Johnny O’Grady memoir (1986)

Recollections of Johnny O’Grady (from the Ardclough GAA jubilee commemorative booklet, Oct 5 1986):

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

In 1936 Ardclough players fielded with different teams, some with Sallins, some with Celbridge, others with Kill. Inevitably, Ardclough players found themselves playing against each other. This was frustrating and no one felt it more so than the late Dan Graham and myself, Indeed I remember the night we first convinced ourselves that there could be a better way of organising things. After that August night things began to move. A meeting was called and held in Mick Tracy’s workshop by the canal. We had no field, no funds and no meeting place; it was hard to see any future but it was decided that it was worth a try. The meeting appointed Danny Graham as treasurer and myself as secretary. It was to be a trial period until the next January. A collection was organised. We set about raising three old pence a week and had a silver collection (6d) at the end of each month. These sums look small now but when compared with the wages of the time they were a real sacrifice.

When the time for the meeting of 1937 arrived £26 had been raised. Danny Graham provided the use of a field (part of the land where the school and new houses now stand) to be used for practise. Enough players joined to make a team and indeed a number of Kill players registered with us as their club withdrew from competitions that year.

Team of 1930s

Team of 1930s

After the general meeting we set about getting equipped. I remember the day Mick Tracy and myself set at for Elvery’s. We purchased our first set of jerseys and three pairs of  shorts for £23-15-0. I need hardly tell you of the enthusiasm that was all about at the sight of the jerseys. They were green jerseys with white collars and cuffs. After our affiliation we next had to set about getting a playing field. At the time the Land Commission was redistributing land and put of Bishopscourt was being divided. Jim Christian who owned the land where the present pitch is agreed to exchange it for some land in Bishopscourt and so in 1938 we got our field.

Ardclough team of 1938

Ardclough team of 1938

Community spirit was at an all time high. In 1938 a drive began to raise funds to build a hall. In the meantime Fr. O’Brien allowed us to meet in the upstairs part of the old school. The teachers of the period were generous with their time and help in organising concerts and plays. Funds were raised by card drives (when people played “15” for sweep tickets) and billiard tournaments. The hall was built by voluntary labour to plans drawn up by Mick Carthy who lived in Kearneystown.

Function in Ardclough Hall

Function in Ardclough Hall

It is difficult to describe the commitment of the people involved. The best I can do is give an example. The hall was built of mass concrete which had to be poured into the panels all the way around. I can remember one night when work continued until 3am so that the full circuit could be completed. In these times with the excellent facilities people have for social and sporting purposes, it is probably difficult for younger people to grasp the effort and achievement that was involved and part of that effort was to ensure the facilities were there for other generations.

Team of 1940s

Team of 1940s

The hall was completed in 1940 and it will come as no surprise to anyone to learn that those people who were capable of doing so much in four then years sent out teams to win every competition in the Kildare GAA calendar. The nucleus of the successful teams of the forties was Fr O’Brien’s school team of 1936. This team went all the way to the county final (under 14) only to fail to a Newbridge team built around the “Boiler” White. From our first junior championship in 1941 to the 1949 senior final, Ardclough produced great teams and great entertainment.

Ardclough Kildare senior  football champions 1949

Ardclough Kildare senior football champions 1949

The success of that pride and the achievements of later years can be put down to one thing – community spirit. Whenever something has to be done or a need fulfilled, that spirit is always there. It was a spirit like that that made it easy for in, to serve the club since it, foundation, first as secretary until 1962 and since then as treasurer. That cry community spirit make, it difficult to single out people but I would be wrong to let this opportunity pass without espressing my appreciation to all the Chairmen and committees who have served the club well in the last fifty years. A special word of appreciation to Paddy O’Connor – it is hard to believe that in its fifty years Ardclough has only had two Secretaries, but that is so and Paddy O’Connor has given everything to the job. Two Chairmen have presided over the club at very important times. When Ardclough’s success was at its height in the forties, the club was guided by Tom Meaney in a quiet efficient manner and in recent times the foresight and careful planning of Jack Molloy has seen the club expand its facilities to include a bar, dressing rooms, showers, meeting and games rooms. It has been a privilege to serve the club with men such as these at the helm.

I have enjoyed every year working for the good of Ardclough and since 1937 have been delegate to the Co. Board. It has been an honour to have served under Chairmen there from the late Tom Lawlor down to the present Chairman Pat Dunny and Secretaries from the late Tim Clarke to the present.

In conclusion, during my term with the GAA I have worked with many great Gaels of both my club, county and further afield who have gone to their rest. Go ndéana Dia trócaire ar a n-amanacha.

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