Cool V Castleisland with 20-Players-a-Side.

Michael O'Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project Film 21-7-2015
Project manager, Janet Murphy at work on the collection in the Michael O’Donohoe Memorial Heritage Project. ©Photograph: john Reidy 21-7-2015

After an exhaustive process of archiving and logging over the past 12 months, project manager, Janet Murphy has just begun to put items from Michael O’Donohoe’s invaluable collection of historical research on the specially designed Facebook and web pages.

The entire collection, which includes a wide variety of Castleisland related subject matter, will be made public before the end of the year.

Ms. Murphy has emerged from the process with huge admiration for ‘The Master’ and the lengths he went to to get his facts straight and his story right. All this in an era when computers were not the powerful force they are today in matters of historical research.

A feature of the Michael O’Donohoe collection is the inclusion of essays he wrote on various topics which caught his eye and took his interest. One such essay is on the first recorded football match in the locality between ‘Cool and Castleisland’ and it’s well worth a read.

Michael O'Donohoe at work on his collection in Skevenas Bar. ©Photograph: john Reidy 18-8-2001
Michael O’Donohoe at work on his collection in Skevenas Bar. ©Photograph: john Reidy 18-8-2001

Cordal GAA Wild Rovers

By Michael O’Donohoe

On a frosty afternoon on Sunday January 19, 1879, the first football match that I have seen reported in a newspaper took place at Castleisland between Cool and Castleisland with 20 players a side.

The report in the paper on the following Wednesday gave credit to Sunday closing for the popularity of football!

It would appear that the players were of a younger age group with Cool having an advantage in weight.  The game was umpired by N J Walsh.

The game itself was a very rough affair and for whatever reason, was abandoned after about 40 to 50 minutes with the replay being fixed for the following Sunday.

T Collins was the umpire for the replay for which a very large crowd turned up, amongst them many of the fair sex.  The Cool boys wore green caps while Castleisland wore black and white.

A Hitch Developed

During the course of the game, Cool scored.  Here a hitch developed and the Cool team left the field.  Although the Castleisland boys dared them again to compete, the Cool boys were content to rest upon their laurels.

Although the Kerry Sentinel was a very strong nationalist newspaper, football and hurling received little or no paper coverage around this time.  However, GAA athletics were widely reported.

It would appear that the games were only beginning to be organised by the GAA.

First County Convention

The first County Convention, which I have seen recorded, took place on Wednesday October 23 1889.  It was described as the second convention.  Amongst the 24 clubs present were Cordal, Ballymacelligott and Knocknagoshel.

Details of delegates were given. Cordal were represented by Mr Martin Griffin and Mr Timothy O’Connor.  The latter name will henceforth crop up repeatedly.

The following, in alphabetical order, is the full list of clubs present: Ballyduff, Ballymacelligott, Caherciveen, Camp, Castlegregory, Castleisland, Cordal, Currans, Dingle, Irremore, Kenmare, Killarney, Kilmoyley, Knockanure, Knocknagoshel, Listry, Lixnaw, Milltown, Muckross, O’Brennan, O’Dorney, Rathmore, Tralee Mitchels and Tralee Red Hugh’s.

Cordal played Brosna at Castleisland on Sunday 23 March 1890.  Technically, Cordal infringed the rules by wearing nails and tips on their boots while their opponents were equipped with much flimsier footwear. Brosna protested but the match was completed.

Brosna Not Well Trained

The fact that Brosna were not very well trained and displayed a basic ignorance of the rules did nothing to help their cause. Cordal did not have a great deal to boast about either in these departments.  The final score was Cordal 1-3, Brosna 0-1.

The reporter had his own view on irons and tips.  “They were intended by the trainers of the rules to town and city gents whose shins never shed a lot of bark, and not for strong, healthy, country boys who would only be in their element playing football or hurling with the bare feet with snow or frost upon the ground.”

The match officials of the day were all from Castleisland.  Mr. R Finn umpired for Brosna while P O’Keeffe umpired for Cordal.  M K Hogan refereed (it was customary at that time to give match officials only).

Research in The Sentinel

Bob Finn has a reputation. I must say, however, that during the course of my research in the Sentinel from 1878 to 1897, I came across nothing concerning him except a minor incident.  He is, of course, mentioned by other sources.

Patrick O’Keeffe was the son of Daniel O’Keeffe, a retired court clerk and bridewell keeper who owned property on the Meredith (East) side of Barrack Lane.  He was secretary of the Castleisland Desmond’s club.  More about him later. M K Hogan was a staunch GAA man who was also interested in politics.

GAA Correspondent

‘Emon’, who was now the GAA correspondent to the Sentinel, was already worried by the progress of the association. Among the things which were of concern to him were:

1. The apathy pervading the association.
2. The fact that affiliation and the county convention, both due around this time, had not yet taken place.
3. The disputing, which had taken place between the county board and dissatisfied county championship teams.  Perhaps changes were necessary.
4. How expensive things were.

You can see this essay and much more like it by clicking on the link here:

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