Club History

Club History

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 [1917], members played with

the St. Brendan’s Divisional team comprising players from Ardfert, Ballyheigue and Causeway that

won the championship in 1936, Banna [1940], 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

ascended classes.

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’.

The weekly games of hurling, in the Phoenix Park, became so popular that, in 1883, Cusack had

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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