Friday, December 15, 2017

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Dublin’s Glory Years: Part I

Matt Treacy writes on the history of Dublin GAA.

Dublin’s first football All Ireland

February 28, 1892, Clonturk Park,

Young Irelands (Dublin) 2 – 1, Clondrihid (Cork) 1 – 9

Dublin’s first All Ireland was won in the pleasant surroundings of Clonturk Park in Drumcondra. It has long since been swallowed by houses but was the venue for several early finals. It even merited a mention by James Joyce in the Cyclops episode of Ulysses:

She swore to him as they mingled the salt streams of their tears, that she would ever cherish his memory, that she would never forget her hero boy who went to his death with a song on his lips as if he were but going to a hurling match in Clonturk park.

Dublin had previously won the hurling title in 1889 when Kickhams, the forerunners of Ballymun Kickhams, beat Tulla in the final. The 1892 final was played amid considerable internal turmoil following the overthrow of Parnell as leader of the Home Rule party, and his death in October 1891.

The GAA was generally supportive of Parnell and paid a heavy price for its allegiance as it became the target of the Catholic Church hierarchy which was able to more or less suppress the organization in many parts of the country. There were even threats to excommunicate people who attended matches on Sundays. So successful was the fatwa that the first time all Ulster counties took part in the championship was 1945. The GAA in Dublin was one of the very few places where it mostly weathered the storm although the number of clubs declined.

The GAA in Dublin was strongly Parnellite and members of Dublin clubs provided a guard of honour, with black crepe covered hurleys, on Parnell’s funeral procession to Glasnevin. In 1892 James Boland, father of Harry who was killed during the Civil War, and a member of the PW Nally club, was elected the Chairman of the Dublin County Board. He was a leading member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the city.

Just days before the final a Dublin Castle Special Branch report claimed that the GAA was in serious decline due to the Parnell split, but that the were “elements of danger in the movement and it needs to be carefully watched.” The number of clubs had fallen from 777 in 1889 to 339 in late 1891 and over two thirds of those were under IRB control. At present there are over 2,300 GAA clubs in Ireland.

A former Castle detective Pollard later wrote a book entitled The Secret Societies of Ireland in which he noted that the GAA had never been run by “respectable people.” He also referred to the games being used as an excuse to practise all sorts of “savagery.” He must have lived in north county Dublin.

Young Irelands had won the Dublin county championship in 1892, and were thus selected as the county representatives. Likewise Clondrihid had won the Cork equivalent. Apparently many of the Young Irelanders were men who worked in Guinnesses and were noted for their “robust” style.

Although the conclusion of the championship took place in February 1891 it was actually part of the 1892 series. It attracted a lot of attention and the Freeman’s Journal described it as “One of the best day’s sport that have probably ever taken place in the metropolis.” The three games were the football semi final between Dublin and Cavan Slashers, the All Ireland hurling final between Ballyduff of Kerry and Crossbeg of Wexford, and the football final.

The attendance was described as the second largest to have ever attended a GAA match and was described as mostly good humoured although there were several pitch invasions at tense moments in the hurling decider. Young Irelands easily defeated the Cavan team. in a match played at 11am, on a scoreline of 3 – 7 to 0 – 3. The wind was very strong and with it at their back Dublin gave an exhibition of “kicking in magnificent style.”

The hurling final ended in controversy when Crossbeg claimed that they had had a legitimate goal disallowed. The referee Patrick Tobin who was also Secretary of the GAA somewhat bizarrely ruled that time had elapsed before the ball passed the goalposts. Extra time ensued and Kerry won their only hurling title. Wexford’s objections were later rejected.

In the final Young Irelands fielded the same team that had beaten Cavan. There was a very strong wind and with its aid the Dublin team led by 2 – 1 to 0 – 1 after a half described as having been of a “dashing, determined” nature.

Cork likewise made full use of the wind in the second half and scored two goals. The first of these was disallowed by the referee from Laois, J.T Whelan, but only hours after the match had ended, so Clondrihid thought they had won. As a goal outweighed any amount of points Dublin were awarded the honours. That was changed the following year so that a goal was worth five points.

Naturally enough the result led to an appeal by Cork but it was dismissed by the GAA central council after hearing evidence from the umpire. Michael Deering who had made the appeal resigned from the council in disgust in 1894 when Young Irelands beat another Cork team, the Nils after a replay. That game in Thurles ended in controversy when, with the game level, the Dublin team refused to play on after several of them were assaulted by Cork supporters. The game was abandoned but Dublin were later awarded the title.

Young Irelands went on to win two more All Irelands; beating Kerry to win the 1892 championship. and the controversial 1894 decider described above. Young Irelands won five Dublin football championships in total, the last of them in 1896, and six hurling titles between 1932 (team photo above) and 1965. They disappeared some time after that although I have a vague recollection of seeing either them or the also defunct New Irelands playing in the early 1970s. It was whichever of them wore white jerseys with a green sash.

The 1890s saw Dublin win its first three in a row between 1897 and 1899. A second triple was secured between 1906 and 1909, a third between 1921 and 1923, and we shall be concluding with Dublin’s latest three in a row, won last September.

The Dublin team that beat Cork:

G. Charlemont, G. Roche, J. Scully, T. Lyons, J. Roche, J. Silke, J. Kennedy, P. Heslin, J. Mahoney, A. O’Hagan, P. O’Hagan, D. Curtis, S. Hughes, S. Flood, T. Murphy, J. Geraghty, T. Halpin, T. Cooney, M. Kelly, R. Flood, M. Condon.

Matt Treacy’s book on Dublin’s quest to win the All Ireland in 2013, The Year of the Dubs, is available on

Matt Treacy blogs @ Brocaire Books. 

Follow Matt Treacy on Twitter @MattTreacy2