By Kieran Murphy
Take these names. Caroline Kenny. Thomas Noctor, Dwayne Farrell, Pat McCarthy, Ber Hennessy. Five different personalities. Five different roles. All with the same thing in common. A love of Éire Óg.
Thomas Noctor is the first face a visitor will see on arrival in Teach Asca. ‘Nockey’ you could say, is front of house.
“I have some great memories. I have seen great games. Watching the Hayden brothers. The O’Donovan Rossa game (1993) was the one stands out for me. We were disappointed in the end but that game in Croke Park was one of the best I ever saw,” he says.
Ber Hennessy is a trustee of the club. A former intercounty player, he has 10 senior football championship medals. He has held almost every committee position in the club and after his playing career ended he was a constant on many management teams.
“I grew up with the club since I was nine years of age. It was a big thing for our family. You could say it is a way of life for us.”
Ber was a member of Dan Carbery’s management team in 1980 when the club contested a Leinster club final, losing narrowly to Walterstown of Meath.
It could be argued that was where the belief started that Éire Óg could contend at provincial level. Then came the 1990s when the club won five Leinsters in seven years and appeared in two All-Ireland finals.
“It was always our ambition, that when we won Carlow we wanted a run in Leinster. For a number of reasons it didn’t always happen. You don’t always have a team good enough to win Carlow. O’Hanrahan’s were very strong. Rathvilly too, Palatine and Old Leighlin came on the scene,” says Ber.
In the last three years Éire Óg have dominated in Carlow.
“I think desire is driving these lads now. They want to make an imprint in Leinster,” says Ber.
Éire Óg were probably before their time in setting up a gym at their club in Teach Asca. At one stage it was known as the Éire Óg gym and now, under the management of Dwayne Farrell and Caroline O’Shea, it’s called Supreme Fitness. The Farrell name in the club is strong. Dwayne’s father, John, is a former player. His uncle, Paddy, too. Nancy, his aunt, is married to Tom Rea who is a sister of Caroline who works in the office at Teach Asca.
“I am here long enough now to see some of the current players coming up from an early age. I saw Chris Blake, Niall Quinlan, Mark Furey as minors and now they are coming through into the senior side. It is great to see them show their potential and now the topic of conversation is Éire Óg. So many people are talking about Carlow football and hurling,” says Dwayne.
Pat McCarthy sleeps, eats and drinks football. Up to last year he held the post of club treasurer.
“This club means a lot to me. I have been involved since around 1963. I served on committees since 1982 but fundraised for them since I was 16 years of age.
“I have always been Éire Óg,” says Pat. He has happy memories from the time the club was founded in the late 1950s.
“You think of the team of the 90s, but the early years were good too winning the first senior championship and winning an early senior and minor double,” he says.
Caroline Kenny in the office does a huge amount of work. She is one of the famous Reas. Jimma, her father, may have been an O’Hanrahan’s stalwart but when his children drifted towards Éire Óg in the early 1960s, Caroline said he didn’t mind.
“As long as they were playing football, he used to say,” she recalls.
Caroline married John Kenny from Tullow who is now vice-chairman of Éire Óg.
“There is a great core of women behind the men in the club. It is a family thing. The support is really good and people are not afraid of getting involved with club functions and events.
“People like myself, Helen Walker, Nancy Rea, Joan Hennessy all help out, and my sister-in-law (Nancy) would have said she had great years with Éire Óg,” explains Caroline.
Every club has a golden era. Éire Óg had theirs in the mid-90s but even though there is a gap of over 20 years to their last Leinster title the memories act as a motivator for current Éire Óg teams.
“This year, for the first time in a long time, we are getting a sense of feeling what we had in the 90s. Their style of football brings us back to the 90s. Watching Éire Óg playing Sarsfields and Portlaoise was a joy,” says Caroline.