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‘Come on the Larries’ … a slogan based on an ancient story

‘Come on the Larries’ is a well known catch-cry  whenever the distinctive gold-and-red jerseys of the team which represents the Narraghmore-Ballitore area appear on the playing fields of Co. Kildare.  But who is the ‘Larry’ in question and what is his connection with south Kildare? The source of the dedication is St. Laurence O’Toole, a local man who went on to become one of the great leaders in Irish Christian history.  Consideration of Laurence O’Toole’s exciting life story is timely given that his memorial day, celebrated in the Archdiocese of Dublin, is marked on the 14th of November each year. 
It sometimes comes as a surprise to learn that the Archdiocese of Dublin extends deep into Co. Kildare covering not alone much of the northern part of the county but also extending down its eastern flank extending to the very south.  As a result parishes located in the civil county of Kildare such as of Eadestown, Ballymore Eustace, Kilcullen, Moone, Athy and  Castledermot, among others, come under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin. It is Castledermot which is regarded as the birthplace of  Laurence O’Toole, one of only a handful of formally canonised figures of Irish birth. A stone monument with gold lettering stands in the beautiful Mullaghgreelan wood – on the road from Castledermot to Athy – commemorating the saints’ intimate connection with the locality.
 Laurence was born in or about 1128 to parents of some status – his father was an O’Toole, his mother an O’Byrne, both from clans prominent in the countryside west of the Wicklow mountains. But his noble birth did not protect the young Laurence from the chaotic and violent politics of the time. He was taken as a hostage by Dermot McMurrough, King of Leinster who was later to earn enduring notoriety as the grasping king who sold out the old Irish kingdoms to the avaricious Normans.
McMurrough eventually released the young Laurence into the care of the monks of St. Kevin’s ancient monastery at Glendalough. He soon developed a deep attachment to religious life and his holiness and talents brought recognition from his confreres. At just 25 years he was elected Abbot of Glendalough, in the line of succession from St. Kevin. Appropriately Kevin and Laurence, although separated by some six centuries, are the joint patron saints of the Dublin Archdiocese. But there was much more in store for Laurence and in 1162 he was appointed Archbishop of Dublin, the first Irish born cleric to be so appointed. For generations previously the bishops of Dublin had been appointed by the Danes  who had ruled the early city. But if Laurence’s elevation marked the end of one kind of invasion it came just as the country was to be hit by another. Within a decade the Norman barons -- of French and Welsh origin -- had landed in Ireland and began a form of colonisation by building castles, establishing baronies, and appointing their own kinsmen as leaders of civic and church life. 
Ireland in the modern era is a cosmopolitan nation but the Dublin of the late 12th century was alos multi-ethnic place with descendants of the Danes, the Normans, and the indigenous Irish living side-by-side, sometimes in conflict, and other times making alliances and marrying into each other’s cultures. Laurence, as Archbishop of Dublin, was a key figure in attempting to broker peace when conflict broke out between the various factions. Even his best efforts were often overwhelmed by the chaos of the time but he succeeded in placing the Archdiocese of Dublin on a firm footing. He was a moderniser bringing in some of the great European monastic orders such as the Cistercians and Benedictines into Ireland. He installed a community of canons in Christchurch Cathedral, the diocesan cathedral. Despite the difficulty of travelling in those times Laurence was a committed European making several trips to the continent including a visit to Rome where Pope Alexander III ordained him as papal representative to the Irish Church. However even Laurence’s repute as a mediator could not cope with the wiles of King Henry II. He set off to meet Henry to try and broker a peace between the king’s barons in Ireland and the indigenous clan chieftains. Henry led him on a wild-goose chase to Normandy in France. Frustrated in his attempts to meet the king, Laurence took ill and died in a monastery at Eu in Normandy. His memory is celebrated there, and in the parishes of the Dublin Archdiocese,  in the 14th day of  November each year. Series no: 254. 

'Come on the Larries,' is the distinctive cry of the St. Laurence's GFC as Liam Kenny reveals who the 'Larry' actually is in his weekly series of Looking Back. Our thanks to Liam

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