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GAA Club Newsletter

The Earlier Years,

It is difficult to paint a clear picture of the early years of the Association in Templenoe as a

great deal of valuable information has been lost irrevocably. Because of the absence of any

sizeable amount of written records on the affairs of the G.A.A., especially in its infancy, I had

to rely a great deal on oral sourc es.

The older generations may love the past but one must realize that this is an expression of the

nostalgic romanticism of old men and old societies. But, without any disrespect to the older

members of our community one must realize that memories of participants in events can be

unreliable and sometimes games of the past can be viewed through windows of nostalgia

which can distort the facts surrounding such events. Therefore, I have attempted to correlate

the oral and written' sources at my disposal and, hopefully, give a balanced, factual and

readable account of the organization in Templenoe since the inception of the G.A.A.

Before the founding of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884 hurling and football were an

established pastime in Templenoe, and there is evidence of a club being in existence as early

as 1880, the year during which extensive renovations were carried out on their then playing

field, known as "Sullivan's Field", Cappanacuss. Strange as it may seem today, hurling was

by far the stronger of the two codes, and remained so until the early 1990's, when football

became the dominant sport.

Conflicting evidence has been put forward as to who started the first G.A.A. club in the

Kenmare district. There is no doubt that some form of an organized body existed in most

parishes throughout Ireland prior to the founding of the G.A.A. which administered competition

of some nature, though in a loose form. These administrative bodies became more

organised after the founding of the Association, but many of them were slow to affiliate with

the governing body of the infant G.A.A.

The fact that Templenoe had an established playing field as early as 1880, and had done

renovation work on it, is an indication that a club, in some form or shape, did exist in

Templenoe at that time. But there is no record of a club being affiliated with the headquarters

of the newly formed national organization prior to 1938.

Prior to 1800 another field was in use by the local sporting enthusiasts. It was known as

"O'Callaghan's Gleebe Field", which was to the west of the local Protestant Church. Pat

Spillane, great grand uncle of the present Pat, is on record to have been coach to the young men

of Templenoe at that time, which gives added credence to the existence of a sporting body in

the locality at that time. He was an all-round athlete but died at the early age of twenty six.

His brother Ned was equally outstanding.

By the 1920's football had taken pride of place over hurling, with very little of the latter being

played. After "O'Sullivan's Field" had retreated into the shadows of history the next sporting

arena was at Dromquinna, and this was known as the "Rockery Field", which was in use from

around 1915 to the late 1920's.

Up to this time no club had been officially formed in Templenoe. Two teams from the locality

were picked, one from the east and the opposing team from the west, with the Reen River

designated as the boundary line between the two contestants. Rivalry in these games was as

keen as any witnessed in encounters of far greater importance.

For a number of years prior to the founding of the club there had been no playing field in the

locality. In 1932 the "Bog Field", in Reen, was acquired, which was centrally situated to most

of the players at that time. From that year until 1965 it was the centre of all playing activities

within the club. At the beginning a fee of £3-10-0 was the charge per annum. The field is one

of the most renowned in the history of the club. Many stories have been told and many songs

'written about the teams that were moulded there.

The only indication to the strangers that it was a playing field were two goal posts. Dressing

rooms in club pitches were unheard of at that time and the players used to tog out inside the

gate beside the thick hedgerow. Not all players were endowed with playing gear in those days

with many lining out in,their everyday wear.

The first match to be played in the field was a challenge game between Ardea and Templenoe

in the summer of 1933. Many other games of local interest were also played there. One such

was a double header between Templenoe and Sneem in both minor and senior grades in 1938.

Derrynane were also a regular visitor for challenge games. After such games tea was served

in John Harrington's house nearby at a cost of 1/= p,er head.

During the 1930's sporting activities in the area were slightly hampered because of the dire

economic conditions which existed at that time forcing many of the young men of the locality

to emigrate, mainly to England, but also to America, in search of employment.

In 1938, with encouragement from Kenmare, a club was officially established and affiliated

with the G.A.A. Some of those who were instrumental in setting it up were Den and Dermot

Reilly, R.I.P., Joe Neill, Jerry Countney, Joe Casey, Teddy Clifford, R.I.P., and P.D.M.

O'Sullivan. The first meeting took place at the Marion House, Low Reen, with Den Reilly and

P.D.M. O'Sullivan elected as its first chairman and secretary, respectively Joe Neill was its first

treasurer and remained so for the next 33 years.

The initial years ofthe club were the most active from a playing point of view. Between 1939-

'45 emigration was reduced to a trickle because of the Second World War. A high rate of

unemployment, lack"of transportation facilities due to a shortage of petrol and car parts and,

also; an acute shortage of money irnmobilised the local population. So, with little to do and

nowhere to go, the "Bog Field" came to the rescue and filled in the vacant hours.

During the "War Years" the demand was so acute that the availability of the pitch had to be

scheduled into three training sessions on Sundays during the summer months. The first session

was between ten o'clock and one which was patronised by those who lived to the east of the

field who attended early Mass in Kenmare, such as the O'Neill, Crowley, Riordan, Shea,

Courtney families, etc.

After dinner, those who attended Templenoe Mass, had their claim to the 'hallowed' piece of

ground from two o'clock until five, These were the families who lived to the west of the pitch,

which included the Casey, Houlihan, Spillane, Grady, Neill and Coffey families, etc.

The third period was allotted to the younger grades from about sixteen down who displayed

their football abilities from seven o'clock until daylight faded into darkness.

During the week evenings, in the summer months, the field was a hive of acti vity with anything

from thirty to forty players taking part in practice matches. This over-zealous desire for the

game had its toll on the surface with the result that it was practically one black patch from goal

to goal. Because of the boggy nature of the soil many a player left the arena looking more like

a coalminer than a footballer, especially during wet weather. The advent of dressing rooms

and showers were a long way off at this time, with washing up facilities confined to a small

river across the main road.

Had it not been for the fact that Blackwater formed its own G.A.A. club in 1942 the playing

facilities in the "Bog Field" would have reached the upper limits of congestion. Up to this

many of the players in Blackwater travelled down to Templenoe for training, and many of them

played with distinction on the Templenoe senior team, the most noteworthy being Fr. Donal

Coffey, his brother Tadgh, Brendan Connor, John O'Neill and Packy Doyle.

6

Many players who got their first taste of football in the "Bog Field" went on afterwards to

distinguish themselves in the Green and Gold of Kerry and their names are worthy of mention:

Tom Spillane, R.I.P., played with Kerry at minor, junior and senior level and was the holder

of a junior All-Ireland, and two Railway Cup medals with Munster. Jerome Spillane played

junior with Kerry and is the holder of a junior All-Ireland medal. Donal Rice had the

distinction of playing for three consecutive years with the Kerry minors but retired from

football at a very early age. George Rice, R.I.P., played minor and junior with Kerry and with

the Munster Colleges. Jehr Sullivan (Big Jehr) played minor with Kerry, his brother Teddy

played both minor and junior with Kerry. Sean Rice played minor with Kerry. Paddy Fox'

Spillane, R.I.P., played at junior and senior level for Cork.

Denis 'Digger' O'Sullivan, his brother Tadgh, R.I.P., Gus Maybury, and his brother George

were all regulars on the Kerry Senior hurling team for a number of years.

The field was extensively used up to the early 1950's but from here on emigration began to take

its toll, and by the early 60's the club was, at times, stretched beyond its limits to field a team

The 'Bog Field', though a far cry from the ideal sports field, played a very important part in

the playing activities of the club. One song which has close connections with the field, and .

always brings back memories to the older people of the parish is "Toms Spillane's Football

Team of 1943", which was written by Jerome Coffey.

 

Mick Granville

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