Tony Conboy – Boyle’s Long Journey into the Light

Reflections on Boyle’s Long Journey into the Light
(In case I forget it below; 1. Boyle GAA are hugely grateful for the response to their gofundme fundraising appeal the link to which can be sourced on Boyle GAA’s Facebook page. 2. The county pro has gone to a lot of effort to produce a very good programme so it promises to be a good souvenir of the final but buy early if doing so! 3. Secure empty houses! )
There is a legendary story of Robert Bruce, aspiring King of Scotland, who was defeated in his quest by the English six times. He was hiding in a cave and saw a spider trying to have his web stick to the cave wall and fail six times but with the seventh throw it stuck. It inspired Robert to try again which he did and he was victorious.
That is the case with many in sport and in life and in a sense it is Boyle’s GAA story also. It is hardly credible that we have not won or contested a county final since 1927, ninety-five years ago. That final was won by Boyle on the score 2.7 to Donamon 1.0. played at Strokestown. Club President Barry Feely is the proud custodian of his father Henry’s medal from that time. Today Luke McGrath the great-grandson of Henry Feely is in the Boyle panel.
In later decades Boyle have won a number of Intermediate title as in ’83; ’94 2005 and 2013. After those wins and being promoted to senior grade they contested the senior championships for varying periods before returning to the second level again. After their win in ’94 the team was led through the town by the fine Town Band of that time. They succeeded in winning again in 2005, as, after a replay with St. Ronan’s, Boyle defeated Kilmore in the final with the O’ Donohoe brothers to the fore. A feature of that year was a campaign in Connacht where they had wins over Coolaney-Mullinabreena (after a replay) and Dromahair thus qualifying for the Connacht Intermediate Final where they lost to Caherlistrane of Galway in Tuam. Gerry Cregg, father of Oisin and Dara, was the manager of that team.
The great All-Ireland minor win of 2006 had Cian Smith and Ciaran Cox on board with manager Fergal O’Donnell assisted by Stephen Bohan.
The 2013 Intermediate Success
Boyle returned to Intermediate status and contested the final in 2013. In that campaign Boyle beat St. Brigid’s second team; St. Barry’s; St. Dominick’s in the Semi-Final and Tulsk in a high standard final. This was followed with two Connacht games in November when they defeated Eslin of Leitrim but the run ended with a convincing win by Kiltane of Mayo in Castlebar, in the final. The manager of that team. David O’ Connor was a long term under- coach starting with a trip to Mosney in Commmunity Games in ’99. He is the father of Marc of this team.
In the years since 2013 Boyle have contested 4 Senior Semi-Finals, 2 v St. Brigid’s; 1 v Roscommon Gaels and 1 v Padraig Pearse’s. There were also 2 unsuccessful quarter-finals v Padraig Pearse’s. Now we are a step further on and….hopefully…. we will jump the final hurdle.
Boyle’s Focus on Under-Age Development Bears Fruit
Success at adult and senior level hinges on the work put in by the many coaches of young teams with consistency and skill. Boyle has been lucky down the years with top class trainers from John McGowan in the late sixties, Sean Young through many decades and a long list of other coaches. In ’96 there was a notable U 12 ‘A’ win over Clann na nGael. It was celebrated with its theme song ‘Simply the Best’. Two formidable players still plying their trade are Sean Purcell and Roch Hanmore. In the early 2000s there has been a number of very talented young players and fine and competitive teams emerged at the various under-age levels. This is largely due to people like Aidan Lavin, Bernard Shannon, Paul Beirne, and later Noel Casey and Gerry Cregg. Pat Goldrick amongst other club chores was key to the All-Ireland Féile of ’07. The schools too have been great nurseries. During a period of time then, every Boyle under-age team was playing in Division One.
Some Reflections on Boyle’s GAA Story.
In very old films there was occasionally a closing sequence with the main characters, whether they be soldiers from “All Quiet on the Western Front” or “The Four Horsemen of Notre Dame” shown in shadows. In looking back over a Club’s story, it too can be a wistful exercise. There is a stone at the gate of the fine ‘The Abbey Park’ echoing the fact that the first GAA meeting to set up a county structure for the game in Roscommon took place in Boyle. The first President was the irascible Editor of ‘The Roscommon Herald’ paper Jasper Tully. Through the decades since then there were hundreds who enabled the Club to grow with a recent surge helping to make it the fine club that now exists. This of course is replicated with clubs in Roscommon, nationally and internationally.
The Abbey Park was bought and developed in the 1970s. It got a huge overhaul 2004/5 when Dermot Earley performed the official re-opening. The fine dressing room facilities were officially opened in 2010 when Gerry O’Malley and our own hero, John Joe Nerney, performed the opening of it. It is now a gem of a sports facility and no better sporting sight can there be when in walking up the Sligo road towards Boyle town, on a sunny summer’s day and seeing the park flooded with youngsters for a Cúl Camp.
In ’07 emigration took its toll and while a number of players have thankfully returned we remember people like Ciaran Conlon, Tadhg Egan, Darren Dockery, Damien Keenehan, Seamus Gallagher, Ciarán Keenehan, Niall Moore, Damien Dooley, Paul McDermot, Karl Feighan, Chris O’Dowd and his uncle Timothy, Hilary & Kenneth Beirne and John Harrington amongst many others who are in distant lands.
Remembering Friends
I personally remember and note here our friends who were associated with the club, back in the day, as they say. John Austin Biesty who was with the club in the late fifties and early sixties. Now domiciled in New York he has never forgotten his native town. Paddy Conlon was a key player in the team that won the Junior Championship in ’64. There was no intermediate then. Paddy and family live in Berkshire, England. A huge loss to Boyle and Roscommon was Pat Nicholson from Corrigeenroe. He was a great player on a great U 21 Roscommon team which defeated hot favourites Kildare in the 1966 U 21 final. I was there, happily. He has lived in the U.S. for decades but returns regularly. Pat Clarke, John Kelly, Ray Sheerin and John Nicholson were also local members of that team.
John MacDermott was on the 1964 Junior winning team but he was ‘warming up’, as the athlete he was/is would do, but in that process he missed the photograph and any time I use that picture I have to add ‘missing from picture John Mac Dermott’. I am trying to make amends for that here now. He is pictured after winning a gold medal at the World ‘Masters’ Athletic Championships (over 75), 300 metre title at Helsinki in July.
Bill Corcoran, Corrigeenroe, Boyle goalkeeper of the fifties as well as being ‘Mayor of Boyle’. Live-time supporter of all things Roscommon. Passed away in Dublin in early September in his 90s’.
The Emergence of Ladies Club;
Today, Sunday, as I came past the Abbey Park on my way home from an under 13 boys Division 2 Final game in Ballintubber I encountered a colourful and loud celebration of the win by the ladies of the Sean Daly Memorial Cup. The U 13 s’ lost their game but like Bruce they will return.
The establishment of ‘The Ladies GAA Club’ by Sean Daly, Derek Gormley and colleagues, in 2005, has borne its fruits through the years. Recently on Saturday the 8th last they won Intermediate honours. Indeed, the involvement of the ladies in all facets of the club’s structures, in the last twenty years, has been outstanding.
You might have heard the sentiment about a number of clubs that they had personnel who could ‘run’ the country. We have had and have them. Mentioning names is a minefield but I’ll go there in mentioning Bernadette Keenehan, Mary Clifford, Mary Smith, Kathleen Hanmore and Jan Flanagan just for now.
Recent developments have extended the palette of options with camogie and hurling in the process of growth because of the dedication of small groups. Hurling when played well is possibly the greatest game.
We thank the present team- all exemplary young men- and Cian and his assistants for all their efforts in getting to the final. They have won 6 from eight games in winning the O’Rourke Final for the first time v Western Gaels in Ballinameen in July. In the championship to date they have won 5 games. Sunday October the 23rd is a day that Boyle GAA activists and supporters have dreamed of for so long. We will be happy and proud to be present to support this fine team.
(While we here are giddy with anticipation we might think a prayer for the people of Creeslough and our comrade Club there, St. Michael’s, as they struggle with their grief after an unimaginable tragedy.)
Boyle’s horsemen might include from down the years, Paddy Doogue, Henry Feely, Jim Clarke, Paddy Leonard, Mickie Morris, John Joe Nerney, Charlie Feely, Paddy McDermott, Bob Carr of whom Pat Clarke suggested that, ‘no truer Gael ever lived than Bob Carr’; Michéal O’ Callaghan, John McGowan and SEAN YOUNG. Boyle GAA Club has come a long way.
(P. S. May I apologise for the many sins of omission in this piece.)