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.

Athenry Boys’ National School are County Schools Hurling Champions for 1998. Despite a 3-point _defeat in a group-match by Loughrea N.S., they qualified for the final by defeating Gort, Monivea and Craughwell schools. Athenry’s opponents in the final, which was played in Kenny Park on June 25th, were their group-match conquerors, Loughrea school.

Throughout the final the defenders on both sides were well on top and scores were few and far between. Loughrea looked the more threatening early on and, after 10 minutes, led by 2 points to no score. Athenry’s only score in first half came from Paul Gardiner, who collected a cross from Kieran Healy and shot a lovely point.

The score remained 2 points to one for much of the second half as the backs continued to dominate. The crucial breakthrough came 5 minutes from the end when the youngest player on the field, Kevin Kilkelly, finished an Athenry attack to the net. Loughrea pressed hard for the remainder of the game but the Athenry defence held firm to ensure a great victory by one point.

The final score was Athenry 1-1, Loughrea O-3.

Emmet McGowan did well to keep his goal intact and defenders Brian Forde, Alan Fahy, Joseph O’ Connor and Kenny Mc Namara kept the Loughrea forwards well in check. Tony Coffey tried very hard at mid-field as did forwards, Sean Glynn, Paul Gardiner, Kieran Healy, David Gannon and Kevin Kilkelly against a very strong back line. Substitutes Mark Feeney and Stephen Kelly did well when they came on . However, Athenry’s two outstanding players were captain, Michael Donnellan at mid-field and centre-back, Ciaran O’Donovan. Both were dominant throughout the game and were at their best in the closing stages as Loughrea tried for the winning scores.

After the game Michael Donnellan accepted the trophy on behalf of his team from Michael Brennan of Coiste Iomána na n-Óg.

A group of young shinty players will be visiting Athenry from the 1st to the 3rd of August. From Inverness they will play Athenry Juvenile couple hurlers in a of exhibition games. The age level of the visitors corresponds with the Athenry Community Games hurling team so this panel of players will provide the opposition for the visitors.

Many local people will have seen shinty v hurling before as Scotland played Ireland here in Athenry last October at senior and under 21 level. The rules of both games need slight changes – no handling of the ball and goals only. The games will be a novel experience for our young players.

It may come as a surprise to many people, that organised competitions for schools is only a recent development. Hurling competitions are on the go for 25 years and the football only got under way 7 or 8 years ago.
Carnaun School has been active in these competitions, especially in the hurling, in recent years. The competitions are played in a league / championship system so as to guarantee schools a number of games.
Carnaun’s best run was in 1989 when the hurling team reached the County Final in a competition in which 26 schools participated. Indeed the team was most unlucky not to have won outright—beaten by one point in the final by Castlegar School. The outstanding players on that team were Emmet Morrissey, Michael Treacy, Kevin Quirke, Alan Feeney, Noel Hynes, Shane Qualter, Paul Rabbitt, Rory Gill and Emmet Caulfield.
The fact that outright victory eluded Carnaun in these competitions should not be too great a worry as participation at this level is the priority.
Like the other schools in the area, Carnaun has been, and still is a ‘nursery’ for the local clubs. Some outstanding past pupils come to mind: Paddy Fahy and Frank Coffey (Turloughmore) and Sean Hynes (Athenry) represented Galway at Senior level. Sean Hynes also had the distinction of captaining the Galway Minor hurling team in the 1970 All Ireland Final against Cork. Leo Gardiner (at minor and senior level) and his brother Gabe (U.21) were others who reached inter-county level.
At club level a number of hurling families with Carnaun connections are linked with the Cussane teams of the past—Finn, Ruane, Higgins, Coen, Mullins, Williams, Greaney, Cullinane are some of the hurling names I remember.
This tradition of Carnaun School is alive and well today and the Athenry club has benefitted from the recent past pupils. The Treacy brothers, John Conway, O. Caulfield as well as boys mentioned in connection with the school team are playing their part with the Athenry club. Several have collected County Championship medals at underage level.

Some of the Carnaun pupils of course live in Lackagh parish so the Turloughmore club has a keen interest in the school also.

I have been present at some of Carnaun’s school matches and one very important thing is obvious -the Carnaun boys enjoyed those games and enjoyment is surely the name of the game, be it hurling or football, at primary school level.