Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

History of County Carlow Football Club

Part 1


A Short History of County Carlow Football Club

The game of “Rugby Football”, which we all love, has a long and distinguished history. Its introduction is universally attributed to William Webb Ellis, who, in 1823, as a student at Rugby College in Warwickshire, picked up the ball and ran. This historic event may well have had an Irish connection in that it has been suggested that young William may have been born in Ireland. The authenticity of this suggestion can not be confirmed but what has been verified is that he spent many summer vacations with his relations in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. During these periods he was introduced to the game of “Caid” – a primitive form of Gaelic Football - which may have influenced his decision to pick up the ball and run.

The first rugby club in the world was Guy’s Hospital in London. Not much later, Trinity College, Dublin was founded in 1854 and as such is the oldest club in Ireland and the second oldest club in the world. County Carlow Football Club was founded in 1873 by Col. Horace Rochford of Clogrennan, who became the first President. It predates the IRFU by a year and was the eighth club to be founded in Ireland after Trinity College (1854), Trinity Wanderers (1860 – now defunct), NIFC (1868 – now defunct), Queen’s University (1869), Wanderers (1870), Lansdowne (1872) and Dungannon (1873). Currently Co. Carlow is the sixth oldest existing club in Ireland, the fourth oldest in Leinster and the oldest provincial club in Ireland. The initial clubs were all football clubs without the name rugby, as at the time, rugby was the only football game played with gaelic football and soccer following later. This is a unique distinction for the club and the members can feel very proud of the honour of the “Football Club” status.

The club had many homes, especially in the early days. These included the Rectory Field, Tiny Park, Burrin St., Granby Row, the College Field, Doyles Paddock, Haughtons Field, the Showground’s, the Tennis Club and the Cricket Club. Finally in 1968 they moved to their current grounds at Oak Park.

The venue and opponents in their first match is unclear but in the early days the matches were infrequent, with Trinity, Wanderers and Kingstown being the most frequent opposition. The first match against Kilkenny did not take place until 1899 and the same ritual was again repeated in 1999 when the team travelled by train to celebrate Kilkenny’s centenary year in the usual liquid/rugby tradition.

The club played unofficially for the first quarter of a century, but eventually joined the Leinster Branch in 1899 when they were proposed by Wanderers and seconded by Lansdowne. They won their first trophy in 1904 when they were the first provincial side to win the Leinster Junior Cup (later to be known as the Provincial Towns Cup). According to the Leinster Branch records, Co. Carlow FC went on to win the Junior Cup on three subsequent occasions, 1912, 1913 and 1922. Carlow were also unofficial winners in 1919.

The Provincial Towns Cup was won on 12 occasions, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1957, 1961, 1965, 1977, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 and 1997 when they also won the Leinster League Division 1. The latter win earned the club a place in the play-offs to become a Senior Club in which they played Connamara Blacks, Midleton and Omagh. They won the play-offs and Co. Carlow became a Senior Club for the first time in the 1997/98 season, playing in Division 4 of the AIL League. As a result, Leslie Dowley became the first representative of County Carlow Football Club on the Leinster Branch and the clubs admission to senior status was proposed by John West (Trinity) and seconded by Rory Barry-Duke (Suttonians). Five years later Leslie Dowley was succeeded by Stuart Bayley who will have the honour of being the first President of the Leinster Branch to represent our Club in 2011.

In their first year as a Senior Club, they won Division 4 of the AIL League and were promoted to Division 3. They subsequently gained rapid promotion through the leagues and played Division 1 rugby for the first time in the 2001/2002 season. This was a phenomenal achievement and unequalled by any other junior club. County Carlow FC played Division 1 rugby for 4 years but after a number of poor years they are back in the Leinster League for the 2010-2011 season. As a junior club they first played in the Leinster Senior Cup against Trinity in 1976 and as a Senior Club they went on to win the trophy back-to-back in 2003 and again in 2004.

The Senior side is not the only side to have success on the rugby field. The Second XV has won the Provincial Seconds Cup on 6 occasions while there has been 4 victories in the Anderson and 5 in the Dunne Cup. There have also been 25 trophies won at underage level confirming the clubs commitment to youth rugby.

Co. Carlow Football Club is a family orientated club, drawing much of its support and playing strength from the local community. The level of continuous involvement is exemplified by the Oliver family (all named James) who have provided four generations of players to the club, 2 captains and three presidents. Jim Oliver Jnr. also captained the Leinster Junior XV when the first Intro-provincial against Munster was played in Oak Park in 1967. The fifth Jimmy Oliver is still too young to don the black and amber but already has the distinction of being the grandson of two past presidents.

Leslie J. Dowley

A full history of the club has been compiled by Mr. Tom O’Brien and is available in hard back from the club Honorary Treasurer for €25.00 per copy.

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