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'The rivalry is terrible' - GAA action in Kildare a century ago

Leinster Leader 15 March 2007

‘The rivalry is terrible’ – GAA action in Kildare a century ago



With the arrival of spring a young man’s fancy turns to … sport. Yes the advent of the spring brings a ramping up of interest in sports coverage. Already there is speculation about teams and managers for the GAA senior championships with many column inches being devoted to news from the various county training grounds. And already the pundits and analysts are pondering their commentaries for another memorable year of championship action.

And it was no different 100 years ago this month with the columns of the Leinster Leader of March 1907 bringing news from the sports grounds of the province. Pride of place in the sports columns went to the paper’s idiosyncratic GAA columnist who wrote under the pen-name of ‘Thigeen Roe’.  Famous for a freewheeling style of writing which took swipes at county boards, players and referees with great abandon he focussed his March 30 column on looking forward to the Kildare Senior Championship final which would sees Roseberry versus Lord Edwards at the Athy Gaelic grounds. 

Sparing nothing in terms of whipping up atmosphere ‘Thigeen Roe’ declared that ‘the Gaels of Kildare may rest assured that given a fine day, the match will be absolutely the best ever played in Ireland.’  Piling on the hyperbole he continued ‘the rivalry between both teams is terrible’ but ‘notwithstanding the intense rivalry between the teams, both are perfectly disciplined, so that however intense may be the excitement, the match is bound to be fought to a bitter and gallant conclusion.’

Not content with building up excitement for the match he also had advice for the public transport companies of  the time advising them to lay on an ‘extra large’ special train to Athy because ‘ for the last eight weeks nothing Gaelic has been seriously mentioned in Kildare except the match for the final.’  And in a revelatory insight into the drawing power of even a county final in 1907 he said that large numbers would come from beyond the county boundary: ‘Nor is the interest merely local. Both teams have reputations far beyond Kildare, and a good crowd of metropolitan Gaels are sure to make the journey.’

Moving to the inter-county stage the columnist showed a defiant attitude to potential challengers which the Kildare county team might meet in the national championships.  He noted that there was rumour abroad that in the Munster Football Championship Limerick had been awarded a walk-over against Kerry by the Munster Council.  ‘Thigeen Roe’ was happy to say that there was no truth in this story and that Kerry and Limerick were due to meet on 7 April. He predicted that ‘the men from the Kingdom will, in all probability, qualify to fight out the All-Ireland once again with Kildare’.   With a bravado seldom available to modern chroniclers of Kildare GAA fortunes he concluded that a Kerry win would be a fine outcome for the Lilywhites because ‘ If Kildare won the All-Ireland without meeting Kerry or a better team, the honours would be comparatively barren. I am delighted beyond measure to have an opportunity of avenging the defeat of two years ago.’

One quality that the columnist was not lacking in was certainty – the following was his verdict on the prospect of the Lilywhites facing the men from the Kingdom: ‘ I have full confidence that whatever team Kildare puts on the field will win … Gaelic footballers are well-nigh at that perfection in Kildare beyond which it is humanly impossible to advance.’

Such unbridled confidence in the potential of the county team emphasises the esteem in which the Lilywhites were held among the GAA fraternity nationwide in the early decades of the twentieth century … an appropriate thought given that 2007 marks the 80th anniversary of Kildare’s second last All-Ireland win in 1927.



Compiled by Liam Kenny from the rich resource of the Leinster Leader files, Local Studies Dept., Kildare County Library. Series No. 7.

The third instalment for March from Liam Kenny's article 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' from the Leinster Leader concerns G.A.A. reporting from 1907. Out thanks to Liam.

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