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A History of Kinsale G.A.A.

Contributed by Fergus Hurley

The Calendar of Kinsale Documents, currently held in the National Library of Ireland, provides the first record of Gaelic games in our town.  The year is 1694, Puritanism is the English societal norm, and the minutes of the Court D'Oyer Hundred record the "presentment" of "Thomas Creeman, John Mahon and Severall others for Brakeing the Lords day....they being at Hurlying(sic)."  Fast forward 170 years, and the sinners are still at it.  A letter in the Cork Examiner dated 3 October 1864 refers to a match "between the 16 men of Kinsale and the 16 men of Ballinora, in the latter parish, at a short distance from the Waterfall station of the Cork and Kinsale Railway."  Accompanied by "500 of their fellow townsmen" to the match, the Kinsale hurlers carried the ball "more than half the required distance from the Kinsale corner in about five minutes" before the backers of the Ballinora men, "numbering several thousands, rushed in the way of the Kinsale men, crowding around them in such numbers as to render the further continuance of the game a matter of impossibility."  Having claimed victory, the Kinsale men headed for the train, but "were met ... by a mob of more than 2,000 persons....who attacked the carriages containing the Kinsale men, smashing the doors and windows, and wounding several of the occupants severely." The letter concluded that the Kinsale men "not only maintain their indisputable claim to be considered the best hurlers in the south of the county, but also upheld their well-known character for good temper and manly bearing on all occasions.

"With the revival of Gaelic games and culture in the late 19th century, the Kinsale Fontenoy club affiliated to the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1886, being one of the first 21 clubs in Cork to do so.  By 1893, Kinsale Black and Whites and Kinsale Emmets (from Ringcurran parish) both participated in the county championship - and in a number of keenly contested local derbies -  with the Black and Whites losing to the famous Nils club in that year's county final.  That team would feature well known Kinsale names such as Thuillier, Barrett and Coakley, while Kinsale's Michael McCarthy went on to represent Nils in the All Ireland final of 1894.  By the turn of the century, both of these teams had disappeared, replaced briefly by the Ninety Eights, before William Mackessy (who later won an All Ireland with Cork in 1911 as a Lees player) re-started a football club 1899.  The club's second team won the equivalent of the junior county final in 1900, defeating Macroom, while the first team lost the equivalent of the senior county final to Fermoy in the same year.  Kinsale would again lose to Fermoy in the senior semi-final in 1904 and once more in the 1915 intermediate final, and the club's last intermediate football final before today's game ended in defeat to Buttevant in 1926.

Victory over Doneraile gave Kinsale its first junior hurling county title in 1918, while the intermediate title was won in 1926 with a team that contained Jim O'Regan, Matt Murphy and Mick Goggin.  Coincidentally, Buttevant were on the receiving end this time.  The club amalgamated with Shamrocks to play for a year as Owenabue in the 1929 senior championship, but later regraded to junior ranks in both codes and won a county title in football in 1932, defeating Dromtarrife, while Jack Barrett, Mossie Hayes, Sonny O'Connell and Co. were victorious over Skibbereen in the junior hurling final of 1933.   These were the last county titles to come to the town for 78 years; following defeat to Ballincollig in the intermediate hurling final of 1934, Kinsale would not even contest another county final at adult level until 2001. The south east junior football championship was won 15 times between 1945 and 2005, when the club was promoted to the intermediate grade, but hurling victories were few and far between, and when Kinsale won the South East Junior Championship double in 1978, it was the first divisional victory for the hurlers in 45 years.  The club still competes at junior level in hurling, and last won the Carrigdhoun championship in 2007. In 2011 Kinsale ended decades of frustration and heartache at county level by winning the Intermediate football championship, defeating Ballyclough, Youghal (after a replay), Kildorrery and Castletownbere in the final.

A total of 12 Kinsale players have won All Ireland medals with Cork, including Lyndon Kiely, Richard O'Sullivan and Brian Coughlan who were members of the Intermediate winning team of 2011, with the latter pair winning an All Ireland junior football title in August 2011.  Jim O'Regan won four senior hurling All Irelands in 1926, '28, '29 and '31, while Jack Barrett won a senior hurling All Ireland in 1941.  This was the last senior All Ireland medal won by a member of the club until Orla Finn's heroics helped the Cork ladies football team to senior glory in late September 2011. Cionn tSáile abú!


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