Senior Hurling Final glory for Derrydonnell
Clashes of personality, usually involving Craughwell`s Tom Kenny, caused the County Board to split into two separate groups. In April 1911 two County Conventions were held, one in Athenry and the other in Loughrea. The Athenry Club sent their affiliation to the Secretary of the 'Loughrea Board' by mistake as they were siding with Kenny. The secretary told the delegates at a Loughrea meeting that he had received a wire from Athenry requesting him to return the affiliation fee. Amid loud cheers he said ''he would do so with pleasure as they could very well without that lot.''
With great wins over Killimor and Galway City Derrydonnell qualified for the County Senior Final. Their opponents were Claregalway who had defeated Mullagh and Ahascragh.
Both football and hurling finals were played at Tuam on the 26th. November. In the football decider Tuam Stars defeated Dunmore McHales. Special trains were laid on to carry supporters to the venue on a cold but dry day.
In the first half Claregalway aided by the breeze pressed hard and put the Derrydonnell defence under severe pressure. At halftime they led by a goal to nil. During the next period Derrydonnell showed their mettle and played with more superior dash than they displayed in the first half. They made desperate efforts to penetrate the Claregalway defence and eventually succeeded in notching a point. This half was far more exciting with both teams playing considerably better as the game progressed, Derrydonnell scored three goals to win the title with a comfortable margin.
The victorious team was given a tremendous reception when they arrived back in Derrydonnell as County Senior Hurling Champions of 1911. The Connacht Tribune correspondent wrote "There was great jubilation in Derrydonnell last Sunday night, bonfires and torches blazed in all directions to greet the hurlers who defeated Claregalway . . . a meeting was held at which team Captain Patrick Keane, in a few well chosen words thanked the members of the team for bringing home honours. They fought some tough struggles during the year and he felt sure none of them wondered at their success today. Regret was expressed on all sides at the accident that befell Jack Ruane in the first few minutes of the game and the team were unanimous that were it not for the accident the score would be much larger. After the meeting the team adjourned to where the cailini were assembled and a dance was held in honour of the event that lasted until the small hours of the morning."
The two County Boards operating in the County were united at a special County Convention held In March 1912. On the surface the divisions seemed to end but there were still several disputes and arguments at County Board level. The Convention elected Larry Lardner as County Secretary.
In the Senior Hurling Championship Derrydonnell had another convincing win over Claregalway winning by 4-3 to 0-1 at Parkmore, Tuam before a large attendance. The first half was very exciting with Claregalway playing very well and were unlucky not to score. Derrydonnell managed a goal and a point before the interval and added two more goals shortly after the break. In the concluding stages both sides fought desperately but the champions held on to win with the final score 4-3 to 0- 1.
Team. Willie Higgins (Captain), Jack Ruane, Mick Freaney, Michael Joyce, Mick Fahy, Pat Heneghan, Martin Kennedy, Peter Heneghan, A. Freaney, Martin Joyce, Martin Ruane, M. Kelly, M. Newell. Myles Freaney, Richard Higgins, Martin Costello. Castlegar ended Derrydonnell`s bid to win a second title on October 6th. at Clarinbridge with an unusual score of 6-0 to 1-0. Jack Ruane was Captain of the Galway team defeated by Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Hurling semi-final played at Jones's Road and the team also included Martin Costello.
In football Stephen Jordan and Martin Cawley played for the County in the Connaught Championship and were joined by Michael Walsh in the Croke Cup semi-final at Ennis where they were defeated by Clare the score 2-3 to 1-1. Newcastle defeated Menlough by one point in an exciting Junior Football Championship game at Gurteen having already accounted for Caltra.
Titanic claims life of Derrydonnell player
Gaels from all over the County attended a Solemn Requiem High Mass in the Parish Church, Athenry in July, celebrated by Very Rev. Canon Canton P.P. for the respose of the soul of Andy Keane. An enthusiastic Gael and member of the victorious Derrydonnell team Andy was on board the ill-fated Titanic and was drowned with hundreds of others. Having decided to emigrate, his sister who was already in America sent him the fare of £8 ls 0d and he booked through Mahon Travel Agents, Athenry. Mahon advised him to go on a different ship where conditions would be much better but he decided to take the Titanic. He had with him a dozen hurleys, a melodeon and his County medal. The large congregation that attended the Mass included all the prominent G.A.A. officials in the County, teammates and representatives of various clubs. "The departed comrade was dearly loved by his associates in the movement." At the County convention later in the year the Board presented a portrait of the deceased to his brother Patrick.
The Derrydonnell Hurling Club continued to be the dominant hurling club in the Parish with football to the fore in Newcastle and Athenry. The Club held their annual meeting in April 1913 and the following officers were elected. President Willie Higgins, Vice-President Michael Fahy, Captain Patrick Keane. Vice- Captain Michael Freaney, Treasurer Richard Higgins, Secretary M. Kelly. Committee Jack Ruane, Michael Costello, Pat Heneghan, Martin Joyce, Myles Freaney with officers.
Newcastle and Athenry played Moylough and Mountbellew respectively in Junior and Senior Football at Shehana on 1st. June. In a well-contested game Newcastle drew with Moylough but the Athenry De-Wetts lost to Mountbellew 2-3 to 2-1 despite two great goals by Martin Cawley early in the game.
All roads led to Athenry on Sunday 13th. July for the Connaught Football Championship game against Roscommon. Galway won 1-6 to 0-2 With Martin Cawley having a brilliant game for the winners. Stephen Jordan returned to the team for the Connaught Final against Mayo, with Michael Walsh coming on for Martin Cawley who injured his ankle in the second half. Galway won the title but lost to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final.
Athenry won the North Galway District Board Junior Hurling title but were defeated by Killimor in the County semi-final at Ballymacward on the 15th. February 1914. They then competed in the West Board Championship losing to Bearna 2-3 to 1-3 while Derrydonnell was also unsuccessful, against Claddagh, losing 5-3 to 2-0.
Team: Tommy Dobbyn (Captain), Bill Freaney, Paddy Freaney, Michael Freaney, Michael Kelly, Johnny Kelly, Jack Moran. Jack Conneely, Michael Hardiman, Tom Cronin, John Cummins. Patrick Cummins, Patrick Keane, Peter Heneghan, Martin Costello. Athenry Junior Football team had no luck either losing to Moycullen in the championship. Played at South Park in Galway, the game was very exciting and ended with the unusually low score 1-1 to 0-2 in favour of the Moycullen men. Team T. O'Neill (Captain), P. Rodgers, J. Egan, M. McNicholas, P. Reilly, J. Ruane, L. Egan, P. Waldron, P. Killian, B. Flanagan, J. M. Keown, J. Farrell, M. Magee, M. Conlon.
Athenry mobilise at full strength for 1916 Easter Rising
Throughout the Parish the Irish Volunteer Movement was barely distinguishable in personnel from the G.A.A. As most of the members of the local units of the volunteers were either, officials or players in the G.A.A. The town and district had been the centre of national and revolutionary activity for many years. In the 1870's there was a large circle of I.R.B. in the area which was maintained during the 'Land War' started by Michael Davitt in 1875.
The people of the Parish gave the movement their wholehearted support and after the assassination of Blake and Burke near Loughrea several locals were imprisoned including John F. and Peter Broderick. At that time seven hundred 'Gentry' owned half the land of Ireland with five of them owning 20,366 acres in the Athenry district alone.
In the early 1900's Athenry became the headquarters of the I.R.B. movement in County Galway and during the great land agitation of the following years the movement took full advantage of the conditions that then existed to promote revolutionary propaganda among the young men of the County. Their 'work' did not go unnoticed by the English authorities who responded by drafting in a 120 strong force of R.I.C. to the town which had a population of less than 1,000.
The starting of the Volunteers gave the I.R.B. the opportunity they were waiting for and they immediately availed of it. After a meeting held in Galway to organise the movement and addressed by Sir Roger Casement, Padraic H. Pearse and Eoin McNeill it was decided to establish a company in Athenry. A public meeting was held in January 1914 and formed a company with a large number enrolling in the movement.
A working committee was formed comprised of Frank Hynes, Stephen Jordan, Dick Murphy, Sean Broderick, Larry Lardner, Pat Hynes, Joe Rooney, John F. Broderick, Jim Barrett and Thomas Cleary. Drilling started immediately in the Town Hall, which was made available, free of charge by Dick Murphy. Within a short time ten to twelve other companies were formed in the locality as the movement rapidly developed all over the County. The Back Lawn (Kenny Park) was the venue on June 29th 1914 for a review of all the volunteers in the County. Roger Casement was invited to act reviewing officer but could not attend. He was replaced by Colonel Maurice Moore with up to 3,000 taking part.
Athenry became the Brigade H.Q. and in October Owen McNeill reviewed a 350 strong force of local volunteers and was reported to be very impressed by the efficiency displayed. Liam Mellows visited Athenry for the first time in December but only stayed for a few days. He returned in February 1915 and began training local officers and men in the surrounding companies until July when he was arrested and imprisoned. On his release three months later 700 volunteers paraded carrying arms during a "demonstration of welcome". The Parade took place in the Back Lawn and armed sentries were posted at all the entrances and did not allow the R.I.C. enter the field. Mellows continued to work in the Athenry district and became a familiar figure in the town.
Athenry and surrounding companies mobilised at full strength during the 1916 Easter Rising. They took the Agricultural College before being joined by Liam Mellows and his companies. They then marched to Moyode Castle where they remained until Friday. Following the insurrection several volunteers were imprisoned or deported by the British to Wormswood Scrubbs Prison among them twelve men from Athenry Parish who were positively identified by a man at Moyode. Known as the twelve apostles they were Thomas Barrett and Charlie Whyte of Caheroyan, the Grady Brothers of Church St. Martin Hansberry Rahard, Peter Murray Derrydonnell, Michael Higgins Castlelambert, Patch and Thomas Kennedy Sliabh Rua, Jack Hanniffy Tallyho, Murty Fahy Sliabh Rua and Michael Donghue.
Frank Hynes escaped with Liam Mellows, Stephen Jordan and Richard Murphy who remained 'on the run' until the 5th. of June when they surrendered at Tuam. The local papers carried a report on their surrender. "It was believed they were in the neighbourhood of the Town for a number of days. During their detention in Tuam permission for friends to visit was given. They appeared in excellent health and spirits and related thrilling incidents and escapades while 'on the run' from military and police."
It was an extremely difficult period for the G.A.A. with teams being left short of players for football and hurling games. However, games continued to be played.
On Sunday 23rd May 1915 Athenry and Derrydonnell Junior Hurlers defeated Turloughmore and Claregalway respectively at Claregalway. In the Athenry v Turloughmore game the better understanding of the Athenry team proved too much for Turloughmore in a keen and exciting game. At the final whistle the score read 3-1 to 1-4 in favour of Athenry. In the second game Derrydonnell completely outclassed their opponents Claregalway and were easy winners.
Athenry win first Junior Hurling Title
The Athenry Senior Football team reached the County semi-final but were defeated by Ballinasloe who went on to defeat Mountbellew in the final. Corrib Shamrocks defeated Athenry Junior Footballers by 0- 2 to nil in one of the few recorded matches involving Athenry during 1916, while in hurling the Juniors advanced in the championship and won the West Board title. In the County semi-final their opponents were Ballygar and the game was played in Mountbellew on 22nd. July 1917. They had a convincing victory with the final score 6-6 to 3-1. A large crowd assembled at Loughrea on the 30th. September for the Senior and Junior Finals.
The hurling was well up to standard in both matches and the result of the junior contest between Athenry and Abbey certainly surprised spectators. In the opening half Abbey were in complete control and at the break led by an amazing seventeen points with the score 4-6 to 0-1 in their favour. The roles were reversed in the second period with Athenry outclassing their opponents in all departments. Their defence were particularly impressive holding Abbey scoreless while the forwards got the necessary scores to snatch victory from their opponents by the narrowest of margins, one point, with the final score 5-4 to 4-6.
Team: Jim Barrett, Mixie Barrett, Martin Walsh, Christy Barrett, Eddie Kennedy, Frank Ward, Tommy Barrett, Michael Walsh, Martin Cawley, P. Waldron, M. Conlon, John Curran, Leo Egan, Jack Rooney, John McKeown. Michael Walsh and Martin Cawley were members of the Galway football team that won the Connaught Final at Castlerea. Newcastle played Killimordaly in an interesting junior hurling match in aid of the National Aid Fund at Athenry. The game was splendidly contested all through and ended in a draw. The Connacht Tribune reported "judging by the fine display given by Newcastle-it being their first appearance in the hurling arena against such crack opposition as Killimordaly, winners of the North Championship for the past three years, we expect great things from this young team".
At the County Convention held in Athenry on 25th. March 1918 the County Secretary Stephen Jordan told delegates that the past year was 'a record one for the Association and proved that they were rallying to the side of 'Kathleen Ni Houlihan'. Jordan was again elected County Secretary, Jim Barrett, County Registrar and Larry Lardner delegate to the Connacht Council. Three days later Lardner was arrested for illegal drilling.
Locals outwit British Army to hold Sports
A G.A.A. Cycling and Athletic Sports fixed for Athenry on Sunday 21st. July was proclaimed in the absence of a permit. D. I. Gilhooley who was inspector of the police in Athenry tried hard to get Jim Barrett to take a permit from the British to run the sports. The police inspector informed the army stating that Barrett and the G.A.A. were refusing to recognise the British Authority. The military took possession of the field and placed machine guns on all the walls to prevent the sports from being held. Meanwhile the local G.A.A. and IRA members prepared another field outside the town. The complete sports were carried out secretly with the police and military being cleverly outwitted and completely unaware of what was happening. P. J. Doherty of Athenry won the boys under sixteen two hundred and twenty yard race.
County Convention welcomes release of IRA leaders
At a special Annual Convention held in Athenry on the 12th. April there was a hearty welcome for Stephen Jordan, Larry Lardner and George McNichollas, President of the County Board, who were released from jail. Rev. P. J. O'Loughlin C.C. Gurteen said that as Irishmen they all admired the pluck these men had shown in the face of absolute tyranny. The idea of arresting men in any civilised country and keeping them in jail for almost twelve months without even having a charge to bring against them was unthinkable. Martin Cawley played on the Galway team that defeated Roscommon in the Connacht Football final by l-6 to 0-5 at Tuam. The All-lreland semi-final against Kerry ended in a draw but Galway won the replay 4-2 to 2-2 with a team that included two Athenrymen Martin Cawley and Michael Walsh. 'Michael Walsh was a constant source of trouble to the Kerry defence and found his 'form' at the very start of the match, ' He scored two excellent goals and helped with another. Galway, however, were no match for the Kildare "lily-whites' in the All-Ireland Final. Kilconieron defeated Derrydonnell by 3-1 to 1-4 at Athenry in senior hurling.
Athenry embrace Handball revival
The revival of the game of handball saw the emergence of Athenry as a handball force in the County. In the first part of the 1919 County Championship played at Athenry the home side defeated Galway City in all five games. Joe Whyte and Christy Barrett were successful in Galway city also, Athenry winning 6-3 the first occasion that Galway city had been beaten in handball in over 40 years. The Connacht Tribune reported "the men presented striking contrasts, Barrett and Whyte were low sized, slim and youthful looking, distinctively alike in build while their opponents, Leonard and Long were heavier, stronger and more set looking. From appearances they were considerably older. Youth with all its resulting 'wind' and speed won the game for them as nothing could tire the Athenry pair who were nimble on their feet and the speed of the games did not tell on them. Barrett displayed wonderfully accurate judgement in some of the aces he scored while nothing could beat Whyte when he started dropping the ball in the right corner".