County Hurling and Football Finals in Athenry
At a meeting of the County Board on 4th January 1902 Peter Ward represented Newcastle and Willie Nolan, Athenry. The affiliation of Newcastle, whose only recorded fixture was against Turloughmore on 13th April at Athenry, was the beginning of the emergence of new clubs throughout the Parish. The Captain of the Newcastle team was Peter Ward and others who played were Eddie Guilane, Pat Keogh, Tom Murphy, Robert Wall, Pat Finnerty, Frank Finnerty, Patrick Monaghan, Pat Grady and Ned Murphy.
In football the Athenry De-Wetts defeated Tuam Stars in their own tournament on the 8th March by 2-2 to 0-2. "Charlie Whyte, Mike Duffy, Larry Lardner, Leo Mahon, and Pat Hession were the most De Wetty of the home side who then played Belclare but lost."
In the championship Athenry defeated Ballinasloe at Loughrea on the 4th May but lost to Galway Sarsfields two weeks later at Turloughmore.
The County Hurling and Football Finals were played at Athenry on 29th June and to add to the occasion the new Gaelic Language Movement organised an 'Aerioct' - a kind of Fleadh. In the football final Dunmore McHales defeated Tuam Krugers and in hurling Ardrahan were the victors over Peterswell. Admission to the games was 3d. and a gate of £50 was collected. It was, according to the Tuam Herald, "the most successful days sport ever organised in the County and was the first of many football finals to be played in Athenry."
Frank Kilkelly, played for Galway in the Connaught Football Championship, a team selected by County football champions Dunmore who defeated Roscommon but lost the final to Mayo-"Athenry's Kilkelly played beautifully and was never at fault."
Athenry De-Wetts win Senior Football Titles
1903 saw Athenry De-Wetts emerge as a new football Force in the County. In their opening game in the championship they defeated Cortoon at Corofin by 0-5 to 0-1. It was a fine match, closely contested and creditable to the teams involved, Cortoon fought a dogged game, but Athenry with confidence born out of patience, discipline and science gained mastery to come out victors. "Charlie Whyte, Jose Mahon, except for a few faulty misses, Frank Kilkelly, Mike Duffy and the Kennedys gave a fine exhibition of football."
In the next round Athenry's opponents were Tuam Stars again at Corofin on June 7th. This game started even enough but the De-Wetts took control after ten minutes displaying superiority all over the field, playing fast and clever football. They emerged winners by 1-3 to 0-2 and got a bye in the next round thus qualifying for their first ever county Final.
It was played at Athenry on the 27th September and their opponents were Galway Sarsfields. The match started with Sarsfields pressing but the home team defended brilliantly before breaking away to score a point. The city men were then awarded a forfeit point but Galway, after a sound piece of play, also raised a white flag. Two more points for Athenry left the halftime score 0-4 to 0-1 in favour of the De-Wetts.
On the resumption of play Galway appeared to lack heart and combination, while Athenry returned to the fray with confidence. The Galwaymen had several opportunities to score but were unable to avail of these chances while Athenry added two more points to capture the title. "The team was a beautiful combination, very athletic, scientific and tactful. They had evidently studied the game carefully and made use of its possibilities. Athenry's best were team Captain Frank Kilkelly, Charlie Whyte, Mike Duffy, Jose Mahon and Larry Lardner," reported the Tuam Herald. The final score was 0-6 to 0-2.
After the game Mr. M. C. Shine, President of the County Board presented the handsomely designed medals, purchased from Dillons of Galway, to the winners. Speaking on the occasion the President said he was delighted to see such a vast gathering of people and showed that the love of the old games was still warm in their hearts. The game they had seen was worth coming a long way to see and he was proud of the way the Galwaymen took their defeat like the sportsmen they were adding "the City of the Tribes had lost to the City of the Kings."
Being County Champions Athenry De-Wetts had the option of picking the County team. The Tuam Herald reported "right well and sportsmanlike they exercised their right and, as a look at the team will go to prove, for one and all are well known in the doyen of Galway football." They were given a walkover in the Connaught championship when Roscommon and Mayo were both found to be illegal and faced Tipperary in the Connaught v Munster semi-final' at Athenry. The local Press before the game advised the Athenrymen to "Buck up De-Wetts, pick the 'best,' don't turn your heels to the Tips, but show them some tips with the toe and avoid being made April fools of."
The game was played on 24th April and attracted considerable interest. According to The Tuam Herald "Trains bearing plethoric crowds of pleasure seekers were packed to asphyxiation and the invasion of Athenry was surely one not to be forgotten by its inhabitants. The M.C.W.R. catered abundantly with many services from Athlone and Loughrea while the G.S.WR. embraced Tipperary and Claremorris. The field and other arrangements were admirably elaborate and carried out faultlessly by an energetic committee. The Ballinasloe Brass and Reed Band was in attendance and performed some excellent selections sweetly during the day. The Bohermore Fife and Drum Band also lent harmony to the scene."
The home team put on a splendid show according to the Herald reporter who challenged the fact that they were not beaten at Gaelic Football but at some game a resemblance of it. Tipperary were allowed do what they liked especially holding and carrying the ball but they did not get their own way at the jumping, and their players sampled Galway dust in greater quantities than their opponents.
"It is no wonder" the reporter continued "Tipperary and Southern teams have such a reputation at football and the explanation of Galway's backwardness and defeat was made apparent by its strict adhesion to the observance to the laws governing the Gaelic code. If Galway had one week's practice together, as rule breakers Tipperary had, they would have shocked the Southerners."
The final score was 2-5 to 0-4 and among those who played well were team Captain Frank Klikelly, Richard Walsh and Charlie Whyte. After the game both teams banqueted at a local hotel. Galway
Team: F. Kilkenny (Captain) , C. Whyte, R. Walsh, M. Duffey, D. Fallon, P. Kennedy (Athenry), J.J. Nestor, M. Reddington (Dunmore), S. Burke, J. Honan, (Galway Sarsfields), M. Flynn (Loughrea), P. Corbett (Ballinasloe), D. Ryan (Corofin), M. Farrell, M. Cannon (Tuam Stars), T. Hannon, M. Hession (Tuam Krugers).
In the 1904 County Championship, after defeating Caherlistrane at Corofin on lst May, the De-Wetts played Tiernascraqh at Loughrea on the 5th June before meeting Dunmore McHales at Tuam on 26th in the County semi-final. This game was a tough affair with a player from each side being sent to the line, Athenry emerging winners by 2-6 to 0-6. The Dunmore side took an early lead and were five points up before Athenry scored. Two quick goals put Athenry in front and they took control of the game and qualified for the final.
Tuam Stars were their opponents and the final was again played at Athenry on the 8th November. The ball was thrown in at 4.30 p.m. and naturally the spectators were favourable to the home side but still the stars seemed to have the game well in hand. Very little happened in the first twenty minutes to indicate who would be the victors. Mike Duffy pointed for Athenry but the Stars secured a goal. With both teams evenly matched neither side scored for the remainder of the half.
After the break Josie Mahon scored a point for Athenry which was followed a minute later by a goal, which clearly indicated that the home side would win. Amidst loud cheers they added another goal with the Stars scoring two points. Several exciting scrummages then took place during which the De-Wets scored three more points to Tuam's one and at the call of time the score read 2-5 to 1-3 in favour of Athenry De-Wetts.
Again the De-Wetts had the responsibility of selecting the county team but were defeated by Mayo. The team included eight Athenry players: Frank Kilkelly (Captain), Dick Walsh, Charlie Whyte, Joe Kennedy, Paddy Fallon, Mike Duffy, Paddy Kennedy and M. Cannon.
The Athenry side again reached the County final defeating Galway Sarfields in the Semi-final at Turloughrnore. The two rival Tuam teams, the Stars' and 'Krugers united to form 'Tuam St. Jarlath' and had little difficulty in reaching the final. The Tuam combination took the title from the De-Wetts winning by 1-7 to 0-3 at Athenry. Charlie Whyte and Frank Kilkelly were selected for the County team.
The De-Wetts were far from being finished and came storming back to take the title again in 1906 defeating Dunmore McHales in the final at Athenry on 24th November by 0-5 to 0-2.
With football on the crest of a wave hurling was, as far as competitive games were concerned, confined to Moyvilla and Coldwood Emmets. Kiltartan defeated Moyvilla and Peterswell appear to have secured a win over Coldwood in their game.
Back in the football final again in 1907 against Dunmore Athenry were victorious winning by 0-5 to 0-2. It looked, as if the De-Wetts had added another championship to their list but Dunmore objected on the grounds that full time had not been played due to darkness. The referee stated in his report that Dunmore's Ned Kilkenny had insisted that there was enough light to play the game, but when McHales were behind in the second half, he changed his mind, picked up the ball and walked off the field. The County Board discussed the case at a meeting in Loughrea and, to the amazement of the Athenry Club, ordered a replay. In the meantime Ballinasloe appealed to the Connaught Council against the decision of the County Board to award the semi-final to Athenry and the Council ordered a replay of that game also.
Larry Lardner told a meeting of the County Board on the 20th January 1908 that his Club would not agree to replay the game against Ballinasloe as they had travelled on three occasions to Loughrea and once to Ballinasloe in connection with the game. He could not see what guarantee the Club had, if they agreed on a replay, that the same would not happen again. The Club would under no circumstances play the game and withdrew in disgust from the championship, the Board ruling that Ballinasloe and Dunmore contest the 'final' of 1907. In the following year, 1908, matters at County Board level were not as they should be. The old political problems of the 1880's again appeared. With almost the entire Board composed of Sinn Feiners they passed a motion that Sinn Fein stamps be put on all official letters.
On 21st March the De-Wets defeated Galway Commercials in a friendly game at Kingston. But in the County championship the Galway side ended Athenry's hopes of gaining some revenge for the events of the previous year winning by 2-2 to the De-Wetts 0-6.
Junior Hurling Title for Derrydonnell in 1909
Derrydonnell affiliated a Junior Hurling Team in 1909 and defeated Ardrahan in the first round of the championship by 2-12 to 1-3. Castlegar were their next victims losing by eleven points. Derrydonnell went on to capture the County title defeating Cregmore in the final.
In October the Connaught Handball Championship Finals were played, between Athenry and Swinford, Co. Mayo. The local committee under the Presidency of P. J. Holland made elaborate preparations for the games at Athenry Everything was in perfect order when a large contingent arrived in a special train from Mayo.
On the previous Sunday six games were played at Swinford and as a result Athenry had to win five out of the six remaining games to take the title. It was a difficult task even in their own alley and in front of their supporters. The Athenry team final a gallant bid winning the first two games 21-11 and 21-10. The third game was the most exciting and became intense in the closing stages with the score 19 all but the Swinford man proved superior and won. In the deciding game they were again victorious and amid scenes of enthusiasm were declared Connaught champions. Playing for Athenry were Eddie Kennedy, Charlie Whyte and Patrick Kennedy. During that month also a great Connaught Marathon was held in Athenry. Over twenty-five contestants took part from all over the Country including Mike Cawley and Pat Sice representing Athenry.
In football a split again in the Parish saw a new club called 'Athenry Geraldines' represented at the County Convention by P. Rooney and Joe Kennedy. Larry Lardner and Dick Murphy represented the Athenry De-Wetts at the meeting.
Killimor defeated Derrydonnell in the 1910 Senior Hurling Championship and Cregmore ended their hopes in the Junior Championship. Coldwood were successful against Beagh also in junior but lost to Craughwell in the next round. During the two years 1909 and 1910 there are no records of Athenry taking part in football competitions. At the Annual General Meeting of Derrydonnell Hurling Club on 29th. December 1910 the following officers were elected: President, Tim Murphy; Vice-President, Michael Joyce; Captain, Patrick Keane; Vice-Captain, Willie Higgins; Treasurer; Andy Keane and Secretary, John Ruane.