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A History of Kilmaley Hurling Club

By Gerry O'Malley & Patsy O'Grady

There is no way the full history of any club could be written. Whatever has been done in this line in the past has centred around the success a club has had, which in effect is only a very small account of the activity that goes on in a hurling club, even in the most successful ones. The line between victory and defeat in a is very thin, luck or a lack of the same can mean the difference between joy or sorrow which comes down to the fact that victory is history and defeat is not.

Formative Years 1886-1934

The fledgling GAA was embraced from the commencement by areas within the parish of Kilmaley. The “Davitts” Club representing the Inch area was formed in 1886 and was shortly followed by Kilmaley who founded the “Wolfe Tones” Club. Not to be outdone people in the Connolly area followed suit and established the Smith O’ Briens and by 1887 there were no less than three separate hurling clubs in the parish.
For some years the three clubs operated successfully and the exploits of each against opposition from neighbouring parishes were frequently documented in the local press. One such extract from the “Clare Journal” in January 1887 provides an account of an epic encounter involving Kilmaley and Clooney.
“This match, which has been playing for the last Sundays, should have resulted in favor of Kilmaley. However the last Sunday, which will be long remembered, brought them the unexpected victory. Both teams appeared timely on the field, each wearing its own distinctive colours. Both captains tossed for choice of sides, which turned in favor of Kilmaley.
The ball was thrown in by Mr. P. Halpin and the young hurlers bravely worked to win the victory. An hour and twenty minutes was the time given to decide the matter and up to the last eleven minutes the men of Clooney had gained all but when the Kilmaley men saw that the time was nearly up and that the victory due to them was nearly gone, they joined together with their usual rush and courage, and strenuously made one goal and 3 points before the eleven minutes were up and therefore won the hard disputed honours – the Clooney men having scored only 4 points.The Kilmaley men had yet to win the prize from the Corofin club and were only dressing when the Corofin men took the advantage of taking the field by leave the Dysart committee. It was of course very wrong to ask a distressed club to hurl fresh men. However, the Kilmaley men seemed to be of good courage and manfully went again to gain another gallant success, making 3 points while the Corofin men made only one. Full time was not played and there yet remains 47 minutes to be played on Sunday.”
By 1900 these three clubs had effectively disappeared and in 1902-1903 a new club was formed in Kilmaley. The team included the Darcy brothers, Cassidfy, Jack Hehir, Capt. Peter Hehir, Pynes, Neylons and Hanrahans. They were at their best in 1905 when they were beaten by Tulla in the County semi-final.
Connolly had its football team, and was assisted by some of the players of the Kilmaley hurling team, E. Quinn, a native of Bansha was one of Munster’s greatest players and played many a game for Clare in the Munster Championships. Others prominent were Tommy Greene, M. Meere, M. Clune, and PJ Neylon who played with Kilmaley in hurling and Connolly in football.
The Kilmaley team went into gradual decline between 1905 and 1925 and from 1925 to 1928 there was no club in the parish. The Slaveen [North Inch] young men who included the Caseys, McKeys, Fitzpatrick, O’Loughlins, Considine, Griffeys, Murphy’s, T. McGuane and Paddy O’Dea formed a Club which competed in the County Junior C’ship in 1929-1931. In 1934 this team amalgamated with Kilmaley to form a single Club which has continued up to the present.

Kilmaley's First County Title 1934-1960

The Club won its first County title in 1938 when it defeated Ogonnelloe in the Intermediate ‘B’ C’ship. This team included M.Hanrahan, M.Neylon, J.Maher, J.Burke, P.Leahy, T.Neylon, P.Burke, M.Burke, M.Murphy, M.Keane, P.Clune, P.Griffey, B.Murphy, P.Daffy, and J.Griffey.
In the following year the Club just missed out on the Intermediate C’ship. The team reverted back to Junior ‘A’ a few years later and reached at least one final in the mid 40’s but were beaten.

We have to move to 1945 for our next bit of history. Mick Murphy, centre field on the ’38 side moved to Tipperary in his employment and got involved in hurling there. Mick was such a fine exponent of the game that he went on to win ultimate honours with his adopted Tipperary in the All Ireland final of ’45.
We are now entering a period where emigration was becoming very much the trend in the are and for the next ten to fifteen years the club was to lose many fine hurlers in this way, however, enough stayed at home to keep the game going. In the early ‘50’s transport to matches was usually by bicycle or on back of a lorry. This was often a cold, wet way to travel but it had its advantages, one being that all your team and indeed supporters were together before you left the parish, so you knew who you had, well except you lost one of them on the way. Strange as it might seem but you will find that in a club lacking success, spirit is sometimes strongest, this was true of Kilmaley hurlers at that time. They played hurling for the love of it and nothing else.
When a revival began in the late ‘50’s is seemed to come out of the blue but to anyone who had watched the situation closely it came as no surprise. A happening of major importance within the community took place in 1957, this was the electrification of the parish, which was a giant step forward, and there will be a bit more light on our story from here on. Emigration was easing off, employment was becoming more plentiful, especially in Shannon Airport, secondary education for national school leavers was becoming more prevalent which helped our young hurlers because St. Flannan’s College and Ennis C.B.S. were well established hurling nurseries about this time, also Ennis Technical School was becoming a force in hurling. In 1958, our minor team showed promise reaching the semi-final of the championship, they were defeated by Clonlara. The minor team of 1960 reached the final, possibly the first under age side from the parish to play in a final but were beaten by Scarriff 3-3 to 2-3

The Kilmaley Club Begins To Make Inroads 1960 - 1979

The junior team won two of the famous Cusack Park tournaments around this time beating St. Jospeh’s for a set of watches and Bodyke for a set of jerseys. They were also doing very well in the Championship from ’59 to ’62 but had to wait until the first Sunday in November 1963 for their first day of glory. Meeting Meelick in that final. The disappointments of previous years gave the necessary impetus and drive to record a glorious victory on the score of 8-8 to 1-1. Our first championship win for 25 years and the second ever The Legends Of 1963.

Next we step forward to the 1970’s when a lot of work was beginning to take place at juvenile level within the club. In 1973 the Kilmaley minors won the minor final after a replay, beating Broadford on a score of 8-14 to 1-2. Next stop 1975 and by now it was becoming an expected thing that teams from the club would be in a final each year, this year they reached two, the under 21A and Junior A. The junior’s were first into the arena and again their opponents were near neighbours Kilnamona. By now a number of younger players were brought on to the junior team. The game was played on a wet day when conditions were heavy and suited Kilnamona, who won on a score line of 3-9 to 1-5. The Under21 team however, reached the Under 21A final with good victories over Ruan, Feakle, Corofin and Ballyea. Their opponents on the day were hot favorites Clarecastle, however on this occasion, Kilmaley proved they were a match for all comers winning their first Under 21A championship on a score line of 0-11 to 1-5. In 1977 Kilmaley added the Under 21B title to their list of honours, in which they defeated Crusheen by 1-8 to 2-4. A number of prominent hurlers were now beginning to emerge for the club, three such players Tommy Keane, Martin Meehan and Seamie Fitzpatrick would all later represent the parish with distinction when wearing the saffron and blue. In 1978, Kilmaley now in the intermediate grade, won the intermediate league, beating Bodyke on a score of 4-6 to 2-6. A very important event in 1978 was the purchasing of a playing pitch. The club had been waiting for an opportunity of a field for many years and the chance came their way when the land commission divided Frost’s field in Kilclocher. In 1979, a senior team called St. Brendan’s, an amalgamation of Kilmaley, Barefield and Our Lady’s. The amalgamation surprised everyone by reaching the Senior Final. Defeat however was their lot against Sixmilebridge.

Historic Success's1980 - 2004

The next chapter in the club’s history is recorded on November 2nd 1980 in Tulla when Kilmaley qualified to meet Cratloe in the Intermediate Final. Memories of ’63 flash back, the same place, the same Sunday, would history repeat itself? With two of the team Tommy Keane and Martin Meehan playing on the county side, Kilmaley were favourite to take the title, but on the muddy hill of Tulla, the game proved to be a tough one. However on a great day for the club, the intermediate cup was on its way west on a score line of 1-9 to 1-8. The team now moved into the senior ranks, where it has remained to the present day. A notable milestone in the Clubs history has been the development of its own grounds at Kilclogher which was officially opened in August 1984. In recent years a fully equipped gymnasium and assembly room have been added to the facilities.

The clubs finest hour arrived in 1985, when Kilmaley won its first and only County Senior Title, beating its archrival, the townies Eire Og. No finer moment can compare to this day and Kilmaley people everywhere will always remember the legendary men of ‘85.That unique panel of players who defeated Eire Og, Inis in the final included: PJ Kennedy (Capt) Noel McGuane, Martin Darcy, Martin Murphy, Anthony Murphy, Niall Romer, Michael Killeen, Martin Kennedy, Willie Pyne, Martin Enright, John Cahill, John Mungovan, Martin Meehan, Martin Cahill, Seamus Fitzpatrick, Pat Keane, Gerry Pyne, Brendan Slattery, Joe Griffey, Michael Kennedy, Michael Murphy, Paddy Hill, Gerry Kennedy, Eugene McMahon and Tommy Keane. This certainly was the club's finest day.

Again emmigration took its toll withover six members of the '85 left our shores however the club continued to punch well above its weight at senior level. Kilmaley reached another Senior Final in ’98 but losing to Doora Barefield who went on to win the All Ireland Club C’ship. This team won the County Senior League the following year beating Clarecastle in Tulla. Down through the years Kilmaley players have made an important contribution to County teams at underage and adult level. Conor Clancy, Alan Markham, Diarmuid McMahon and Lissycasey native Colin Lynch continue this tradition in recent years. To this day the club remains competitive in all grades of hurling in Clare. Excellent progress continues to be made at under age level and this has been reflected by the Clubs first ever Feile Na nGael win in 2000.The number of people who hurled in the parish over the years is unknown but it can be said that there were many good hurlers who through no own fault of their own never got within sight of a medal. It may not be well known that the new G.A.A field was the venue for sports meetings many years ago and that former Ceann Comhairle Paddy Hogan, a native of the parish, in one of the books he wrote “Camps on the Heartstone” mentioned it. He said, “ the field itself was level almost a square plain, bounded on two sides by the Kilclocher River and on the other by a row of ancient trees”. Sadly that row of ancient and indeed beautiful trees are now gone but this is the price that has to be paid for progress by the club. Let us hope that the club will in the future as it has in the past, stand up to the greatest test of all…..the test of time.

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