Brady Takes the Chair 1920 - 1929

Brady Takes the Chair 1920 - 1929

by Jackie Hyland


Gaelic Games in most instances took a secondary place to the national struggle and the war of independance. Many clubs were understrength with players scattered, on the run and in jail. The Heath qualified for the 1919 S.F. final by defeating Ballyroan. Four members of The Heath team were arrested on 12 April at a function in the local hall. After eight days on hunger strike they were released. They remained in the Mater Hospital until well into May while recovering. The newly reformed Portarlington senior football team also suffered, two of their best Paddy and Peter Fennelly were in jail and fixtures regularly fell by the wayside with teams unable to field.


Kilcotton took their sixth hurling title in the delayed 1919 S. H. final. In what was considered a shock result Abbeyleix beat The Heath 2-2 to 0-4 in the S.F. final for 1919 played on 8 August at Maryborough. In what must be unique in gaelic games, the referee was Mr. P. Dunphy, Abbeyleix.

National fervour was as its height, Sinn Féin controlled the local authorities and at September meetings the name of the county was changed from Queens to Leix and the capital town from Maryborough to Portleix.

The 1920 Convention was held on 15 August in the Town Hall, Portlaoise. Elected were Rev. T. Bermingham C.C., President (Fr. Bermingham had taken over from Fr. Kearney in the late teens as President); Rev. P. Kavanagh C.C., Vice-President; Mr. J. Drennan, Secretary; Mr. R. O'Keeffe, Treasurer. Clubs present:- Ballygeehan, Clonad, Kilcotton, Clonkeen, Errill, Ballacolla, Ballytarsna and Portarlington.

It was proposed that the senior championships be played on a group or league basis, as the year was so far advanced to be left over until 1921. Kilcotton won their second title in a row beating Rathdowney on 14th November in Portlaoise. The hurling final was sandwiched between two momentous events in the national struggle. Terence McSwiney died on 25th October on the 74th day of his hunger strike in Brixton prison. Twelve members of the British Secret Service were killed in Dublin on the morning of 21 November. In retaliation British troops opened fire at the Dublin/Tipperary match at Croke Park. A number of people were killed including the Tipperary captain Michael Hogan on what became Bloody Sunday.

The 1920 S.F.C. as played in 1920 was a shambles from start to finish. The draw had Portarlington (who had reentered senior after junior success in 1919, the middle grade having been dropped because of lack of interest) v Ballyroan, Annanough (a new club formed from the merger of Vicarstown and part of Moyanna) v The Heath, Abbeyleix a bye. Port gave Ballyroan a walk over because of players in jail, The Heath apparently could not field against Annanough for the same reason. Annanough would not play Abbeyleix without the latter team first playing Port. Abbeyleix were granted a walk over. The result was a straight final between Abbeyleix (winners) and Ballyroan.

The County Board had second thoughts on the matter and re-ran the 1920 S. F. championship with a different result. Mountmellick were winners of the 1920 J.F.C. 1921 The 1921 Convention was held on 24th April, many clubs were in disarray, in the S.F. championship the draw resulted Abbeyleix v The Heath, Ballyroan v Clonanny, Annanough v Portlaoise. Clonanny a townland adjacent to Portarlington and Killenard was later replaced by Portarlington in the draw. In the S. H. championship a resurgent Rathdowney eliminated champions Kilcotton 3-0 to 1-3 on 16 October at Portlaoise. Rathdowney claimed the title beating final newcomers Clonad.

A truce had been declared between the I.R.A. and the British forces on 11 July this enabled the senior football championship to progress. Apparently progress was made in the replayed 1920 championship. A first round tie in the 1921 S.F. competition resulted in win by The Heath 3-3 to 1-2 for Abbeyleix, Fr. T. Bermingham C.C. President was referee. The S.F. final (1920) Heath v Annanough was fixed for Portlaoise on 13th November but did not take place. On the intercounty scene the footballers lost to Kildare 2-3 to 1-2 at Athy on 8th May, while the hurlers lost to Dublin by a point 3-3 to 2-5 at Croke Park on 14th August.

Treaty negotiations opened at Downing Street on 11 October between British and Irish delegates. Finally after protracted negotiations the Treaty was signed on 6th December, 1921. Dáil approval of the treaty resulted in tensions and a split in the I.R.A. A pact election failed to halt the drift towards civil war. The attack on the Four Courts on 28th June 1922 heralded the start of Civil War.


The games continued in the uneasy peace of early 1922. The 1920 S.F. final Heath v Annanough was fixed for 12 March at Portlaoise. The Heath made a belated appearance and the crowd outside the gound learning that Annanough was on the way, paid the 1/- admittance but Annanough did not appear. After a delay of an hour and a half the spectators who had paid demanded their money back. The gate stewards Messers Barrett (Oak) and Carew (Mountmellick) together with Mr. N. Fortune (Portlaoise) handled the matter diplomatically returned the money and got the crowd away peacefully.

At a meeting on 9 April, the 1922 S.F.C. draw was made despite the fact that two championships remained to be completed. The draws winner of 1921 J.F.C. v. Portarlington, Abbeyleix v Mountmellick, Ballyroan v The Heath, Annanough not in the draw later included. The Heath and Annanough played a 0-2 all draw in the S.F.C. final (1920) on 30 April at Portlaoise. The replay two weeks later resulted in an easy win for The Heath 5-4 to 0-1. Mr. P. Dunphy was referee. The delayed J.H.C. final for 1921 Camross v Durrow resulted in a win for Camross by 6-3 to 2-2. The game at the Green Roads, Ballybrophy was on 18 June.

With the outbreak of the Civil War The Heath senior football champions departed the scene. The team broke up some joining the new security forces Army and Garda others taking the republican side. The Heath did not complete their involvement in the 1921 or 1922 championships. The S.H. championship remained to be completed at the end of the year.


Rathdowney easily defeated Kilcotton 3-4 to 0-1 in the semi-final with county secretary John Drennan as referee. Rathdowney later defeated Portlaoise in the S.H.C. final. An attempt was made to bring the S.F.C. up to date. Portarlington returned to the honours winning the 1921 title beating Abbeyleix. The 1923 county convention took place at the Town Hall, Portlaoise on Sunday 27 May. The outgoing President T. Bermingham having intimated his withdrawal the presiding Chairman Mr. J. Miller (Snr.) was elected President, Vice Presidents Messers P. Daly, W. Bennett and C. Barrett, Secretary Mr. J. Drennan, Treasurer Mr. R. O'Keeffe, Leinster Council delegates Messers O'Keefe and Daly.

In the S.H.C., Kilcotton advanced to the final beating Portlaoise and Clonaslee 6-5 to 1-1. Ballacolla their opponents had disposed of Rathdowney and Ballygeehan. In a rough tough encounted played 11 November Kilcotton led 2-2 to nil at half time and ran out winners 5-2 to 1-0, the Ballacolla goal coming near call of time. The Leix senior hurlers fielded good combinations in the Leinster Championships 1923-25. Beating Offaly by 17 points in ‘23 before losing by two to Kilkenny. Leix went down to Dublin by two points in '24. Tom Finlay, Ballygeehan, won his second All Ireland on the Dublin team that defeated Galway 5-3 to 2-6 at Croke Park on 14th December.

The footballers however after being close in 1919, because of the turmoil of 1920-1923 it was 1925 before they made an impact.


In the 1923 S.F.C. final Portarlington made it three in a row before a gate of £19-10-11 on 9th March beating Annanough. Green Road (Portlaoise) taking 1922 J.F. championship honours. At the county convention Lar Brady was elected President - he was to serve for forty years.

In the 1924 S.F.C. seven teams entered, Abbeyleix, Portlaoise, Portarlington, Raheenabrogue, Ballyroan, Annanough and Stradbally. Stradbally later withdrew. The final was not played until 1925. In the 1924 S.H.C. senior champions Kilcotton were pushed all the way in the semi final by Portlaoise. In the game played 9 November Portlaoise led 4-1 to 2-0at halftime. In a tight finish Kilcotton prevailed 6-1 to 5-2. The final was not played until 1925.

The Tailtean games festival was revived by the new government in 1924. An inter provincial series in hurling and football formed part of the programme. In hurling Leinster defeated Munster 7-2 to 5-1, the greats of Laois hurling, Rathdowney with Jack Campion and Kilcotton with Joe Carroll, Jim Murphy and Malachy Kelly were represented. Kelly was also a member of the All Ireland team that beat the U.S.A. in the international series. In football Tommie Cribben (Portarlington) and Paddy Gray (The Heath) then a Garda in Louth were on the Leinster team that lost to Munster 0-7 to 1-5.


The 1924 S.H.C. final was played 29 March 1925 at Portlaoise. A special train was laid on for the supporters of Kilcotton and Rathdowney. At half time Kilcotton led by a point 2-1 to 2-0. A goal from Kilcotton left the final score 3-1 to 2-1. In the S.F.C. (1924) final Annanough won their first title on 22nd March beating Raheenabrogue 1-2 to 0-1 before a gate of £27-13-10. The senior hurling final for 1925 saw Rathdowney who had eliminated Kilcotton beat Clonad 3-3 to 2-1. In the senior football final Ballyroan provided the opposition for champions Annanough. Before a large crowd that paid £37-7-0, Annanough led 2-1 to nil at halftime and ran out winners 4-2 to 0-2. Mr. Ned Tarrant was a late replacement referee.

Mr. Lar Brady, President of the Board, now a republican T.D., was on the losing side in the hurling and football deciders. Abbeyleix won the junior hurling title defeating Trumera in the final.



The year is best remembered for Laois's win in the initial National Football League newly instituted by Congress. The league was organised on a provincial basis with a seperate league for each province with an All Ireland between the provincial winners. Laois was in Group III of the Leinster league topping the group with three wins over Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny. Group I of the Leinster league was won by Dublin, while group II was won by Longford.

In the intergroup competition Laois topped the group defeating Dublin and receiving a walk over from Longford to win the Leinster league and set of gold medals presented by Leinster Council. In the national league proper Sligo (Connacht) 3-1 beat Longford (Leinster II ) 0-5. Dublin (Leinster I) 0-8 beat Antrim (Ulster). Laois (Leinster III ) 1-6 beat Kerry (Munster) 1-5. That famous victory over Kerry, Laois's first victory in competitive senior football over Kerry was at Croke Park on 21st March.

In a semi-final Sligo 3-5 beat Laois 2-6. After a Laois objection a replay was ordered and Laois won 4-6 to 1-4 for Sligo. The final versus Dublin was played at Enniscorthy on 19th September, Laois winning on a 2-1 to 1-0 scoreline. The team was back boned by champions Annanough and included four Millers in a team that lined out:- in goal W. Irwin, full backs J. Shea, P. Bates, John Miller, half  backs James Miller, Dick Miller (Captain), Matt Delaney, Centrefield B. Whelan, C. Miller, Half Forwards: Tom Cribben, Jack Brown, Jack Delaney. Full forwards: Joe Ward, Tom Costello, Paddy Whelan. Subs Jack Whelan,B. Lalor, J. Shaw, Chris Miller, brother of Captain Dick and a youthful Jack Delaney had replaced Paddy Lenihan and Bill Keeley both from the Portarlington club who had emigrated to the States prior to the final with Dublin.

In the Leinster championship Laois had beaten Carlow by ten points but lost by a point to Wexford on 18 July. Kerry won the 1926 All Ireland after drawing 1-3 to 0-6 with Kildare, winning the replay on 17 October 1-4 Kerry, 0-4 Kildare. In the county S.F. final Annanough made it three in a row on 14 November beating a youthful Abbeyleix 1-2 to 0-0 before a crowd that paid £23-15-4. In the senior urling final Ballacolla and Rathdowney were the pairing with Rathdowney retaining their title. In the junior football championship for 1926 not completed until 1927 The Hollow defeated Ballylinan 1-4 to 0-5.


In the senior hurling championship the old reliable Kilcotton and Rathdowney both made it to the semi-finals on the opposite side of the draw. However Kilcotton went out to the emerging Abbeyleix 4-3 to 2-3. In the other semi-final Rathdowney defeated Ballacolla 5-3 to 1-3 on 11 September. Abbeyleix won the final played 23rd October by 5-0 to 2-1 to record their first senior hurling title.

In the delayed 1926 J.H. final played at Mountrath on 8 May 1927, Cuddagh defeated Camross 2-2 to 1-1.

In the football championship Graiguecullen returned to Laois after almost a quarter of a century, following a tempestuous county final against Bagenalstown/Milford in 1926. The game at Rathoe, Tullow was unfinished and Graiguecullen were suspended. An appeal was lodged with the Leinster Council and the Chairman Bob O'Keeffe ruled that the club could stand suspended for two years or return to Laois. Carlow's loss, Laois's gain. 

In the S.F.C. semi-finals, Stradbally beat Ballyroan by 0-6 to 0-4 while the champions Annanough went out to Graiguecullen 3-3 to 1-0. In the final on 16 October Graiguecullen recorded their first Laois title on a score 1-5 to 0-0. In the J.F.C. Barrowhouse recorded their first title in 1927.


The County Convention was held on 29 January, 1928. The outgoing officers were returned, President L. Brady, Vice- President E. P. Tarrant, Secretary J. Drennan, Treasurer R. O'Keeffe, Leinster Council Delegates J. Delaney, J. Daly. The balance sheet showed a deficit on the years workings, Income £808-9-0, Expenditure £842.74, Deficit £33-18- 4. In the senior hurling championship on 16th September Portlaoise defeating Clonad 0-4 to 1-0. In the senior football championship eight teams entered Raheenabrogue, Graiguecullen, Abbeyleix, Stradbally, Hollow, Ballyroan, Ballybrittas. In the senior final at Portlaoise on 23 September, Stradbally reversed the result of the previous ear defeating Graiguecullen 1-4 to 1-2.

Laois was well represented on the first Leinster team to win the Railway Cup. In the semi at Portlaoise on 19 February Connacht were beaten 1-9 to 1-5. On St. Patrick's Day, Paddy Bates formerly of The Heath at full back, Bill Whelan of Ballyroan and sub. Jack Delaney of Stradbally, helped Leinster beat Ulster 1-8 to 2-4.

On the intercounty scene Laois footballers were most unlucky in losing to reigning All Ireland champions Kildare on a score 0-4 to 1-0 at Athy on 20 May. Kildare went on to retain their All Ireland by defeating Cavan 2-6 to 2-5.


The senior hurling championship ended in controversial circumstances. Portlaoise the holders advanced to the final following wins over Abbeyleix on 27 October and semifinal against Ballacolla on 10 November. Kilcotton had qualified from the other side of the draw. As the weather was poor towards the end of the year the final was fixed for 12 January, 1930. However the final never took place.

On the intercounty scene Laois footballers had their best campaign in years in the Leinster championship. At Kilkenny on 12 May Laois beat Wexford 3-3 to 0-7. At Athy on 30 June Laois had a point to spare over Dublin 5-5 to 3-10. In the Leinster final at Croke Park on 21 July Kildare their opponents were the reigning All Ireland champions and going for their fourth Leinster title in a row. Laois performed well in going under 2-3 to 0-6. Team: W. Irwin, J. Rice, P. Bates, D. Walsh, T. Delaney, J. O'Shea, E. Price, D. Douglas, J. Carroll, M. Farrell, H. Brown, J. Delaney (Capt.), M. Callanan, J. McDarby, R. Rankins. Subs. M. Whelan, D. Miller, B. Hennessey, T. Cribben, J. Miller.

In the senior football championship Stradbally, the champions, advanced beating Portarlington 1-5 to 1-0 and in the semi-final against neighbours Annanough they won 2-7 to 2-4. In the other semi-final Graiguecullen and Abbeyleix drew and Graigue emerged the winners at Stradbally in the replay on 13 October 1-5 to 0-3.

In the final, ruined by a high wind, before a big gate of £43-11-0 Stradbally had six points to spare 1-4 to 0-1. The Junior championships in both codes were much delayed and not completed until 1930. The newly instituted minor championships, as presently formatted, were first competed for this year but the finals were also behind. Loughteague took the junior football championship for 1928

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