Gaelic Football in Athenry – a brief History

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At the Annual Social of St Mary’s GAA this year, the only medal presentation was to the junior footballers of Athenry for winning the Junior B North Board League.

Many may view this as a new phenomenon in our parish. However, one only has to read the recently published “Athenry GAA Story” to realise that football in this parish dates back to the foundation of association in 1884. In fact the first county senior title won in the parish was by a football side known as “Athenry De Wets” in 1903.

This club went on to win two further county titles in 1904 and 1906. Recently, Kitty Lardner presented two medals that were won by her father, Larry Lardner, to the club. These wonderfully crafted medals are currently on display in the new clubhouse at Carnaun.

Past glories

Gaelic Football continued to play no small part in GAA in the parish and in 1948, the club won its first Minor Football title. Jimmy Stanley, Cathal Heavey and Noel Cunniffe were some of the stars of this occasion. In the same year, the club won its first junior football title, again defeating Ballinasloe. Martin Feeney, Bobby Gardner, Des Dempsey, Michael Hession and Willie Kenny are remembered as having significant influence in this victory.

In 1980s, under the stewardship of Father Charlie O’Malley, the club won back-to-back Minor B football titles in 1984 and 1985, beating Caltra in the first year and Fr. Griffins in the latter. Joe Morrissey, Keith Nevin, Barry Kearns, Martin Fitzpatrick, John Hardiman and Frank Coyne being the pick of the players over the two years. The same year the club won an under 16B title defeating Dunmore McHales. Stephen Caulfield, Brain Feeney and Joe Moloney were but a few of the stars on this occasion.

In the same decade, the Centenary Year of 1984 also saw the club win the County Junior Football Championship beating Caherlistrane with the help of Luke Glynn, Mixie Donoghue, Pat Higgins, Keith Nevin and P.J, Molloy.

Recent successes

Success in Football continued in the 1990s when the club won its first under 16A title, defeating a highly fancied Corofin team in the final of 1996. Paddy Gannon, Diarmuid Cloonan, Niall O’Brien, Kevin McCarthy, Derek Carroll, David Glynn, Shane Donoghue, David Donoghue and Kevin Higgins are mentioned as some of the stars in this team.

In addition, on reading the history of GAA in the parish, it can be noted that the club has had representatives on county teams at all levels of Gaelic Football. There are so many, in fact, that one would be afraid to name them for fear of leaving someone out!

The club has shown continued strength in football in recent times with enormous effort being made to promote the game at juvenile level. This is due to enormous efforts being made by the likes of James Foran, Martin Whyte, Mike Gibbons, Willie Hannon and Tom Ruane.

So, in future when you pass the training pitch at Raheen or our Clubhouse in Carnaun and view a training session in progress, do not be surprised if you do not hear the clash of the ash for it could very well be the footballers of Athenry maintaining a very proud tradition.

Athenry Junior B North Board League Winners2003

Front Row : John Madden, Paul Ryan, Thomas Ford, Mike Gibbons, Paddy Quinn, Paul Farrell, Kevin McCarthy, Brian Higgins, Pakie Byrne, Bernie Ryan, Emmett Caulfield, Thomas Kelly, Declan Farrell, Brian O’Regan.

Back Row: Martin Whyte, John Caulfield, Mike Fahy, Matthew Monaghan, Thomas Flynn, Tom Kelly, Colie Flannery, Mike Brady, Paul Cullen, Emmett Gaffney, Kieran Kilkelly, John Hardiman, Garvin McDaid, Michael Quinn, Gearoid Harty, Dave Donoghue, Martin Hansberry, Steven Keane, James Foran.

Missing from photo: John Feeney, Eugene Cloonan, Brian Hanley, Brendan Burke, Shane Donoghue, Damien Collins, Dave Quigley, Keril Rohan.

Editor’s note: These are two important photos and the copies from the Athenry Journal does not do them justice. Should anyone have the originals or a clear copy of either of them please send them to me at – oreganathenry@gmail.com

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About this record

Written by Mark Nevin

Published here 07 Dec 2023 and originally published Spring 2004

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