Camogie in Carrig has led a fitful existence. Generations have passed without a club in the parish and when structures did occasionally materialise they never survived for much more than half a dozen years. At the time of writing camogie’s latest incarnation in Carrig has ended with the dissolution of the club, despite careful husbanding of underage teams during the 90s and the selﬂess work of a committed few.
Our ﬁrst record of camogie in the parish dates back to a cultural event staged in Carrig by the Gaelic League on July 20th, 1913.
Organised jointly by the South Parish Gaelic League and the Cork Pipers Club, these events were designed to popularise Irish song, dance, music and games. On that day there was an athletics meeting, a tug-of-war tournament and a camogie match between Carrig and Clann Emir, who hailed from the South Parish.
It was roughly 1931, however, before a camogie club was established on a ﬁrm footing. Mrs Anna O’Mahony (nee Buckley) was a prominent player at the time and instrumental in the club’s formation: “The club was formed by Doll Ahern and myself,” she says. “We got support from the Barry family, in particular Tom, Jim and Nell, who was elected president. I was secretary. The team captain was Doll, whose brother Billy Ahern was a stalwart of Carrig teams for a number of years.”
“Jim Barry encouraged us to go outside Carrig in order to get sufficient numbers to put a team together and we did. The players we had were May Walsh, her sister Bridgie and Nan Fogarty from Killeagh who all worked in Barry’s shop at the time and played with us from the start. (May married Willie Cummins and three of her sons, Ray, Brendan and Kevin, won All Irelands with Cork). Bridie Galvin, another employee of Barry’s, and her sister Rosie were also involved from the beginning.”
“We also had May Cashman and her sister Nan from Gurranes, along with Nan and Neshie Murphy from Waterrock, the McCarthy sisters, Nell and Peg, Mary Horgan (Ballyregan), Rosie Carroll, Maggie O’Brien from Castlemartyr, Lily Quirke from Killeagh. Jose Finn and Bessie Lambert also played some games.”
“The ﬁrst match we had was a practice match against Ballinhassig in the Pond Field and we were well beaten. Both teams were entertained afterwards to tea and sandwiches in Lizzie Murphy’s Bakehouse. Friendly games between Carrig and St Endas were frequently played on a home and away basis.”
One of those matches was reported by the Examiner, although we have no date or context: “An interesting camogie match between St Endas, Glounthaune and Carrigtwohill was witnessed by a large crowd at the Pond Field, Carrigtwohill on Sunday last,” said the report. “Although both teams are in being a comparatively short time, a fine display was given with the home team emerging victorious on the score, 4-2 to 2-2. Among the spectators were Rev E Lawton of Glasgow, who is at present spending a holiday in his native Carrigtwohill and Rev J Callanan CC Glounthaune, a well known Gaelic enthusiast. The teams were later entertained by Fr Lawton at his residence, Rockville, Carrigtwohill.”
Apart from St Endas, Carrig regularly played matches against Midleton, Cobh, Youghal, Ballincurrig and Rathcormac. We know that they were hammered in the ﬁrst round of the 1934 championship by Lee Hoisery, 9-1 to 1-1, but they were gathering experience all the time and, in the following year they were a serious force in the senior county championship.
Carrig beat Watergrasshill in the ﬁrst round, Carbery in the next and then hammered Duhallow in Fermoy, 5-0 to 0-0, to reach the semi-ﬁnal. For the match against Duhallow Carrig organised a bus for the team and supporters. Garret O’Keeffe and his melodeon provided the entertainment and, afterwards, the team was treated to high-tea in the town by club president Nell Barry. For the camogie club of the 1930s that day was the high water mark.
The semi-ﬁnal against Cora Clionadh (St Aloysius past pupils) was played in appalling conditions at Church Road and Carrig led by a point at half time, but the weather continued to deteriorate and, in the second half, the match was abandoned. It was re-fixed for Midleton and, though there was never much between the sides, Cora Clionadh pulled away to win by 6-2 to 4-0.
Carrig: Doll Ahern (c), Bridie Galvin, May Walsh, Bridgie Walsh, Nell McCarthy, Peig McCarthy, Nan Murphy, Neshie Murphy, Nan Fogarty, Mary Horgan, Margaret O’Brien, Anna Buckley.
At the end of 1936 the club lapsed out of existence. The numbers were always tight and, when the panel was depleted by marriage and emigration, there weren’t enough players to keep the team aﬂoat. One of those players Nell McCarthy passed the civil service exam and took up a post in Dublin. She was no more than 17 years of age when she left Carrig in the mid-1930s and Dublin was where she would spend the rest of her life. In that lifetime, however, Nell became a colossus of Dublin camogie, both as an administrator and coach.
Nell‘s uncle was Jimmy Kennedy, the great Carrig full forward who captained Cork to the 1919 All-Ireland title. Her brothers Dan and Mickey played senior for Carrig in the 1920s and 30s so Nell‘s impulse to play was no surprise. In the Carrig camogie team of the 1930s she found her place in goal.
“I suppose I was put in there because they had nobody else to go in. I turned out to be quite a big girl but in those days I was a small miserable little thing and it was only a miracle if I made a save – the ball would have to hit off me. I was lucky to have Anna Buckley playing in front of me at full back. She was as sound as a Youghal jug. You couldn’t get past her – and it wasn’t physique, it was the nifty way she did things. I coached a lot of great players with Dublin but Anna was as good as I saw. Doll Aherne was another brilliant player and May Walsh was very good too. She was Ray Cummins’ mother – a lovely, stylish hurler she was.”
When Nell moved to Dublin she fell in with Celtic, the oldest club in the city, and almost immediately she was sucked into administration. In1936 the Dublin Junior Board was established and Nell became its ﬁrst secretary. “That job didn’t carry any ribbons or medals. You had up to 50 junior teams – in ﬁve different grades at one time – and only the one pitch in the Phoenix Park to play all the matches. The senior board had one pitch and we had the other one. The matches would start at 11 o’clock in the morning and go on until dark – one match every hour.”
Nell went on to chair the junior board until in 1952 she became chair person of the senior board, a position she held continuously from 1952 until 1970. Despite the demands of administration Nell continued to be deeply involved in coaching. In 1964 she coached Celtic to win what was a precursor of the modern club All-Ireland and, amazingly, she was a Dublin selector at some point in every decade from the 1930s to the 1970s. But her greatest achievement was as coach to the Dublin team that won 10 All-Irelands in a row between 1957 and 1966.
“I suppose I was a tough trainer in a way – they used say to me that I was a ﬁerce disciplinarian. But to my mind discipline is 99% of training. I was a disciplinarian but I was soft at the back of it all. I let them away with a lot too.”
In 1971 she achieved the highest office in camogie when she was elected president but, after her two year term, she returned to coaching, her ﬁrst love: “Even when I was president I was still going around the country, permanently coaching and it’s what I enjoyed doing most. I felt I was of more beneﬁt to the ordinary player in that way.”
In 1970 she started the national camogie coaching courses at Gormanstown College in Co. Meath but that was just the tip of her work: “She travelled all over the country to help anybody and everybody,” says Pat Raferty, the current president of the camogie association. “I remember in the early 1970s, when Kilkenny still hadn’t won their ﬁrst All Ireland, they invited her down and she helped them. She helped out ﬂedgling clubs all over Dublin and was heavily involved in the Dublin colleges scene for thirty years. Her energy and enthusiasm were extraordinary.”
As Nell scaled down her commitments she gave the last years of active camogie involvement to the Celtic club and she remains close to many of those players: “A Celtic player said to me not so long ago, ‘you know, Nell, you were great because your training gave us character.‘ When you give up coaching you wonder if you left anything behind and it’s great to be reassured that you did.”
In the pantheon of Carrig sports people, Nell stands among the greats.
After the 1930s team it would be nearly 40 years before the camogie club was re-formed, but in the meantime some Carrig players made their names elsewhere. Kathleen and Maureen Browne played for Glen Rovers and Cork during the 1960s. The Glen won seven counties in a row during their time and Maureen went on to win a Gael Linn medal playing for Munster.
Kay Spillane and Kay Finn played for Churchtown in the early 1970s and they both went on to win counties with Imokilly at a time when they were the dominant team in the senior championship. Kay Spillane played in all of Imokilly’s ﬁve in a row between 1971 and 1975 and was captain for the last victory; Kay Finn won her medal in 1974 and the coach for all five wins was Mick Spillane, brother of Kay. She also won a Munster junior championship with Cork.
For the last two of Imokilly’s ﬁve in a row Spillane and Finn were back in the Carrig colours. The club was resurrected in 1974 with Kathleen Browne in the chair, Marian Cummins as secretary, Noreen Spillane as treasurer and was under the presidency of Fr Sheehan. Mick Spillane was the coach and, in their ﬁrst season, they won a tournament in Mayfield, beating Na Piarsaigh in the final.
Carrig panel: Kay Spillane, Kay Finn, Bunty Finn, Phil Cummins, Antoinette O’Mahony, Carmel Walsh, Shelia Fitzgibbon, Deirdre Walsh, Margaret O‘Hanlon, Mary Finn, Pearl Cummins, Shelia Horgan, Claire Ahern, Marion Fouhy, Eileen Cummins,
Eileen Horgan, Kathleen Browne.
Three years later they reached the ﬁnal of the junior B county only to lose to Sarsfields, 6-1 to 4-1. A year later they reached the ﬁnal again and this time they were successful against Killeagh. However just like in the 1930s, the club fell apart as it looked to be going somewhere.
Carrig panel: Eileen Horgan, Antoinette O’Mahony, Mary Howard, Mary Terry, Kay Spillane, Bridie Ahern, Mary Finn, Majella O’Hanlon, Helen Hegarty, Mary Fitzgibbon, Josephine Twohig, Marion Fouhy, Shelia Horgan, Doreen Goggin, Bernie McCarthy.
The club was revived brieﬂy in the mid 1980s under the inﬂuence of Fr Coakley, Tess Whelan, Irene Horgan, Irene Roche, Margaret O’Brien and Mary O’Brien of Tibbotstown. A team was entered in the junior championship but, after two seasons, the enterprise was abandoned.
When the club was re-launched in the early 1990s a serious effort was made to put in a solid foundation. At ﬁrst only an U-14 team was insured with the county board in October 1993 but, with as many as 60 players turning up for Sunday morning training sessions, the club decided to insure an U-12 and U-18 team as well. Fr Frank O’Neill was the club president with Kay O’Connell in the chair, Helen Bowen was secretary, Margaret O’Brien treasurer and Mary Horgan was the PRO.
The U-12s did remarkably well to win the East Cork championship and reach the semi ﬁnal of the county in 1994 and, on the growing swell of conﬁdence, Carrig entered a junior B team for the 1995 League and championship. The U-14s reached the semi-final of the community games where they lost by a point to Bishopstown but it was the U-12s who were the outstanding team in the club, winning all six of their county League matches. A significant step forward was made in 1996 when the U-16s reached the county ﬁnal but they lost narrowly to Watergrasshill.
Carrig (not in position): Avril Buckley, Roseanne Beamish, Aoife Fouhy, Caroline Devine, Stephanie Sheehan, Marie Kennedy, Ellemarie Fitzgerald, Tracey Farmer, Emer Doyle, Alison Donnelly, Niamh Sheehan, Kay Furlong.
That momentum was carried forward to 1997. The U-12s won an East Cork title, the U-14s won five games out of six in their League and the U-16s won seven League matches before losing to Cobh in the quarter-final of the county championship. The junior Bs made good progress too, beating Youghal and Bishopstown in the championship before losing to Barryroe in the quarter-final.
By 1998, however, it was clear that the club was experiencing difficulties in ﬁelding juvenile teams. The U-12 panel had some very young players while the U-14s were forced to withdraw from the Feile and the community games because of the unavailability of players. The U-16s did play in the championship but were beaten by Kilbrittain while the junior Bs went out to Aghabullogue.
The problems of the previous season worsened in 1999. No U-16 team was fielded and the club was forced to withdraw the U-18s from all competitions half-way through the season due to a lack of interest. The U-14s gave very little commitment either and the club was unable to ﬁeld a team for the Feile.
The junior Bs gallantly kept the flag ﬂying. After a decent run in the League they beat Sliabh Rua in the quarter-final of the championship before going out to Inniscarra in the semi-ﬁnal. After two good years, though, their promise was to come to nought. Early in 2000 the club was wound up. For now, that’s where the story ends.