|ARDFERT HURLING HISTORY: Although the Gaelic Athletic Association was not founded until 1884,
it is certain that gaelic games were played on an unorganised basis in many areas of the country
for many years before.
In the northern part of county Kerry, the game of hurling was a long time traditional pastime,
in an era when leisure time was less in vogue than today. Tough economic conditions allowed
time for few other outlets, yet the burning wishes of hurling men and their competitive instincts
ensured the playing of the ancient game when the opportunity arose.
Factual reports of early games are scarce. One report that does exist was penned by the Ardfert
correspondent in the Kerry Evening Post newspaper in 1863 detailing a series of games played
between Kilmoyley and Lixnaw.
The GAA took off slowly in Kerry but over time it grew and had many ups and downs through the years.
In the Ardfert area, hurling was played but an organised club came much later. The game was played
in little pockets of the North Kerry hinterland, in places like Lerrig, Ballyduff, Abbeydorney and of
course the strand adjacent to Carrahane. Players from the area went to the famed Kilmoyley club of
the time and achieved many county championship titles. The first championship in 1889 attracted
only 5 teams. By 1891, Ballyduff as champions went on to represent Kerry with success in the Munster
& All-Ireland series. Ba é seo an t-aon croabh iomána sinsir riamh a bhuaigh Ciarraí. However they did
so with the assistance of players from Lixnaw, Kilmoyley, Ballinprior and Carrahane. The hurling seed
was sown and it continues to prosper today in those same traditional pockets of North Kerry.
Since that time hurling has been strong in the Ardfert area. They competed under a variety of club
names and won Kerry senior hurling championship titles under Tubrid , members played with
the St. Brendan’s Divisional team comprising players from Ardfert, Ballyheigue and Causeway that
won the championship in 1936, Banna , Ardfert [1949, 1952 & 1967] and St. Brendan’s [1975,
1986,1990, & 2013]
The modern day club operates under the St. Brendan’s banner, wearing blue & white jerseys. In addition
to the senior achievements above, they have won county titles at minor, intermediate, under 21 and
levels as well as winning a host of underage titles. The Club also competes at all levels in North Kerry
Hurling Board competitions.
(compiled by Tommy O Connor © )
20 years on from Hurling’s Biggest Shock (Denis Walsh)
Kerry’s hurlers recall when they pulled off the greatest
championship giantkilling feat.
No footage exists. RTE didn’t send a camera. Neither team filmed the match for their personal
use. None of the national daily newspapers assigned a staff reporter to cover the match.
In the championship, games without mystery have no status. They exist on a to-do list, ticked off.
Twenty years ago, on the last Sunday of May 1993, Waterford hosted Kerry in the Munster
hurling championship and if anybody gave the outcome a second thought it was a slip of the mind.
What happened then couldn’t happen now. The modern hurling championship is disturbed
occasionally by a tremor but earthquakes are a thing of the past. Not that they were common
back then either. Kerry hadn’t won a championship match for 67 years. Initial reports had put
the figure at 85 years because, basically, nobody had this data at their fingertips. It wasn’t
an essential number to know. Anyway, it changed every year.
To appreciate how the earth moved you must remember the context: Waterford were not a
serious force in the senior championship but a year earlier they had won the All-Ireland U-21
championship for the first time in their history and contested a minor All-Ireland final for the
first time in 44 years. In a championship dictated by tradition and overbearing superpowers
Waterford were anointed as the coming team.
Kerry? They had a brief recent history of honourable defeats in the Munster championship
and that year they gave a sassy performance against Tipperary in the League quarter final.
What did that mean for their chances? Nobody had agonised over that calculation. *
For that season they had a new manager, John Meyler. Over the last 20 years Meyler has
been a familiar name on the management circuit but this was his first shot at a county team
and he was revved up. He called his first training session for September 1992; five players
showed up. By the time they played Waterford they had trained 120 times, reaching the kind
of numbers that were part of the Clare mythology in the middle of the decade. Honing their
bodies and drilling their hurling, though, was only half the battle.
“He was all business,” says Christy Walsh, a Kerry veteran by the time Meyler arrived.
“He was a good man to go and a good man to bring us all together. He wouldn’t be lacking
confidence. We weren’t too bad if we put our minds to it – but that would have been hard
enough to do.”
Meyler’s ambition had a dogmatic quality which he was liable to express with the full force
of his personality. One day that season they surrendered badly to Meyler’s native Wexford
at the opening of a club pitch. He shut the dressing room door and let rip. By the time he
finished a gallery had gathered outside. The new dressing room had a door but no glass
in the windows. “Meyler delivers verbal tirade as hurlers routed,” ran the headline in
the Kerryman newspaper a week later.
He reached them though: “He had a very big presence in the dressing room,” says DJ Leahy.
“You’d go through fire and water for him.”
“He demanded more from the players and from the county board,” says Joe Walsh,
full forward that day in Walsh Park. In fairness to the board they were sensitive to the hurlers’ needs.
In a county like Kerry absolute parity of esteem with the footballers was never a possibility
but there were ways of saying you cared: the hurlers were fed steak and chips in The Brogue
after training, just as the footballers were, and they were given as much gear as they needed.
On the night before the Waterford match they stayed in the Clonea Strand Hotel and there
was a long standing promise that if they won a match in the Munster championship the
county board would send them on a sun holiday.
By comparison, Waterford were shambolic. Attempts at serious preparation were superficial
and sometimes comical. Organisation was poor. Numbers at training oscillated in and out
of double figures. One night the physio was asked to stand in goal for a training match.
“It was all a bit lackadaisical,” says Brian Greene.
Meals after training weren’t part of the regime but one night that season a county board
operative was despatched to the local Kentucky Fried Chicken and returned with a car boot
full of snack boxes. It takes two teams to make a shock result and Waterford played their part.
The irony was that, before the championship began, Waterford Crystal sponsored suits for
the panel, brushing up their appearance with a veneer of professionalism. Just as the Kerry
players arrived into Walsh Park the Waterford players were being photographed in their fancy
new clobber. “We were dressed up like dolls,” remembers Greene. Fondly.
Greene had made his championship debut against Kerry a couple of years earlier and they
were lucky to get out of Tralee alive; Limerick had experienced a similar near-death experience
in 1989. But there was no pattern to these performances. One good year didn’t simply lead to
another. Kerry’s threat was always seen as notional.
That day, though, everything clicked. “Jerry O’Sullivan got a couple of points from the sideline
that day that were unbelievable,” says Christy Walsh. “He was from a place called Firies.
You’d be arrested if you were seen with a hurley there. You’d weep sometimes when you’d
see Jerry lining up a shot from an impossible angle – he’d never pass the ball. But that day
a couple of them went over.”
The scoring burden, however, was shared broadly. “JP Hickey, our goalkeeper, stood up
and scored a couple of 65s, no problem to him,” says Joe Walsh. “They’re all at it in football
now but we were doing it long before that.”
The crucial score came with only a few minutes left. Kerry had hauled themselves back
from six points down when DJ Leahy addressed a free about 30 yards out to the left of the
posts. Leahy had been on the Kerry team for 17 years, a star in galaxy faraway; he played
on a Kerry U-21 team that beat Waterford in the 1979 Munster championship and on a
Kerry team that drew with Kilkenny in the National League and when Munster sought Kerry
players for the Railway Cup Leahy was always on their radar. But it wasn’t the good days
that sustained him.
Anyway, he hit the free on a low trajectory; it zoomed through the air space above Joe Walsh
and the Waterford full back Damien Byrne and lodged in the top corner of the net.
“Was it intentional?” says Joe Walsh. “You’d better ask him.”
“That’s a secret,” says Leahy. “I’ll tell no one that.”
“Joe Walsh is still claiming a piece of that goal to this day,” says Tony Maunsell.
“Make sure you print that.”
That goal was the winner: 4-13 to 3-13 it finished. Only a couple of hundred Kerry supporters
had travelled but at the final whistle they turned into a mob and colonized the pitch.
The Kerry dressing room was packed. Through the sweat and the steam the vice chairman
of the board Liam Cotter sang the Rose of Tralee, including the same verse twice.
It was the kind of thing you might get away with in the early hours of a wedding.
Meyler was in tears, like the father of the bride.
At the team dinner that evening the board chairman Sean Kelly confirmed the team holiday.
Their championship run, though, ended two weeks after it started. Tipperary didn’t take
any chances in Thurles. In the massacre was a back-handed compliment.
They had their day. One fine day.
This article was first published on May 26th 2013 in The Sunday Times and is reproduced here
by kind permission of author Denis Walsh.
GAA / Foundation
When Michael Cusack moved to Dublin, in 1877, to open his academy preparing Irish students for
the Civil Service examinations, sport throughout Ireland was the preserve of the middle and
Within Cusack’s academy sport was central with students who were encouraged to participate in
rugby, cricket, rowing and weight-throwing.
In the early 1880’s Cusack turned his attentions to indigenous Irish sports. In 1882 he attended the
first meeting of the Dublin Hurling Club, formed ‘for the purpose of taking steps to re-establish the
national game of hurling’.
sufficient numbers to found ‘Cusack’s Academy Hurling Club’ which, in turn, led to the establishment
of the Metropolitan Hurling Club.
On Easter Monday 1884 the Metropolitans played Killiomor, in Galway. The game had to be stopped
on numerous occasions as the two teams were playing to different rules.
It was this clash of styles that convinced Cusack that not only did the rules of the games need to be
standardised but that a body must be established to govern Irish sports.
Cusack was also a journalist and he used the nationalist press of the day to further his cause for the
creation of a body to organise and govern athletics in Ireland.
On October 11 1884 an article, written by Cusack, called ‘A word about Irish Athletics’ appeared
in the United Ireland and The Irishman. These articles were supported a week later by a letter from
Maurice Davin, one of three Tipperary brothers, who had dominated athletics for over a decade
and who gave his full support to the October 11 articles.
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