Abbeydorney Hurling Club History by Willie Griffin

Whilst one cannot say with certainty when the Abbeydorney Hurling Club came into existence it is fairly certain that the game was being played in the Parish on a very wide scale even before the G.A.A. was founded in 1884. That the standard of hurling was very good is not in dispute because the Club won the first.of its four Co. Championships in 1893. When one realizes that in 1891 our neighbours Ballyduff had brought to Kerry its first and only Senior All Ireland title in Hurling, it becomes obvious that Kerry Hurling during this era was as good as anywhere in the country. Indeed we are told that an Abbey­dorney man, Dave Fitzgerald of Killahan was a substitute on that same Ballyduff team

Regretfully we have no record of the team which won the 1893 final but we do have the team that won the Championship in 1896, and we would assume that most of those who played in 1896 also played in 1893. The Club had to wait seventeen years before winning its next title (1913) and then the long gap of 61 years to 1974 for its fourth and last Co. Senior Title.

Anyone who might think that this long wait for a Senior Co. Title signified a decline of hurling in the area would be completely wrong, because the records show that the club in the..intervening years reached a good many Senior County Finals without achieving the ultimate goal. There, were, however compensations by way of North Kerry League Title and the great years of 1927, '28, '29, and '30 when the men in Black and Amber were in a class of their own winning four North Kerry Leagues in a row. They were back again in 1936 for a further North Kerry League Title, a period which saw great teams in most of the North Kerry Senior Clubs. In 1947 the club started its first of three sessions in the Junior ranks, the others being in '51 and '65, On each occasion the Junior title was won and the club compelled to revert to Senior the following year.

Since '65, however the Killahan Junior club has continued to function and as in the history of the area has continued to produce its quota of fine Senior hurlers for the club. It is worth noting that on each of the occasions when the Senior Co. Championship has been won the team has been captained by a Killahan man.

The year 1968 saw the North Kerry League title come to the club for the sixth time to date and most hurling enthusiasts are agreed that, had the team remained together they could have won a Senior Championship in '70 or '71. However, they broke up and it took another six years to get the right balance to break the sixty one year hodoo. Rathmore, believe it or not was in 1918 the venue set by the Co. Board for a first round Senior Championship game between O'Dorney and Kilgarvan. The team travelled by train and we are told that apart from the teams and some few supporters accompanying them not another spectator turned up for the match. This was the period of hurling dominance by the Tralee Parnells and also the year for objections. O'Dorney met them in the final of the Co. Championship in September 1918'and won by a point. Parnells objected and a replay was ordered on the grounds that an O'Dorney player was illegal. This game was played in October 1918 and won by Parnells, again by the narrowest margin. O'Dorney then objected and a second replay was ordered because a Tralee player was illegal. This game was not played until March 1919 and victory went to Parnells rather easily because in the time between the first and second replays a number of the village stars had emigrated to the U.S.A.

Because of the freedom struggle the Co Championship was suspended over the years 1919-1924, but during this period most clubs did play some challenges or tournaments. On the resumption of competition, in 1925 Tralee were a great power in Co Championship hurling and remained so over the next half dozen years. However, the North Kerry League had also started around this time and it was the men in Black and Amber that dominated the scene in North Kerry. That the standard of the opposition was good cannot be argued when it is noted that the Causeway team ended the dominance of Tralee in 1932 to win their first Co. Championship. North Kerry clubs have since then monopolised the Co Championship apart from one or two incursions in 1953 and '56 by that hurling stronghold of the South, Kilgarvan.

No summary of the clubs history would be complete without the mention of the many dedicated men whose work for their clubs off the field have in large measure contributed to the success of hurling in North Kerry. Down the years our own club has had its fair share of good fortune in this respect, and has produced men who have each in his own way helped to foster that special allegiance and pride in the local community which ensures continuity regardless of success. There are so many such men in the history of the club that it would be impossible in an article such as this to mention them all but we hope you will excuse us if we single out one man for special mention. For over forty years he has encouraged and helped every generation of youth in this parish and it is a great pleasure for us on behalf of past and present generations of youth to acknowledge and thank Mr. Maurice Fuller of Droumcunning for that help on this historic occasion.

Our under age teams must not be forgotten in this summary and down the years the club has produced remarkably good minor teams. For instance in the years 1955- 56 playing as St Patrick's ( a combination -of O'Dorney and Kilflynn ) the team twice won Co Minor titles and in 1957 an entirely O'Dorney selection won another Co Championship. During this period also the Abbeydorney Minor Team won two North Kerry Championships in 1956 & 57 and the North Kerry League Titles in 1954, '55, '56.

A remarkable feature of the Senior Champioship winning team of 1974 was that Tom Kearney (Milltown) was still playing with the club when that historic victory was achieved. All the other great minors of the mid and late '50s were either retired or had emigrated. The club won the last of its Co. Minor Championships in 1971 and in that year also won the under 14 Co Hurling Championship. This under 14 team went on to represent Kerry at Feile na nGael at Thurles in July 1971 and acquitted themselves with distinction in the Birthplace of the G.A.A. A film of this event was available by Rev Fr McKenna then Curate in Abbeydorney and now Parish Priest of Sneem. A red letter day in the history of the club was the A.G.M. of January 29th 1970 because it was at that meeting that the decision was taken to form a Field Committee which today fulfills its duty by officially opening what is perhaps one of the finest G.A.A. Sportsfields in the country.