Towards the New Century - 1889-1899

Towards the New Century - 1889-1899 

By Jackie Hyland

The enthusiasm for the new association continued to grow throughout 1889 with Clonad (Richd Lalors), Pallas, Clonadasey, Fisherstown (Fintan Lawlers), Killenard (Wide Awake) Tinnakill, Aghaboe, Killabban, Newton (Doonanes), Moyanna (Grattans), Mayo (Die Hards), Drimroe Stradbally (Arthur O'Connor) and Ratheniska among the new arrivals.

For some the newly lit flame soon flickered and died but to this period we can look for the foundation of the modern ssociation in the county. Almost every area in the county had a club; while some faded away many were replaced in future years by new titled clubs which catered for the former lub area. 

Over the decades since, the county has been fortunate to have produced players and officials who have been cclaimed as being among the greats in their sphere of activity
in the country through the decades. Clubs, parishes and townlands in the county be they ever so humble all have roduced their heroes and heroic deeds.

Their achievements fondly recalled whenever and wherever Gaels gather. Maryborough (Portlaoise) won the football 1889 title beating olfhill 0-3 to 0-2. To the town team goes the honour winning the first Leinster title beating Bray Emmetts in the semi final and Newton Blues in the final all on the same afternoon. Unfortunately the exertions of the previous weekend coupled with injuries led to a much changed team being heavily defeated in the All Ireland Final 3-6 to nil by Bohercrowe (Tipperary) on 20 October (See T. Fennelly - 90y ears of GAA in Laois).

The hurling champions Rathdowney gave the Dublin representatives Kickhams a walk over. Clerical influence over the activities of the GAA in the country grew in 1890. Disturbances and drinking associated with the games made the clergy in large part opposed to the association. Both the Bishops of Kildare and Leighlin and Ossory issued strong edicts against the organisation ordering their followers to stay away from games on Sundays.

In the football championship the last under the 21 aside format Ballyroan (John Dillons) beat the Heath (St Patricks) by 0-3 to 0-2 at Brandra on 27 July. According to the press "until call of time it was doubtful who would be champions". Clonaslee were the hurling champions all the hurling clubs having fallen by the wayside.

On 25 October Isle of Sea (Dublin) beat Ballyroan in the Leinster semi-final, on the same day Clonaslee lost the Leinster hurling final to Castlebridge of Wexford 2-9 to 0-3. P.A. Meehan, President had organised a club in Portarlington and they were represented at the County Convention in the Town Hall,Maryborough on 28 October.
Rev. L. Hosey, Clonaslee was in the chair with 12 out of 15 clubs represented.

Delegates present were Rev. L Hosey,
Fran Corbet (Clonaslee), E. Moran, E Nolan (Killenard), J. McGin, D. Duffy (Portarlington), T. Buggy, D. Shaughnessey (Stradbally), J. Kennedy, R. Muldowney (Barna), J. Murphy, P. Farrell (Kellyville), J. Walsh, J. Healy (Knock), J. T. Whelan, R. P. Fennell (Maryborough), J. Connor, J. Rankin (Ratheniska), D. Delaney, J. Deevey (Ballyfin), John Doran, J. Daly (The Heath), J. Banbrick, J. Maher (Timahoe), Moyanna, Courtwood and Ballybrittas absent. Mr Meehan was still President, with Mr R. P. Fennell as secretary and John Walsh as Treasurer.

The R.I.C still closely monitored the GAA clubs in the county and submitted a detailed report to Dublin Castle (appendix). The year 1891 is best remembered in GAA circles for the Parnell split which overshadowed all other sporting and political happenings. Splits in and resignations from clubs were widely reported. The Ratheniska club being one of the early casualties, the President of the club, C. Moore resigning after the club "disassociating" themselves from the actions of two of its members in attending an election meeting in support of the Parnell candidate.

At county committee level the debate was fierce and acrimonious, at a meeting on 15 March 1891 Mr R. P. Fennell proposed a motion condemning the action of C. S. Parnell in forcing a conflict amongst the Irish people by refusing to comply with the requests of pure souled patriots Messrs Dillon and William O'Brien to resign his claim as chairman of the Irish Parliamentary party. After a debate carried on in uproar, the resolution was carried by 6 votes to 3 with abstentions.

The police still continued to monitor the GAA closely, reporting that the organisation was dead letter in Maryborough (Portlaoise). The Heath also faced problems; a decision was taken to amalgamate both clubs at a joint meeting on 19 April which split the officer board between the two clubs. The Heath supplying the President and Vice President and Maryborough the Secretary and Treasurer.

A resolution proposed by Mr. C. Booth and seconded by James O'Brien "That we the members of the amalgamated clubs of Maryborough and the Heath, while playing in the championship together promise to take no part in the present political crisis with either side and we urge on all the Gaels of the county to meet as Gaels should and not let the present crisis interfere with carrying out of their old National pastime".

The split however continued on the playing fields with rows and fighting at games in Stradbally, Ballyroan and Courtwood. For the record Moyanna beat Portarlington 0-4 to 0-2 in the final. Portarlington objected and it was 11 October before Moyanna were confirmed as champions after a board meeting with P. A. Meehan presiding, R. P. Fennell (Secretary), J. Walsh (Treasurer), and also T. Corbett, D. Delaney and E. Moran and the representatives of the two clubs attending.

The annual convention of the county committee was held on 10 January 1892. Prior to the convention at a meeting of the county committee, Moyanna football champions were presented with a set of 17 silver medals (cost £5-5-0), while Clonaslee hurling champions for 1890 were presented with a silver cup (value £5). In the absence of Mr P. A. Meehan, Mr J. Kennedy was in the chair. The Heath were represented by J. Doran and J. Buggie, Moyanna - J. Scully, Ratheniska - J. Kelly, W. Green, Stradbally - D. Shaughnessey, J. Conran, Maryborough - J. T. Whelan, R. P. Fennell, Pallas - D. Cooke, J. Lalor, Ballyroan - J. Delaney, Barna - J. Kennedy. The Heath/Maryborough combination was all powerful being easy winners of their three championship ties.

In the final at Courtwood on 10 July they posted a record winning margin in winning 5-5 to 0-1 for Ballyroan (note goal equalled five points in 1892) The Laois representatives were down to play Athlone (Westmeath) at Thurles on 11 December but the game did not take place. Athletics events were still being held under GAA and cycling under Irish Cycling Association (I.C.A) rules. A monster sports under both sets of rules and the patronage of Mr C. J. Blake was held at the Heath on 28 August.

Although drawn against Westmeath (Athlone) the Laois representatives were paired against Louth with Kildare and Dublin in semi-finals in a revised draw. Semi-finals and final were to be played on the same day - 12 March 1893. However, Laois did not field, a hired train that was also to transport Kildare left Maryborough with half the selection absent. The bitter political divide was still evident with a general falling away of players and clubs. Portarlington are credited with the 1893 football title.

The years 1894 and 1895 were years when no county board existed, however some clubs remained active among them, Stadbally, Moyanna, Vicarstown and Portarlington. Athletic meetings and cycle races were still being run under GAA and I.C.A rules, among the clubs to promote sports were Maryborough and Mountrath. Richard (Dick) N. Blake of Meath had taken over as general secretary of the GAA in 1895 and was largely responsible for halting the continuous slump during his tenure until 1898. In Leinster clubs increased in number from 93 in 1895 to 156 in 1897.

While the central councils income quadrupled from £284 to £1,176. A meeting was convened by the Stradbally club in the schoolhouse to reorganise the county. Denis Shaughnessey of the host club chaired the meeting. Portarlington, Shamrocks, Boys of the Heather, Wolfhill, Moyanna, Ballyroan, Ratheniska, Loughteague, Summerhill, Vicarstown and the hosts Stradbally attended. An exclusively football attendance at a further meeting on 20 April a new board was constituted with Stradbally supplying all the officers, President Denis Shaughnessey, Secretary J. J. Dalton and Treasurer T. Timmons.

The draw for the football championship was Maryborough v Abbeyleix, Stradbally v Graigecullen, Moyanna v Portarlington, Wolfhill v Loughteague, Knock v Castletown, Ballyroan v Ballyknocken. Wolfhill won the football final beating Portarlington 1-6 to 1-3 at Stradbally on 20 September.

1897 again saw turmoil in GAA affairs in the county. At the county convention on 8 March the clubs that had competed in the 1896 championship were present, Loughteague, Knock, Vicarstown, Portarlington, Wolfhill, Stradbally, Ballyroan and Abbeyleix. The outgoing Stradbally officers were returned with a committee comprising James Maher Loughteague, J. Moore Maryborough, M. Dunne Vicarstown, P. Brennan Wolfhill, D. Delaney Ballyroan, T. O'Dea Abbeyleix, N. McEvoy Knock, and J. J. Purcell

At a meeting on 16 May in the Town Hall Maryborough Dick Blake was in the chair following a direction by Central Council to hold a special convention toclear up disputes that had riven the county. He warned the new committee to restrict their activities to sport and not become involved in political issues. Nationwide commemorations were being held and monuments erected to honour the events of 1798 and the police as per usual kept a close eye on GAA involvement. Asked at the meeting if Stradbally were affiliated, Blake replied no. On 22 May a special meeting appointed new officers John Doris (Maryborough) President, J. Fitzpatrick (Paddock) Secretary and Treasurer Joe Lawlor (Abbeyleix). Stradbally were absent from the draw held on 13 June which resulted as follows, Brandra v Ballyknocken, Knock v Rathdowney, Wolfhill v Boley, Maryborough v the Heath, Castletown v Pallas, Abbeyleix v Durrow, Ballybrophy v Hollow, Ballyroan a bye.

Mr Blake the general secretary had insisted on a non political association and permits for tournaments for that reason were refused. A tournament at Stradbally in aid of the evicted Luggacurren tenants was proclaimed. The Heath club players who had supported the cause were suspended for taking part in an illegal tournament. The championship dragged on and the football final between Maryborough and Wolfhill was held over until 1898.

The final was fixed for Ballybrophy, however, on the Saturday before the match (28 February) Wolfhill offered to play in Maryborough rather than subject their players and supporters to the hardship of a long journey because of the inclement weather. However, Maryborough refused and travelled by train to Ballybrophy and claimed the match. At the county convention on 20 March Mr J. McMahon (Abbeyleix) was
elected President with Mr Muldowney as Secretary. A replay for the county final was ordered. Maryborough appealed to the Central Council, the County Committee was directed to pay Maryborough half their expenses in travelling to
Ballybrophy within a week or Maryborough be awarded the game. Maryborough were awarded the final. The controversy over the county final certainly impacted on the clubs with only four entered at a meeting in Abbeyleix on 5 June. Ballyroan and Abbeyleix were the leading contenders in football.

For the 1898 title they played a draw at Ballybrophy, the replay at Durrow was abandoned with the scores level. Abbeyleix were subsequently awarded the title at a county board meeting which they retained in 1899. Rathdowney the early champions were back for two more titles in hurling for the revived championship in 1898, the 1899 championship again being decided in the board room. After Kilcotton had won on the field of play, Rathdowney successfully objected on the grounds that two of the Kilcotton players had played with Roscrea in the Tipperary championship.

CLUBS: Membership Online - New Service
Laois GAA Website by SportLomo