GAA in Ardclough

Ardclough Kildare senior  football champions 1949

Ardclough Kildare senior football champions 1949

The National Army team of 1949 may have been the strongest put on the field in any club competition. It was studded with Railway Cup players, and John Joe O’Reilly was hailed as the greatest player of his era.

To put things in perspective, the Army football team  beat Cavan by 2-6 to 1-3 in a challenge match in November 1948 after that county had won the All Ireland championship. Yet this was the team beaten in the 1949 Kildare County final by a small rural community on the banks of the Grand Canal. See pics.

the club had been formed 13 years earlier in humble circumstances, in Mick Treacy’s boot and shoe repairs workshop in August 1936, under the Chairmanship of Mick Treacy with Dan Graham as treasurer and Johnny O’Grady as secretary. The seeds had been sown by an attempt to form a club 12 years earlier and a revival by GAA enthusiast Fr James O’Brien when he had formed an under-14 team from the Kill and Ardclough national schools. The team went to the county final.

From the foundation of the GAA Ardclough people had become involved in the other clubs in the locality. RIC records from 1890 show that Hazlehatch Irish Harpers, based on Lord Concurry’s field near Skeagh, had 70 members with officers listed as Ambrose Dwyer, Christy Fitzsimons, Michael Saunders and John Cantwell. John Buggle is listed as an officer with Kilteel King O’Tooles club. Thomas Kenny from Ardclough bore the nickname “The Harper” Kenny all his life.

At a 1920s meeting in Mick Treacy’s workshop, John Mahon was elected to go to the County Board, Jim Norton was elected secretary and the committee was Jim Maguire, Mick Treacy, Jim Tancred and Bill Timpson. They secured the use of a field from Lord Cloncurry of Lyon’s Estate. An Ardclough club competed in the 1924-27 championships. Leonard Cullen of Ardclough played in goal when Kildare reached their first Leinster minor final in 1934, and there are references to the fact that the Lawless family gave Ardclough playing fields in the 1920s. However, in 1932 the Land Commission took over the field and the Club disbanded until the 1936 revival.

Johnny O'Grady opening the gate of the new GAA field at Ardclough

Johnny O’Grady opening the gate of the new GAA field at Ardclough

Mick Treacy and John O’Grady travelled to Elvery’s of Dublin and purchased a set of jerseys, three pairs of spare socks and shorts for the princely sum of £23-15s-Od. The club’s first colours were green with white collar and cuff. The sight of the new set of jerseys really got the adrenaline flowing again in the club. Six months after this the first team to represent Ardclough in the Junior Championship took the field.

The club won the junior championship in just four years, the minor championship in five, the intermediate championship in six, and the senior championship just 12 years after its foundation. Ardclough’s Dan Molloy played on the Kildare minor team that reached the 1940 Leinster final. John Farrell was full back on the Kidlare minor team that played in the 1943 Leinster final, curtain-raiser to a famous Roscommon v. Cavan All Ireland that drew 68,023 spectators to Croke Park.

Team of 1930s

Team of 1930s

Their early matches were marked by unruly scenes, on and off the pitch, as matches against Straffan, Rathcoffey and Rathangan in 1938 all ended up in the Council Chamber.

By 1938 they were already in the junior final, losing by a point to Rathangan.  In 1940 they drew the final but lost a replay to Rheban, their fifth replay in that championship!  In 1941 they won the championship by beating Kildangan, and set a new attendance record of 1,658 at a Junior final.

Ardclough team of 1938

Ardclough team of 1938

Where Ardclough went in the 1940’s, the crowds followed.  After winning the Junior League in 1940, they opted to go into the Senior rather than the Intermediate League.

That was a big factor in Ardclough’s victory over Kildangan in the 1944 Intermediate final.  Warning signals were issued at minor ranks too, when they won the 1943 championship from Athy, again in a replay.

Drawn with Clane and Maynooth, Ardclough went to the County semi-final in their first year in the senior championship.  Their semi-final against Raheens (they lost 0-4 to 1-3) created a new attendance record for a club match other than a County final, when 5,023 attended, calculated form the gate receipts.

Team of 1940s

Team of 1940s

The 1947 championship saw the start of what was to become a famous rivalry with Sarsfields with a drawn Leinster Leader Cup final ended with the anti-climax of Ardclough giving a walk-over in the replay.  Sarsfields confirmed their right to hold that trophy by trouncing Ardclough by ten points in the championship.

In 1949 the sides met in the semi-final and 2,000 came to watch. They saw John Farrell get a late equaliser for Ardclough and then the attendance swelled to 4,700 to see Ardclough win the replay by a point, 1-5 to 0-7. The crowds continued to come, by special train from Hazlehatch, and from outside the county. Andy Croke came from Dublin to see the array of talent on show in the David vs Goliath encounter and to write about the match in his Sunday Independent column.  The 1949 final against the Army set two new attendance records for Kildare County final, (9,003 for the drawn match and 10,035 for the replay, calculated on the basis of gate receipts of £4483). See pics

The memory of those two great games is preserved in the district. A special train was run from Kingsbridge, Ardclough supporters piled on at Hazelhatch and Straffan stations. The teams togged out in the nearby hall and walked to the field behind the Ardclough brass and reed band. When the match eventually got under way a series of great saves by Jim Nolan in the Ardclough goal earned a replay.

Christy Burke was the star of the replay, when a Dick McKenna goal before half-time and a series of points from the “Butcher” Graham and Jimmy Butler gave Ardclough a 1-11 to 2-6 victory. Army made five changes, three in the full-forward line, between the draw and replay and used another player twice in the replay, but to no avail.

This was Ardclough’s only senior football championship.  They lost the 1953 semi-final by a point and beat both the Army and Sarsfields in Leader Cup finals before being regraded in 1958.  But their rivalry with Sarsfields exploded into controversy in 1950.

The 1950 quarter-final match between Ardclough and Sarsfields attracted a record 7,730 attendance for a match up to the semi-final stage, and they witnessed what the Leinster Leader described as “the worst exhibition of dangerous play seen in the county for many years”. Three county players, Miko Doyle and Bunny Kavanagh of SarsFields and John Farrell of Ardclough were injured in the match, and referee John Joe O’Reilly sent an Ardclough player off.

The referee reported that “Ardclough adopted a very threatening attitude towards myself and questioned all my decisions”.  “Some of the Ardclough players” he reported, “refused to give their names”. According to the referee the match ended with a player throwing the ball at the referee and another player threatening “to cut the side of the head off me.” The entire Ardclough team was suspended for three years, but an appeal to the Leinster Council resulted in the suspensions being reexamined, and reduced in most cases.

Ardclough remained senior until 1956, subsequently winning junior championships in 1959, 1968 and 2000. Anthony and Christy Burke, Dan and Frank Garaham, Barry O’Connor, and later Kieran O’Malley (once rated by Larry Stanley as the finest lifter of a ball in the history of the game), Richard Cullen, Cha Connors and Tommy Christian starred for Ardclough football teams down the years.

Ardclough’s 1968 Jack Higgins Cup winners merged with the survivors of Kills’ 1962 semi-final team to create area team Wolfe Tones which went to the 1971 semi-final and a three point defeat to Carbury. Ardclough won the Junior A and Jack Higgins Cup in championship in 2000.

Ardclough later formed St Edward’s along with Rathcoffey and Straffan for underage purposes, and a combined parish team with Kill, Cillard has won under-21 hurling success.

Hurling: Ardclough’s contribution to county teams

Ardclough team of 1938

Ardclough team of 1938

The same year as Ardclough won the senior football championship for the only time, 1949, a Callan Co Kilkenny native Mick Johnson led Ardclough to the Junior championship with many of the same players. There was no tradition of hurling in the area when Mick Johnson from Kilkenny and Mick Houlihan from Laois formed the Ardclough hurling club in 1948.

Mick Johnson, who came to Bishopscourt and lived there for a time before moving to Ardclough. His younger brother Tom Johnson lived for a time in Ardclough before moving to Prosperous and first came into a County Board meeting in June 1955 in an attempt to register minor and juvenile teams from Prosperous.  The club subsequently became Éire Óg, Ardclough’s great rivals, set to dominate Kildare hurling for two decades and confront each other a series of record-breaking tough encounters in which cousins occasionally featured on opposing teams. Their explosive rivalry helped boost interest in the game in the county and formed the basis for the most successful spell enjoyed by Kildare county hurling teams, helping to raise the standard in both club and of the county compeition.

This led to Kildare hurlers winning 1966 Junior and 1969 Intermediate hurling championships, senior B titles in 1975 and 1980, and to two appearances in the quarter-finals of the Naiotnal Hurling League.

Kieran O’Malley scored a goal in the All Ireland final when the Kildare team that won their first All Ireland junior championship in for three decades in 1962. John Dunne played in the All Ireland semi-final. Pat Gleeson and Oliver Kenny played in the Leinster final.

In 1966 Colm O’Malley, Bobby Burke and Tommy Christian and Mick Dwane win All Ireland junior medals for Kildare.

In 1969 Colm O’Malley , Bobby Burke, Tommy Christian, Mick Dwane and Ned Walsh featured on the Kildare team that beat Cork to win the All Ireland intermediate championship, Tommy Christian scoring a goal in the final. John Cummins and Johnny Walsh (as a sub in the Leinster semi-final against Kilkenny) also played in the campaign.

Richie Cullen, Mick Dwane, Bobby Burke,  Ned Walsh, Noel Burke won All Ireland intermediate medals for Kildare in 1974. Tommy Christian and Seamus Butler also played in the campaign.

Kildare hurling’s finest hour was  the 1976 Leinster semifinal between Kildare and Wexford, when Kildare led by four points with ten minutes to go only to lose by four and only a succession of fine saves by Henry Butler prevented Kildare reaching the Leinster final. Wexford subsequently went on to play an epic All Ireland final against Cork.

Richie Cullen, Mick Dwane, Bobby Burke, Johnny Walsh and Ned Walsh all played that day, the proudest in Kildare hurling history. Johnny Walsh was Kildare’s top scoreer with twelve points, ten in the first half to send Kildare 0-11 to 1-4 up at half time.

Dom Maguire captained Kildare to All Ireland hurling B title in 1980. Bobby Bryan, Richie Cullen, Tom Johnson, Johnny and Ned Walsh and Joe Tompkins also played in that final.

Bobby Bryan, Richie Cullen, Tom Johnson, Johnny Walsh, Ned Walsh, Joe Tompkins, Dom Maguire all played in the 1980 All Ireland quarter-final against Galway.

Early success in Hurling

After Ardclough had won the junior hurling championship in 1949, they progressed to reach the Kildare senior hurling final and were defeated five times before they won their first title in 1968.

Ardclough’s initial foray at senior was noteworthy only for a 7-3 to 3-4 victory over Timahoe in 1952. the Army and Naas in succession eliminated Ardclough from the senior hurling championship.  Regraded in 1954, Ardclough came straight back to senior after a 22-point win over Moone in the junior final, and then reached the 1955 final with the help of an 8-1 to 4-9 win over Suncroft. Patrick Gleeson, Sean McCormack, Dick McKenna, Gerry O’Leary, Bobby Burke and J Kenny won recognition on the 1955 team/. They were beaten in the final by St Barbara’s, 4-6 to 3-5.

Ardclough were regraded again in 1957 after heavy defeats to Killinthomas and Naas and were beaten by Athy in the 1958 junior final. The club had received a morale-boost from the victory of their minors in 1956, inspired by Tim Gleeson and Kieran O’Malley.

Ardclough were promoted again after winning the 1959 Junior championship, beating an emerging Caragh side in the semi-final which was coached by future government minister, Paddy Power. Mick and Tom Johnson were in opposition in the game.

Military College defeated Ardclough heavily when they next appeared in a county final in 1962. One of the college stars, Larry Kiely, later won a 1966 senior hurling medal with Tipperary. Beaten by Moorefield in 1963 and Éire Óg in a 1964 replay they were back in the County final of 1965 – the start of their record breaking spell of 21 county final appearances.

21 County Hurling Finals in Succession

That 1965 Ardclough team included four whose careers were to span the next 20 years – Tommy Christian, Mick Dwane, Colm O’Malley and Bobby Burke.  John Dunne, Brian Kenny, Cha O’Connor, Noel Burke, Tony Cullen, Seamus Buggle, Oliver Kenny and Tim Gleeson also played

It was also the start of a long and often frustrating run of nine successive finals against Éire Óg,  a new record for any grade of Kildare football or hurling, which resulted in seven wins for Éire Óg, two for Ardclough, and a greatly enhanced county championship.

1965: Ardclough were decisively beaten by Éire Óg, Gough getting 2-2 as Ardclough went down 2-4 to 4-4.

1966:  Ardclough were beaten even more decisively, Dunny getting four points and Jim Kennedy the goal as Éire Óg won 1-7 to 0-3 over an Ardclough team that had introduced the 16-year-old Richic Cullen at centrefield for the 1966 championship.

1967:  Éire Óg won again by six points.  Pat Dunny scored 2-3 this time, and Mick Mullins 1-3 in a 3-10 to 2-7 victory.  Ned Walsh was now playing centre-half back for Ardclough, and Bobby Burke, the free-taker scored four points while Mick Dwane and Olly Gough got the goals.

1968: Breakthrough for Ardclough, their first hurling title, and they won the minor championship the same year to boot.  One of the minors, Richie Cullen, captained the team.  Der Connor, John Cummins and Mick Dwane contributed to the 2-12 total against 3-3 for Éire Óg (Dunny scored 2-2).  The combination of Tommy Christian and Bobby Burke at midfield gave Ardclough a valuable advantage.

1969: Éire Óg get their revenge, winning by a whopping 5-11 to 1-5.  An Ardclough player was sent off as Éire Óg’s forwards got into gear, Jack Sharpe got two goals, Peter Sharpe 1-4 and full-forward Paddy Campbell three points.  This was the greatest winning margin enjoyed by a Kildare hurling champion team since 1946.

1970: Another convincing win for Éire Óg, 3-11 to 1-4, Dunny getting seven points and each of the full-forward line scoring goals, Peter Sharpe, Paddy Campbell and Nicky Behan.

1971:  The Sean Carey cup was presented for the first time when Éire Óg won the 1971 championship by the smaller margin of 2-9 to 1-9.  Johnny Walsh in his second year with Ardclough, scored seven points, and Denis Dalton played with Tommy Christian at centrefield.  Peter Sharpe and Mick Mullins scored the decisive goals for Éire Óg.

1972: Éire Óg won by 1-10 to 0-9, of which Ardclough total Johnny Walsh contributed six points.  Pat Connolly succeeded Dunny and Paddy Campbell as Éire Óg’s top scorer, while Pat O’Brien got the Éire Óg goal.

1973: Ardclough put their name on the Sean Carey Cup for the first time, Richard Cullen captaining the team.  There were 42 frees in the match, several skirmishes, and what was described as “two malicious tackles”.  Tommy Christian finished the match with a nasty facial cut, Bobby Burke finished with 1-2 and initiated two more goals for Tim Guiney in a 3-9 to 1-6 victory. The stories of this game have grown in the telling down the years. Dr Richard Harris is reputed to have run out of thread in the Ardclough dressing room. The referee Gearoid O Tiarnáin recalls that the fight was at one end of the field and the row was at the other, and “as long as the two didn’t interfere with each other things went along grand.”

Ardclough had their first outing in the Leinster club championship against Faughs in November 1973 and were beaten 1-12 to 0-7.  

New challengers and Buffers Alley

The stage was set for a new challenger, and the arrival of Suncroft and St. Brigid’s was to coincide with the peak of Kildare’s County hurling team.

The 1974 County hurling semi-final was regarded as the “real final” by hurling followers in the county.  Ardclough beat Éire Óg by 4-6 to 1-6, and qualified to meet a Suncroft team who were 4-8 to 1-4 winners over Castledermot.

Suncroft had always got close connections with the nearby Curragh camp.  It was founded by Dick Cahill and Bill Laford in 1948, and won Junior championships in 1951 and 1953 in the era of Paddy Feeley, Laford, James, Freeman, Seamus Gough, Patrick Fahy and Billy Quinn.

Quinn starred on Suncroft teams that never reached a county final but beat Athy in 1962 and Éire Óg in 1963 in championship matches.

The Suncroft side of the early sixties was probably its strongest, Frank Fogarty, Derry Noonan, Niall Cummins, Fintan Morrissey, George Shaughnessy, Denis Hanley and Mick Cunningham, all playing for the county, as did Noel Fahy throughout the fifties.

Suncroft defeated Broadford in the Junior final of 1973 to regain Senior status, and despite a 3-19 to 3-6 defeat by Ardclough in a championship group match, qualified for the County final.

That created a surprise, but it was nothing to the surprise created when Suncroft won, 4-5 to 0- I 1, against a team that had beaten them three times that season already. When Suncroft won with a brand of hard ground hurling and by keeping Johnny Walsh scoreless from play.  It was the greatest upset in Kildare hurling since Clane’s defeat by Celrbidge in the 1921 county semi-final.

Ardclough returned to the final in 1975 with a 2-13 to 3-8 victory over old rivals Éire Óg.  Suncroft survived St. Brigid’s challenge in the other semi-final, winning 2-16 to 3-11.

The following year Ardclough beat Suncroft by 7-18 to 0-7, breaking every record in the book connected with the Kildare County championship. Johnny Walsh scored 2-9, Tim Guinan 2-2, Seamus Butler 2-0, and Micheál Johnson, son of Mick, added a goal.  Tommy Christian was the jubilant team-captain and Ger Cullen and Liam Farrell joined the list of Ardclough senior medallists in style that day.

In the 1975-76 Leinster club championship Ardclough led St. Vincents 1-11 to 1-9 with a minute to go until  Tom Quinn landed a 70 in the net with the last puck of the game. Ned Walsh admitted shedding salt tears in the dressing room afterwards. 

Ardclough and Éire Óg played another thrilling semi-final in 1976, Ardclough winning this time by 3-10 to 3-8, but Suncroft were well beaten by St. Brigid’s in in the second semi-final,. Ardclough won the final by two points after trailing 1-6 to 2-5 at half-time, the sides were level for the second time going into the last quarter, and Ardclough took the lead for the first time in the 48th minute.

This was a prelude to Ardclough’s greatest hurling achievement, victory over Wexford champions Buffer’s Alley in the 1976-77 Leinster club championship.

Ardclough beat Kilmessan of Meath 4-10 to 4-6 in Kilmessan in the first round. At half-time in this forgettable game the hour of glory seemed a long way away. Ardclough had two men sent off. Bobby Burke and Tommy Christian were both injured. The interval score was six points in favour of Kilmessan – 3-4 to 0-7. John Walsh (who got 1-7), Bobby Burke, and Micheál and Tom Johnson got the Ardclough goals.

Hurling team of 1975

Hurling team of 1975

It set up the quarter-final meeting with Buffer’s Alley who had three members of the 1976 Wexford All Ireland team (regarded as the best performance by a Wexford team, in victory or defeat for many years) on the team. They were Colm Butter, Colm Doran and Tony Doran. Goalkeeper Paddy Christian produced two great saves on the fateful day, November 21st 1976.

Alley led by 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time. Soon afterwards it was 0-7 to 0-4. Then Ardclough’s two Wexford-men started the comeback. At 45 minutes it was level. Ardclough eventually won by 0-10 to 0-9, Johnny Walsh scored half their total, Ned got two more, Bobby Burke got two and Joe Tompkins got the tenth point.

Ardclough’s adventure ended on December 5th at Rathdowney. James Stephens, “the Village”, easily beat them by 1-16 to 0-6. Johnny Walsh scored all the Ardclough points.

The 1977 County hurling final saw the Johnson cousins, the sons of Tom and Mick, on opposite sides in numbers no County final had witnessed since the Bourkes found themselves on opposite sides in 1939, when Maynooth met Broadford. Liam and Francis played for Éire Óg, their cousins Tom and Micheál played for Ardclough.  Jim “Sticks” Murphy scored two goals for Éire Óg, Pat “Red” Connolly the third as they won 3-9 to 1-12. Dom Maguire, subsequently to captain Ardclough to victory in the Senior B championship, and Joe Tompkins were appearing in their first county final for Ardclough.

Ardclough lost surprisingly to St Brigid’s in 1978, John O’Leary, Fintan Healy and Seanie Barry getting the goals. In 1979 they bounced back to beat Leixlip by 1-10 to 3-1.  One of the Leixlip players, Eugene King, transferred to Ardclough soon afterwards. Ardclough had defeated old rivals Éire Óg in the semi-final, 3-10 to 3-6 with the help of two Ned Walsh goals. In the 1979-’80 Leinster champpionship Ardclough were defeated by the brilliance of Mark Corrigan and Ger Coughlan in in Birr as Kinnitty defeated them 2-14 to 3-5.

In 1980 Ardclough defeated Casdedermot 3-13 to 0-4 in the semifinal having trounced Éire Óg 4-12 to 0-5.  St. Brigids defeated Leixlip 5-10 to 2-9, but were heavily beaten 4-9 to 0-3 as Ardclough completed the double’and avenged the 1978 defeat.  Noel O’Sullivan was a welcome addition to the Ardclough team that year, Dom Maguire, Ned Walsh, Ben Maguire and substitute Eugene King landed the goals.  Although Johnny Walsh only scored once, his brother Ned contributed 1-4. Ardclough eventually got back on the winning trail at Leister championship level in 1980-81 when they defeated Camross by 3-13 to 3-9 in Naas on a day many of the Cuddy family were at a funeral.  In Portlaoise Coolderry of Offaly eliminated them, 2-5 to 1-7, on a day Johnny Walsh uncharacteristically missed the chance of an equalising point to add to his 0-5

Ardclough’s completed a county treble in 1981 against St. Brigids – the fourth final between the teams. Pat White scored four points for Brigids who had beaten Naas 1-12 to 0-3 in the semi-final. Ardclough beat Castledermot 4-11 to 1-2 in the other semi-final, so St. Brigids were clearly the closest rivals Ardclough could find in the county.

Ben Maguire was the goalscorer in Ardclough’s 1-11 to 0-7 victory in the final.  Ned scored six points, Mick O’Connell limited Johnny to three this time. Ardclough had home venue against St. Rynagh’s in the Leinster club championship.  They put four goals past the hero of Offaly’s All Ireland victory, Damien Martin in a 4-5 to 3-13 defeat.  Rynagh’s only came back into the game in the final minutes.  A Johnny Walsh goal straightaway started Ardclough’s assault, Rynaghs didn’t score until the 17th minute.

But the draw produced a different pairing in 1982.  Ardclough defeated Brigids 1-12 to 1-8 in the group match, and Éire Óg later deposed St. Brigids completely.  Éire Óg hammered Naas 5-13 to 0-8 to reach the final.  Ardclough beat Leixlip 3-12 to I- 1 3. The final saw Ardclough win by three points I- 19 to 1-6, when the injured Johnny Walsh came on as a substitute.  Instead Bobby Burke, operating at corner forward took the frees and scored five points.  Mick Dwane scored another goal.

Their Leinster campaign started with a 2-10 to 1-4 victory over Kilteel.  Both goals came from 65’s, Tommy Christian sending to Johnny Walsh and ex-Castiedermot player Aidan Byrne for goals.  Ardclough met Buffers Alley on the October Bank holiday Monday.  Alley had played their county final the day before and were none too pleased at Kildare’s insistence at fulfilling the fixture.  Neither was Pat McCarthy, Ardclough’s ex-Kerry footballer who was forced to miss the Dublin City marathon after six months of training.

There was no repeat of 1976.  Buffers Alley won 4-10 to 1-11 and Ardclough players felt all the goals had been preventable.  Ardclough were by no means out of their depth.  Ardclough went into the second round again in 1983 with a victory over Carlow champions St. Mullins.  In the second round, with Johnny Walsh recovering from a hand injury from the previous Sunday playing for Kildare against Offaly, they succumbed to Kinnity.

The 1983 championship, Ardclough’s fifth, was achieved with the help of a massive 7-17 to 2-4 victory over Naas.  Castledermot were the new opponents, built around the 21 year old Greg Deering, the best young hurler in the county.  Ardclough won easily again, I- 16 to 0-6.

An injury to Mick Dwane prevented him joining two colleagues who were playing in their 20th successive county final.  They were Tommy Christian, and Bobby Burke.  Colm O’Malley had also been involved in all the winning panels.

Ardclough won the Centenary competition in early 1984, but failed to reach the county final for the first time since 1964. They were back to win their last county hurling title (to date) in 1985, when Tom Johnson captained the team to a two point victory over Castledermot, Ned Byrne scoring the deciding goal just over ten minutes form the end. The 1985 team was: Bobby Bryan; Cha O’Connor, Richie Cullen, Tommy Christian; Billy Cullen, Pat McCarthy, Eddie Carroll; Tom Johnson, Gerry Boland; Tom Griffin, Ned Walsh, Mick Behan; Mick Dwan, John Devanney, Ned Byrne.

In 1986 Ardclough were beaten by five points by Leixlip, in what was the final stand of a team that already boasted 81 SHC medals between them, with the first five subs claiming a further 33. Ardclough lost the match in the final twenty minutes, after an injury to centre half back Ned Walsh. They led by a point at half time thanks to a goal from Tommy Christian, who was playing in his 23rd final.

That was the end of an era for Ardclough hurling. The careers of Tommy Christian, Mick Dwane, Colm O’Malley and Bobby Burke spanned all twenty years. The 16-year-old Richie Cullen played his first final at centrefield in 1966 and afterwards at full-back. Wexford born Ned Walsh came in 1967 and was joined by his brother, free-scoring Johnny Walsh in 1970. Ardclough contested nine successive finals against Éire Óg 1965-74, a record for any grade in football and hurling, including their first title in 1968 when one of their minors, Richie Cullen, captained the team. Der Connor, John Cummins and Mick Dwane contributed to the 2-12 total against 3-3 for Éire Óg. Counting semi-finals the sides met for 14 years in a row.

Even though it took 19 years to win their next senior title Ardclough continued to play a prominent role in Kildare hurling. They narrowly lost the 1998 final by a point to Colm Byrne’s late free for Coill Dubh.

Ardclough eventually returned to the podium when they beat Coill Dubh 2-12 to 0-11 in the 2004 county final with goals from Andy Whelan and Pádraig O’Malley. Ardclough regained the county title in 2006 defeating Confey by four points, 3-9 to 0-14. Ardclough took command of the final with a goal from Paul Fitzgerald inside the first minute and two goals from corner forward Andrew Whelan in the space of 60 seconds leaving Ardclough with a half time lead of 3-5 to 0-9. Kevin Divilly hit 0-9, 0-6 from frees but they paid dearly for their poor start.

They then went on to make history winning the first Leinster Intermediate Club Hurling Championship beating Ratharney of Westmeath in the final by 2-6 to 2-4, the goals coming from Ronan O’Malley and Richie Hoban

Camogie

Ardclough Kildare camogie champions 1968

Ardclough Kildare camogie champions 1968

Ardclough camogie club was founded in 1962 with Margaret Christian as chair, Ann Johnson as secretary and Breda Johnson as treasurer, with the support of GAA club members Mick Houlihan and Patrick O’Connor. The original colours were brown and yellow, now black, red and yellow. Josie O’Connor captained the team that won the Kildare senior championship in 1968, a remarkable achievement for a club that was just six years in existence

In 1967, 1969 and 1971 the Club were runners-up in the Senior League, and in 1968 they won the Senior Championship. One member, Mary Maguire, won one of the two awards for the most sporting player in 1966. Another member, Kathleen Higgins, won a college’s award with Naas in 1967. Margaret Molloy won a Leinster medal with Kildare in 1966 and in 1969; she and Mary Maguire won yet another two medals.

1939 Leinster camogie final in the rectory field in Kill

1939 Leinster camogie final in the rectory field in Kill

Players who represented Kildare on a number of years were: Margaret Molloy, Breda Cullen, Ann Dunne, Margaret Christian, Mary Maguire, Bridget Cushen and Kathleen Higgins. Four other Club members won medals on a number of occasions with the Vocational School in Naas; they are Carol Molloy, Loreto Cullen, Jacinta Butler and Bernadette Farrell.

Honours

  • Kildare GAA Club of the Year 2006.
  • Johnny O’Grady was Kildare GAA club man of the year in 1982
  • Billy Cullen was Kildare GAA club man of the year in 2004

Hurling

  • Kildare Senior Hurling Championship Winners (12): 1968, 1973, 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 2004 & 2006
  • Senior Hurling League Champions (14): 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1983, 2005
  • Centenary Senior Hurling Championship (1): 1984
  • Under-21 Hurling Championship (4): 1964, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2010* (Killard)
  • Minor Hurling Champions (6): 1956, 1968, 1995, 1996, 2006, 2008
  • Minor Hurling B Championship Champions (2): 2004, 2005
  • Leinster Intermediate Club Hurling Championship Winners (1): 2006

Football

  • Kildare Senior Football Championship winners (1): 1949
  • Senior Football League Champions (2): 1949, 1950
  • Intermediate Football Champions (1): 1943
  • Junior Football Champions (3): 1941, 1959, 1968
  • Junior Hurling Champions (3):1949, 1954, 1959
  • Junior Football Championship champions (4): 1941, 1959, 1968, 2000
  • Intermediate Football League Champions (1): 1959
  • Junior Football League (4):1940, 1943, 1944, 1951
  • Senior Football League Division 3 Champions (1): 1976
  • The Leinster Leader Junior Club Cup 2003.

Camogie

  • Kildare Senior Camogie Championship 1968
  • Intermediate camogie champions 1988
  • Junior Camogie Champions 1983, 2000
  • Camogie Senior League runners-up 1967, 1969, 1971
  • Intermediate League 1988
  • The 1949 team that beat the army was: Jim Nolan; Dick Murphy, Dan Graham, John Farrell; Christy Burke, Danny Molloy, Bury O’Connor; Dick McKenna, Phipps Cullen; Mick Conroy, Jas. Christian, Arty Burke; Jimmy Butler, Patrick Graham, Frank Gramine. Christy Barrett played in the drawn game.
  • The first team to represent the club was: Sonny Cullen, Tom McDonald, Paddy Farrell, Joe Meaney, Paddy Graham, Jimmy Nolan, Tom Meancy, Mick Burke, Dan Graham, Paddy Bermingham, Bill Bergin, Frank Graham, Jimmy Higgins, Tommy Forde, Paddy Nolan, Tom Christian. Subs: Dick Murphy, Jack Thapson.

Profile of Johnny Walsh from Kildare GAA Centenary History (1984):

One of only two Kildare All Star nominees in hurling was Ardclough player Johnny Walsh who topped the national average scoring charts, five times in eight years between 1975 and 1983.  His totals include 3-6 against Tipperary in the 1971 National League quarter-final, 0-12 against Wexford the day Kildare almost qualified for the Leinster hurting final in Athy, 0-10 against Wexford again in the 1979-’80 League – he likes to do it against his old county.

He was 29 before he first played for Kildare. Johnny won Leinster and All Ireland intermediate honours with Wexford in 1961.  With Hollow Rangers he won his first junior hurling medals in 1959, added a J.H.C. there in 1960, and joined New trelands in Dublin in 196 1.

A spell back with Hollow Rangers brought another junior football medal in the county, and although Johnny was selected on county football and hurling teams he was never considered for championship.

When his brother Ned joined Ardclough Johnny followed.The county selectors took note.  Johnny Walsh was sprung on to the Kildare team for an intermediate championship semi-final against Kilkenny in 1969.  Folkore recounts Johnny was “not entirely legal” when he played in the match. Johnny scored three points, Kilkenny were beaten by three points and Kildare went on to win the All-Ireland championship without his help.

After one or two appearances as a substitute Johnny wore the number 12 jersey against Waterford in the 1970 National League, when he scored 2-3.  He scored 1-5 in his next match against Laois wearing the number 10 jersey for the first time.  Since then, his association with that jersey is as famous as Pele’s, among hurling supporters.

Apart from his hurling exploits with Ardclough, Johnny played with Kildare footballers after winning a senior football county title with Ardclough, scoring goals against Dublin and Westmeath in the O’Byrne Cup, in early 1970.

His scoring prowess meant he joined Pat Dunny on the Leinster hurling team.  The 1976 performance against Wexford was undoubtedly his finest hour.  He travelled to the USA as Kildare’s second All Star replacement with Pat Dunny (Dunny had travelled in 1976) and won the man-of-the-match award in San Francisco. He was selected on Ireland hurling teams in 1973; 1974, and 1977, an honour subsequently matched by Tony Spain when he was selected for the hurling-shinty international in 2003.

From the Ardclough GAA jubilee commemorative booklet (Oct 5 1936):

  • Leonard “Sonny” Cullen was the first Ardclough player to represent his county when in 1934 he played on the Kildare minor team.
  • John Farrell was the first Ardclough player to play senior football for Kildare, in the drawn 1944 championship match against Carlow, and went on to make 27 competitive appearances for the county (at a time when far fewer matches were played). Anthony Burke first played against Wicklow in the Leinster football league at Aughrim  on October 1, 1944. He played full-back against Wexford in the 1945 championship, and played a total of 39 competitive games fro Kildare. Frank Graham first played for Kildare against Dublin in the Leinster football league on October 15, 1944.
  • Christy Burke and Mick Conroy first played in 1948 against Offaly, Chris went on to make 35 appearances representing Ardclough and then St Dympnas. Jimmy Christian played against Dublin in 1950. Kieran O’Malley first played senior for Kildare against Longford in 1957 and went on to make 32 league and championship appearances before injury cut short his career in 1962. Other Ardclough footballers who have represented their county are: Dan Graham, B. O’Connor, W. Bergin, Attie Burke, W. Cullen, M. Courcy, D. Molloy, J. Christian, Tom “Tucker” Maguire, L. Cullen, T. Christian, D. O’Connor, C. O’Connor.
  • Anthony Burke won a Railway Cup medal with Leinster in 1949, playing in the semi-final and final against Ulster and Munster.
  • For the first 50 years of the club’s history there have been only three secretaries and two treasurers. They were: Secretaries, Johnny O’Grady ’36-’62, Paddy O’Connor ’62-76; Treasurers: Dan Graham ’36 to ’62 and Johnny O’Grady ’62-76.

From the 1986 Kildare county hurling final programme:

“The only recorded mention of hurling in the accounts of St Patrick conversion of Ireland to the true faith occurs in Agallamh na Seanórach and tells of one of the sons of the King of Leinster who had escaped from the Aos Sí (fairies). He had been captured by two fairy women after giving an outstanding display of hurling at Sí Liamhna some years previously and aksed for the Saint’s protectin. Sí Liamhna is, of course, Lyons Hill. There are some people who think he was kept in captivity until the mid-twentieth century and released under the name of Johnny Walsh. Oithers, of course, have been known to mutter prayers that SOMEBODY might kidnap him and give some other Kildare club a chance of winning the championship.” – The Agallamh of another Seanórach, Ger Tiernan.

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