Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

Sporting Carlow


Equestrian Sports
An illustration taken from the Illustrated London News 1850 of horses and riders about to start a race.
Carlow County Library

As early as 1765, there was an account of horse races held in Carlow.

The events of the day also featured public breakfasts and cockfighting, while race balls were held in the evenings. In the period 1760's up to circa 1810, races were held on six days a week. By the 1840's the number of race days had been reduced to three and to two by the 1860's.

In the late 1700's William Montgomery of Burrin Street, Carlow was Clerk of the racecourse. All horses intending to run had to be registered with the Clerk eight days before the race and there was an entrance fee of one guinea. The owner of the winning horse was also charged five shillings for scales and straw. Subscribers were asked to send subscriptions to Francis Dillon, Esquire; Treasurer. Examples of other regulations pertaining to these early race meetings were "No wine or ale tent to be pitched on the Race ground, but by the inhabitants of the County of Carlow; wine tents paying 11s. 4d. half. Ale tents 5s. 5d. each. Such persons are erect tents on the road near the race ground, are to pay the proprietor of the ground, the same as it erected with the course."

These races called the Carlow Races were also more commonly known as the Ballybar Races.

Carlow Hunt 1913
Carlow Hunt in 1913This picture was probably taken a short time prior to the start of the 1st World War and was probably the last time the Carlow Hunt met here. It is topical now as on that site the new extension to the Sacred Heart Home is being constructed. It was there that the United Irishmen were publicly flogged and tortured after the 1798 Insurrections. It was also used as an exercise ground for prisoners awaiting trial during the troubled periods before and after the Treaty.
The different British regiments which were stationed there used it for different training purposes up to the beginning of 1922.
Photo by courtesy of Sister M. Vianney, Sacred Heart Home, Carlow.

Sporting Carlow

County Carlow has a rich and varied sporting history. There are reports of handball, hurling, football and horse racing taking place in the county in the eighteenth century.

Horse racing took place annually at Ballybar near Carlow town in the 1760's. There was racing at Ballon at a later date. Fox hunting was popular, and during the hunting season packs would travel the picturesque County of Carlow hunting the energetic and cunning fox.

Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries athletics tournaments were held in the county. In his book '1798 in Carlow' William Farrell describes "many athletic exercises so well known to Irishmen as hurling, football, cudgelling, tennis or handball, leaping, wrestling, vaulting, throwing the sledge or bar or grinding-stone", taking place in the county.

Farrell praises highly the quality of handballers and states that Carlow has "one of the best ball-courts in Ireland". Gaelic games are still extremely popular in Carlow. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) was founded in Carlow in 1888 to promote gaelic games.

Other field sports played with great enthusiasm in the county were cricket, polo and rugby. Colonel Horace Rochfort of Clogrennan was the founder of Carlow Cricket Club, and founder and first secretary of the All-Ireland Polo Club at Phoenix Park in Dublin having founded the Carlow Polo Club in 1873. He was the founder president of the County Carlow Rugby Football Club in 1873. Teams played at Tinypark House and varies other venues in Carlow.

The River Barrow provided an excellent venue for the setting up of a Rowing Club in the county. However races and regattas had taken place in private boat-houses prior to establishment of the rowing club in circa 1860. The Carlow Rowing Club is still competing at all levels.

Carlow Golf Club [Leinster Golf Club] wasn't formed until 1899. The original grounds were at Gotham midway between Carlow and Maganey. The club moved to Oak Park in 1922. Golf has grown to be one of the most popular sports and pastimes in the county. The Deerpark course is set in a mature wooded area with pleasant countryside near Carlow town.

The Community Games were established in County Carlow in 1973. P.L. Curran was the first Chairman and Sr. Carmel Terry the first Secretary. The movement's main aim is participation regardless of results. Many young Carlow people from the community games have achieved sporting honours in adult life. Among them are T.J. Kearns of Rathvilly in 110m hurdles, the Amond sisters in sprints, Paul McNally in cycling, Kenneth Kane in handball, Patricia and Carlina Breen in draughts and Roisin Dermody in competitions for the visually challenged. The first County final was held in St. Patrick's College, Carlow in 1973. In that year, Mary Amond won gold at the National finals in Mosney

Community Games in Carlow

Carlow is currently in the top three counties in Ireland for participation and success at national level. The Community Games movement continues to flourish in County Carlow. Originally there were 18 areas in the county but now there are 14 areas. However the entire county is still represented.

These areas are
St. Mary's
St. Lazerian's
Slaney Valley

In 2004, Carlow County Council presented Carlow Community Games with an award for services to the community.

For more information on Community Games in Carlow please contact the Secretary, Mrs Eileen Lyons (059) 6471335 or the PRO, Mr. Brian Griffin (059) 9140832 or by email


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