Senior Team struggle to maintain Senior Status
Athenry senior hurling team were in all kinds of trouble for most of their championship games and were lucky to avoid relegation. Against Tommy Larkins in their opening game they had the better of the exchanges in the first half and lead by 0-6 to 0-2 at halftime. Early in the second half saw an incident that had a major bearing on the outcome of the game. Tony Brehony and Mixie Donohue contested a ball and the Larkin's man seemed to take a knock, he immediately retaliated and the Athenry man went down. Players from both sides became involved with PJ Molloy taking particular exception to Brehony's actions. When the referee Gerry Seale restored some order he surprised everybody by deciding to sent off Brehony and P J Molloy. His decision was very questionable and even some Tommy Larkins' players and officials were regretted Molloy's sending off.
It proved a costly incident for Athenry who appeared to loose their inspiration and early fluency that had promised so much. When Gerry D'Arcy scored the all important goal in the twentieth minute, Athenry despite battling valiantly could not get back on terms and Larkins held on to win by 1-10 to 0-8.
Athenry's participation in their next round against Ardrahan was in doubt but the club, following the intervention of the Galway County Board, decided to postpone their decision to withdraw all their teams because of the ongoing dispute over the use of Kenny Park. However, the whole affair clearly affected the preparation of the senior team in particular, and they looked very unsettled side in the opening quarter. The absence of Gerry Dempsey and the suspended P J Molloy also proved very costly.
Ardrahan made the most of Athenry's early difficulties and Vincent Mullins had the ball in the Athenry net inside a minute. It got worse as the game entered the second quarter and the score read Ardrahan 3-8 to Athenry's nil. Three goals by Joe Morrissey and one each by Dermot Monaghan and Seamus Kearns lifted spirits but the damage was already done and there was no way back for a very young Athenry side.
It was more of the same for Athenry against Gort in their next game and injuries to a number of players was no help. The final scoreline of 2-18 to 2-8 summed up a forgettable affair with nothing at stake for the teams expect the prospect of a relegation battle.
It was a case of contrasting fortunes for the two sides in their next game, Mullagh were looking good and at the top of the table, with Athenry bringing up the rear. A meaningless match ended with one of Athenry's worst championship defeats in recent history.
Tree felling sparks off row over Kenny Park use
Events off the field were attracting far more attention in Athenry than those on the field. A huge row developed over the felling of trees at Kenny Park as development word neared completion. A breakdown in communication between the Development Committee and local residents was the main cause of an unessary dispute.
While the club had no part in that dispute another was waiting to happen. A few days after the official re-opening, the club's junior football team was to play Killererin at Kenny Park. When officials and the team arrived they were refused entry to the grounds and told by the caretaker that he was acting on the instructions of the Kenny Park Development Committee.
There was widespread anger within the club with the decision and the way it was handled especially as the club was not informed of the new 'policy'. At an emergency meeting of the club to discuss the decision it was decided to withdraw all of the club's nineteen affiliated teams from paticipating in the county championships. The club also called for a full investigation by the County Board into decisions taken over the previous twelve months which adversely affected the club.
By way of explanation Development Committee member Frank Burke told a Football Board meeting that Athenry could no longer consider Kenny Park to be the Club's home ground because they had too many teams. The remarks only added further anger and it seemed like the club was being penalised for fielding too many teams. During a turbulent week before the Ardrahan game the club decided to lift their ban and play the game following the intervention of County Board Chairman David McGann.
The matter remained unresolved which caused considerable difficulty and disrupted the activities of the Club. It also caused a considerable amount of division within the club and parish. The club appealed the decision to the Connacht Council and at a meeting of the Council the club accepted the Councils offer to mediate in the dispute and make recommendations. Representatives of the County Board present agreed to do so also but their attempt to resolve the matter was frustrated a week later.
Following Galway's wonderful victory over Cork in the All-Ireland Semi-Final the Kenny Park Development Committee issued a cutting statement to the local media defending its position and stand in relation to the use and development of the grounds. Regarding the Club's use of the facilities it read:- "The deed of trust of the Kenny Park precribes that the grounds are held in trust for the Galway County Board and there is no provision regarding use, ownership or otherwise involving the local St. Mary's GAA Club. As such any concession to the Club regarding use is solely a matter of goodwill on the part of the Board. It is on this basis together with the fact that the County Board alone funded the £145,000 developments that we have reserved this most central venue for training our county teams".
In an open letter the following November Club Chairman Tom Cloonan responded to the Committee's statement declaring that no Athenry player had pucked a ball in the local refurbished GAA pitch in 1985. "Without consultation or notice the Club was excluded from Kenny Park by the committee and this situation looks like continuing. The only other occasion on which such an exclusion was enforced was in 1920 when the British Army occupied the grounds to prevent hurling games being played.
The ancestors of the players excluded today secured the pitch for the GAA in difficult times and contributed to the development and running of the grounds for many years. The club fully appreciate the need to preserve the grounds for games and training county teams. However, to use Galway's victory over Cork in the All-Ireland Semi-Final to justify th exclusion of local players and to issue the statement in the wake of Galway's success was both opportunistic and unbecoming.
The article claimed that the statement was the official G.A.A. position. It did not, however, point out that a week earlier the County Board and Club accepted an offer by the Connacht Council to mediate in the dispute and make recommendations. This deplorable statement was a calculated attempt to frustrate the genuine and sincere efforts being made to resolve the dispute".
As a result of the letter the club officers were summoned to a meeting of the Board and charged with bringing the Association into disrepute under rule 101. The Board demanded that the club officers withdraw completely all previous statements made or be suspended. The County Secretary Frank Burke presented a document to that effect to the club officers to sign and have published in the Connacht Tribune. The officers refused to do so but agreed to attend a meeting to try to resolve the matter. That meeting which took place between the Development Committee, Club Officers and Hurling Board Chairman Tom Callanan, decided that the club be given the use once a week, twice whenever suitable, and permission to play 'home' fixtures at Kenny Park. To resolve the matter the club agreed to a 'watered down version' of Burke's statement be submitted to the media. It read "Following negotiations at which the Club acccepted an explanation that the County Board's statement in the Connacht Tribune on 9/8/85 was not intended to discredit the club, and that the timing of the statement after the Galway semi-final victory was purely coincidental, the club now withdraws its letter published on 25/11/85.
References to Phelim Murphy and Frank Burke, officers of the Kenny Park Development Committee, are regretted as is any embarrassment caused to them. As far as the club is concerned their integrity was not questioned. The club acknowledges that Kenny Park was made available for a number of official fixtures and regrets an embarrassing reference to the British Army lockout of 1920
This withdrawl is made in the interest of harmony in the G.A.A. in this County and is intended to facilitate approval by the County Board of a sensible agreement concerning the use of Kenny Park". The statement was signed by Tom Cloonan and Michael Quinn.
County Board Chairman David McGann announced the he was severing his long association with the ruling body in the county and stepping down as Chairman. He told the Connacht Tribune that he was " tired of the wrangling and there should be a change anyway". The story continued that he was clearly making reference to the way the Kenny Park issue developed, which according to the Tribune he "did not see eye to eye with County Board Secretary, Frank Burke and Hurling Board Secretary Phelim Murphy".
Loyal Galway supporters rewarded at Croke Park
Everything was out of season during the month of August as the temperature dropped to 9C at a deserted Croke Park for the All-Ireland semi-final. Galway senior hurling team, having lost the league semi-final to Clare and the open draw Final to Tipperary, surprised even their most die hard supporters with a magnificent victory over Cork by 4-12 to 5-5. Only 8,205 spectators turned up, but for those from Galway it was a memorable day, as the winners displayed passion and an abundence of commitment to win the game. P. J. Molloy scored five points on a day that Cyril Farrell and his team quietly pulled one over on the Munster Champions.
In the Final against arch rivals Offaly P.J. scored one of the most memorable goals ever scored in a Final. Galway totally outplayed Offaly in the opening half and were in control in practically every sector of the field, but unfortunately they had an unbelievable tally of thirteen wides and trailed 1-6 to 0-7 at half-time. Eleven minutes into the second half Molloy amazingly grabbed a high ball between Aidan Fogarty and Eugene Coughlan, swiftly turned and shot an astounding goal into the top left corner of the net. The goal inspired Galway and two further points from the rampant Athenryman left Galway trailing by just one point. But it was not to be Galway's day and Offaly went on to win 2-11 to 1-12
Under age teams continue progress with Under 16 Title
With a very comfortable winning margin Athenry made it three-in-a-row under 15 Feile na Coirbe titles defeating Kilconieron by 1-13 to 0-2. From early on it was plain that Kilconieron would be no match for their speedy opponents. With Paul Hardiman at centre back having an outstanding game and Joe Rabbitte picking off points at every opportunity Athenry always looked like winners.
Team: Cathal Moran, Paddy Kelly, Brian Feeney, Gerard Coyne, John Nolan, Brendan Keogh, Paul Hardiman, Brendan madden, Brendan Morrissey, Neil Clarke, Finbarr Sherdian, Richard Caulfield, Patrick Hession, Joe Rabbitte, Terence Gannon, Sub; John Conway
Apart from a brief period after halftime there was never any doubt about the superior side in the County Minor (B) Final between Fr. Griffins and Athenry at Tuam Stadium. A well balanced Athenry side captured the Club's second football championship title of the season with a 1-6 to 1-3 win. The winners were a confortable six points clear with only seconds remaining when Griffins were awarded a penalty and David Cox sent it to the Athenry net.
Having led by four points at the break Athenry faced a stiff wind and a far more determined Fr. Griffins in the second period. But a few missed chances were to prove costly when at the other end Martin Fitzpatrick was in like a flash, to punish a defensive error, for an opportunist goal. After midfielder John Hardiman added a long range point, the best score of the game, Fr. Griffins challenge faded and Athenry held on despite the late penalty.
Goalkeeper Paul Hardiman made some good saves and got excellent cover from a well-organised defence in which Eddie Fox, Gerry Keane and Gerry McLoughlin were solid. Team captain and county minor Keith Nevin and Barry Kearns were brilliant all through and laid the foundation for Athenry's victory.
At midfield John Hardiman was at his best and got good support from Francis Holian particularly in the second half. In attack Martin Fitzpatrick, Paul Coffey, Frank Coyne and Declan Higgins were the pick of a very lively set of forwards.
Team; Paul Hardiman, Eddi Fox, Barry Kearns, Gerry McLoughlin, Gerry Keane, Keith Nevin, Aidan Devally, John Hardiman, Francis Holian, Frank Coyne, Declan Higgins, Paul Coffey, Francis Heavey, Martin Fitzpatrick, Subs; Gerry Hansberry, Stephen Caulfield.
Athenry had to withstand a fierce second half fight-back by Kilconieron to capture the county under16 A title at St. Brendan's Park, Loughrea. Having completely dominated the opening half with some delightful hurling and wonderful scores they led by 0-12 to 0-0 at half time. Five points from Joe Rabbitte and four from Cormac Cullinane set their side for what looked like a comfortable win.
The trend seemed to continue in the second half when Rabbitte got another point but Kilconieron then assumed control largely through their midfield star Brendan Uniake. Scoring two goals and three point he brought his side to within three points of the winners but Joe Rabbitte had the final say with a point from a free to seal victory for Athenry.
Team: Cathal Moran, Paddy Kelly, Brian Feeney, Brendan Keogh, Joe Maloney, Eamonn Keogh, Tommy Morrissey, Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman, Cormac Cullinane, Michael Hansberry, Padraic Smyth, Joe Rabbitte, Kevin Holian, John Rynne, Subs; Brendan Morrissey, Neil Clarke.
A goal by full forward Stephen Caulfield two minutes before the final whistle clinched a well deserved victory for Athenry over Dunmore McHales in the County Under16 (B) final at Corofin. Having lost the League Final to Dunmore earlier in the year, Athenry on this occasion were always the superior side despite wasting a few good scoring chances. Strong pressure from Athenry resulted in a '45' and Kevin Holian's long kick was caught by Stephen Caulfield who sent a rasping shot to the net. Michael Hansberry put Athenry four points clear at the break with a massive point from a difficult angle.
The second period was hard and furious as both sides missed what seemed easy scoring chances. Gerry Mitchell pointed for Dunmore to cut the lead to two but Cormac Cullinane replied to restore Athenry's one goal lead. Dunmore tried hard to get back on terms but were denied twice from close range by goalkeeper Brendan Burke. Both were match winning saves and the highlight of an impeccable display of goalkeeping. At the other end of the field Stephen Caulfield again popped up on the edge of the square to score his second goal and confirm the destination of the Dunleavy Cup.
The winners were certainly pleased about their success which was their first ever county football title at juvenile level. Joe Maloney, Padraic Smyth, Gerard Coyne, and Tommy Morrissey excelled in the defence while full back Kevin Holian and centre back Brian Feeney were seldom beaten and ended numerous Dunmore attacks. Up front Eamonn Keogh won a lot of good possession and got great support from Gerry Keane and Cormac Cullinane. Stephen Caulfield was an opportunist full forward and scored 2-2.
Team: Brendan Burke, Gerard Coyne, Kevin Holian, Tommy Morrissey, Joe Maloney, Brian Feeney, Padraic Smyth, Michael Hansberry, Paul Hardiman, Gerry Keane, Eamonn Keogh, Cormac Cullinane, Neil Clarke, Stephen Caulfield, John Rynne, Subs; Joe Rabbitte, Brian Hardiman.