Early 20th Century Hurling

1902 saw Kilnamona defeating Barefield to win their first senior county title. The final was fixed for 21 September at Ruan. Sadly, none of the Clare newspapers have an account of the match itself. It seems that Barefield were far from happy with losing the final and alleged that Kilnamona skullduggery was the reason for their defeat. The following letter was written by the Barefield Captain:

At a meeting of this hurling team held on Sunday last, 12th inst., the following resolutions were unanimously passed:
  1. "That we hereby offer a challenge to the Kilnamona team to meet at any time and place under the following conditions, namely under the gaelic rules, and with the approval of the County Board".
  2. That we lodge a sum of money equal to the value of the set of medals wrested by them with a pick from four parishes".
  3. That the hurling be confined to hurlers living within the parish, and that under no circumstances will a hurler from an outside parish be considered".

We also beg to call to the attention of the County Board to this widespread infringement, as the Kilnamona team had the pick of four parishes for the final against us at Ruan, viz-Kilmaley, Inagh, Dysart and Kilnamona, coming near the pick made for the Inter-County Championship, when the honours of Clare were lost at Limerick.

M. McInerney, Captain [1].

Two days later, Kilnamona captain Mick "Curk" Lyons delivered a famous riposte:


Kilnamona, October 20, 1902


Permit me through the columns of your valuable journal on behalf of the Kilnamona Hurling Club to at once accept the challenge of the Barefield team which appeared in your last issue. We accept it on their own conditions subject to certain modifications. We do not mean to offer the medals for any further competition, as we won them we mean to wear them. Still, if the Barefield men mean business and not bluff, we will give them a chance of retrieving their honours with a vengeance.

Our offer is to play them for £17 per team, the money to be lodged with the Editor of the Clare Man within a fortnight from the date of this publication. The match to be played on neutral ground, and refereed by a member of the Munster Provincial Council, his expenses to be paid out of the £34; the remainder to be devoted to the purchase of two Challenge Cups, to be offered by the winning team as prize for a hurling and football tournament. I trust that Barefield will see their way to accept this offer and win the match; thus they may be enabled to square their account with the County Board, and pay the affiliation debts of four years standing. Having thus disposed of the challenge, I will now proceed to deal with Mr. McInerney's note in detail.

I must say at the outset that it contains many erroneous and misleading statements. In it he says the Kilnamona team is the pick of four parishes. I deny this, and challenge McInerney to prove his statement. I doubt very much but if one of these parishes were picked, viz-Inagh, a team would be found in it fit to meet and vanquish invincible Barefield. From the way Mr. McInerney speaks one would infer that the team put on the field at Ruan by Barefield was composed exclusively of residents of the parish of Barefield. If such is the case, the boundaries of Barefield must have been changed lately, perhaps under the Local Government Act, it must now cover a very wide area spreading far into the parishes of Crusheen and Doora. Again, he calls the attention of the county Board to what he has been pleased to term "a widespread infringement" by the Kilnamona team. Under which of the rules of the G.A.A. does he do this? But I believe that whenever Mr. McInerney is in a tight corner, he has a code of rules of his own manufacture on which to draw, but I doubt very much if he will find any members of the County Board so gullible as to swallow a dose of his bye laws.

How, many of your readers might well ask, did such a dark horse as Barefield chance to be in the final day for the hurling ties of Clare, they did do so by means of frivolous objection, and by taking the field on the famous Tulla team, who often wore laurels for the Banner County on many gaelic arenas before Barefield was even heard of in G.A.A. circles. Having thus come in so easily for the final, they imagined themselves in a sort of Fools' paradise, or arrived on the pinnacle of success, from which they thought it was impossible to dislodge them, when lo! and behold, the plucky little Kilnamona team advanced to the attack; and for the third time since '97, routed them, horse, foot and artillery. Such has been the progress of the unconquerable Barefield hurlers through the '01 championships. If the Barefield captain does not accept the above terms, I shall take no notice of any further communication of his. Thanking you Mr. Editor, in anticipation of publishing this, and apologising for trespassing so much on your valuable space, I remain, dear sir, faithfully yours,

Michael Lyons, Captain, Kilnamona Hurling Club [2]

1902 also saw Kilnamona making the final of the Clarecastle tournament, their opposition being Tulla. Owing to a disputed goal, the original match was called off as the teams walked off the pitch. The finalists were described as "two teams which long since have distinguished themselves as wielders of the camàn" [3]. Both sides played "hammer and tongs", but Tulla ran out winners by 3-6 to 1-7.

1903 also saw its share of controversy in what was to prove to be another championship winning year. The feud with Barefield was reignited when the teams met in a hotly contested championship game in November. Despite being behind 4 points to 2 when the game ended, Barefield claimed the match at the County Board, as the referee did not award the match to either team, as Cullinan of Kilnamona was ordered off the field, but refused to go. The local press were heavily critical of Kilnamona and their captain, Lyons, as he did not force Cullinan to leave the pitch, but allowed him to play on for the rest of the match [4]. The County Board ordered a replay which Kilnamona won.

Kilnamona had to replay another match they won in 1903, as Tulla captain, Thomas Coghlan, objected to Kilnamona's Pat Kenny, as he was also a member of the Smith O'Brien Hurling Club, Dublin [5]. The replayed match attracted the biggest crowd since Tulla played O'Callaghans Mills in the 1890's. An excursion train ran from Limerick for supporters. Kilnamona ran out winners by 20 points to 10. However, again the local press were far from happy with Kilnamona's conduct:

"We regret to have to mention that a prominent member of the Kilnamona team conducted himself in a most ungentlemanly manner. He used threatening and abusive language towards one of the umpires and cut the flag out of his hand with his camán when he raised it on a point being scored for Tulla. On another occasion, he made use of expressions unfit to be repeated here, in the presence of outsiders among whom was a large contingent of the fairer sex" [6].

The 1903 final took place in early 1904 due to inclement weather. Kilnamona had home advantage, the game taking place in Caherbanna. Kilnamona were represented by Michael "Curk" Lyons (Captain), J. Brody, M. Brody, J. Cullinan, Joe Rynne, D. Rynne, John Rynne, M. Flanagan, P O'Loughlin, J O'Leary, P. O'Leary, Frank Hegarty, J. McTigue, P. Hayes, P. Commane, M McDonnell and T. Cullinan. Kilnamona proved far too good for their Ennis opponents, with Cullinan scoring 3 goals and two points during the last twenty minutes. The final score was Kilnamona 4-14 to no score for the Thomonds. The day was descibed as a red letter day in the history of Clare GAA as it proved to the public "it is possible to play a match, and an important one too, four miles from a pub" [7].

One game is recorded for Kilnamona in 1904. In the Lahinch tournament, they encountered O'Callaghans Mills in a game described as "one of the best ever witnessed in Clare, and it would be safe to go further, and say it was the fastest, most scientific and fairest first-class match ever seen". The Mills eventually won the game by four points. Despite his glowing praise for the match, the GAA correspondent was not overly impressed with one incident:

"At this stage of the game, a Kilnamona player attempted to take the flag from the umpire with the intention of raising it for a point, a very improper thing to do. However, he luckily enough escaped the referee's notice" [8].

Train Ad for Nenagh Tournament
Train Ad for Nenagh Tournament

Two games are recorded in 1905 with games against Kilmaley and Tulla respectively. The team to face Kilmaley in Shallee was: Commane, Cullinan, Forde, Hayes, Hegarty, Keatinge, MacDonnell, Mescall, O'Looney, with three Brodies, three O'Learys and three Rynnes. Kilnamona narrowly won by 3-2 to 2-4, with Brodie, Jackie O'Leary and Cullinan the star men. [9]. In the championship game with Tulla, Kilnamona, after turning up two hours late, put up little resistance and were decisively beaten by 5-10 to 2-1. Kilnamona were reduced to relying on a "charity goal" from the goalkeeper. Father Macredy was given credit by the reporter "for his mild use of the whip in inducing the spectators to keep outside the lines" (!) [10].

1906 saw Kilnamona back competing in the county final. Kilnamona had earlier defeated Tulla (after the original game was abandoned due to a lost ball) and Carrahan. However, they proved no match for old rivals O'Callaghan's Mills in the final. Only McDonnell, Forde and Brody distinguished themselves as Kilnamona were outclassed on a scoreline of 5-10 to 0-1. 1906 also saw Kilnamona compete in the Nenagh Hurling Tournament for the grand prize of 17 Irish manufactured freewheel bicycles. 58 teams from all over the country entered the prestigious tournament. 7000 people, including spectators arriving in trains from Dublin, Cork and Tuam attended the opening games. Rathdowney of Laois got the better of Kilnamona by 1-5 to 1-3 in Kilnamona's only game. Sadly, the logistical difficulties of hosting the tournament proved too much for the organisers and the tournament was abandoned [11]. A train advertisement for the tournament featuring Kilnamona can be seen on the left.

1907 saw Kilnamona participate in the opening of Kilrush's new athletic sports' ground. They took on St. Patrick's of Limerick. Kilnamona suffered a narrow defeat by 2-7 to 1-9. Four thousand spectators viewed the game, with Johnsie Brody, Cullinan and O'Leary being in superb form for the Kilnamona team. This year also features a report of a juvenile game played between Kilnamona and Drumcliffe. Kilnamona were victorious, but suspicions were raised as to whether the Kilnamona players were actually eligible to play:

"Judging from the players, the result would have been different, had greater care been adopted in the selection of the juveniles, as some of those that played with the victorious side could not be described as other than senior. The match is to be replayed at Fountain on the 5th of May; and let us hope to see two juvenile teams take the field, and then a really good match should be anticipated" [12].

1908 saw Kilnamona win their third and final senior county title. On the way to the final they easily defeated Inagh in the Ennis Showgrounds. They also had a victory over Kilmaley in the semi final on a score of 1-14 to 2-3. Kilnamona's best players were the 2 Brodys, the 3 Rynnes, Hegarty, Flynn, Naughton, Leary and McTigue [13]. Kilnamona were regarded as underdogs going in to the final with O'Callaghans Mills as the 'Mills had defeated them in the County Cup final. Kilnamona managed to eke out a win by the most slender of margins on a final score of 0-11 to 0-10. The team was: J. Brody, M. Brody, D. Rynne, J. Rynne, P. Mescall, P. Mescall, P. O'Leary, M. Hegarty, P. Flynn, Mick Cahir, P. Commane, J. Cullinan, M Naughton, P. Forde, Mick McDonnnell and J. McTigue. The captain of the 'Mills, D. Callaghan, wrote a letter to the Clare Champion to ask for a challenge between the two teams to decide who should represent Clare; Kilnamona having won the championship, but the 'Mills having won the cup.

1909 saw the final year in this period in which Kilnamona was a major force in Clare hurling. They reached their 5th county final of the decade, eventually succumbing to Quin on a score of 1-7 to 1-3. Kilnamona also provided a major contribution to the County Clare hurling team during this period.

County Board Officials

Mick "Curk" Lyons, as well as being captain, represented Kilnamona at County Board meetings in the early part of the 20th century alongside Jack Power, who served as secretary of the club. Mick Hegarty, J Brodie, Paddy O'Leary and Frank Linnane also featured prominently in representing the cause of the club at County Board meetings, where manys a game was ultimately won and lost, such was the amount of objections which were lodged to results of games. Tom O'Brien, a founder member of the club, was for a period the chairman of the County Board and was appointed its president in 1907. It was felt that as he was such a strong advocate for the Irish language, that his appointment would show that the GAA and the Gaelic League were working hand in hand [14]. O'Brien was also asked to serve as president the following year.

  1. October 18, 1909 Clare Man
  2. November 2, 1909 Clare Man
  3. February 15, 1902 Saturday Record
  4. November 7, 1903 Saturday Record
  5. September 19, 1903 Saturday Record
  6. October 10, 1903 Saturday Record
  7. January 9, 1904 Saturday Record
  8. August 6, 1904 Saturday Record
  9. March 25, 1905 Saturday Record
  10. July 29, 1905 Saturday Record
  11. April 8, 1978 Nenagh Guardian
  12. April 27, 1907 Clare Champion
  13. December 5, 1908 Saturday Record
  14. March 8, 1907 Saturday Record