The Golden Age of Hurling
The game of hurling is almost as old as Irish civilisation itself. An account of the Battle of Moytura, near Cong, Co. Mayo, which took place over 3,000 years ago describes how the opposing armies challenged each other to a rather ferocious game of hurling before the battle proper. The two 27 man teams engaged in a bloody encounter and the dead were buried before the armies met on the battlefield. Over the next three millennia, hurling, at times, would bear some similarities to that violent encounter in Connacht but the codified sport that we have today bears no resemblance to this earliest form of the ancient game.
One of the most unusual sources of the history of the game from the 16th Century comes from a member of the extended Cosby family of Stradbally. As we have seen earlier in this book, the Cosby’s would not have been expected to take to hurling, it being the most Irish of games. However, Pole Dudley, writing about his father, states that he was ‘a most extraordinary fine hurler’. As Seamus King, in his seminal history of hurling, plausibly speculates, the Dudleys and Cosbys of Stradbally may have had contests with the Purcells of Templemore who were also early hurling enthusiasts. The freemen of Maryborough were noted to have participated in grand spectacles of hurling in the 16th Century in ‘The Green’ in the town, near where the present train station is located. In the late 17th and early 18th Centuries, when the land came into the near total ownership of Protestant landlords the game entered its so called first golden age. Seamus King points out that ‘landlords took over the game during the 17th and 18th centuries so that the countryside ran with the sound of spirited contests between teams of rival landlords and inter-barony contests’.
There is no doubt that in the 17th Century, when the ancient woods of Camross were slowly cleared and farming communities began to grow, so too did the prevalence of hurling in the place which would one day become synonymous with the game. There are no documented 17th or 18th Century hurling games in Camross but there were documented games in Laois, around the Rathdowney area, from the 1760s on. Seamus King records five instances of documented hurling contests between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries on the Laois-Kilkenny border. In 1945 a letter writer to the Leinster Express noted that before the establishment of the GAA in 1884, the only places in Laois where hurling was played were Camross, Clonaslee, Rathdowney, and Kilcotton. Football on the other hand was not played in the locality of Camross. Gaelic football, insofar as the game played with a football in Ireland at the time could be compared to Gaelic football, had declined in Laois generally from the 1790s on.
In describing the exploits of The Upperwood Rangers, the Poet Ryan penned one of the most stirring accounts of 18th Century hurling ever committed to paper;
Come on my boys let us march on so glory does invite us
And through Roscrea we'll make our way no danger shall affright us
We for all sorts of liquor called, the landlord says "Ye're strangers,
Are ye the boys we did hear of, are ye the Upperwood Rangers?"
It's true it's from Coolrain we come, that lovely seat of pleasure
Where heroes bold stood uncontrolled beyond all time and measure
It's true that from Coolrain we came at hurling we're no strangers
We are the boys you did hear of, we are the Upperwood Rangers.
The day appointed soon drew nigh, the hills were soon surmounted
Like lions in the den we stood while by them we were counted
The ball was thrown up to the sky the Munster men all shouted,
"We give three cheers for our boys, Shinrone was never doubted.
Young Collier said to his men, "Both front and rear take order
This is the day we'll show them play, proud Munster we'll alarm"
But Phelan then among his men was not the least alarmed
To meet the foe where'er he'd go, no brave was brave young Gorman.
The Ossorians mounted their play, they played the first half-hour
But soon were made to understand that Upperwood was the power,
For them the tussling took place, they cried, "Lay on the strangers!"
But we brought the ball up through the goal, We are the Upperwood Rangers.
Throughout the 19th Century, hurling was viewed by the established classes as more of a social problem than an honourable sport. And they possibly had reason to come to this conclusion given the high number of violent assaults at games. In May 1836 a man called Freighy had his skull cracked in a game of hurling near Kinnity by a man called Mulhall. Mulhall was arrested at the match and was sent to Tullamore prison. A man was beaten badly during a hurling game in Garron, just outside Knock in March 1843. Later that year there was outrage at the growing number of hurling matches on a Sunday which were desecrating the Sabbath all over the Queen’s County. Indeed Statute 7 of the reign of William III stated that ‘any person who shall be found playing at hurling, football, or wrestling, or any other game, sport, or pastime on the Sabbath, shall, on being produced before any justice of the peace, be liable to a fine of twelve pence and costs’. This legislation, dating from the early 18th century was used in the prosecution of several parties throughout the 1860s in an effort to curb gatherings of young Irish men.
In December 1843, in Ballyfin, Kavan Lalor attacked William Harris with a hurl in a dispute over stolen ash plants that were being fashioned into further hurls. Lalor was lucky not to be transported to Australia for the attack. He received three months hard labour in prison. At a hurling match between Portlaoise and Mountrath in 1844 a young man called Matt Phelan, who was a spectator at the game was struck in the side of the head with a hurl by a Casey man. Phelan died a few days later. The common nature of violence at hurling games got to the stage where, if anyone fell ill at a game, rumour would spread that they were heinously attacked with a hurl. This was the case in a match between the inhabitants of Factory Street and Shannon Street in Mountrath in 1850. Amidst the high drama towards the end of the exciting game a man suffered a heart attack and died. Reports of an apparent vicious assault were only discounted when a verdict of death ‘by the visitation of God’ was reached by the county coroner.
The devastating effects of the Famine upon rural Ireland led to a situation where neither hurling nor Gaelic football were played in places where they had been popular hitherto. Many of the men and women who played and enjoyed the game were dead. Many more had emigrated. Those who were spared were left to pick up the pieces, to raise their families amidst the harsh realities of the time. There was precious little time or energy left for hurling. It is likely that an entire generation, or two, did not hurl at all in Camross. In the 1860s a Home Rule MP said that after the Famine, rural Ireland’s ‘ancient sports and pastimes…disappeared and in many parts…have never returned. The outdoor games, the hurling match…are seen no more’. As emigration continued, the Leinster Express noted that the Laois emigrant was ‘bidding farewell to all to all they hold dear – from their family or mistresses, down to the chimney corner, the cracked looking glass and the village dance, the merry meeting, the hurling and football match’.
Cricket in Camross
In the immediate aftermath of the famine the only people in rural Ireland capable of organising sports were the loyalist community who tended to, though not in all cases, have survived the Famine unscathed. Their main sport was cricket and in the latter half of the 19th Century cricket began to penetrate rural communities where hurling had once dominated. Initially cricket would have been exclusively played by members of the Church of Ireland communities but as time went by tenant farmers would have turned to the game as hurling or Gaelic football were not being organised in any coherent manner. In the 1830s cricket games were held weekly in The Heath between teams from around Maryborough, Stradbally and beyond. The first mention of a cricket club in Mountrath was in 1840 when they took on a selection from Portarlington. A cursory glance at the Mountrath team and the reception afterwards, held in a marquee on the grounds, suggests little interest from the farming classes. However, by the time of the foundation of the GAA in 1884 and the Parnellite split shortly afterwards cricket certainly had a presence in Camross parish. In the neighbouring region of Roscomroe hurling was said not to have been played at all and that cricket was the only sport played.
One of the earliest references to a cricket team in the greater Camross area came in a report on a game in the Laois Nationalist newspaper between Derrylamougue, from the Rosenallis area, and Baureigh. The match was played on 30 August 1903 and was a victory for the mountain men by 55 runs to 27. Green and Guilfoyle were the noted performers on the Baureigh side. The club in Mountrath had been as vibrant and active as any other in the county but fell away in the early 1900s. A small renaissance in the game occurred in 1930. In the summer of that year the Mountrath club was reformed. The club’s grounds were reported to have been located in a field adjacent to the town and over 50 members signed up. By early August 1930 they had achieved three victories from the four contests they had competed in. In 1934 a cricket club was established in Cardtown and they played one of the old strongholds of the game in Laois, Stradbally. The previous week they had lost to Mountrath Cricket club by 7 overs. Cricket seemed to be most popular in the Killanure area in the 1930s. It is recorded in the National Folklore collection that ‘all the children in [Killanure] play cricket’. Some of the great cricket players of the past from Killanure are also listed; James Burke (Burke’s Cross), Thomas Ryan (Mountain Farm), Kieran Delaney (Drimo), John Carroll (Drimo) and John Burke (living in Ballyfin in 1938). The Carroll and Burke families were noted as being the most enthusiastic players in the 1930s. They all played on the grounds of Major Hamilton’s in Roundwood.
The Foundation of the GAA and 19th Century hurling in Camross
At 3pm on 1 November 1884, Michael Cusack convened a meeting of a small group of men in the Billiard Room of Hayes’ Hotel in Thurles. Maurice Davin, addressing the meeting, pointed out the incongruity of Irishmen permitting Englishmen to organise Irish sport and he emphasised that this had led to the decline of native pastimes and called for a body to draft rules to aid in their revival. The meeting was poorly attended, proceedings were relatively short and neither date nor venue for a follow up meeting were agreed on. In many ways the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association would not instil belief in anyone that within a century it would become the largest amateur sporting body in the world.
Despite the inauspicious start, ‘the Association swept the country like a prairie fire’ as Cusack would famously write years later. The first GAA clubs were Dublin based, the first country club was established in Offaly. The foundation of Clara GAA club on 15 December 1884 was followed by a plethora of rural clubs in Galway and Tipperary. One of the first GAA hurling matches took place in Feagh, Galway between Killimor and Ballinakill. A crowd of 6,000 witnessed Killimor win by two goals to nil. In 1886 the first inter-county game took place in the Phoenix Park between Galway and Tipperary. The enthusiasm for such contests was evidenced by the fact that the victorious Tipperary team was welcomed back to Nenagh by a torchlight procession and a crowd of over 4,000 people.
Laois was not represented in the establishment of the Association but by the end of 1885 a number of clubs along the Kilkenny and Tipperary borders had been established. Clubs such as Rathdowney, Durrow, Rapla and Borris-in-Ossory all contested the first championships. Other 19th Century clubs included Clonaslee, Wolfhill, Portarlington and Knockaroo. By the dawn of the 20th Century there were clubs in almost every parish in the county. The first representatives of Laois on the inter-county scenes in both football and hurling took to the pitch in Portlaoise on the same day in June 1888. Rathdowney were the inaugural club hurling champions and they faced the Kilkenny champions, Mooncoin;
A few minutes after three o'clock [the players on the Rathdowney and Mooncooin teams] crossed hurleys. The prevailing idea amongst interested people was that the Mooncoin men, who have made a big name for themselves, would make short work of their less experienced opponents from the Queen's County. However, the Rathdowney hurlers gave the boys of Kilkenny quite enough of it, and made them earn their victory. For the first half the play was rather even, Rathdowney having the best of it as far as the score was concerned going into the second half with two points to their credit to one for Mooncoin. In the second period the Kilkenny men hurled in vastly improved style, and won by a goal and two points to two points for Rathdowney.
For members of the loyalist class, and several of the ordinary labouring class, for that matter, these Irish sports were viewed with curiosity and amusement. This is very evident in the first full report on a club hurling match in the Leinster Express.
‘Gaelic intelligence’ Portarlington (1st) v. Maryborough (1st)
Sunday last brought together a large concourse of all the lovers of the old sport which has now regained the attention it hitherto demanded, and those who sallied forth must confess that they have been repaid as they witnessed a splendid afternoon’s amusement provided for them by the Gaels who had met to experiment on their capabilities as footballers and hurlers. The Maryborough team has not been in existence for long and their first venture was a plucky one as they succeeded much better than could be expected. Like all other games a successful result largely depends on the weather and this too proved very favourable, not so much, perhaps, for the spectators as the players, who must have been delighted with the keen wind which lent the atmosphere its peculiar suitability.
Two early reports on hurling matches in Queen’s County which are of note relate to a team called Tinnakilly. Several sources from the time and up to the late 1930s, especially the archives of the National Folklore Collection, refer to the townland known today as Tinnakill as Tinnakilly. Therefore, there is every possibility that the team referred to relates to a team made up from people around the Tinnakill, Clonin, Derrynaseera and Ballyhorahan areas. In any case, the reports are very relevant to establishing an idea of what early GAA hurling matches looked like in Laois at the time.
The first game took place in April 1889 in Borris-in-Ossory. The venue for the game lends support to the theory that Tinnakilly was a Camross side. The game was a second round tie for the Queen’s County Championship. Their opponents were the dominant side of the era and reigning champions, Rathdowney.
[Tinnakilly] won the toss, but decided to play against the wind for the first half, during which time the game was splendidly contested, and, on going into the second half, the score stood Rathdowney two points; Tinnakilly one. Rathdowney played in great form in the second half, never giving the other side a chance, and at full-time had won by one goal and five points to one point.
The second game took place later that summer, the opponents were Clonaslee.
Immediately on the ball being thrown in by the referee the Clonaslee men took it into the Tinnakilly ground and after a short time got a forty yards puck from their opponents, off which they failed to score. On a puck out from Tinnakilly the ball was taken up the field and a point was scored. But from this until half time the play was kept in neutral ground. On change of sides the Clonaslee men brought the ball several times towards the goal, but were each time unsuccessful. Both teams are capital hurlers and wield their camans in excellent style, but a want of the knowledge of the rules of play was a great drawback to each of them. There is no doubt that the Clonaslee men are the better hurlers of the two, and although they were defeated on this occasion it was the general belief that if the match had to be played again Tinnakilly would not have borne away the laurels, which they did by one point to nil. Referee Mr. John McGuire, Captain Maryborough Hurling Club, Field Umpires, Mr. Treacy Tinnakilly, Mr. Conroy Clonaslee.
If indeed Tinnakilly represented the first hurling team of the GAA era from Camross their initial two outings were not a huge success. The club seemed to have disappeared from the hurling scene after 1889 perhaps due to their initial failures but more likely because of the better players leaving to play with neighbouring clubs such as Borris-in-Ossory. It would be another 14 years before Camross was to have a club of its own.
1903-1914. The Early Years
Camross GAA club was established in 1903 by Tom Phelan, Marymount. Phelan became the club’s first chairman and Martin Dooley was its first secretary. The honour of being the club’s first president fell to the Parish Priest, Fr. John Carroll. Early figures of the club also included John Lyons, Michael Phelan and Edward Tarrant. It is likely that Camross entered the 1904 and 1905 championships at Junior level and possibly at Senior level. However, they had little success in either. 1906 was to be the first breakthrough year for the club.
The club entered a team in the Junior and Senior championships. They opened their Junior campaign with a victory and played neighbours Castletown in the second round. The match was the first game involving Camross that was reported in the national press, appearing in the Freeman’s Journal;
Queen’s County Junior Hurling Championship
At the Pike of Rushall, on Sunday, the second round for the Junior Hurling Championship of the Queen’s County was played between teams representing Castletown and Camross. A very large crowd of spectators attended to witness the play. At half-time the scoring was Camross, 2 goals and 2 points; Castletown, 1 goal and 1 point. The result was as follows; Camross, 2 goals and 2 points; Castletown, 2 goals and 1 point.
This close contest was not replicated in the side’s next Junior tie against Rathdowney. The game, played in Mondrehid, ended in a 32 point defeat for Camross. To make matters worse, Camross failed to register a single score throughout the entire game.
1906 Senior County Finalists
The senior team, on the other hand, fared far better. They began their campaign with a first round victory against Clonard, a small club from just outside Mountrath, to set up a semi-final berth against Clonaslee. The match, played in Castletown, resulted in a 7 points to 5 victory for Camross as they advanced to their first ever hurling final. Their 2 point lead at half time proved crucial as both sides scored five points in the second half. As was quite common in the early, and indeed not so early, days of the Association, championships often overran and had to be resolved the following year. This was the case with the 1906 championship. Therefore, on 14 April 1907, the 1906 Queen’s County Hurling championship final took place in Ballacolla between Camross and Kilcotton. The lengthy delay to the final was caused by the multiple postponements of Kilcotton’s semi-final against Rathdowney. Kilcotton had only overcome their opponents two weeks before the final.
The first blue riband day for the club could scarcely have gone worse. The first half was a very tight affair but as the match report below shows, the second half did not go according to plan;
Queen’s Co. Senior Hurling Championship – The Final
Ballacolla on Sunday was the venue for the final in the Senior Hurling Championship of the Queen’s County for 1906. The teams competing were Kilcotton v. Camross. The day was beautifully fine, and there was an extremely large crowd of spectators present. At 3pm, both teams crossed camans and Kilcotton, having won the toss, played with the sun and a slight breeze in their favour. During the first half hour the game was very exciting and well contested throughout. At half-time the score stood; Kilcotton 2 points, Camross nil.
On resumption of play Kilcotton had matters nearly all their own way, having got possession of the ball they made several scores in rapid succession, the leather being practically kept the whole time in their opponent’s territory. Just before the time had expired Camross snatched a point. The final whistle announced the result as follows; Kilcotton 17 points, Camross 1 point.
For the record, the breakdown of Kilcotton’s 17 points was 2-11. The Camross team on the day was John Lyons (Captain), J Lyons, W Byrne, J Byrne, James Byrne, M Byrne, T Dunne, M Dunne, T Pratt, John Joe Collier, J Ward, J Scully, J Meara, W Kirwan, J Moore, D Dunne, D Moore. Despite the heavy defeat, reaching the Senior County Final represented a great achievement for a club that was still very much in its infancy. As was the case with the juniors, they seemed very able to compete toe to toe with their opponents in the first half but wilted disastrously in the second. With greater experience and fitness the signs were that Camross could become a serious challenger to the likes of the established giants of Laois hurling, Rathdowney.
By 1907, the GAA was firmly established as one of the prime ‘fronts’ of the revival of Irish culture. The rapid growth of the organisation in the early 1900s was helped by the realisation from both the Irish Parliamentary Party and the Catholic Church that the GAA was a body that was there to stay and opposing them would only harm their own interests. It could be argued that the county where the GAA was proving most successful in terms of active participation was Laois. With 41 affiliated clubs, there was one club for every 1,332 people within the county. This is by far the lowest club per person ratio in Ireland at the time with Offaly, for instance, having three times more people per club than Laois. This means that the penetration of the Association was extremely high within Laois.
Back on the field, in the Junior Championship, Camross took on Clough in the first round but were defeated. The seniors could not repeat their success of the previous year. The highlight of their year was a spirited contest with Rathdowney in a tournament in Borris-in-Ossory;
This match was well up to expectations. The ground was bare and level, and there was tough, fine clean striking on both sides. Camross, though depending on a scratch team, played a plucky and determined game, but had to acknowledge defeat. In the first half, Camross had the advantage of position, but Rathdowney was leading at the interval by 1 goal and 2 points to 3 points.
In the second half, both teams started with renewed vigour and determination in their work. Rathdowney got a point immediately, and soon after Nolan, who was playing a sound game, raised the red flag by a long low stroke from centre. Play was now very fast and exciting, every man playing for what he was worth. Perhaps some of the players were a little too strenuous, bordering on roughness. From a free, Camross had no difficulty in getting a point per Lyons. Rathdowney soon responded but, off the break, Camross came away with a great burst, and put the leather through for a goal. The next score, a point fell to Camross, and just before the final whistle, Rathdowney increased their lead by another point, leaving the final score: Rathdowney...2 goals and 6 points, Camross 1 goal and 5 points. In the open Camross were better. Lyons, Byrne and Pratt distinguished themselves.
John Lyons, Joe Byrne and Sam Pratt were quickly emerging as household names in Camross and beyond and began to be noticed by selectors for the county team. Joe Byrne was the first man from the club to hurl with Laois in a game against Dublin in Jones’ Road in November 1908.
The 1907 championship was much delayed and the third round was not played until the following March. Camross had managed to get to this stage and they faced Ballacolla in Castletown. Camross, who were a half hour late taking to the field, were equal to Ballacolla in the opening half but faded slightly in the second half and were knocked out of the championship on a score line of nine points to seven.
It seems that after the delayed 1907 championship, Camross and Castletown merged and hurled under the name Upperwoods, the name of the conjoined parish for centuries, and the name which the local hurling team went by during the late 18th Century. On 10 January 1909 the first recorded game involving Upperwoods took place (against Donaghmore). Although difficult to ascertain how they fared in the 1909 season they are noted to have reached the Senior semi-final where they faced Clonaslee. Clonaslee went on to win this semi-final and were defeated by Kilcotton in the final the following March. Upperwoods seemed to be in existence for some years in the early 1910s. Edward Tarrant represented the club at meetings of the County Board. In 1912 Castletown took part in the Junior hurling championship, indicating that the merger had come to an end. If the merger did indeed end in 1912 then Camross took quite a while to reorganise. The club are not mentioned in any reports during either the 1912 or 1913 championships.
As Camross were regrouping after their short merger with Castletown, the county side were entering the most successful period that they had enjoyed to that point, and sadly, have ever enjoyed to this day. Kilcotton provided the bulk of the Laois team for the 1914 inter-county championship. They defeated Kilkenny in the Leinster final and met Clare in the All-Ireland final. The historic occasion resulted in a total annihilation of the Laois team. But Laois, led by men from the Ballygeehan club, made amends in the following year when they defeated Cork in a rain sodden Croke Park on 24 October 1915 to with their first All-Ireland. Neither team wore their current colours; Laois wearing black and amber and Cork wearing an all yellow jersey. Amongst the 15,000 strong crowd was Jack Johnston, the first African-American boxer to hold the World Heavyweight Championship. Johnston, whose seven year reign ended only months beforehand, was said to have been supporting Laois. There was a very tangible link between Camross and the victorious Laois team of the mid-1910s. Paddy Ryan, of Derrycarew, was originally from Ballygeehan. He was the goalkeeper for the All-Ireland winning team. His All-Ireland medal, in the proud possession of Paddy’s son, Patsy, remains the only Celtic Cross in Camross, for now. In an interview in 1972, comparing the game that he played to the hurling of the early 1970s, Paddy Ryan, then 80, said that ‘there is too much dirt in the game now. There was no such thing as pulling across a player with the hurley and there was far less rooting than in the game today … nowadays, they can’t hit the ball on the ground at all. They have to rise it no matter what thereby slowing up the game and making it less attractive from a spectator’s point of view’.
Paddy Ryan died in November 1973.
1914 Junior Hurling Champions
In 1914 the dormant hurlers of Camross re-emerged on the county scene and entered the Junior Championship. Understandably, the outbreak of the Great War relegated much GAA reporting to the cutting room floor of local newspapers. The grim realities of life on the front rightly occupied the editorial minds of the Laois Nationalist and the Leinster Express. However, life did go on in rural Laois even if it was not documented by the press. The absence of any report on the 1914 Junior Championship was thankfully corrected decades later. Teddy Fennelly, Portlaoise, edited a volume commemorating Camross’ Leinster Championship victory in 1977 and it contains an interview with the last surviving member of the 1914 team, Mick Conroy. Conroy explains how John Lyons re-started the training process for the 1914 season. It is likely that the club might not have fielded a team yet again were it not for Lyons’ determination. Conroy describes Lyons as ‘a great player and captain. He could catch anything. You might as well get the stroke of a tractor wheel as a belt from John Lyons’ hip…He should have been on the 1915 team’. He was in midfield alongside Joe Moore. Conroy himself was left half forward and his brother Jack was in the centre. Fint Lalor, father to the first senior winning captain, was on the other wing. Centre Back was Mick Culleton, whose son Dan would feature on the 1959 winning side. Pat Cordial was full-back. His sons Tim, Paddy and Ned were all key cogs in the teams of the 1930s and 1940s. Pat was said to be a giant of a man and as impassable as a Himalayan mountain. The Pratts were prominent members of the early club and George was goalkeeper in 1914 behind his brother, Gould, who was corner back. Their brother Sam had also served the club with distinction in the early days. Jim Dooley was left half back. His son, Joe, featured on the 1959 side. Joe Delaney was corner forward. Willie Delaney, who would go on to be a priest, occupied the other corner. The trainer of the team was John Carroll, grandfather to the famous goalkeeper of future years.
They defeated Ballygeehan in the first round which was a fantastic achievement considering that it was from Ballygeehan that the bulk of the All-Ireland winning team of 1915 came from. Mountrath were defeated in the semi-final to set up a final with Abbeyleix. Conroy describes some of the clever tactics that John Lyons had to overcome on the day of the final which was played in Clonaheen, near Mountmellick;
In the final Abbeyleix pulled a master stroke by putting Mick Lalor, who then worked in the town (as a shop assistant in Bergin’s in the town) against his brother, Fint. Mick was selected at left half back to curb Fint, the Camross right half forward and the ploy worked, but only for a time. John Lyons, the Camross captain quickly spotted the move and switched myself and Fint. Both of us benefited from the move and the game was duly won.
Mick Lalor did not want to hurl on the day of the final against his native Camross, especially as his brother Fint was playing in the black and amber. Indeed, Fint lost most of his teeth in the game, and barely had a tooth in his head for the rest of his life as a result. But Mick’s job security in Abbeyleix had to take precedence and were he to pull out of the game there was a chance he might lose his job. The final was a very tight affair and Abbeyleix hurled very well for most of the game but slackened somewhat toward the end, allowing Camross back into the game. Camross eventually took the lead and were a point up with the full hour played. With the last puck of the game Abbeyleix were awarded a free in a promising position and who was tasked with scoring an equaliser, only Mick Lalor. It was perhaps a poor move on the Abbeyleix team’s part to entrust Mick with the task of denying his fellow Camross men their first title. Mick hit the free in such a manner that it would go wide, but not obviously so. As the ball came in it dropped and bounced towards the goalmouth and hurtled towards the goals. In a heart stopping moment, all eyes turned to the umpire who waved the ball wide. Mick was a relieved man, as his tactic almost saw Abbeyleix win the game, never mind equalise, with the last puck. Mick wrote to Mick Conroy later the following week apologising for the last minute scare and Lalor said that he wouldn’t have been able to live with himself if the goal had have been scored.
The first eleven years were a mixed bag in terms of achievement for Camross. Their magnificent potential was proven in the manner in which they advanced to the 1906 Senior County Final. But the merger with Castletown represented a retrograde step for the black and amber. Upperwoods did not capture the imagination of their namesakes who the Poet Ryan immortalised a century earlier. The ‘temporary little arrangement’ benefitted neither Camross nor Castletown although the years immediately after the merger seemed to leave Camross in a state of disarray. But this disarray gave way to great success through the leadership of John Carroll and John Lyons and plenty of hard work in the first training pitch in Breen’s Hollow.
As per the by-laws of the Association, Camross may well have fielded a senior team in the wake of their Junior victory in 1914. This might indicate towards a weakened Junior side that faced Rathdowney in the 1916 Junior Championship. Of course this might not be the case at all. In some respects this author may be searching for some solace after glancing through the following match report of the game;
On Sunday at Mondrehid, Rathdowney and Camross met in the Junior Hurling championship. A little after the appointed time the teams took the field. Camross winning the toss, played with the wind. On the throw in Rathdowney broke away per Daly, and the forwards missed scoring by inches. On the delivery Camross attacked, but a long drive by Fitzpatrick sent them back, for Tobin to score the first goal for Rathdowney. After this Rathdowney scored twice in succession per Moylan. Play was up and down now for some time until Tobin from 50 yards out scored a point, and at half-time the scores were Rathdowney, 4 goals 1 point to nil. On resuming Jim Daly placed for power to score a goal. Although Camross now seemed beaten, they made a determined push but only a wide resulted. After this they never got a chance, and Rathdowney ran out easy winners by 10 goals and 2 points to nil.
Clearly not a high point in the club’s history, especially disappointing as it came so soon after winning the Junior championship two years earlier.
The following years were largely unsuccessful for the club. Ballygeehan, Kilcotton and Rathdowney continued their domination of the Senior Championships whilst several Junior Championships were not completed. This was probably due to the War of Independence which occupied the lives of so many young men throughout the county. However, just as the War of Independence over, Camross won the 1921 Junior Championship. Several of the men involved in the 1914 team were nearing the end of their career but the 1921 side was to feature the beginning of a new dynasty of Camross hurlers. Jack Cuddy from Killanure, father to future greats Tim and Ollie, was right half back. Another Jack Cuddy, from Aughduff, father to Ger and Seán, was full forward whilst his brother, Ger, was centre forward. The team on the day was John Lyons, Mick Conroy, Jack Conroy, Joe Carroll, Jim Dooley, Paddy Cordial, Mick Culleton, Jack Dowling, Mick Dowling, Joe Delaney, Tim England, Jack Cuddy (Derrylahan), Jack Cuddy (Killanure), Ger Cuddy.
The Civil War once again put a stop to the regular completion of Junior Championships. The infant Free State was a fraught environment and the process of building and rebuilding after years of divisive bloodshed took precedence over the GAA in many people’s minds. Indeed it was not until 1925 that a Junior Championship would be completed. Camross competed in the 1926 Senior Championship and recorded a convincing victory over Rathdowney on a score line of 4-8 to 3-3. Although it seems that they did not proceed much further in that year’s competition, the nature of the victory over Rathdowney, who would recover and go on to win the Championship, shows that the club’s slump since their 1921 victory was coming to an end.
In 1928 Camross competed in a Senior Hurling League to supplement the championship in the county. They reached their second competitive Senior grade final in this tournament but were defeated in the final by Cuddagh by 4-1 to 2-1. 1927 and 1928 were a successful period for the Junior team. They reached both the 1927 and 1928 Junior finals. They defeated the Pike-of-Rushall in the ’27 Semi-Final but suffered defeat at the hands of Cuddagh in the final. In a very dark year for the parish, Camross raised the mood by claiming their third Junior Championship in 1928. They had a convincing 20 point victory over Kilcotton in the final.
The previous inability to build on success was challenged in the 1929 Junior Championship. A much delayed beginning to this championship meant that Camross were only contesting the second round in February of 1930. They defeated Mountrath 3-2 to 2-3 to set up a meeting with Mountmellick, whom they duly overcame. There was controversy over the outcome of this game and there was talk of an objection being filed by Mountmellick but they opted not to appeal and Camross progressed to face Ballygeehan in the Junior semi-final. Unfortunately Ballygeehan proved too strong for Camross on the day and they went on to win the Championship. But Camross showed that they now had the ability to follow up a successful year with a relatively successful year which made a welcome change to the victory-slump-victory pattern that had been the case since the club’s foundation in 1903.
In 1932 there were the largest number of clubs competing in the Senior and Junior Championships in the history of Laois GAA to that point. Camross received a bye into the second round of the Junior Championship whilst they faced Castletown in the first round of the Senior Championship. Possibly owing to the large number of teams, the Junior Championship was another delayed affair. Camross defeated Derrykearn 5-1 to 3-2 in December to advance into a semi-final. It was not until the spring of 1933 that this semi-final was played. Errill was the venue and Attanagh were the opponents. Camross advanced to another Junior Championship final with a convincing 3-2 to 0-2 victory. The Irish Press noted that the stand out performers on the Camross side were Hogan, Conroy, Kelly and Cuddy.
To this point in time, Camross had only tasted defeat once in a Junior final. This excellent record worsened slightly with the outcome of the delayed 1932 Junior Championship final which was not played until April 1933. Errill defeated Camross on a score line of 2-8 to 2-2. The defeat was disappointing but due to the delay in the completion of the 1932 Championship, the focus had to immediately shift to the 1933 Championship. 1933 proved to be a very difficult year for the club, however. They opened with a heavy defeat at the hands of Castletown on a score line of 5-5 to 3-1. They then faced the now defunct Boley club in August. Their first clash ended in a draw with Camross crashing out of the 1933 championship in the replay.
One Parish – Several Clubs
By the 1930s it was clear that the Camross team could only realistically accommodate a certain amount of people. Motorcars were not common and in a mountain parish such as Camross, cycling to training and matches was not ideal and the road infrastructure was not as it is today. Three other clubs, centred on three geographic centres outside Camross village, were formed in the parish to cater for the growing number of people playing hurling in the parish.
In those days the acquisition of one’s first hurl was not as easy as it is today. Ash plants were stubbed and would be carried to someone who could fashion them into a hurl with a saw. Kieran Moore speaks about how, in the early 1930s, he, and his neighbours, would carry the stubbed ash to Ned Dobbyn in Borris-in-Ossory who would turn it into a rudimentary hurl. As Kieran says ‘it mightn’t be all that sweet, but it’d do’. Dobbyn, who was a carpenter by trade, would not charge the boys any money for the service. In later years collections would be held at a training session for the purchase of sliotars for the year. Unsurprisingly, attendance at these sessions were small.
Coolrain Hurling Club
In 1934 Camross parish gained another hurling club; Coolrain. In May of that year, as yet another record was broken for the number of teams participating in Laois championships, Coolrain were drawn into the Junior Hurling Championship group alongside Camross, Mountrath and Castletown.
In July both sides began their Championships. Camross would face Castletown whilst Coolrain played their first competitive match against Mountrath. Coolrain’s first venture into competitive hurling was not one to live long in the memory as they were easily defeated by Mountrath but Camross fared better with a 3-2 to 2-0 win over their near rivals. Although it was noted that a disputed goal at the end of the game caused hectic scenes. Camross played Coolrain’s victors in the next round. But Mountrath progressed with a 1-1 to 2-1 victory. The noted performers on the Camross side on the day being Pratt and Hogan.
In the 1935 championships, Camross Juniors played Cuddagh in the opening round. They won handsomely on a score line of 6-3 to 2-2. Meanwhile, 1935 was the first year since 1913 that an Intermediate Championship was held in the county. This level, sandwiched in between the Junior and Senior Championships seemed like an ideal fit for the Camross club in the mid-1930s with respect to their performances over the previous years. They defeated Mountrath 4-3 to 1-1 in their first ever game in the grade. On 15 September Camross defeated Ballyfin and then defeated Mountrath 7-5 to 3-4 a fortnight later. But despite these victories, they advanced no further in their first Intermediate Championship.
1936 saw Camross go a few steps further in the Intermediate Championship, reaching the semi-final. But in extraordinary circumstances, as they were late turning up for their game against Ballyfin, the referee awarded the game to Ballyfin. The Irish Press mistakenly noted that Camross had conceded the game.
The first report of juvenile hurling games involving teams from the parish took place in 1937. A team from the National School in Camross took on their counterparts in Mountrath in May. They lost the game 5-1 to 1-1. The first recorded Minor game involving Camross ended in a 8-1 to 1-1 defeat, also to Mountrath. Much work to do at underage level it seemed. In the Junior Championship Camross defeated Mountrath 2-3 to 1-1. They then faced Mondrehid but this game was abandoned with Camross one point in arrears owing to a cloudburst. In August 1938 Camross played their first match in the Junior championship and they heavily defeated Rosenallis by 9-3 to 1-2. They also defeated a Pike-of-Rushall team 4-4 to 2-1. They went on to play the Rovers team but were knocked out of the championship by their Portlaoise opponents.
Killanure and Clonin Hurling Clubs
Despite a poor showing in the Junior championship for Camross, 1938 was a very significant year for another end of the parish. The first recorded competitive game involving the newly formed Killanure club was a Junior game against Castletown. A fourth team from the parish emerged the following year with the entry of Clonin to the Junior hurling championship. Clonin, in particular, benefitted from internal tensions within the Camross club. Several prominent members of the Camross team threw in their lot with Clonin amidst fears that the Camross club was about to fold altogether. Other prominent Camross players opted to hurl with other clubs such as Castletown. Clonin’s first season did not yield much success with a heavy opening defeat to Cuddagh and a further four point loss to Killanure in May 1939.
There were then four GAA clubs in the parish towards the end of the 1930s. However, Coolrain seemed to exit the scene as soon as they had emerged into it. So in all likelihood the four clubs did not coexist at the same time for very long. In earlier times there was also a team in the Drim area although it does not seem that they entered formal county competitions. Of course the Cappamore team, which would later merge with Castletown (initially under the title of Castlemore) would have had several men from the parish playing with them also. The large number of localised hurling clubs was, of course, not restricted to Camross parish, or indeed Laois. Just over the Offaly border there was a team known as Grawn. Grawn competed against other local teams such as Roscomroe. Around 1946 Grawn played Camross in a match which was played at the bottom of Moll Joy’s Hill in Garranbawn. Paddy Dooley, Neilstown, who was at the game recalled a great performance from Mick Keenan on the day for Camross. Moore recalls other practice matches involving Camross and Roscomroe. Cocks of hay would have to be removed from the playing pitch to accommodate the players before throw-in. Overcoats were used as the goals and local man, Dinny Connors refereed the game. Moore notes the performance of Billy Browne, Gurteen, and his achievement in keeping Paddy Bergin completely out of the game.
1939 was an immensely significant year for the oldest, more established club of the parish. Camross opened up their Junior championship with a 7-1 to 3-2 rout of Mountrath. In the Intermediate grade they opened with a 3-1 to 0-2 victory over Boley. A heavy defeat to Mountrath, who gained a morsel of revenge for their heavy defeat earlier in the year followed. One of the early Camross-Killanure derbies was won by Camross as they progressed in both divisions. Killanure’s year ended with a heavy defeat at the hands of Mountrath. Meanwhile, Camross went marching on in the Intermediate Championship with a 8-4 to 0-2 score against Rosenallis.
On 20 August 1939 Camross competed in their first county Intermediate final. It was the most significant game in the club’s history to that point and their opponents on the day were the stalwarts of Laois hurling, Rathdowney. The first half was a close affair and both teams were level at two points apiece at the break. Rathdowney kicked on around the three-quarter mark, and were gathering a healthy lead going into the final stages. But the dying moments saw a remarkable turn of events, best described by Mick Conroy in his interview with Teddy Fennelly;
Rathdowney led our lads by seven points and there was only nine minutes to go. Our midfield man, Paddy Bergin, hit it down the wing to Tommy Kelly. Dowling raced down the right wing and connected with the cross scoring a great goal. Two minutes later there was the exact same move, Jack Dowling got another goal. And before the finish Paddy Bergin scored two points from frees to leave us winners by a point.
It was an extraordinary fight-back from Camross, stunning a Rathdowney side who were desperate to add an intermediate title to their seventeen senior titles that they had amassed at that stage. The Camross team on the day included Jack Larkin, Joe Delaney, Patrick Cordial (Crannagh), Tim Cordial (Crannagh), Frank Hogan, Patsy Delaney (Glebe), Billy Delaney (Glebe), John Dowling (Derrcarrow), Mick Dowling (Derrycarrow), Martin Kelly (Ballaghmore), Tom Kelly (Ballaghmore), Paddy Bergin, Tom Bergin, Michael Rigney (Ballaghmore), James Rigney (Ballaghmore), James Tobin (Marymount).
Now in the premier ranks once more Camross’ first Senior Championship game of 1940 was against Kilcotton. They did well against their more experienced opponents in the first half. They were leading 2-3 to 1-4 at half time. But in the first fifteen minutes of the second half Kilcotton were level and just managed to push on to secure a 2-8 to 2-5 victory. The ‘brothers Bergin’ were noted as Camross’ best performers on the day. The Juniors had a poor year, losing to Kyle 4-3 to 1-2 in September. Killanure were knocked out of the Junior championship by Mountrath on 18 August 1940 by 2-1 to 0-1. Clonin hurlers were finding life in competitive action quite tough as shown in two ties against Kyle in August and September. They lost the matches by a total of 52 points. However, Clonin did achieve some success in football. They beat Errill in the Junior football championship by 2-3 to 0-3, but did not advance to the latter stages.
Camross Intermediate team, 1941. Back row (L. to R.) Jack Larkin, Tom Wall, Fint Cooke, Joseph Delaney, Tim Cordial, Francis Hogan, William Delaney. Middle Row (L. to R.) Patrick Cordial, Joe Holohan, Patrick Delaney. Thomas Kelly, Thomas Bergin. Front Row (L. to R.) Tim Delaney, Padge Collier, Joe Hyland (Glebe, Mascot), Paddy Bergin, Mick Phelan.
In 1941 the Camross Juniors were knocked out of the Championship following defeats to Kyle on a score of 4-3 to 1-2 and Borris-in-Ossory on a score of 5-2 to 5-1. The seniors were not successful in the Championship either, but did have a good victory over Cuddagh in the Murphy Cup. One of the greatest achievements in the 1940s for the parish clubs came in 1941 with the Minor Championship being won by Clonin. In an interview in 1986, William Brophy recalls the famous victory noting that two of the successful team, Brendan Hogan and Patrick Wall, went on to hurl for the Laois minor team in that year’s Leinster Championship. Brophy also recalls that Clonin won another minor title only to see their opponents, Cullohill, being awarded the match after a dispute over the first name of a Clonin player being spelt incorrectly.
Camross began the 1942 Senior Hurling Championship with their finest performance in the senior grade in the club’s history. They took on the reigning champions Rathdowney in Borris-in-Ossory in June. Only two weeks previously both teams faced each other in the semi-final of the Murphy Cup and Rathdowney had a convincing victory. If comparing the performance of Camross on the day to the modern game the victory came in a rather unorthodox fashion. Indeed it was highly unusual, even in 1942, not to score a point in a game and end up as victors. But Camross did just that with a 4-0 to 2-5 victory. A few weeks later Rathdowney made amends somewhat by defeating Camross by a point in the semi-final of the 1942 O’Moore Park tournament. The seniors were unable to replicate their fine performance against Rathdowney in the Championship semi-final which they lost to heavily to Clonard.
The Coolrain club made a brief comeback in in 1943 in the form of the Coolrain LDF football team. Their return was a bit of a disaster though. The 4-7 to 0-0 defeat probably put them off competitive action for a while. Clonin recovered from heavy defeats in preceding years to reach a 1944 Junior group final in which they played Kyle. Unfortunately Kyle had the upper hand once more however. But bearing in mind that this was a Kyle team that was maturing into a future senior winning team there was little shame in their five point defeat. The Clonin club was very well organised and held annual gatherings in late May as well as a medal tournament later in the summer. The chairman of the club in 1944 was T O’Gorman, vice-chairman was M. Fitzpatrick, treasurer was J. Breen and secretary was Denis Phelan. George Whitford was selected as club captain with G. Breen his vice-captain. They took on Camross in the first round of the championship and they defeated the second team of their near neighbours 3-3 to 3-0. Carroll, Young and Fitzpatrick and Breen, who scored 2 points were the difference on the day. Clonin advanced from their district group in the Junior Championship and took on Raheen at the next stage. Clonin’s strength was underlined in their emphatic victory over Raheen. They qualified for a county semi-final against Clonaslee with a 27 point victory. Raheen failed to score.
They were underdogs against a good Clonaslee side but they qualified for the Junior final against the odds by beating their opponents from the far side of the mountain. Their opponents in the final were near neighbours, Kyle. Kyle had defeated Blandsford in their semi-final. On 12 November 1944 Clonin faced Kyle in Mountrath, in what proved to be the biggest day in the club’s short history. Kyle got out of the blocks at great speed and totally blitzed their opponents in the first half. They lead by eight points at half time, Clonin only managing a point in the first half. They improved somewhat in the second half but Kyle’s lead was insurmountable. Kyle won the title by 2-3 to 1-3.
Camross were a rising team towards the end of the War years. Their 1944 championship didn’t get off to a great start in their divisional group with a three point loss to an in form Mountrath team who were aiming to regain the championship which they had lost in 1943. The score was 3-5 to 3-2. But they recovered and claimed victory in their next game; defeating Borris-in-Ossory by 4-4 to 1-3. The score line belied a dominant Borris performance in the first half and were it not for three easy Camross goals, Camross may have departed the championship at the district group phase. They played Borris once more in the group final and won 3-1 to 1-3.
They eventually reached the Senior semi-final in 1944 where they came up against Kilcotton. The match was played in Borris-in-Ossory. Kilcotton were on top in the first half and led by two points at half time. They went on to increase their lead to six points early in the second half and they looked certain for a comfortable victory. But credit to the Camross men, they hit two goals in quick succession and brought the sides level. However, Camross wasted several chances to win the game. Paddy Bergin was the best of the Camross forwards but his colleagues delayed on shots for too long which cost Camross dearly. Elsewhere on the pitch, P. Cordial, Joe Delaney and T. Kelly were noted as playing well. But it was the spurned opportunities that cost Camross. T. Fitzpatrick hit a point for Kilcotton against the run of play with the last puck of the ball and won by a point. They went on to be defeated by Abbeyleix in the final.
Buoyed by a good performance, Camross went into the 1945 championship with high hopes. They had every right to be confident as they easily disposed of Kilcotton in the Championship quarter-final. Killanure and Camross met in the Junior championship in 1945 with Killanure winning by a point. It was the Junior Group Final and showed the rancour that, at times, soured the relationship between the co-parishioners. In the immediate aftermath of the game it was noted that Camross were very interested in a Killanure midfielder to join their own team. However, an objection was lodged by Camross on grounds of a small technicality and a replay was kindly offered by the Killanure club. And, indeed, no good deed is ever done unpunished: Camross won the re-fixture and the local group title by 2-5 to 0-2. Killanure, learning their lesson, counter-objected to Camross later in the year but, unfortunately for them, were overruled by the County Board. To their credit Killanure battled their way back into contention in the Championship proper but were narrowly defeated by Castletown in September. The noted stars of the Killanure team being Phelan, Abbot and Burke.
Camross faced Rathdowney in the semi-final of the 1945 Senior Championship in Borris-in-Ossory. Camross started off at lightening pace and were 2-2 to 0-0 after a few minutes; Scully, Kelly and Bergin coming up with the scores. Camross added four more points whilst their opponents failed to raise the white flag in the remainder of the first half. The second half was an entirely different story. Rathdowney came out the stronger of the two sides and scored 1-1 to no reply in the opening minutes of the second half. Padge Collier, Camross goalkeeper, was keeping them in the match as he pulled off a string of great saves. Another Camross goal was responded to with two Rathdowney goals. An edgy finish followed, but Camross’ early superiority proved vital as they ran out three point winners.
Their opponents in the final were Abbeyleix who were going for two in a row. They had defeated Clonaslee in the semi-final. Before a large crowd in O’Moore Park, Camross capitulated. They were victims of the same strong start that they had inflicted upon Rathdowney. Just like their semi-final opponents Camross failed to score in the first half. As the Irish Press reported, Abbeyleix were eleven points up after ten minutes. They were 3-3 to 0-0 by half-time. Two of these goals were said to be of the ‘soft variety’. The game was over bar the shouting and there was precious little of that produced in the second half. Despite good efforts from Bergin, Delaney, Larkin and Fint Cooke, Camross went down by 5-5 to 1-2.
The 1946 O’Moore Park tournament got under way with games throughout the county in March. There was farcical scenes in Mountrath in a local derby. Mid-way through the first half Killanure were leading Clonin by four points. Amidst a goalmouth scramble the ball seemed to cross the line for a Clonin goal. As was common at the time, fans entered the pitch and took matters into their own hands. After the schmozzle was at its end and the players were ready to resume the ball was gone! The referee threw his hands in the air and left shortly afterwards.
There had been rumours earlier in 1946 that Clonin club was about to fold altogether. So their continued participation in competitions for the remainder of the year was an achievement itself. Indeed they exceeded what seemed like rather low expectations with several fine performances culminating in a victory over Borris-in-Ossory in a local area final. They were expected to overcome Cappamore in the following game but were defeated by 6-2 to 3-1. The first tangible evidence of the beginning of the end of the Clonin club came with the reorganisation of a club in Ballyfin in 1946. The Leinster Express reported that several players were seeking transfers away from Clonin. The long distances involved travelling to Clonin from the Ballyfin area made such transfers inevitable. 1947 was the final true year of Clonin’s GAA Club. The former secretary of Clonin, Denis Phelan of Paddock, was appointed as secretary of the newly formed club in the Deerpark area of Ballyfin, Slieve Bloom. It was claimed that the Clonin club was now ‘defunct’. In his recollections on the club, William Brophy, notes that the formation of Slieve Bloom was the final blow for the club. But he also said that the scourge of emigration that hit Ireland after the War also played its part. It seems that the club stopped competing competitively in 1947 but they did continue to participate in the junior football championship. The football team continued on throughout 1948 but a concerted effort in Mountrath to revive football in the town was the final nail in the coffin. The Clonin club’s history spanned ten years.
Killanure won their local group final in June 1947 with a comfortable victory over the newly formed Slieve Bloom. The game was a sign of things to come for Killanure, in more ways than one. Following a highly impressive display, there were clear signs that Killanure were close to their potential and would make serious challenges for the Junior championship in years to come. But the aftermath of the Slieve Bloom match foreshadowed high profile battles in the board rooms of the county board that would come in future years. Slieve Bloom objected that one of the Killanure men had not been registered in any way to the GAA. Killanure admitted their guilt and the tie was duly awarded to Slieve Bloom. A counter-objection from Killanure was overruled.
1948 was a mixed year for the clubs of the parish. The Laois Senior team advanced to play Dublin in the Leinster Hurling final and although they were defeated, Camross man, Seán Collier was noted as the star of the gallant Laois side. The Camross Juniors faced Mountrath in the local area final and whilst Camross claimed the victory, the game was utterly marred by clashes among the spectators. A meeting of the Camross GAA club committed to get to the nub of the matter and urged the Laois county board to bring some Mountrath supporters, who were accused of contributing to the ugly scenes, before a hurling committee meeting ‘to answer some questions’. At a meeting of the county committee in Mountrath a huge crowd listened intently as the incidents which marred the game were discussed by officials from both clubs. Tensions were very high throughout as officials from both sides clashed over what to do with those spectators that allegedly assaulted players and officials alike. Eamon De Breun, National School teacher in Camross and possessor of a very rare quality at the meeting, a cool head, suggested that both clubs should simply drop the matter and allow the otherwise good blood between the clubs to prevail. His suggestions was greeted respectfully and the matter was dropped.
In the immediate wake of the meeting, De Breun was keen to save his own club’s reputation which, he felt, was being attacked by elements of the press. Despite taking a calm approach at the meeting in Mountrath, he did not hold back in his letter to the Leinster Express outlining his concern at the way in which the entire incident was reported by the newspaper;
Despite the space given, it is remarkably significant that you completely omit the statements made by the representative of this club. Our club strongly resists the efforts of your correspondent by allegations and omissions, to cast a slur on our members in advance. We, however, feel secure in the belief that the reputation of our club amongst the Gaels of this county is, to put the matter mildly, at least at high as that of the club which attempts to besmirch us.
Meanwhile, the Camross Intermediate team defeated Slieve Bloom 2-1 to 1-3 in a tightly contested game to advance to the 1948 final. Padge Collier in goals, Joe Delaney in defence and Paddy Bergin in midfield were the difference on the day. The first attempt to play the final against the Rovers was unsuccessful as a number of the Rovers team were ill. In fact it took months to finalise the tie amidst a number of cancellations and re-schedules. Championships and tournaments were well under way for the following year by the time the final was played on 22 May 1949. However, the Rovers were more clinical in front of the posts and Camross were unable to recover;
Camross were hardly as good as they were in Mountrath in the O’Moore Park final, and their forwards never settled down to get scores, despite good work by Paddy Bergin and J.