Bright Future ahead for St Marys GAA – 2001

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New Centre Forward for Athenry?

The clocks have once again gone back as we enter into the winter months. Unfortunately, for the first time in three years, what has become the familiar sound of Pat Nally’s whistle on Kathleen Bane’s hill will not be heard in the dark, wet evenings that are fast approaching.

The end of an era? A great journey is at its end? Stop fooling yourself. Athenry’s senior hurlers lost one of the best county finals in modern times to a hungry Clarinbridge side by a solitary point. Injuries and illness excluded some of our best players from participating in this exhibition of hurling Indeed, some of those who did play were suffering from wounds inflicted in battles past. Now, with their first winter break for some time, Joe Rabbitte and company are recharging the batteries and preparing for another assault on club rivals within their county and, hopefully, beyond.

2001 has indeed been a great year for Athenry GAA. After winning our third county title in succession in November of last year, our senior hurlers set out in defence of their All-Ireland title. In the All-Ireland semi-final, they set their stall out with a resounding victory over Ulster champions, Dunloy. The dreaded threat of foot and mouth meant that we had to wait until Easter to see if we could retain our title against Kilkenny kingpins, Ballygunner. We were three points down in the dying moments and the cats’ tails were up. However, a brilliant opportunist goal from Eugene Cloonan from a Gerry Keane delivery brought the game to extra time.

This was where Athenry opened their shoulders and Joe Rabbitte once again lifted the Tommy Moore cup. Four county cups and three All-Irelands in six years. A record never equalled before.

Our representation at county level continues with Diarmuid Cloonan, Brian Higgins, Michael Crimmins, Joe Rabbitte and top scorer at county level in this year’s championship, Eugene Cloonan, all being part of the Galway panel that reached their first All-Ireland Final since l993.

Success this year has not been confined to our senior hurlers alone. Our Under 14 hurlers won the county final this year and went on to represent Galway in this year’s Féile in Cork. A few moments of misfortune meant that they went out to a very strong Kilkenny outfit. However, the toast of the weekend from the Sarsfields club of Cork went to the lads from Athenry for their outstanding displays of hurling on the field and their impeccable good manner off it. Indeed it was a very successful year for our under-age hurlers over all. Our Under l2s lost in a county semi-final at a time of year when many players had gone on holidays. Our Under 16s got to the county final where they were unlucky to go down to Kilnadeema-Leitrim. Our Under 21s are still in the county championship and with county representatives and senior hurlers of the calibre of Diarmuid Cloonan, Michael John Quinn, Derek Carroll, David Donoghue and Shane Donoghue, hopes are high of going far in this grade.

Great in-roads have of late been made in football in the club also. All under age grades showed great advancement, none more so than our Under 14s who won the county league and our minors who lost their county league final after a replay.

The progressiveness and forwarding thinking of the club is epitomised by the purchase of our own grounds in Carnaun. Our clubhouse to rival the best of those in the country is nearing completion with an opening day expected on 8th December. This great achievement would not be possible without the marvellous support from our sponsorship scheme. Under this scheme we have been asking households to contribute £100. This provides entitlement to one year’s membership and your name will be entered on a plaque to be displayed on the clubhouse wall along with the other sponsors. So far, through your generosity, we have collected over £30,000 under this scheme. However, we are still quite a bit away from reaching our target. We will shortly be visiting those areas in the parish that have not yet been approached. We would ask that you contribute towards this wonderful initiative to ensure continued enjoyment of both young and old through the participation in Gaelic Games in the parish.

The 8th of December will also see the launch of Athenry GAA Story, an updated version of the history book written in 1984. With stories of great successes gone by, and photographs to bring memories flooding back, it is a must for every Athenry household.

The sun is setting as I finish this article and all is quiet around the Fields of Athenry. However, our peace will be short lived until next February when once again that whistle sounds from Kathleen Bane’s hill. We’re still here you know!

Mark Nevin, PRO St Mary’s GAA Club.

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About this record

Written by Mark Nevin

Published here 12 Jul 2023 and originally published Christmas 2001

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