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1981 John Connolly in All Ireland Final

Galway's John Connolly and Offaly's Pat Delaney clash in the All-Ireland Hurling Final.

After twelve years without a championship title the winning of the Minor 'B' County Final was seen as the beginning of a new era and another successful period in underage competitions. The display of the minor team in the replay of the County Minor Final surpassed everyones expectations with all fifteen players helping Athenry win a long overdue title. For most clubs the success in a 'B' championship would be insignificant but Athenry officials fully realised that a resurgence was on the way.The winning of the County and Connacht Community Games titles also inspired confidence for the future.
With a useful blend of youth and experience Athenry had a good win over St. Thomas' in the opening game of the County Senior Championship with the final score 2-12 to 0-6. Leading by four points at halftime, a well taken goal by Mixie Donoghue early in the second half ended Thomas's hopes with Gerry Holian, Dermot Monaghan and P. J. Molloy adding points to secure an easier than expected victory.
In their next game they had a ten point winning margin over Pearses at Ballinasloe in a one sided contest. P. J. Molloy opened the scoring with a point from a free which was followed by points by Gerry Holian and Jack 0 Shea before Pascal Healy shot a goal to give his side an interval lead of 1-9 to 0-3.
Pearses needed a goal early in the second half but the opposite happened at the other end of the field, where Gerry Holian hammered home a good goal. With a tight marking defence Athenry took control and were convincing winners when Mick Quain blew the final whistle.
Billy Caulfield gave a very capable performance in goal, with defenders Gerry Dempsey and Dermot Monaghan being particularly impressive and averting many dangerous situations. Midfielders John Burke and Sean Holian were on top for most of the game and sharpshooting forwards P. J. Molloy, Jack O'Shea, Gerry Holian and Pascal Healy were alway dangerous when in possession.
Athenry's next opponents were Tommy Larkins. After an even opening half P. J. Molloy had to retire injured shortly after the break and his scoring power was certainly missed in the closing stages. Despite holding Larkins dangermen and county players Frank Canning and Gerry Kennedy Athenry failed to get the vital winning scores and were disappointingly beaten with the final score 2-3 to 1-3.
A seven point win over Carnmore in the remaining game put Athenry into a play-off with St. Thomas's and Tommy Larkins. Victory over Carnmore by 2-11 to 2-4 was not as comfortable a win as the score would suggest. The sides were level at halftime with score 1-3 each and a goal for Carnmore shortly after the interval gave their supporters plenty to cheer about. But Gerry Hall quickly ended their celebrations sending an unstoppable shot to the net. Molloy's free-taking skill and the aggression displayed by Gerry Hall were two of the most noteworthy aspects of a game, which was tame, compared to previous encounters.
With the championship running late as a result of several play-offs Athenry were forced to play St. Thomas' on a Friday evening. The game was always close with St. Thomas's youthful Anthony Cunningham scoring 2-2. Eight minutes from the end Athenry suffered a severe set back when Luke Glynn had to retire with a hand injury and, as three subs had been used, were reduced to fourteen men. A goal shortly afterwards gave St. Thomas' the lead and they held on at the end to qualify for a quarterfinal spot with Athenry and Larkins to play for a similar position.
With the "honour' of meeting Castlegar awaiting the winners Larkins just about deserved to win and could thank the referee for "a series of relieving frees towards the finish. ' Pearse Coffey gave Athenry the lead with a point after P. J. Molloy had levelled the scoring with a goal in the second half. With all to play for Athenry showed considerable improvement as the game entered the closing stages. But five points from questionable frees for Larkins put them back into the lead which they held until the end with the final score 1-14 to 2-8.
After six senior championship games Athenry were out of contention but had shown a lot of promise with younger players Billy Caulfield, Pascal Healy, Gerry Hall, Dermot Monaghan and Sean Holian making a big impact.
Athenry's minor hurlers had a comfortable win over Tuam Stars in the opening game of the minor (B) championship. And in their next game Abbeyknockmoy were formidable opposition. An excellent goal by Sean Kindregan gave Athenry the lead at halftime but "Abbey' cut that lead to one point midway through the second period and only a great effort by Athenry's backs against the wind saved their lead, with Gerry Waldron, Hugh Higgins and Billy Caulfield being particularly impressive. An understrength team were fortunate to be still one point ahead at the end.
In the quarterfinal Athenry were well on top against Ballinasloe in the first half with Seamus Kearns in excellent form at centreforward. In the second half a Sean Keane goal put Athenry eight points ahead and they looked like winning easily, but two quick goals put Ballinasloe back in contention. However, Athenry finished stronger and regained a "safe' lead of four points and earned a place in he semi-final.
Abbey/Duniry provided the opposition and in another very closely contested game Athenry emerged the winners with the score 2-5 to 1-4. That result was in doubt right up to the last minute when Michael Maloney crashed in a goal to clinch victory. But it was Billy Caulfield's performance both in defence and attack that earned Athenry a place in the County Final.
A twenty minute delay on a bitterly cold day before the start of the final against Carnmore may be the reason why both teams did not play up to expectations. "The lost art of scoring'" wrote J. B. Donoghue in the Connacht Tribune in a report on the game, which ended in a draw with a final score of 1-1 to 0-4. Athenry were lucky to survive to fight another day and could thank team Captain Michael Waldron who levelled the scores with a point in the closing stages.
Athenry made no mistake in the replay and clearly demonstrated the art of scoring, winning by sixteen points. Aided by' the wind Billy Caulfield opened Athenrys account with a point which was quickly followed by two magnificent points from long range by right half back Hugh Higgins. Goals by Michael Higgins and Pat Flaherty gave Athenry a comfortable half time lead of 2-8 to 0-1.
The winners were rarely troubled in the second half with young Joe Morrissey at midfield and Sean Kindregan in attack playing very well and Billy Caulfield's leadership again inspiring his colleagues. All of them played their part in winning the Club's first County title in over a dozen years.
Team: Tommy Fitzpatrick, Andrew Finn, Paul Caulfield, Sean Keane, Hugh Higgins, Gerry Waldron, Pat Kavanagh, Joe Morrissey, Billy Caulfield, Sean Kindregan, Michael Waldron, Seamus Kearns (Capt), Michael Higgins, Michael Maloney, Pat Flaherty, Sub: Pat Higgins.
The final score was 3-13 to 1-5 and after the game County Hurling Board Vice-Chairman Tom Lenihan of Carnmore presented the cup to Michael Waldron.
1981 Minor B Champions

County Minor Hurling (B) Champions 1981
Front Row: (left to right) Pat Higgins, Louis Murphy, John Flaherty, Robert Kennedy, Middle Row: (left to right) Joe Higgins, Gerry Waldron, Pat Kavanagh, Michael Waldron, Pat Flaherty, Tommy Fitzpatrick, Niall Cullinane, Michael Higgins, Gerry Rabbitte. Back Row: (left to right) Seamus Kearns, Billy Caulfield, Paul Caulfield, Joe Kelly, Sean Keane, Michael Maloney, Mark Tully, Stephen Canavan, Andrew Finn, Sean Kindregan, Joe Morrissey and Hugh Higgins.

Athenry Community Games hurlers led all the way in an entertaining County final against Gort at Pearse Stadium. Having already accounted for Abbeyknockmoy and New inn, they had eleven points to spare over their South Galway opponents. Aided by a strong breeze in the first half the Athenry forwards piled on the pressure with goals by Declan Higgins, Andrew Rynne, Joe Rabbitte and Frank Coyne to lead by 4-5 to 1-0 at the break. The Gort side battled hard in the second half but Athenry were deserving winners of a game which had few frees and all scores coming from play with the final score 4-8 to 3-0.
After the game Mr. Gerry Hester presented the players with their gold medals and referee Mick Quaine in his usual after-the-game speech complimented both teams on their conduct which, he said, was of the highest standard.
Team: Noel Murphy, Joe Maloney, Michael Canavan, Paul Moran, Paul Hardiman, Barry Kearns, Cormac Cullinane, John Hardiman, Declan Higgins, Andrew Rynne, Gerry Keane, Martin Fitzpatrick, Frank Coyne, Joe Rabbitte, Padraic Smyth, Subs: Eamonn Keogh, Tommy O'Shea, John Rynne and Donnacha Ruane.
Athenry captured the Connacht title a few weeks later, easily defeating Oran (Roscommon), in the final at Roscommon. They eagerly awaited the trip to Butlins Mosney for the National Finals.
In the National Final the Athenry team tried all they knew but were no match for a most skilful Faranree team from Cork. The final score was 7-8 to 2-3.
Feile na nGael returned to Galway for the second year with Athenry hosting another northern team Portaferry from Co. Down. Again Athenry were successful in the opening game winning by 2-4 to 1-5 but lost to Lismore from Waterford by 2-6 to 1-1 in the quarterfinal.
An Athenry/Kilconly selection held Killanin to a draw in the first round of the County Senior Football Championship with the final score 0-13 to 1-10. The amalgamated juniors had many fine players incuding St. Jariath's Captain Tommy Acton and were a match for their opponents in most aspects of the game. Former County minor star Tom Connor kept Killanin in the game and they defied the odds and secured a draw.
Team: Denis Ryder, Martin Blake, Mattie Gannon, Dermot Monaghan, Dermot Maloney, Bernie Brady, Tommy Fahy, Pierce Coffey, Pat Flaherty, Tom Acton, Joe Sice, Luke Glynn, Pat Hughes, John Burke, P. J. Molloy.
Killanin were deserving winners of the replay, but the playing of a County Senior Hurling championship game on the same day did not help the 'junior' chances.
In conjunction with the Feile na nGael a competition was organised by the Feile Committee to select the G.A.A. Brain of Ireland. Michael O'Muircheartaigh was the question master and in a closely fought contest Athenry's Gerry Corbett emerged the winner, answering all twelve questions correctly. The runner-up was Mick Delaney of Laois who missed one of his questions.
The Tones junior football team again qualified for the league final against their senior partners Kilconly. Fixed to play the final on the same day as a vital Reeves Cup/Relegation senior hurling game, several requests for a postponement of one of the games were refused. As a result of the 'no-co-operation' attitude of both fixtures committees the clubs footballers suffered an extremely disappointing defeat. Officials resigned in disgust at the lack of support or fairness of County officials. The Club 'broke up' and football went into a decline again at adult level.
Athenry senior camogie team had a bye in their opening game of the championship and then met Castlegar at Tynagh. The sides ended all square at the end of a hard fought game and Athenry went on to win the replay by three points. Seeking their sixth title in a row they qualified to meet Oranmore in the County Final also at Tynagh. The girls fought all the way to the end but lost the title by a one-point margin.
The small sprinkling of supporters who turned up at Tynagh for the County Camogie League Final between Athenry and Oranmore were rewarded with a very entertaining game. Athenry had a sweet victory winning by 2-9 to 3-2 and in addition to taking the Pierce Cup, they also turned the tables on Oranmore who had defeated them in the previous years final.
Margaret Killeen Chairperson of he County Camogie Board presented Mary Higgins, the winners Captain, with the Cup.
Members of the Camogie Club travelled to London for the 'Athenry and District London Association' Reunion Dinner. It was a most enjoyable trip and at the function Frank Rabbitte, on behalf of the London Association, presented the team with plaques to mark the occasion and their visit.
Paul Cleary and Donnacha Ruane qualified for the All-Ireland Willwood Tailteann under 12 Handball Final but because of an injury to Paul they were unable to compete in the final.

1981 Community Games Champs

County and Connacht Community Games Hurling Champions
Front Row: (left to right) Noel Murphy, Paul Moran, Cormac Cullinane, Tommy O'Shea, John Hardiman, Declan Higgins, Padraic Smyth, Joe Maloney, John Rynne, Back Row: (left to right) Andrew Rynne, Michael Canavan, Gerry Keane, Tommy Lane, Joe Rabbittee, Paul Hardiman, Barry Kearns, Martin Fitzpatrick and Frank Coyne.

1981 Galway v Limerick action

Concern for the injured P. J. Molloy during the Galway v Limerick All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final