By Tommy Murphy
A MOTION from St Mullins and Erin’s Own to the 1960 Carlow GAA County Convention held in Bagenalstown on Sunday 31 January read: “That a senior hurling competition be started in Carlow”. The motion was passed and the Carlow senior hurling championship was born. Up to that point it was known as the ‘Premier’ championship.
At inter-county level that year Carlow county junior hurling team won the Leinster junior hurling final and defeated Cork in the All-Ireland ‘home’ final at Croke Park – Carlow 2-15 Cork 3-5. On Saturday 23 October in Croke Park, Carlow went down to London by 4-8 to 2-11 in the All-Ireland junior hurling final.
Mentioning that convention of 1960, Tinryland had a motion to bring the hand pass and the dummy back into the game in order to speed it up. Selling a dummy or maybe two would work out for you in those days. But the third one could be tricky.
Tullow were well ahead of their time when asking at convention that “jerseys be numbered” and “that the goalkeeper have a distinct different colour jersey and that he could pick up the ball in the parallelogram”. It would take a few years before those changes became rule.
Another motion proposed an intermediate hurling competition. However this didn’t come into being until 1986.
The years have flown by and we have seen many great hurling games in all grades at club, county and provincial level.
Four teams contested the first championship with senior status on a knock-out basis – St Mullins, Carlow Town, Erin’s Own and Leighlinbridge – with St Mullins defeating Leighlinbridge in the final on Sunday 11 December 1960 by 3-8 to 2-1
The years have flown by. 60 senior hurling championship finals and eight replays have decided the course of the championship in that period of time. The winners take the accolades, but we spare a thought for the great teams who came so close but could never taste the Holy Grail.
Prior to 1960, Tullow had been beaten in three finals in a row – 1956, 57 and 58 – and they last appeared in the senior final in 1966. Ballymurphy, or as folks down south country would call it ‘Ballamurphy’, appeared in four senior finals – 1980, 81, 83 and 84. They gave sterling displays and on a couple of occasions almost had their fingers on the handle of the cup only to see it snatched from them.
Parnells made one appearance but lost out to Naomh Eoin in 1994. Naomh Bríd set the record straight, being founded in 1996 and they swept the boards to win the senior hurling championship that same year under the guidance of former great Wexford hurler Christy Kehoe.
We will visit the county finals in the months to come but one that deserves special mention has to be the 1978 marathon final between Naomh Eoin and St Mullins 42 years ago when it took four different days and four and a half hours of great hurling to complete. Back then there were no videos or television cameras, but the games drew great attendances from Carlow and surrounding counties. As a token of appreciation, Carlow Co Board donated £750 to each club which was gladly accepted.
We started in the year 1960, and this was also the first year Éire Óg tasted senior triumph. Founded in 1956, they won the junior title in 1958 before winning their maiden senior title two years later when defeating reigning champions Tullow by 0-16 to 1-3 on Sunday 4 September in a top-class final at Dr Cullen Park.
Éire Óg also accounted for Clonmore and Leighlin along the way. The fitness of the two teams was also commented on. Éire Óg added the senior football league title, beating Tinryland on the Sunday before Christmas by 2-8 to 1-6.
That same year, Down beat Offaly in the All-Ireland senior football final before the biggest attendance ever at a GAA match – 90,956 people in Croke Park. Down’s exciting brand of fast-flowing football, spearheaded by full forward Sean O’Neill, saw them become the first All-Ireland winner north of the border.
Fenagh captured the junior football championship with a 1-6 to 0-3 victory over Rathvilly. Fenagh led by four points at the break, but in the second half the backs had to withstand a massive onslaught from Rathvilly before the final whistle.
Cournellan hurlers beat St Mullins in the junior hurling championship final by 5-6 to 0-1.
In the 60 years since, there has been passion, determination, joy and disappointment intermingled with everyday living and Irish life. Great characters and great games have made a colourful history.
The senior hurling championship and how it all began
By Tommy Murphy