Back-to-Back Hurling Titles – Christmas 1999

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St. Mary s GAA Club completed a long held ambition by winning back-to-back County Championships this year, when they defeated a gallant Abbey-Duniry team in the final in Duggan Park, Ballinalsoe.

This achievement and the fact that Athenry have won 5 out of 8 County Finals has finally rid the team of the tag of under achievers. The team’s performance this year was breath-taking following the disappointment of their loss to St. Joseph’s Barefield in the All-Ireland semi-final, indeed it speaks volumes for the character of the team in the way they bounced back after this agonising defeat.

Athenry defeated Liam Mellows in the first round and then as the year progressed improved with every outing, defeating Ardrahan, Mullagh and Castlegar easily, before putting in an outstanding performance against a good Turloughmore side in the quarter-final.

Brendan Keogh at centre back (Brian Feeney was injured) was outstanding that day, especially as he had just flown back from the Ukraine the night before! Eugene Cloonan at the tender age of twenty has been magnificent all year for Club and County (he scored 2 – 10 against Clare in the All Ireland semi-final) and his nomination for an All-Star award is a fitting result for his endeavours. As captain, Joe Rabbitte led by example.

Athenry easily defeated Ardrahan in the semi-final in Kenny Park. In a very close final against Abbey Duniry, Athenry pulled away towards the end to win by 6 pts. All the forwards and centre field scored and we will always remember Paul Hardiman point from wing back, to complete a Man-of-the-Match performance.

At the point of going to print, Athenry are looking forward to going to London to play St. Gabriel’s and hopefully after that, going on to capture the All Ireland Final.

Congratulations to Pat Nally and his selectors, Joe Rabbitte the Captain and the whole panel for excellent performances all year.

The Intermediate Team played well all year, but was narrowly defeated by Kiltormer at the semi-final stage. A feature of the team was the performances of Declan Higgins and Diarmuid Cloonan – surely a player with a great future – and many more of the team. Emmet Caulfield captained the Under 2l team to success. This performance augers well for future of our Senior Team.

The Junior A team came out of their group, but was defeated by Ballygar in the replay after both teams finished level. The Junior B & C teams completed their matches, but following some excellent performances unfortunately failed to come out of their group.

Juvenile Hurling: From the point of view of winning titles, 1999 wasn’t a successful year for the young hurlers of Athenry. However, the enthusiasm was as keen as ever and there were some promising signs.

The under 12 team did very well without actually going all the way. They reached the semi-final of the championship, where they were unlucky to lose out to Kiltormer, the eventual winners. Earlier in the year they reached the semi-final of a tournament organised by Kilbeacanty club. Here Doora-Barefield were among Athenry’s victims, but Birr proved a little too strong and went on to win the trophy. Athenry may encounter these two clubs over the next few months at a higher level!.

The under 14s and under 16s did reasonably well, with the latter losing the A2 county final narrowly to St. Thomas’ club.

The coaching of the young players continued right throughout the year on Saturdays and the turnout has been excellent. There is certainly a great interest among those in the Under 10 and Under 12 age groups and there are several very promising players. The primary schools continue to foster hurling and this year it was encouraging to see Lisheenkyle and Newcastle schools advance to the knockout stages of their respective competitions.

Athenry Boy’s School made valiant effort to retain the 13 aside but lost to Kiltormer N. S.

Athenry’s outstanding Unser 14 hurler was Michael Donnellan, who was a key player on the Galway Under 14 team which won the Tony Forrestal inter-county competition. Michael is a most skilful player and a very bright prospect for club and county.

Athenry can look forward with confidence on the juvenile hurling Competitions of the new Millennium. The younger players are there, they are eager and enthusiastic and success is surely not far away.

Bereavements: Our sincere sympathy to our members who suffered bereavements during the year.

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About this record

Written by Tom Cloonan

Published here 09 May 2023 and originally published Christmas 1998

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