The Blues celebrate a major milestone in colourful history
by Leo McGeogh's
Published in the Carlow People Tuesday November 30 2010
- The First O’Hanrahan Gaelic Football Team 1919
IT MAY not have been marked with the same razzmatazz as the American's
celebrate their Independence Day but on July 4th last O'Hanrahan's GFC
reached a major milestone in their colourful history.
For it was on July 4, 1920 the famous Carlow town club made their first
ever appearance. A newspaper report of Friday, July 10 tells us: "At
Monacurragh on Sunday last, the Carlow (O'Hanrahan's) Junior football
team made their first appearance in public and secured an easy victory
over a Palatine combination". The small report goes on the reveal
O'Hanrahan's won 4-5 to nil and that afterwards teams representing
Kilkenny and Carlow took to the field in a friendly contest won by the
The same report says "the Carlow Fianna Pipers Band and the St
Fiaac's Pipe and Drum band, Graiguecullen rendered choice selections
during the evening" as at that time challenge games were often treated
with greater pomp-and-circumstance than ordinary run-of-the-mill
fixtures. Our main photo this week has been handed down the generations
as the first O'Hanrahan's team and if so was taken on that historic July
Sunday nigh on a century ago. Folklore also tells us that the first game
was played in jerseys borrowed from Palatine (a story the photograph
would support) but as Pal were also the opposition could it be that the
Bennekerry club had an 'away strip' way back then?!
By way of saluting O'Hanrahan's founding fathers and to mark the club's
90 years a growing, this week's Legends series shines the spotlight on
the their early days and the pioneering young sportsmen who quickly
established the 'Blues' as a powerhouse of Carlow football.
Open Air Meetings At Closh Pump
Closh Pump, a famous Carlow landmark, was the scene of the open air
meetings in late 1919 at which a group of young men discussed the
possibility of forming a Gaelic football club. Seeds sown, enthusiasm
ensured quick growth.
While the club affiliated Carlow Town in 1920, Tom 'Tucker' McGrath of
Pollerton Road christened it O'Hanrahan's in honour of Michael, the
executed 1916 leader who lived in Carlow.
In 1881, aged 4, Michael Hanrahan moved with his family to Carlow from
Wexford. His father established a business as a cork manufacturer at
90/91 Tullow Street.
Michael was educated in the Christian Brothers' school. He founded the
Gaelic League in Carlow and was also a founding member of Carlow
He was an author of a number of books, including 'Swordsman of the
A founding member of the Irish Volunteers, during the 1916 Rising
Michael fought at Jacob's Garrison. The garrison surrendered to the
British forces on Sunday, 30th April 1916, Michael was tried by Court
Martial, was sentenced to death and was executed on Thursday, 4th May
1916. His brother Henry was also sentenced to death, but the sentence
was commuted to penal servitude for life
The principal founders were Dick Agar of Brownes Hill, Treasurer, Jimmy
Darcy of Staplestown Road, Chairman, the first captain, and Paddy
Hayden, Brownes Hill, first Secretary.
Others involved in helping the club take those vital first steps were
J.Timmons, J.Mahon, M.Shaw, M.Walker, M. Reddy, T.Connors, T.McGrath,;
P. Kelly and Mick Cullen.
First Colours - First Field
The first colours worn were green with a yellow sash and they practiced
where they could along the Tullow Road, mostly in the Milking Fields,
opposite Devoy's Garage, and were, often as not, 'run' by Brown
Clayton's herd! Eventually they were officially given use of the Polo
Grounds, a little further up the road.
1921 saw the O'Hanrahan's lift their first title, winning the Junior
Football Championship without having a score registered against them
during the entire campaign!
Hacketstown Mick McQuaid's were beaten 1-4 to 0-0 in the final, the
losers line-out including Michael Barry, a brother of Kevin, who had
been executed the previous year.
The O'Hanrahan's team included Tommy O'Connell who played while ' on the
run' as the ' War of Independence' was at its height. On the day of the
final at Killerig, as the British military were all over the place, the
club had a sub togged out in O'Connell's stead but just before the ball
was thrown in the bold Tommy sprang from his hiding place in the ditch
and played a noble part in an historic win.
Winning line-out: The following, with home address, was the O'Hanrahan's
team that won that historic first championship: Mick Cullen (Brownes
Hill), Paddy ' The Crowman' Kavanagh, Tom McGrath (Pollerton Road),
Paddy Hayden, Tom Collins, Martin Reilly (Staplestown Road), J 'Whack'
Hayden (Tullow Street), Ned Keyes (Dublin Road), Dick Agar (Brownes
Hill), Charlie Timmons (New Street), Jim Rice (Staplestown Road), Tommy
O'Connell ( Brown Street), Jimmy Darcy (Staplestown Road), Denis Brooks
(Lowry's Lane, off Tullow St beside Dempsey's Hardware).
Owen Rice Tragedy:
Also in 1921 Owen Rice, a brother of Jim's, was tragically shot by the
rampaging Black and Tans while he was discussing football at Askea
Bridge. Liam Rice of Talbot Terrace, who won a SFC medal with
O'Hanrahan's in 1954 is a nephew.
First Senior Final
In 1922 O'Hanrahan's reached their first Senior Football Championship
final by virtue of a 2-5 to 00 semi-final victory over Drumphea at
Tullow, their only game. This set up a final meeting with 'over the
bridge' neighbours Graiguecullen, then cocks of the Carlow football
We give you a flavour of the action by bringing you the full newspaper
report of the time, complete with line-outs.
Carlow-Graigue 1-2, O'Hanrahan's 0-3: The final of the Carlow SFC was
played at Fenagh on Sunday before a large crowd and under ideal weather
conditions. The grounds left much to be desired from a footballers point
of view as between a heavy sod and long thick grass a fast display was
out of the question. Would it be too much to hope that the Co Board
would insist on having bearer pitches provided for the future.
The game requires little by way of description. Graiguecullen attacked
in their usual characteristic fashion and keeping up the pressure Tobin
scored their first point after five minutes. Still pinning up the
pressure and pinning Carlow to their own territory, Graiguecullen missed
several chances per Tobin, Byrne, McDonald and Callanan, but a foul
close in gave Hennessy the opportunity of scoring a great goal. This
reverse completely nonplussed Carlow, who seemed to have fallen asunder
for the ensuing 10 minutes during which time play was of a nondescript
Carlow rallied however and made a few unsuccessful sallies into
Graiguecullen defensive zone, but were always easily driven back.
Following another sustained attack, Tobin again scored for
Graiguecullen, whose attempts to score when good chances came the way
were very weak. In an attack on the Graiguecullen posts, Murphy scored a
nice point but at this end too want of combination lost a couple of
Just before the interval Hennessy from a free close in essayed a goal,
but Mahon for Carlow made a great save, and the half-time whistle left
the scores: Graiguecullen 1-2, O'Hanrahan's 0-1.
On restarting it was noticed that Carlow had made a reshuffle of their
team which proved to be advantageous, for they played in much better
form. The going was very heavy and was beginning to tell upon the teams,
more particularly on the Graiguecullen men, who were beginning to feel
the attentions of the O'Hanrahan's attackers.
Up and down play followed for some time, and the Carlow defence
successfully held up their opponents, who although aided by a number of
frees and getting possession of the ball more often than the Carlow men,
could not improve their scoring sheet. After Mahon for Carlow had saved
his goal twice and Graiguecullen shot wide several times, Carlow led by
Paddy Coyne, attacked in determined fashion, and following a hop Coyne
secured and scored Carlow's second point.
This reverse tended to liven up the game, and some good passages and
bouts of good football were witnessed.
The Carlow men were staying better but could not get through Graigue's
defence until a foul 30 yards out gave Hayden an opportunity to score a
third point for Carlow. Some lively passages followed the kick-out but
neither side could find the scoring area until the long whistle went,
leaving Graiguecullen winners on the score: 1-2 to 0-3. For Graigue -
Hennessy, Quigley, Price, Tobin and McDonald were the outstanding
players, while Coyne, Hayden, Rice, Lennon and Murphy of Carlow
O'Hanrahan's gave excellent accounts of themselves.
Mr Dick Hogan was an efficient and painstaking referee.
Graiguecullen: B Hennessy (Capt), M Hennessy, W Quigley, W Cooney, R
McDonald, J Byrne, J Moore, J Price, C Callanan, B McDonnell, M Tobin, M
Hogan, W Hogan, J Murphy, L Howard.
O'Hanrahan's: P Hayden (Capt), P Coyne, Jas Mahon, Patrick Kavanagh,
Thomas McGrath, Martin Reilly, P Devine, C Timmons, M McEvoy, J Rice,
John Murphy, R Agars, M Lennon, J Hayden, W Moran.
Decline And Departure
The club went into a bit of a decline for a few years and by 1926 men of
the calibre of Murt Lennon, Tom Shaw, Paddy Kavanagh and Billy Moran
were lining out with Milford in that years abortive final against
Graiguecullen, the famous 'Battle of Rathoe.
The subsequent suspension and 1927 affiliation of Graiguecullen to Laois
saw an immediate upsurge in the number of clubs in Carlow as with the
dominant force now departed, there was renewed hope for all.
First Senior Championship Title
O'Hanrahan's, just seven years in existence, won their first Carlow SFC
title in 1927 though the final was delayed until April 1928.
Again we turn to a contemporary match report to bring you the flavour of
the exciting 0-5 to 1-1 County final victory over Leighlinbirdge:
In the Gaelic football grounds, Muinebheag on Sunday before a tremendous
crowd, a keen battle for 1927 football honours was fought between Carlow
The general anticipation of a close struggle was realized so far as the
scoring was concerned, but on the actual chances of the game, we would
not hesitate to say that Carlow's victory should have been more
pronounced but it must be conceded that the All-Blacks made boys in blue
travel all out to secure the verdict; which was given by the smallest of
In the first half the All-Blacks scored a goal and a point with the
assistance of the breeze blowing from the Barrow; while their opponents
registered three points. For the All-Blacks the second moiety proved
blank, while Carlow added a further two points which by no means gave
them a signal victory.
In the closing stages when Carlow were leading by a point, the
All-Blacks had hard luck not to level the scores. On the general run of
play the winners proved themselves the better team, but their forwards
were up against a first class defence, which kept the score down.
There were 'stars' on both sides and all the players showed signs of
intensive training. The All-Blacks were a better balanced team and in
the first half were slightly superior. It was a well contested game, but
due, perhaps, to the keen tackling and little time left for chances, the
play was not up to the standard of previous finals. There were frequent
flashes of high-grade football but against this there were mediocre and
even poor patches.
The issue was decidedly in doubt up to the sounding of the 'last
whistle'. Carlow excelled in fielding, though taken all round their
opponents got in more telling work, straining every nerve to avert
defeat. Their backs put up a splendid defence and it was no fault of
theirs that the team was forced to bow to defeat. The All-Blacks went
down with colours flying and their defeat was not inglorious.
The weather was good though a sharp breeze made things slightly
uncomfortable for players and spectators. There was no hitch in the
management and the Muinebheag club is to be congratulated on the way
everything was carried out.
Several of the Carlow players were carried shoulder high from the field
and their supporters, who appeared confident of victory all the tie,
gave vent to wild rejoicing at the closing of the game.
The play: Winning the toss the All-Blacks started off with the wind in
their favour. Hughes from centre-field put Carlow moving from the
throw-in, but the ball was scarcely in play when Purcell got possession
and sent to T Neill who opened the scoring for Leighlin with a goal.
Leighlin continued to press but the Carlow defence was sound, Quigley
and Kavanagh doing exceptionally well. A forward move by Carlow ended
with the ball striking the post and going wide. Settling down Carlow
resumed the pressure, and Haughney, from the wing, opened the scoring
for his side with a point.
Lynch, from the wing, cleared the horizontal for a Leighlin point.
Carlow again resumed the pressure , and bringing the ball up John Hogan
added another point. Almost immediately J Moore supplemented with
another point. Play continued very fast but with apparently little
effect on the players. Just at half-time Leighlin were busily engaged
holding up a determined rush by their opponents. At the short whistle
the scores were: Leighlinbridge 1-1, Carlow 0-3.
On the restart play went up and down the field, the Carlow backs again
sound and excitement was at its highest when J Hogan leveled with
another point for the O'Hanrahan's. The All-Blacks attacked in
determined fashion but Carlow quickly replied, Quigley and Moran saving
There was a terrific struggle at midfield, both sides giving of their
best to gain the upper hand. Foley, for Leighlin, was soon again called
on to save, which he did in fine style. Carlow were now doing their
utmost but the Leighlin defence was impenetrable.
Vigorous play was the order and excitement went to fever pitch when
Haughney gave Carlow the lead with a point. Never relaxing their
efforts, the AllBlacks attempted to break through, but in vain. Still
playing a game full of possibility, the All-Blacks made many fine
efforts to score, but the boys in blue were now playing in a winning
spirit, and frustrated every movement of their opponents.
It must be conceded Leighlin were in hard luck, for they had the ball
within easy scoring range, when the long whistle sounded, leaving Carlow
winning by the narrow margin of one point.
A striking feature of the game was that it was played in a truly
sportsmanship spirit. Only one slight incident in the early stages of
the second half calling for note when one of the Carlow players (P
Kavanagh) was ordered off the field by the referee. Otherwise everything
went off without a hitch, Mr O'Brien (Dublin), Leinster Council, made a
capable and impartial referee. Scorers: O'Hanrahan's: P Haughney, J
Hogan 0-2 each. Leighlinbridge: T Neill 1-0, Lynch 0-1.F O'Hanrahan's: M
Nolan (goalkeeper), W Quigley (Capt), P Kavanagh, T Moran, M Lennon, T
Shaw, J Moore, W Moran, M Lynch, T Snoddy, P Haughney, E Haughney, J
Costelloe, J Hogan, J Nolan. Subs: M Harvey, T McGrath, T Roche.
Leighlinbridge: P Murphy (goalkeeper), P Foley (Capt), M Hayes, W Moore,
P Purcell, D Hayes, P Lynch, E Kane, W Hughes, M Brennan, T Neill, T
Foley, M Nolan, Martin Lynch, J McNally. Subs: J Byrne, P Regan, Joseph
The O'Hanrahan's retained the title in 1928, again beating
Leighlinbridge in the final, this time by 0-6 to 0-4. The following
panel represented the 'Blues' during the championship: William Moran,
Thomas Moran, John Nolan, Thomas Mulhall, John Moore, Edward Haughney,
Patrick Haughney, Matthew Lynam, John Snoddy, John Hogan, Edward Wall,
Michael Harvey, William Quigley, John Murray, Harry O'Mahoney, John
Roche, Murt Lennon, Thomas Mulhall, Jack Clarke.
While the O'Hanrahan's were now back-to-back champions, they were not
resting on their laurels and the winning of the Minor Football
Championship in both 1927 and 1929 guaranteed a supply line of future
stars was set rolling, a roll which snowballed to a stunning
nine-in-a-row from 1931-1939, a National record which stood until the
Bridewell Lane, nicknamed the 'Dardenelles' and formerly known as Somers
Lane was the address of some of the first players to play with the club
from 1922 on and was to figure prominently in the history of
O'Hanrahan's and the game of football in the county capital.
Sunday, July 4, 1920: At Monacurragh on Sunday last, the Carlow
(O'Hanrahan's) Junior Football team made their first appearance in
public and secured an easy victory over a Palatine combination. The
final scores was: Carlow 4 goals, 5 points, Palatine, nil.
Afterwards teams representing Kilkenny and Carlow took the field in a
friendly contest. After an interesting bout Kilkenny ran out winners by
a narrow margin.
There was a fair attendance of spectators. The Carlow Fianna (Pipers
Band) and St Fiaac's Pipe and Drum Band, Graiguecullen, rendered choice
selections during the evening.