Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Remembering All-Ireland U 21 Finals Past:

‘The Eighth Wonder of the World’

On Saturday we will journey to Tullamore for a 50:50 game versus Dublin. Perhaps the Gods will smile on the blue and gold and on the Boyle representatives we have watched progress from Forest View green, the Abbey Park and now to an All-Ireland day in Tullamore.

Roscommon GAA stars from Boyle, Enda & Donal Smith

One of the most talented Roscommon teams that I had the privilege of seeing play was the 1966 All-Ireland winning U 21 team. The fact that I knew a number of the players personally from Roscommon C.B.S. days and that I came home from England a bit earlier than I might have done to see the game added to its allure.

While I have followed many Roscommon teams down the years with which I had no club connection having people you actually know playing in big games is an added bonus and you really want them to do especially well. This will be the case on Saturday in Tullamore when Donie and Enda Smith take the field for Roscommon. Through the years it has been Cian Smith, Ciaran Cox, David Casey, Tom Ryan, Gerry Cregg, Gary Wynne (who is doing some background work with Saturday’s team) Jonathan Conroy of recent times back to Pat Clarke around the seventies.

Pat Clarke was of course was a member of the 1966 team as was Pat and John Nicholson of Corrigeenroe, long-time Boyle resident John Kelly and also Ray Sheerin. I never saw Pat Nicholson play but I am reliably informed that he was a heck of a fine full back and a real loss to Roscommon in the later sixties. He entered the priesthood and is now in the United States. I hope to meet him when he comes home soon.

Anyway back in ’66 my school colleagues on the team were Martin Joe Keane a power house of a player from Creggs, next door to my own place of Fuerty. Martin Joe also played hurling and came from a family of sportsmen with his brother Johnny being a champion cyclist and another brother Seamus engaging in an ‘athlon of sports. The second classmate was Tom Henghan of Castlerea, a club that produced a plethora of fine footballers in the late sixties and early seventies largely due to the efforts of Danny Burke. Heneghan was a no-nonsense defender -mostly- for whom the current ‘Black Card’ would certainly be problematic. The third player was Mark or as we called him Markeen O’Gara from Ballintubber. A clever corner forward he was also to form a very formidable handball doubles partnership with Pat Clarke.

The U 21 Championship was introduced in 1964 and Roscommon had a muted introduction but the star-studded team of ’66 changed that. In the first round they defeated Galway with Pat Nicholson starring. They got a scare against Leitrim but had  a good win over Mayo in the Connacht Final with Dermot Earley the leader. They overcame Donegal in the All-Ireland Semi-Final. Heneghan in forwards and Martin Joe Keane at midfield were the main contributors. In the final Roscommon met the reigning champions, a fine Kildare side many members of which would become household names in Kildare football such as Mangan, Carew and Dunny. This would also be the case with the Roscommon team membership.

One of the foremost national sports writers of the day, John D. Hickey, suggested that; “It would be the 8th Wonder of the World’ if Roscommon beat Kildare. So while I have missed out on the first seven I was there to see the construction of the 8th. Another aside was that Kildare had just presented the Clarke Cup to the competition in the expectation of it not migrating at least that year. 

While the first half of the game seemed to suggest that Hickey’s prediction, while grossly exaggerated, would prevail. But in a thrilling second half the tide changed and goals from Jim ‘Jumbo’ Keane and Jimmy Finnegan of Castlerea sealed the deal in Roscommon’s favour.

The team returned in triumph and there is fine picture of members of the side on Johnny Keaveney’s coal lorry on the Crescent in Boyle. The fact that a bit of suit ‘cleaning’ was subsequently necessary hardly mattered.

There were many fine players on that team which was listed as follows: P. Reynolds, R.I.P. Elphin; P. Clarke, Boyle; P. Nicholson, Boyle; C. Shine,(Capt.), Clann na Gael; G. Mannion, St. Brigid’s; P. Mocklair, St. Croan's; T. Heneghan, Castlerea; M.J.Keane, Creggs; J.O’Connor; Roscommon Gaels; J. Finnegan, Castlerea; D. Earley, R.I.P.  Ml. Glavey’s; J. Cox, St. Barry’s; M. Cummins, R.I.P. Kilmore/Shannon Gaels; J. ‘Jumbo’ Keane, St. Brigid’s; J. Kelly, Elphin long-time Boyle resident; Jerome Dufficy, R.I.P. Tulsk, brother of Sister Richard, Boyle; M. O’Gara, St. Croan's; W. Feeley, Rahara, uncle of Roch Hanmore; J. Nicholson, Boyle; R. Sheerin, St. Michael’s uncle of Gerard Sheerin; N. Daly, Castlerea; F. Fallon, St. Brigid’s; D. Gacquin, club ? ; F. O’Donnell ?; C. McGuinness ?; an O Naughton ?; A. O’Sullivan, Castlerea.

In 1969 Roscommon were very unlucky to lose to Antrim in the final. Rory Ahern R.I.P. as a member of the panel of this team.

On a memorable day at Hyde Park in October 1978, Roscommon did the double over Kerry. The senior side had been dispatched convincingly in the All-Ireland Semi-Final by the great Kerry side of the time. Now is a Ceannárus fund-raiser they regained some pride with a fine victory. This was eclipsed by a great victory for the U 21 team in the All-Ireland Final v Kerry. One of the stars of the team was Gerry Emmett who was top scorer on the day with four points. This team was captained by Seamus Hayden and managed by Tom Heneghan. The Kerry team included a number of their great players of that or any era including, in my opinion, the greatest of them all in Jack O’Shea. Others were Charlie Nelligan, Ml. Spillane, Sean Walshe and Eoin Liston.

Roscommon was back in another U 21 final in 1982. In the semi-final Tom Corcoran, father of today’s Tom, was instrumental in dispatching Cork, when he ‘chipped’ the Cork goalie from forty yards for a decisive goal. The final was against Donegal, before a huge crowd took in Pairc Séan Mac Diarmuida, Carrick-on Shannon. The result mirrored the miserable weather as Donegal 0.8 won to Roscommon’s 0.5. Gary Wynne was team captain and others with next Saturday connections are Tom Corcoran and Seamus Killoran.

Another Boyle connection to the present team is County board Vice-Chairman Seamus Sweeney whose son  Fintan (a cousin of young Killoran) has to be close to selection. Indeed one of the strengths of the team is the contribution that many of the players who have ‘come on’ have made.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Renaissance of the Bicycle.

One of the positive developments of recent years has been the return of the bicycle. While it seems, at the moment, the revival is dominated by the leisure and exercise enthusiasts the functional use of bicycles is expanding. When the idea of having bicycles for hire, located at various stands in Dublin city was first mentioned, public opinion was pretty sceptical. The vision of such bicycles joining their ancestors, along with shop trolleys in the Liffey or the canals was a very real prospect. However, it seems the initiative, from my limited knowledge, has been a real success and continues to expand and as far as I aware is planned for  other cities like Galway. It is said that some nine thousand people now cycle to work in Dublin. If it can be made happen there then it can be made happen anywhere.

Not many years ago in Boyle one could nearly name those who cycled consistently. Two stand out in my memory. One was Jimmy Feely and the other was James Candon. Mister Feely sat proudly upright on his traditional bicycle as he made the short journey from Lower Deerpark to the town. Mister Candon shuttled around the town on his more distinctive model making his business calls in a very environmentally friendly way.

This note on the civilised mode of carriage, transports me back to my secondary school days at Roscommon C.B.S. The bicycle was the transport of necessity for most students outside walking distance. They would travel from anything up to ten miles on that journey. There were no convoys of cars or buses delivering and effecting the return of students. On our journey we would wait on Castlecoote Bridge, five miles or so from town, to be joined by those from farther on, perhaps even Creggs. We were then joined by others at Fuerty like the tributaries joining a river. The experience was replicated on all the roads leading to Roscommon town. The morning trip was a serious time constrained exercise often handicapped by wind and rain and the assorted weather elements.

The bicycles were ‘parked’ in the long school shelter. The evening journey was a much more relaxed affair and a reverse of the morning experience in terms of numbers. While a quick spin home was often necessary to enable some farming duties there were many occasion when one could dally and delay and enjoy the pranks or other games as the humour took us.

I have not heard a ‘collective’ word for a large number of these machines but if there is it could be used for their presence outside churches, football grounds, picture houses alleys and respectable distances from dance halls or carnival marquees. They feature in many iconic pictures of those decades past.

They are part of Roscommon GAA folklore as to the people who cycled to Croke Park for the big games of the forties. They have pride of place in Patrick Kavanagh’s poem 'Inniskeen Road' and Seamus Heaney’s ‘A Constable Calls’. In our time it was Guard Mugan who was diligent in ambushing us for having, in a contradictory way, 'no light on your bicycle’ as you made your way home, on a winter’s night, from the pictures in the town. Today they are lit like a fairground wheel.
So it grand to see them back again and hopefully the motorist and the cyclist will be friends and respect each other.


1. Well done, of course, to the Roscommon U 21 team on their fine victory over Cork in Portlaoise last Sat. evening. It was a thriller in the end and this time Roscommon got the necessary break.  Young Murtagh was incredible while Tom Corcoran brought back memories of great Roscommon midfielders like Newton, Killoran, Earley, Beirne, Boland. The Smith brothers played their hearts out. So congrats to all. There was a huge and vocal Roscommon following as always. 
2. John Mulligan recently endorsed Madge Daly’s excellent review of Chris O’Dowd’s performance on Broadway, New York in Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men’. I wish I was in New York to attend, so, since I cannot, some Boyle or Roscommon person there might sub for me!
3. Well done to Boyle’s under 14 team on their wins over Eire Og and Western Gaels despite a loss to Tulsk. This evening they meet a strong St. Dominick’s in the Abbey Park. It is great to see a great Boyle GAA name in the team management i.e. Gerry Nerney.
4. An innovative introduction to Lough Key Forest Park is the Segway guided glides and tours of the park. Training will take ten to fifteen minutes. The tour will last from forty to fifty minutes and the cost is €15. It is worth a shot and I wish Colm well. For further information call 087 2152335 or see the web site at   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The GAA Membership Sky Dilemma:

The GAA community have very divided  opinions about the merits or otherwise of the recent Sky T.V. This is very understandable on another emotive issue for an organisation so enmeshed in tradition and history.  I would not be in a position to speculate on the percentages for and against. Those who oppose the deal would have the easier arguments. These are based in the traditional values, ethos, volunteerism of the organisation and ‘pay for play’ issues . Amongst those I have seen to be against the move are Dessie Dolan, Colm O’Rourke, Joe Brolly, Eugene McGee -in a more guarded way- and many more nationally. This divided opinion transfers down to our own local GAA club. I have heard a number of Boyle GAA people express strong opinions against the move. The role of Sky, the threat of creeping ‘Pay Per View’ and the dominance of a Murdoch vehicle are certainly issues causing anxiety.

For the move nationally I have heard Oisin McConville, the G.P.A., Martin Brehony and Eamon Sweeney. The President of the GAA also has asked; “Would I, who has given a lifetime to the organisation, do anything that I felt would do it damage?” The hierarchy of the GAA has traditionally been a pretty conservative collective. It is indeed ironic that they are under pressure now for moving, as it were, ahead of a large body of opinion rather than being led or pushed by it as has been the case previously.
 For myself I give the move a very guarded acceptance. That might surprise some but c’est la vie. There is a prayer, I think, which asks one ‘to change the things he can, accept the things he cannot and the wisdom to know the difference’.  At my age the energy of rebellion has subsided and  I see this as an experiment. The number of games is limited. Of course if one of those games is one you cannot attend, and would really wish to see, the issue crystallises. The first game to go exclusively to Sky, as far as I am aware, is the Sligo v Galway game.  The offshoot benefits such as the transmission of games in Australia and elsewhere  will be welcomed by the large number of our people abroad. It is a long way from trying to pick up Radio Emirian signals in London parks in the sixties.
There has been no mention of the power of the grassroots to actually alter this decision after its present legal contract term of three years ends. I am sure that, come next winter, prior to the County Convention season, there will be many motions on the issue and the grassroots will be given an opportunity to voice their opinions. If the opposition dominates the experiment will fall. Of course one could argue that the current decision did not go through the democratic processes but was decided by the hierarchy.   
As you can see I am a bit confused by this project but I would not like to jump to judgement. ‘I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure’.

Congratulations et al

Well done to the Roscommon U 21 side on winning the Connacht U 21 C’Ship with a fine display against Leitrim last Saturday evening. I have said that this is an excellent side despite the wobble against Sligo. Well done to the clear-cut ‘Man of the Match’ winner Enda Smith who had a brilliant game. They play  the Munster winners, Cork or Tipperary, in the All-Ireland Semi-final on Saturday April 19th. I imagine the venue would be Tullamore. (The Final is on Saturday May 3rd).
Congratulations and very best wishes to three couples with Boyle GAA connections; Sean Purcell and Caitriona Daly who got married last week-end and to Mark O’Connor and Amy Sweeney and Jenny Conroy and Declan MacNamara who get married this coming week-end.
The water meters were installed in our area last week. I hope that charges are not imposed before the current quality issues are resolved. If an attempt to do so is initiated then I expect that there will be strong resistance. Perhaps it is a question that can be asked of aspiring Councillors when they call during the next month.
Boyle Abbey is  open to visitors. This usually happens closer to Easter.
I was going to mention the poor presentation of the IFTAs programme on R.T.E. last Saturday night but it has received plenty of coverage at this stage. One little nugget was the thanks issued by Brendan Gleeson, to a Christian Brother teacher of his for the encouragement he gave Brendan during his school days. As Tess Flaherty used to say; ‘An ounce of help is better than a ton of pity !’.

Tony Conboy, Forest View, Boyle, Co. Roscommon Mob: 086 816 3399     

Deaths of former Roscommon GAA stars

One of the great Roscommon footballers of the county's Golden Era died last Sunday. Brendan Lynch who was from Oran died in Bray where he has lived for many years. Brendan was a tough uncompromising wing back on Roscommon's greatest team, winning an All-Ireland minor medal in 1941 and Senior medals in '43 and '44. He played on for Roscommon until 1953 and was selected on the Roscommon team of the Millennium and more markedly on that Connacht team also. Brendan was 91 years of age, his birthday being on February 14th. Whatever about his demeanour off the field he was certainly no Valentine on it. His lifetime career was in the Garda Siochana. So, in anticipation of a regular question, the members of that great team still with us are: John Joe Nerney who's 92nd birthday is today, Tuesday April the 1st; Liam Gilmartin who lives in Dublin and will be 93 in June and the man I refer to, from time to time, as 'the forgotten man' Paddy Beisty who lives in Rathcroghan.
Another member of the '41 minor team also died recently. Frank Bambrick from Cootehall died in London. He was aged 92. He was a regular with St. Michael's through the forties until he went to England circa 1947 where he continued to play. He qualified from night school as an accountant. He was a regular visitor to North Roscommon and his sister Josie Gaffney in Boyle. I talked to him a number of years ago in Termon and he referred regularly to his friends Boyle from those past years Paddy Daly and John Joe Nerney. His is survived by many Bambrick connections in North Roscommon including his sister Josie and nephews Joseph and Sean of Rockingham. May they rest in peace.

Best wishes to:

Some 'good lucks' (awkward phrasing) now. I wish the best of luck to former Boyle GAA star Peter Bolger who has become manager of the Boyle senior team. It will be a 'challenging' campaign. Consolidation in senior status is the primary objective I guess.
My second best wishes go to Ballinameen/Boyle (!) musician John Carty who will be part of the celebratory concert at The Royal Albert Hall, on Thursday April the 10th, titled Ceiliuradh (Celebration) in honour of the visit of President Michael D. Higgins to the U.K. I do not know if any Boyle person in London will read this but it promises to be a special event. For John and the extended Carty family it will be a memorable occasion.
Finally the best of luck to the Roscommon U 21 team in the Connacht final at Carrick-on-Shannon on Saturday at 2.30 for the game against 'surprise packets' Leitrim. Roscommon were great against Mayo but had us all nervy in the Sligo game. Personally I think there is a lot of quality in this team so hopefully Roscommon will prevail.
On Thursday morning Frankie Flynn from Padraig Pearse's club will continue his fundraising walk from Boyle GAA ground starting at 9am. This is in aid of Pieta House West based in Tuam. So if you are available you would be welcome to accompany Frankie for a part of his journey out of Boyle towards Croghan for this important and worthy cause.

Tony Conboy, Forest View, Boyle, Co. Roscommon Mob: 086 816 3399