GAA Clubs in the Parish of Murroe and Boher

By John Brouder

Acknowledgement: Sean Hogg’s ‘Má Rua Abú’

The paths of Boher and Murroe have crossed many times since the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles, on the 1st November 1884. Representatives from the Boher and Murroe clubs travelled to a special congress held in Thurles on 27th September, 1886. I wonder did they travel together? Both clubs also attended the inaugural county board meeting in the Town Hall, Limerick, on Saturday, 15th January 1887. The names of the Murroe representatives at these meetings are not known. John Ryan ‘Jim’ of Killonan and Michael O’Neill of Brittas attended on Boher’s behalf.

1887 saw the beginning of the county championship. Boher were drawn against South Liberties in the county semi-final. It proved a hectic game and ended abruptly when a dispute arose regarding a score. The county board ordered a replay on a weekday in order to speed up the championship. Boher refused to travel because many of their players were working. This paved the way for a county final between South Liberties and Murroe at the Grocers Field on Sunday, 17th July. It was a dour struggle, lasting from 2.45 to 5.30 p.m. South Liberties disputed a Murroe Goal, claiming that the ball had gone wide before being kicked back into play by a spectator. The referee, Paddy O’Brien ‘Twenty’, was surrounded by supporters from both sides at the final whistle but refused to declare a winner. He invited a deputation to call to his house later in the evening, and then awarded the goal and the match to Murroe on a 1-02 to 0-03 scoreline. The Murroe team was Pad Godfrey (Captain), Dan Godfrey, Pat Power, Mick Clarke, Jimmy Simmons, John Ryan, Mike Fitzgibbon, Denis O’Malley, Paddy Ryan, Dan O’Brien, Pat Rainsford, Jim Healy, Patsy Ryan, Tom Fleming, Philip Fleming, Tim Humphreys, Ger Foley, John Foley, Tom Gleeson, John Hartnett and Denis Cooke.

The Board, however decided to reopen the case of the unfinished semi-final and awarded Boher the match. The decision brought Murroe and Boher together in what amounted to a second county final, played on this occasion at Ballysimon. “It proved a terrific struggle, fought at a furious pace. No score was conceded by either defence in a thrilling first half hour of hurling. Excitement was unbounded when eight minutes from the restart, Boher secured a great goal. They looked all set for victory as further hot offensives were launched but in a sharp Murroe assault Jim O’Brien, one of the best back men in Ireland at the time – he could stop a marble, his admirers claimed – went down before a hot charge by Murroe’s star attacker, Dan Godfrey, and was unfortunate to suffer a broken nose. The loss of this great player discouraged the team with the result that Murroe forged through for the scores which gave them victory. The Boher team was John Ryan ‘Jim’ (Captain), William O’Connor, Michael McDonnell (‘the best scoring forward in the county in his day’), William Ryan ‘Ger’, William Meade ‘The Merchant’, Timothy O’Donnell, all of Killonan; Richard Power, (Goalkeeper), Joseph and Thomas Goonan, Caherconlish; James and Edward O’Brien, Kishikirk; Patrick Harty, Highpark; Denis Hayes, Boher; John Mulcahy, Knockeen; Patrick Hayes, Brittas; Kennedy O’Brien, Ballyart; James O’Brien, The Huts, who later went to Barronstown; James and Patrick Lloyd, Grange; Paddy O’Brien, Bohermore; and James Ryan ‘Vil’, Teneteriffe”.

A grandson of Paddy O’Brien told me how he got his nickname. A county board meeting was called and nineteen men turned up. The meeting counldn’t start as the quorum for a board meeting was twenty, and rules were rules. The nineteen were left twiddling their thumbs until suddenly the door opened and Paddy O’Brien walked in. “Here’s twenty”, shouted someone. The name stuck.

With the Fenian faction winning the day at the famous Thurles Convention of 9th November 1887, the clerical hold on the GAA weakened. Delegates led by Fr. Sheehy staged a walk-out at the Limerick Convention when Paddy O’Brien representing the physical force party, was re-elected chairman. This resulted in two county boards for the 1888 championship. Murroe, as champions of one board, met South Liberties, champions of the other, in the county final. Seven special trains carried supporters from Limerick to the match in Croom. South Liberties emerged victors on this occasion, 0-01 to 0-00, and went on to win the next two championships. The Parnell Split added fuel to the fire of the walk-out. It was a serious blow to the GAA in general and caused the break-up of many clubs. Matters eventually improved and Limerick County Board was reformed in November 1894. Boher Nationals reached the 1895 county final, beating Castleconnell and Smith O’Briens in the early rounds, and Kilfinance Emmets by 2-07 to 1-03 in the semi-final. Two years later, Kilfinane, representing Limerick, won the All-Ireland. Objections to the constitution of the Boher team were made to the county board – one delegate claimed that a Kennedy man from Murroe was playing illegally with Boher – but were strongly rejected by the Boher representative, William Hickey of Bohergar. The objections were overruled and Boher St.Michael’s at Corcanree on 19th August. The match lasted over two hours. “ The decision of the referee was seldom adhered to and the game was intercepted by squabbles. The order maintained was wretched and the exertions of the committee in this direction had no effect. Boher were defeated after a hard fight, 2-03 to 0-01”. An objection that the referee ‘ favoured St. Michael’s throughout the game’ was defeated at a subsequent board meeting on a 4-3 majority.

Parish teams faded somewhat until the 1914 Intermediate Championship. Boher defeated Curraghchase in the competition on 15th July, 1915. The semi-final was played two years later, with Newcastle West winning an exciting game. Murroe decisively beat Newcastle West in the final 8-04 to 0-00. Paths crossed again in the Junior Championship when Cappamore-Murroe defeated Boher 4-03 to 3-00 in 1916. Murroe won the 1917 Junior Championship, defeating Croom 3-02 to 2-01 in a close and exciting final. Boher played in the 1917 Senior Championship before going out 2-04 to 2-01 to a Newcastle West team who later won the county championship and guided Limerick to an All-Ireland in 1918.

Murroe failed to affiliate in 1924, and again from 1927 to 1933. Boher players plied their trade with neighbouring teams Caherline, Ballysimon Faughs and Murroe. Tournaments such as the Clanwilliam Cup were popular. Glenstal, Cappanahannagh, Eyon and Abington took part in the parish leagues of 1944 and 1953. Players and officials from both ends of the parish made their mark during these years. Mick Danagher of Murroe won a Munster Senior medal with Limerick in 1910, when his clubmate, Bill Dunlea, was beaten on a toss of a coin for the corner forward position. Paddy Barry of Boher captained Munster to victory over Leinster in the All-Ireland Colleges Championship of 1914. He won an All-Ireland with Limerick in 1918, and played in all championship matches up to the All-Ireland win of 1921 when illness denied him a place. He left his 1918 Munster medal to Dave Hennessy of Cunnihee. Jimmy Humphreys of Murroe won two All-Irelands and three Munster finals (1918, 1921 and 1923) with Limerick. He also had the honour of captaining the Irish hurling team at the 1924 Tailtean Games, receiving the silver cup from the veteran Fenian John Devoy., Dr Harty, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and patron of the GAA, was a native of Knocknagurteeny. Both the Senior Colleges Cup and the playing field in Murroe are named after him. Tim Humphreys of Boher was Vice-Chairman of the Limerick County Board from 1920 to 1939. William P. Clifford, whose family moved from Fedamore to Boher when he was eight years old, was Chairman of the County Board from 1921 to 1939 and was the driving force behind the purchase and development of the Gaelic Grounds. He was President of the GAA from1926 to 1928. The parish of Murroe and Boher also provided six chairmen to the East Board – Canon Gilmartin, Tom Rainsford, Niall Hayes, Jimmy Kirby, Michael Finucane and Willie Walsh.

In 1953 a field was bought from Joseph Ryan by the Murroe Club. The Juvenile team made history in 1954 by winning the first underage title to come to the parish. The defeated Fedamore in the East final, Kileedy in the county semi-final, but lost to Patrickswell in the county final, The U-16 players were Eddie O’Brien, Jim O’Brien, Willie O’Meara, Anthony Ryan (M), Patrick Fleming, John Fleming, Robert Hogg, George Kenny, Pat Kelleher, Paddy Cusack, Paddy Ryan (S), S.McKeanna, Davy Rainsford, Frank Troy, Brendan Healy, Martin O’Brien, Daragh O’Neill, Paddy Ryan (L), Liam Hayes and Gerard Hayes. The junior team, which included players from Boher, ended a barren spell by defeating South Liberties in the East final before losing out on a place in the county final to a last-minute Feohanagh point. The players wre Vincent Finucane, Danny Kirby, Paddy Holmes, Willie O’Grady, Tommy O’Connell, Niall Sheehan, Willie Clohessy, Martin O’Connor, P.J. O’Meara, Ray Joyce, Mike O’Grady, Paddy O’Connor, Gerry Doyle, Mike O’Connor, Timmy Hogan, Owen O’Neill and Liam Hayes.

Boher and Murroe decided to amalgamate for 1955 but there was little success on the playing field. Boher reformed in 1957 and won the next championship encounter between the clubs. Boher reached the East final in 1958 only to go under to a strong Pallas fifteen. The following year Murroe had a great 6-03 to 4-03 win in the East Junior final over old rivals Doon. They beat Garryspillane in the County semi-final but lost the final to Dromcollogher in a close match, 3-05 to 2-03. The Murroe lineout was T. Hogan, T. O’Meara, P. Holmes, J.J. O’Meara, M. Humphreys, D. Kirby, P. Ryan, B. Kelleher, W. O’Meara, W. Ryan, P. Kelleher, J. Fleming, T. Foley, W. Clohessy, T. O’Connell, sub M. Ryan. Murroe again beat Doon in the 1960 East Final, but lost the county semi-final to eventual winners Feenagh-Kilmeedy. Doon eventually won the East final in 1961, but it was at Boher’s expense. 1961 was the year Boher made the breakthrough, defeating South Liberties in a thriller in the East junior final on a scoreline of 5-03 to 2-06. The players were Vincent Finucane, Pat Walsh, Pat Holmes, P.J. Fitzgibbon, Pat O’Connor, Owen O’Neill (Captain), Tommy Ryan, Ignatius Finucane, Patsy Laffan, John Walsh, Martin O’Connor, Tony Hickey, Paddy O’Connor, Karl Finucane, Joe Finucane, sub. Joe Brooks. Boher were back in the winners enclosure in1965, beating Doon 2-08 to 2-06 in the East Final. St Mary’s fell in the county semi-final before Boher lost the final to Croom in a replay.

1966 was a watershed year for both clubs, not for the trophies won, but for the foundation laid. Fr Kennedy organised juvenile leagues in Hurling and Football, three teams and subs were picked, and sixty boys from the parish of Murroe and Boher thought of nothing else but the next matc. The short-term effect of this underage structure was the winning in 1969 of the East Minor Hurling crown for the first time. The players were D. Leahy, J. Keogh, P.J. O’Shea, J. McNamara, S. Hogg, W. O’Brien, I. Walsh, J. Homles, M. Holmes, S. Hickey, J. Brouder, S. O’Shaughnessy, T. Moore, B. Kirby, D. Bartley, J. O’Grady, J. Kirby, J. Lynch, K. Collins, W. Laffan. Further divisional and county successes at u-12, u-14, u-16, minor and u-21 level in both hurling and football bear testimony to the great work being done with the youth of the parish. Many of our younger players also helped to maintain a proud representative tradition with recent Munster and All-Ireland successes in underage, Colleges and Inter-varsity hurling. Both adult clubs gained in the medium term through County Junior (’73, ’80 and ’87) and East Senior (’82 and ’83) Championships. The long term effects were yet to unfold.

The club renewed rivalries many times in the seventies and eighties but decided to pool playing resources for 1991, naming the team Murroe and Boher in alternate years. Sean O’Neill won a Munster Championship with Limerick in 1994, only to be denied an All-Ireland in dramatic fashion by Offaly. His brother Owen joined him on the winners’ podium in 1996, when both played starring roles in the Munster Final. Defeat was once again our lot on the first Sunday of September. Our U-21’s played with substance and style in 1997, winning East and County titles in a memorable campaign. Several of the U-21s joined our veterans in the Junior B campaign, only to fail by a point to Newcastle West in the County Final.

The amalgamated Murroe-Boher club was born in 1998. James Butler, Pat Laffan and Owen O’Neill immediately put the new club on the national map with an exciting win over Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Intermediate final. And, as if to remind us again that the clash between the parent clubs was at Intermediate level, our first local success was in 1999 County Intermediate final against Knockainey. Richard Laffan has since staked his own claim to fame by captaining Boher Macra Na Feirme to win an inaugural All-Ireland Hurling Championship. History has been made many times in the parish since the early days of the GAA. Lets make some more in the new Millennium!

More to follow…..