Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

O’Hanrahans Football Team

Source: Carlow People 2010


The Blues celebrate a major milestone in colourful history

 by Leo McGeogh's 

Published in the Carlow People Tuesday November 30 2010

The First O’Hanrahan Gaelic Football Team 1919

IT MAY not have been marked with the same razzmatazz as the American's celebrate their Independence Day but on July 4th last O'Hanrahan's GFC reached a major milestone in their colourful history.

For it was on July 4, 1920 the famous Carlow town club made their first ever appearance. A newspaper report of Friday, July 10 tells us: "At Monacurragh on Sunday last, the Carlow (O'Hanrahan's) Junior football team made their first appearance in public and secured an easy victory over a Palatine combination". The small report goes on the reveal O'Hanrahan's won 4-5 to nil and that afterwards teams representing Kilkenny and Carlow took to the field in a friendly contest won by the visitors.

The same report says "the Carlow Fianna Pipers Band and the St Fiaac's Pipe and Drum band, Graiguecullen rendered choice selections during the evening" as at that time challenge games were often treated with greater pomp-and-circumstance than ordinary run-of-the-mill fixtures. Our main photo this week has been handed down the generations as the first O'Hanrahan's team and if so was taken on that historic July Sunday nigh on a century ago. Folklore also tells us that the first game was played in jerseys borrowed from Palatine (a story the photograph would support) but as Pal were also the opposition could it be that the Bennekerry club had an 'away strip' way back then?!

By way of saluting O'Hanrahan's founding fathers and to mark the club's 90 years a growing, this week's Legends series shines the spotlight on the their early days and the pioneering young sportsmen who quickly established the 'Blues' as a powerhouse of Carlow football.

Open Air Meetings At Closh Pump

Closh Pump, a famous Carlow landmark, was the scene of the open air meetings in late 1919 at which a group of young men discussed the possibility of forming a Gaelic football club. Seeds sown, enthusiasm ensured quick growth.


While the club affiliated Carlow Town in 1920, Tom 'Tucker' McGrath of Pollerton Road christened it O'Hanrahan's in honour of Michael, the executed 1916 leader who lived in Carlow.

Michael O'Hanrahan

In 1881, aged 4, Michael Hanrahan moved with his family to Carlow from Wexford. His father established a business as a cork manufacturer at 90/91 Tullow Street.

Michael was educated in the Christian Brothers' school. He founded the Gaelic League in Carlow and was also a founding member of Carlow Workman's Club.

He was an author of a number of books, including 'Swordsman of the Brigade'.

A founding member of the Irish Volunteers, during the 1916 Rising Michael fought at Jacob's Garrison. The garrison surrendered to the British forces on Sunday, 30th April 1916, Michael was tried by Court Martial, was sentenced to death and was executed on Thursday, 4th May 1916. His brother Henry was also sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life


The principal founders were Dick Agar of Brownes Hill, Treasurer, Jimmy Darcy of Staplestown Road, Chairman, the first captain, and Paddy Hayden, Brownes Hill, first Secretary.

Others involved in helping the club take those vital first steps were J.Timmons, J.Mahon, M.Shaw, M.Walker, M. Reddy, T.Connors, T.McGrath,; P. Kelly and Mick Cullen.

First Colours - First Field

The first colours worn were green with a yellow sash and they practiced where they could along the Tullow Road, mostly in the Milking Fields, opposite Devoy's Garage, and were, often as not, 'run' by Brown Clayton's herd! Eventually they were officially given use of the Polo Grounds, a little further up the road.

First Title

1921 saw the O'Hanrahan's lift their first title, winning the Junior Football Championship without having a score registered against them during the entire campaign!

Hacketstown Mick McQuaid's were beaten 1-4 to 0-0 in the final, the losers line-out including Michael Barry, a brother of Kevin, who had been executed the previous year.

The O'Hanrahan's team included Tommy O'Connell who played while ' on the run' as the ' War of Independence' was at its height. On the day of the final at Killerig, as the British military were all over the place, the club had a sub togged out in O'Connell's stead but just before the ball was thrown in the bold Tommy sprang from his hiding place in the ditch and played a noble part in an historic win.

Winning line-out: The following, with home address, was the O'Hanrahan's team that won that historic first championship: Mick Cullen (Brownes Hill), Paddy ' The Crowman' Kavanagh, Tom McGrath (Pollerton Road), Paddy Hayden, Tom Collins, Martin Reilly (Staplestown Road), J 'Whack' Hayden (Tullow Street), Ned Keyes (Dublin Road), Dick Agar (Brownes Hill), Charlie Timmons (New Street), Jim Rice (Staplestown Road), Tommy O'Connell ( Brown Street), Jimmy Darcy (Staplestown Road), Denis Brooks (Lowry's Lane, off Tullow St beside Dempsey's Hardware).

Owen Rice Tragedy: Also in 1921 Owen Rice, a brother of Jim's, was tragically shot by the rampaging Black and Tans while he was discussing football at Askea Bridge. Liam Rice of Talbot Terrace, who won a SFC medal with O'Hanrahan's in 1954 is a nephew.

First Senior Final

In 1922 O'Hanrahan's reached their first Senior Football Championship final by virtue of a 2-5 to 00 semi-final victory over Drumphea at Tullow, their only game. This set up a final meeting with 'over the bridge' neighbours Graiguecullen, then cocks of the Carlow football walk.

We give you a flavour of the action by bringing you the full newspaper report of the time, complete with line-outs.

Carlow-Graigue 1-2, O'Hanrahan's 0-3: The final of the Carlow SFC was played at Fenagh on Sunday before a large crowd and under ideal weather conditions. The grounds left much to be desired from a footballers point of view as between a heavy sod and long thick grass a fast display was out of the question. Would it be too much to hope that the Co Board would insist on having bearer pitches provided for the future.

The game requires little by way of description. Graiguecullen attacked in their usual characteristic fashion and keeping up the pressure Tobin scored their first point after five minutes. Still pinning up the pressure and pinning Carlow to their own territory, Graiguecullen missed several chances per Tobin, Byrne, McDonald and Callanan, but a foul close in gave Hennessy the opportunity of scoring a great goal. This reverse completely nonplussed Carlow, who seemed to have fallen asunder for the ensuing 10 minutes during which time play was of a nondescript character.

Carlow rallied however and made a few unsuccessful sallies into Graiguecullen defensive zone, but were always easily driven back. Following another sustained attack, Tobin again scored for Graiguecullen, whose attempts to score when good chances came the way were very weak. In an attack on the Graiguecullen posts, Murphy scored a nice point but at this end too want of combination lost a couple of certain scores.

Just before the interval Hennessy from a free close in essayed a goal, but Mahon for Carlow made a great save, and the half-time whistle left the scores: Graiguecullen 1-2, O'Hanrahan's 0-1.

On restarting it was noticed that Carlow had made a reshuffle of their team which proved to be advantageous, for they played in much better form. The going was very heavy and was beginning to tell upon the teams, more particularly on the Graiguecullen men, who were beginning to feel the attentions of the O'Hanrahan's attackers.

Up and down play followed for some time, and the Carlow defence successfully held up their opponents, who although aided by a number of frees and getting possession of the ball more often than the Carlow men, could not improve their scoring sheet. After Mahon for Carlow had saved his goal twice and Graiguecullen shot wide several times, Carlow led by Paddy Coyne, attacked in determined fashion, and following a hop Coyne secured and scored Carlow's second point.

This reverse tended to liven up the game, and some good passages and bouts of good football were witnessed.

The Carlow men were staying better but could not get through Graigue's defence until a foul 30 yards out gave Hayden an opportunity to score a third point for Carlow. Some lively passages followed the kick-out but neither side could find the scoring area until the long whistle went, leaving Graiguecullen winners on the score: 1-2 to 0-3. For Graigue - Hennessy, Quigley, Price, Tobin and McDonald were the outstanding players, while Coyne, Hayden, Rice, Lennon and Murphy of Carlow O'Hanrahan's gave excellent accounts of themselves.

Mr Dick Hogan was an efficient and painstaking referee.

Graiguecullen: B Hennessy (Capt), M Hennessy, W Quigley, W Cooney, R McDonald, J Byrne, J Moore, J Price, C Callanan, B McDonnell, M Tobin, M Hogan, W Hogan, J Murphy, L Howard.

O'Hanrahan's: P Hayden (Capt), P Coyne, Jas Mahon, Patrick Kavanagh, Thomas McGrath, Martin Reilly, P Devine, C Timmons, M McEvoy, J Rice, John Murphy, R Agars, M Lennon, J Hayden, W Moran.

Decline And Departure

The club went into a bit of a decline for a few years and by 1926 men of the calibre of Murt Lennon, Tom Shaw, Paddy Kavanagh and Billy Moran were lining out with Milford in that years abortive final against Graiguecullen, the famous 'Battle of Rathoe.

The subsequent suspension and 1927 affiliation of Graiguecullen to Laois saw an immediate upsurge in the number of clubs in Carlow as with the dominant force now departed, there was renewed hope for all.

First Senior Championship Title

O'Hanrahan's, just seven years in existence, won their first Carlow SFC title in 1927 though the final was delayed until April 1928.

Again we turn to a contemporary match report to bring you the flavour of the exciting 0-5 to 1-1 County final victory over Leighlinbirdge:

In the Gaelic football grounds, Muinebheag on Sunday before a tremendous crowd, a keen battle for 1927 football honours was fought between Carlow and Leighlinbridge.

The general anticipation of a close struggle was realized so far as the scoring was concerned, but on the actual chances of the game, we would not hesitate to say that Carlow's victory should have been more pronounced but it must be conceded that the All-Blacks made boys in blue travel all out to secure the verdict; which was given by the smallest of margins.

In the first half the All-Blacks scored a goal and a point with the assistance of the breeze blowing from the Barrow; while their opponents registered three points. For the All-Blacks the second moiety proved blank, while Carlow added a further two points which by no means gave them a signal victory.

In the closing stages when Carlow were leading by a point, the All-Blacks had hard luck not to level the scores. On the general run of play the winners proved themselves the better team, but their forwards were up against a first class defence, which kept the score down.

There were 'stars' on both sides and all the players showed signs of intensive training. The All-Blacks were a better balanced team and in the first half were slightly superior. It was a well contested game, but due, perhaps, to the keen tackling and little time left for chances, the play was not up to the standard of previous finals. There were frequent flashes of high-grade football but against this there were mediocre and even poor patches.

The issue was decidedly in doubt up to the sounding of the 'last whistle'. Carlow excelled in fielding, though taken all round their opponents got in more telling work, straining every nerve to avert defeat. Their backs put up a splendid defence and it was no fault of theirs that the team was forced to bow to defeat. The All-Blacks went down with colours flying and their defeat was not inglorious.

The weather was good though a sharp breeze made things slightly uncomfortable for players and spectators. There was no hitch in the management and the Muinebheag club is to be congratulated on the way everything was carried out.

Several of the Carlow players were carried shoulder high from the field and their supporters, who appeared confident of victory all the tie, gave vent to wild rejoicing at the closing of the game.

The play: Winning the toss the All-Blacks started off with the wind in their favour. Hughes from centre-field put Carlow moving from the throw-in, but the ball was scarcely in play when Purcell got possession and sent to T Neill who opened the scoring for Leighlin with a goal.

Leighlin continued to press but the Carlow defence was sound, Quigley and Kavanagh doing exceptionally well. A forward move by Carlow ended with the ball striking the post and going wide. Settling down Carlow resumed the pressure, and Haughney, from the wing, opened the scoring for his side with a point.

Lynch, from the wing, cleared the horizontal for a Leighlin point. Carlow again resumed the pressure , and bringing the ball up John Hogan added another point. Almost immediately J Moore supplemented with another point. Play continued very fast but with apparently little effect on the players. Just at half-time Leighlin were busily engaged holding up a determined rush by their opponents. At the short whistle the scores were: Leighlinbridge 1-1, Carlow 0-3.

On the restart play went up and down the field, the Carlow backs again sound and excitement was at its highest when J Hogan leveled with another point for the O'Hanrahan's. The All-Blacks attacked in determined fashion but Carlow quickly replied, Quigley and Moran saving in turn.

There was a terrific struggle at midfield, both sides giving of their best to gain the upper hand. Foley, for Leighlin, was soon again called on to save, which he did in fine style. Carlow were now doing their utmost but the Leighlin defence was impenetrable.

Vigorous play was the order and excitement went to fever pitch when Haughney gave Carlow the lead with a point. Never relaxing their efforts, the AllBlacks attempted to break through, but in vain. Still playing a game full of possibility, the All-Blacks made many fine efforts to score, but the boys in blue were now playing in a winning spirit, and frustrated every movement of their opponents.

It must be conceded Leighlin were in hard luck, for they had the ball within easy scoring range, when the long whistle sounded, leaving Carlow winning by the narrow margin of one point.

A striking feature of the game was that it was played in a truly sportsmanship spirit. Only one slight incident in the early stages of the second half calling for note when one of the Carlow players (P Kavanagh) was ordered off the field by the referee. Otherwise everything went off without a hitch, Mr O'Brien (Dublin), Leinster Council, made a capable and impartial referee. Scorers: O'Hanrahan's: P Haughney, J Hogan 0-2 each. Leighlinbridge: T Neill 1-0, Lynch 0-1.F O'Hanrahan's: M Nolan (goalkeeper), W Quigley (Capt), P Kavanagh, T Moran, M Lennon, T Shaw, J Moore, W Moran, M Lynch, T Snoddy, P Haughney, E Haughney, J Costelloe, J Hogan, J Nolan. Subs: M Harvey, T McGrath, T Roche. Leighlinbridge: P Murphy (goalkeeper), P Foley (Capt), M Hayes, W Moore, P Purcell, D Hayes, P Lynch, E Kane, W Hughes, M Brennan, T Neill, T Foley, M Nolan, Martin Lynch, J McNally. Subs: J Byrne, P Regan, Joseph Maher.

Title Retained

The O'Hanrahan's retained the title in 1928, again beating Leighlinbridge in the final, this time by 0-6 to 0-4. The following panel represented the 'Blues' during the championship: William Moran, Thomas Moran, John Nolan, Thomas Mulhall, John Moore, Edward Haughney, Patrick Haughney, Matthew Lynam, John Snoddy, John Hogan, Edward Wall, Michael Harvey, William Quigley, John Murray, Harry O'Mahoney, John Roche, Murt Lennon, Thomas Mulhall, Jack Clarke.

Minor Marvels

While the O'Hanrahan's were now back-to-back champions, they were not resting on their laurels and the winning of the Minor Football Championship in both 1927 and 1929 guaranteed a supply line of future stars was set rolling, a roll which snowballed to a stunning nine-in-a-row from 1931-1939, a National record which stood until the early 70s.

Bridewell Lane

Bridewell Lane, nicknamed the 'Dardenelles' and formerly known as Somers Lane was the address of some of the first players to play with the club from 1922 on and was to figure prominently in the history of O'Hanrahan's and the game of football in the county capital.

First Outing

Sunday, July 4, 1920: At Monacurragh on Sunday last, the Carlow (O'Hanrahan's) Junior Football team made their first appearance in public and secured an easy victory over a Palatine combination. The final scores was: Carlow 4 goals, 5 points, Palatine, nil.

Afterwards teams representing Kilkenny and Carlow took the field in a friendly contest. After an interesting bout Kilkenny ran out winners by a narrow margin.

There was a fair attendance of spectators. The Carlow Fianna (Pipers Band) and St Fiaac's Pipe and Drum Band, Graiguecullen, rendered choice selections during the evening.

Leo McGeogh's 

Next Page - Carlow Football 1973

Please report any links or images which do not open to
The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
© 2001 Ireland Genealogy Projects, IGP TM

Back to the Top