind, Athenry took a while to find their stride, but a couple smashing points by Donal Moran got them into gear. Brendan Keogh and Eddie Brady also landed quality scores to give their side a deserved interval lead of 0-12 to 0-2. A great move involving Brain Higgins, who was Athenry`s outstanding player, Donal Moran and Joe Rabbitte was finished to the Gort net by Eugene Cloonan in the 50th minute. Joe Rabbitte was at the heart of several Athenry scores as Pat Higgins and Donal Moran drilled over points. Gort were unable to come to terms and Athenry secured their place in the quarterfinals with a 1-22 to 1-12 victory.
They replaced their early season flair with a display of hard graft to deseverdly end Caslegar`s aspirations in a closely contested at game at rainsoaked Ardrahan. At the end only three points separated the sides, 0-11 to 0-8, and Athenry supporters certainly had some anxious moments. Colin Byrne, making his championship debut at midfield, was Athenry`s outstanding player with notable contributions also from defenders Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman and forwards Brian Hanley, Pat Higgins, Donal Moran and Eugene Cloonan.
When they failed to defeat a youthful Clarinbridge side in the county semi final at Ballinasloe, Athenry`s championship pedigree was called into serious question. In fairness a depleted side was on duty and at the end it took a dubiously awarded sixty-five for the south Galway side to force a draw. Athenry had to endure a more penetrating examination in the replay before emerging still on course for their second county cup crown in three years. They certainly showed that they had the necessary qualities of endurance and resilience to go all the way after staring defeat in the face for long periods during this contest.
Impaired before the game through injury, Athenry were further weakened when reduced to fourteen men after seventeen minutes when Paul Hardiman was sent off for retaliation in an off-the-ball incident. Teams have a habit of rising to adversity and Athenry did just that in a fiercely contested game that took extra time to decide. Clarinbridge had reason to be optimistic at half time when they trailed by just one point, 0-4 to 0-3, and wind advantage still to come. A goal from a penalty for the `Bridge six minutes into the second period and Athenry were in a serious predicament. The injured Joe Rabbitte was drafted in and immediately made an impression with a good point. Brian Hanley had another excellent one from play and his side trailed 1-5 to 0-6 with just three minutes left to play in normal time. Donal Moran reduced the deficit to the minimum from a free a minute later but several missed scoring chances followed and Athenry looked like bowing out. But then up popped Donal again winning possession at midfield, side-stepping two tackles, before driving between the posts for a dramatic equalizer over two minutes into injury time. Back to full strength for extra time, Athenry struck a telling blow after four minutes, when Eugene Cloonan finished a long free from Brendan Keogh to the net. Athenry then produced for the first time the kind of form which wins county titles, lifting their game to new heights. Points followed from Donal Moran, Pat Higgins and Eugene Cloonan before the county minor latched onto another Brendan Keogh free to leave Athenry a remarkable 2-14 to 1-8 ahead. Brian Carr and Dara Coen reduced the lead with goals before a very relieved Athenry side heard the final whistle and the score read 2-14 to 3-8 in their favour.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamon Keogh, Gerry Keane, John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Colin Byrne, Brian Hanley, Pat Higgins, Donal Moran, Cathal Moran, Pascal Healy, EugeneCloonan. Subs: Joe Rabbitte, John Hardiman, Aidan Poniard, Dara Burke.
Having learned the hard way over the years how to labour for victory, aside from a few nervous opening minutes, the destination of the 1996 County Cup was rarely in doubt. Athenry emerged as a force to be reckoned with after collecting their second title in three years, defeating Carnmore by 2-6 to 1-6 at Kenny Park, on a bitterly cold December day. The fact hat they had to grind victory out in a dogged affair that rarely reached above the mediocre did not unduly bother a home side which was clearly the better team.
However, the game was precariously balanced for most of the opening half with the winners failing to translate possession into scores, as both defences seemed to have the edge. If anything the pendulum looked like swinging the way of Carnmore, after opting to play against the wind, when Peter Fahy had the ball in the Athenry net within five minutes. Athenry clawed their way back with two points from Eugene Cloonan and another from full forward Pascal Healy as a certain amount of unease seemed to be creeping into the side at the difficulty to get scores. Six minutes before the break Athenry delivered the score that was to alter the course of the match. Eugene Cloonan stepped up to take a twenty metrefree- everybody expected he would take a point- instead he shot low to the back of the Carnmore net. For good measure he landed one of the best points of the match after collecting a massive delivery from Brian Feeney to put Athenry into 1-4 to 1-0 half time lead.
It was not an unassailable lead but one that would be jealously guarded by the Athenry defence in the second half. Michael Crimmins rarely had to bring off a save of note, while at the other end of the field Carnmore were unable to curb the influence of Joe Rabbitte. Time after time he out-fielded his marker to win vital possession which he rarely wasted.
Carnmore were still within striking distance at 1-5 to 1-2 with nineteen minutes remaining, but their hopes disappeared in a fine two minute spell for Athenry. Donal Moran superbly threaded a ball through to Pascal Healy who blasted home a spectacular goal to the delight of his fans. Joe Rabbitte added an inspirational point from play to put his side seven points ahead. Michael `Bomber`Killilea came on for Carnmore and added four points from placed balls before the end.
The rock solid defense was the foundation of Athenry`s success, all six hurled with great commitment and passion. Brian Higgins was particularly outstanding and his excellent reading of the game proved to be crucial. Team captain Brian Feeney and Gerry Keane cut out several Carnmore attacks and were a constant heartbreak for the losers. Colin Byrne had a fine game at midfield with Brendan Keogh, while up front Joe Rabbitte, Pascal Healy and Eugene Cloonan did the real damage to Carnmore`s title hopes.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamon Keogh, Gerry Keane, John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, John Hardiman, Colin Byrne, Brendan Keogh, Joe Rabbitte, Pat Higgins, Brian Hanley, Donal Moran Pascal Healy, Eugene Cloonan, Subs: Cathal Moran, John Conway.
A solid efficient display by Athenry proved too much for their Roscommon counterparts Four Roads in the Connacht Final at Ballyforan. Lining out without five regulars a fine performence by Pat Higgins was the highlight of an entertaining game. The Inky Flaherty Cup was presented to Brian Feeney by Connacht Council President Phelim Murphy after his sides 1-15 to 1-8 victory.
Team: Patrick Hession, Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane, John Feeney, David Howley, Brian Feeney, John Hardiman, Colin Byrne, Brendan Keogh, Donal Moran, Pat Higgins, Brian Hanley, Cathal Moran, Emmet Caulfield, John Conway.
In their first ever-overseas competitive game Athenry traveled to London to play St. Gabriels in the All Ireland Club quarterfinal at Ruislip. With very little knowledge of what to expect from their opponents and playing their fifth match in as many weeks the management and players were taking no chances. The Tommy Duane (Newcastle) managed side was well prepared but the Galway champions were in fine form and got down to business from the throw in. With Brian Hanley and Joe Rabbitte at their best the visitors were 1-9 to 0-4 ahead at the interval. Two goals by Pascal Healy the first one minute after halftime gave Athenry a commanding lead and they went on to record a comfortable 3-15 to 1-8 win. A large number of supporters traveled from Athenry to London for the game and they were all well treated by St. Gabriels GAA Club.
The clubs minor hurlers played the price for their current and past successes when bidding to win four-in-a-row titles against Turloughmore in the Final. The holders never produced the form shown in earlier games and were well beaten at the end by 2-13 to 1-7.
Athenry caused a major upset by beating Corofin in the County Under 16 A Football Final by 2-19 to 0-12 at Monivea. Having dominated under age football in recent years Corofin were firm favourites but Athenry proved to be a physically more powerful side and had the skill to match. The first ten minutes followed the script - Corofin sent over two great points but it was a sign of things to come when Martin Coffey goaled for Athenry. At half time Corofin were very much back in the game and led by 0-9 to 1-3.
Ace marksman Kieran Comer kept them in the driving seat but gradually Athenry got control with the backs in particular picking up breaks and setting up attacks.
Corofin extended their lead with a point but a Kieran Flannery goal put Athenry back in the driving seat and points by Kieran, David Donohue and David Casserly gave them a well deserved football title. They had many stars, but the best were Paddy Gannon, Diarmaid Cloonan, Niall O`Brien, Kevin McCarthy and Derek Carroll in defence, Shane Donohue and Captain David Glynn at midfield, while all six forwards were outstanding and worked well as a unit.
Team: Paddy Gannon, Declan Farrell, Diarmaid Cloonan, Michael John Quinn, Niall O`Brien, Kevin McCarthy, Derek Carroll, Shane Donohue, David Glynn, Thomas Kelly, Kevin Higgins, David casserly, Kieran Flannery, David Donohue, Martin Coffey.
Successfully playing hurling and football is never easy and few teams, if any, win county titles in the same year in the same grade. Athenry under 16`s proved that they can adapt to both codes when they added the county hurling title with virtually the same team. It was a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the players themselves and their mentors.
In the hurling final which was not played until May `97 they were too good for Loughrea and won by 2-15 to 2-9 at Craughwell. They got off to an excellent start when an over-head pull by David Donohue ended up in the Loughrea net. Points followed from man-of-the-match Michael John Quinn and Cian Burke before John Curley got a goal for Loughrea. Kieran Flannery hit back with a goal for Athenry to give his side a narrow 2-5 to 2-4 lead at halftime.
In the second period aided by the wind they continued to add points and were deserving winners. Their best on the day were all six backs, Shane Donohue and Derek Carroll at midfield, while forwards Michael John Quinn, Cian Burke, Kieran Flannery and David Donohue contributed most.
Team: Paddy Gannon, Declan Farrell, Diarmaid Cloonan, Martin Coffey, David Glynn, Kevin McCarthy, Thomas Kelly, Shane Donohue, Derek Carroll, David casserly, Kevin Higgins, Cian Burke, Kieran Flannery, David Donohue, Michael John Quinn.
Even the most partisan Athenry supporter felt genuine sympathy for South Galway side Kilbeacanty who lost their second Junior C final in a row to Athenry at Ardrahan. They appeared to have the game wrapped up, leading by two points, entering the last minute but a superb late goal by Kevin Higgins robbed them of the title. Not that Athenry`s victory was undeserved - a very young team battled away gamely against a stronger and more experienced Kilbeacanty side throughout the game.
Playing with wind advantage Kilbeacanty failed to build any worthwhile lead and two points for Athenry by Shane Donohue and Diarmaid Cloonan from a 65 left it 0-4 to 0-2 at halftime. Questions were now being asked of Kilbeacanty but the Steve Mahon inspired side responded well to open a three point lead with time almost up. Shane Donohue, who worked tirelessly throughout, reduced the lead to two points with a point from a free. Then with just a minute remaining Diarmaid Cloonan drove a long free into the Kilbeacanty goalmouth where Kevin Higgins got possession and whipped the sliotar into the roof of the net for victory by 1-5 to 0-7.
It was a keenly contested final that kept the fair sized crowd absorbed all through and demonstrated again how quickly the upper hand can change from one side to another in hurling. Among Athenry`s better players were goalkeeper Paddy Gannon, defenders Kevin McCarthy, Diarmaid Cloonan and Michael Freaney with forwards Shane Donohue, Kevin Higgins and sub. David Crimmins also making valuable contributions.
Team: Paddy Gannon, Kevin McCarthy, Stephen Kelly, Bernard Ryan, David Glynn, Diarmaid Cloonan, Michael Freaney, Joe Rooney, Maurice Dempsey, Johnny Melia, Shane Donohue, Kevin Higgins, Michael Morrissey, Noel McDonagh, Mixie Donohue. Subs: David Crimmins, Luke Glynn.
The Athenry under 14 hurlers are no strangers to championship hurling and have the knack of improving as the year progresses. After a poor start they were held to a draw against Turloughmore and lost heavily to Portumna. They caused a huge shock when defeating keen rivals Loughrea and an even bigger one when the knocked out favourites Kiltormer, to reach the county final against Craughwell.
In a cracking second half the edged out their neighbours by 1-9 to 0-10 and booked their trip to the Feile in Waterford. On the day there were many stars but the defence was outstanding in particular goalie Gearoid Harty and backs John Madden, Colin Connolly and Padraic Quirke. Up front scorers Cormac Cloonan with six points, Joe Kelly with a goal and a point and point scorers David Carroll and Michael O`Donovan were the best.
Team: Geroid Harty, Brian Farrell, John Madden, John Brady, Colin Connolly, Padraic Quirke, Simon Coffey, Joe O`Brien, Liam Howley, David Carroll, Sean O`Brien, Oliver Freaney, Joe Kelly, Cormac Cloonan, Michael O`Donovan.
Twelve months to remember for Brian Feeney was crowned in great style by his selection as the Galway `hurler of the year`. Captain of the 1991 All-Ireland U21 winning team he displayed the same leadership qualities when guiding his club to the senior hurling title. He also established himself on the county team during 1996 and produced an outstanding display at full back against Wexford in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Pride of place in the National Hurling League semi-final went to Joe Rabbitte. Reveling in the freedom of his new role at wing forward, Joe made an enormous contribution scoring five excellent points from play as Galway defeated Wexford by 2-15 to 1-10. In the final against Tipperary at Limerick the Athenry man again played a leading part in Galway`s victory. He set up Kevin Broderick and Joe Cooney for goals late in the game and in a hectic finish scored the last point to give Galway a 2-10 to 2-8 win. Brendan Keogh played his finest hour for Galway at midfield and scored two magnificent points from `65s. Injury ruled out Gerry Keane and Brian Feeney though both had played in the earlier rounds and Jarlath Cloonan was a selector. In the All Ireland Vocational Schools final played before the league final Cork defeated Galway by 1-11 to 1-10, Eugene Cloonan scored all but one point of Galway`s tally.
With an impressive eleven points by Eugene Cloonan and two goals by Aidan Poniard Galway minor hurlers defeated Kilkenny in the All Ireland minor hurling semi-final by 3-16 to 1-14. Against Tipperary in the final both players again played vital roles the game ending in a draw 3-11 to 0-20. Aidan scored two goals and a point with Eugene sending over seven points, one in injury time that should have been a winner but Tipperary fought back for an equalizer. Not even a personal tally of two goals and five points by Eugene Cloonan in the replay was enough to capture the Irish Press cup. The Athenry man was subjected to very unsporting and rough tackles by the Tipperary full back that went unpunished by Cork referee Joe O`Leary.
The County under 16 hurlers completed a great year when the John Hardiman trained side captured the Nenagh Co-op sponsored All-Ireland tournament. In the Final they defeated Limerick by 1-12 to 0-10 with the Donohue brothers Shane and David and Diarmuid Cloonan members of the team.
Galway under 21 hurlers fully deserved their 1-13 to 1-9 victory over Cork at Cusack Park, Ennis in the All Ireland semi final. Three Athenry players were on the team, Eugene Cloonan played in goal, Brian Higgins at wingback and Donal Moran at wing forward while John Feeney came on during the game at corner back. The county's excellent record in under 21 hurling was further enhanced at Thurles when a whole hearted display captured the county's seventh All Ireland title in this grade. Before an attendance of 35,000 the tribesmen defeated Wexford by 1-14 to 0-7. Galway junior hurling team, trained by Sean Silke, bridged a fifty-seven year gap when they defeated Kilkenny at Tullamore by 1-14 to 2-9 in an exciting final, having accounted for Cork after a replayed semi-final by 1-15 to 1-6. John Feeney played at corner back and was one of Galway`s most consistent players in all three games. Emmet Caulfield was also a member of the panel and came on in the closing stages of the final.
London was the appropriate place for Ballinderdden`s Joe mcDonagh to be elected the youngest ever predident of the G.A.A. The former Galway hurler was the second ever Galwayman to be elected to the position - the first was P.J. Kelly from Kilnadeema for the period 1889-1895.
|Athenry captain Brian Feeney receives the Cup from Hurling Board Chairman Miko Ryan|
|Brian Feeney receives the man of the match award from Galway Bay FM's Gerry Rabbitt with Miko Ryan and Sean Walsh.|
|County Juvenile Football Chairman John Leen presents the County Under 16 (A) Football Cup to Athenry captain David Glynn|
|County Hurling Board Chairman Miko Ryan presents the County Junior C Hurling Cup to Athenry captain Johnny Melia|
|County Under 16 (A) Football Champions 1996|
|County Junior C Hurling Champions 1996|
|County Under 16 Hurling & Football Champions 1996
Front Row: (left to right) Diarmaid Cloonan, Martin Brady, Keith Coffey, Darren Madden, Michael John Quinn, Shane Donohue, Patrick Gannon, David Glynn, Kieran Flannery, Cormac Cloonan, Thomas Kelly, Declan Farrell, Cian Burke. Middle Row: (left to right) Mixie Donohue, Sean McGovern, Simon McNamara, Martin Coffey, Seamus Quinn, Padraic Quirke, Paul Ruane, Gabriel Freaney, Paddy Quinn, Kieran Corban, David Brady, Paddy Kelly, Tom Cloonan, Luke Glynn. Back Row: (left to right) Kevin Higgins, Derek Carroll, David Casserly, Robert Loughnane, David Donohue, Albert Hanley, Kevin McCarthy, Niall O'Brien, Paul Cummins and Gearoid Harty.
|Connacht Council President Phelim Murphy presents the Connacht Cup to Athenry captain Brian Feeney.|
|Galway National Hurling League Champions 1996
Front Row: (left to right) Francis Forde, Nigel Shaughnessy, Michael Coleman, Morgan Darcy, Gerry Mclnerney, Conor O'Donovan, Micheal Donoghue. Back Row: (left to right) Liam Burke, Joe Cooney, Cathal Moore, Joe Rabbitte, Paul Cooney, Tom Helebert, Brendan Keogh and Kevin Broderick.
|Galway All-Ireland Under 21 Hurling Champions 1996
Front Row: (left to right) Ollie Canning (sub.), Donal Moran, Kevin Broderick, Michael Healy, Ollie Fahy, Brian Higgins, Alan Kerins, Darragh Coen. Back Row: (left to right) Gregory Kennedy, Gordon Glynn, Eugene Cloonan, Vinny Maher, Cathal Moore, Peter Huban, Liam Hodgins and Fergal Healy.
|Galway All-Ireland Junior Hurling Champions 1996
Front Row: (left to right) Fergal Healy, Noel Power, John Feeney, Alan Kerins, Basil Larkin and Liam Hogan. At the front is mascot Kevin Silke. Back Row: (left to right) Sean Silke (trainer), Michael Connolly, Finbarr Gantley, Michael Lynskey, John Walsh, Noel Larkin, Noel Murphy, Brian Carr, Kieran Rabbitte, William Burke, and Micheal Linnane (manager)