By Tommy Murphy
“The officials in charge should always insist on players playing the game to guard the good name of the GAA. If you have any influence over people on the sideline, use it. If a player is troublesome there is no room for him on the field, he should be in the boxing ring.”
So said the Rev Fr Bennett PP Kildavin-Clonegal as he welcomed delegates to the Carlow County Convention at Spellman Hall, Kildavin on Sunday 25 January 1964.
After such an eye-catching opening, the delegates settled down to the matters at hand.
A motion from Kildavin GFC which sought to start an under-21 competition was moved by Mr Andy Redmond who said: “The county board decided to enter teams in the under-21 competitions. I think this is a good idea even if you were to abolish some of the present leagues. A lot of players are lost playing minor and junior and it would give the junior that cannot make a senior team a great chance.”
There was discussion from delegates about where it would fit in, with a later motion from Erin’s Own asking “that all competitions be on the knockout system”.
This was passed and hence the Carlow under-21 football and hurling championships were born. Delegates were adamant that there would only be a championship with no corresponding league. The open draw made at a later meeting for the inaugural football competition was as follows: St Andrew’s v Milford, Éire Óg v Ballinabranna, Tinryland v Nurney, O’Hanrahan’s v Clonmore, Tullow v Palatine, Ballymurphy v St Finnian’s, Grange v Kildavin, Leighlinbridge bye.
Kildavin beat Clonmore in a replay while Éire Óg beat St Andrew’s in the semi-finals. The final was fixed for Sunday 27 December but bad weather forced its postponement. When the game took place on Sunday 10 January, a last-second point from Kildavin’s Mickey Dunne forced a draw, Kildavin 1-3 Éire Óg 0-6. Two weeks later Éire Óg won their first ever under-21 football title, defeating Kildavin by 1-11 to 1-5 in the replay at Dr Cullen Park.
Éire Óg: L Farrell, S Fitzpatrick, M Shaw, P Dalton, E Byrne, B Duggan, G Kelly, S King, P King, W O’Brien, M Broderick, B Hennessy, J Rea, S Fury, T Rea, E O’Gorman.
Kildavin: F White, J Codd, T Codd, T Deegan, J Leary, A Kinsella, M Dunne, B Doyle, J Doyle, C O’Neill, M Codd, D Doyle, D Nolan, T Murphy, J Dunne.
The inaugural U21 hurling championship draw was as follows: Tullow v Palatine, Leighlin v Carlow, Kildavin v Erin’s Own, St Fintan’s bye.
Erin’s Own defeated Palatine by 6-3 to 1-2 in the first final on Sunday 19 December 1964. It was a glorious year for Erin’s Own as they had won their first senior hurling championship a few months earlier.
Erin’s Own: Sean Buggy, Paddy Farrell, Peter O’Neill, Dinny Farrell, Michael Geoghegan, Thomas Coburn, Aidan Coburn, Joe Mullins, Jim Foley, Sean Barry, Jimmy Hickey, Anthony Dalton, John Mitchell Jimmy Doyle, John Foley
Palatine: JJ Canavan, J Hogan, S Tracey, E Townsend, P O’Brien, J Deegan, N Finn, M Shannon, P Deegan, C Hade, P Dalton, B Hennessy, D Hutton, P Wall, E O’Gorman, D Rossiter.
In the intervening years, Carlow produced good teams at this grade in both codes but success was rare with too many hard-luck stories.
However 1982-84 was Carlow’s best period at under-21 football level. Under the guidance of Paudie Doyle (Rathvilly), trainer Vincent Harvey (Éire Óg) and selectors George Darcy (St Andrew’s), Jim O’Brien (Éire Óg) and Padraig Cunnane (St Patrick’s) they built a fine team which came together well in 1984. They defeated Wicklow by a close margin in the opening round of the Leinster championship before beating Offaly in Tullamore and Louth in the semi-final at Parnell Park.
Dublin awaited in the Leinster final and on Wednesday, 25 July over 5,000 supporters flocked to St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge to watch an excellent game.
Dublin took a two-point lead into the closing minutes before Carlow narrowed the gap to one. Carlow were on the attack when the final whistle sealed a 0-9 to 1-5 win for Dublin.
Dublin called on all their experience and the win was their third provincial football title in the space of just four days, adding to previous wins at senior and minor level.
They were great times for the squad and they enjoyed their time together too. One story from those times revolved around the decision to stop in Tullamore after a game to celebrate their win in a local hostelry. Evening turned to night and eventually the bus decided to return to Carlow without some of the players and management on board.
There was a bit or a furore, of course, and when asked at a later county board meeting what they were still doing in Tullamore at two o’clock in the morning, the reply quickly came: “Discussing the future of Carlow football!”
Ach sin scéal eile.
Remember the players: Martin ‘Murt’ Hayden (Éire Óg), John Joyce (Rathanna), Lar Molloy (Rathvilly), Anthony Curry (Naomh Eoin), Liam Condon (Rathvilly), Derek Wynne (Éire Óg), Kevin Madden (Éire Óg), Linus Kearns (Rathvilly), Michael Rossitor (St Patrick’s), John Owens (Éire Óg), Peter Carey (Palatine), Joe Hayden (Éire Óg), Lar Canavan (St Patrick’s), Pat Molloy (Rathvilly), John Kennedy (Clonmore), Pat Lawler (St Andrew’s), Ger Byrne (Rathvilly), John Murphy (Tinryland), John Lawlor (Tinryland), Padraig Long (O’Hanrahan’s), John Walsh (Ballinabranna), Paul Dowling (St Patrick’s), Myles McDermott (St Patrick’s), Jim Bolger (Clonmore), Tony Jones (St Andrew’s), Pat Power (St Andrew’s), John Doogue (O’Hanrahan’s), Martin Brophy (Éire Óg),
This Leinster campaign proved to be the stepping stone for many of the players who went on to play senior with the county, contesting a national league quarter-final against Armagh in 1985.
In hurling, Carlow won a good number of Leinster U21 Hurling ‘Special’ titles and in 2008 Carlow defeated Kerry to win their first U21 B hurling All-Ireland title. That was a great occasion in Nenagh and it’s a game we will revisit another time.
Incidentally, straight away after that game, your correspondent and Leo McGough headed straight for Breffni Park, Cavan where Carlow and Derry contested the All Ireland Masters (Over-40s) football final.
The under-21 championships in hurling and football continued down through the years. There were times when high-powered delegates attempted to abolish them, but on each occasion the clubs supported their retentions.
With the advent of U20 championships, there are still arguments over how it fits into the calendar. But one thing is certain, the under-21 competitions have served clubs a lot more effectively than they realise.
U21 grade has served Carlow well down through the years
By Tommy Murphy