St Senans GAA | The History

There has been a long and proud tradition of Gaelic games in the parish of Shanagolden, Foynes and Barrigone. When we look back at the closing years of the 19th Century we must reflect remembering the political circumstances and the role the Catholic Church played in society back then. Charles Stewart Parnell led the Home Rule Party, Michael Davitt was the leader of the Land League Movement and the GAA led the Gaelic Revival when it was formed in 1884.

Around the time the GAA was formed there was mention of a hurling team in Foynes called the “Father Murphy’s”. They were known locally as the “Shannon Sweepers”. A little later there was a hurling team formed in Barrigone by Ned Dundon, Larry McNamara, Paddy Fitzsimons and Tom Stack. This Barrigone side played under the title of “The Liberators” and they enjoyed great success. The first mention of a football team in the parish was in the late 1890’s the “Shanid Abu’s” were formed in Shanagolden. Names like Behan, Guinnane, Power, Sheehan, O Connor, Lardner, Cremins, Hayes, O Sullivan, Hartney, Ryan, Madigan and Fitzgibbon were very prominent in this football side. Then in 1904 a football team was formed in Foynes called “The Smith O Brien’s”. They were the first team from the parish to officially affiliate with the GAA. In 1906 the “Smith O Brien’s” won the West Senior championship when they defeated Templeglantine 1-9 to 1-6, but they lost the County final to Kilmallock. In 1907 the Smith O Brien’s won the West again by defeating Askeaton and in the County final they had a marvellous victory over the famed Commercials from Limerick City. There was also a mention of a football team in Shanagolden during the War of Independence and Civil War. They were known as the “O Rahillys” and Captain Tim Madigan would have trained and played on this team.

As we move into the 1920’s, it appears there were two teams in the parish, a football team in Foynes and a football team in Shanagolden. In 1925, Foynes were crowned West and County Junior Champions. They defeated Cappamore in Croom 1-3 to 0-2. In the early 1930’s, Shanagolden had a very strong side and in 1933 Shanagolden defeated Foynes in Rathkeale on a score line of 1-5 to 1-4. In 1935 Foynes and Shanagolden joined forces and under Foynes they won the County Junior Championship. The following year in 1936, Foynes played in the Senior Football Championship. In the West Final they defeated Glin, but in the County Final they came up against the great Ahane team led by Mike Mackey and his brother John. Ahane won 0-7 to 0-3. The Foynes team lined out as follows: J. Ryan, T. Mullins, J. Behan, M. Buckley, M. Langan, M. Sheehy, B. Manqan, T. Naughton, D. O’Sullivan, J.J Hartney, D.Gallaqher, T. Hartney, W. Lardner, E. McCarthy, and J. Muluihill.

The economic war in the early 1930’s took its toll in rural Ireland and when World War Two broke out in 1939, the G.A.A in many areas struggled. After the war in 1945, things began to recover slowly and Communities and Parishes returned to normal. 1947 will always be remembered as one the most historical years in the history of the G.A.A. in the Parish of Shanagolden. It had been spoken about on many occasions to unite the four corners of the Parish under the same title and banner. This aspiration or dream became a reality in the spring of 1947. Tim King from Foynes and John Kennelly from Shanagolden called a public meeting in Foynes Hall to form a new club. At that meeting, the mention was proposed and carried to form a new club which would be called “St. Senans”. Those elected at that historical meeting were President - Fr. John Cussen, Chairman - John Cinders Mulvihill, Secretary - John Kennelly, Treasurer - Jimmy Finucane, Committee – J. Naughton, J. Neville, T. Nolan, T. Walsh, M. Kenneally, M. Sheehy, P. Mangan. The new club affiliated one team which was a junior football side and back then there was no under age or Bord Na nÓg. Few would have imagined it then but one of the great golden eras of the G.A.A. in the Parish was about to flourish.

One of the first dilemmas facing the St. Senans club in 1947 was finding a suitable playing pitch. Filed in different parts of the Parish had been used as playing pitches since the formation of the G.A.A. in 1884. Following a committee meeting, Tim King and John Kennelly made an approach to Mr. Alfred Little who was the local estate agent for the Lord Mount Eagle Estates in Foynes. The negotiated a 35 year lease on the green field in Foynes which is now known as Páirc Na nGael Naomh Seanáin. St. Senans commenced with a junior team in 1948 and in 1949 they affiliated a minor football team. The 1950’s, which were fast approaching, were going to prove to be the first of two golden era’s in the history of St. Senans G.A.A.

In 1950 the club affiliated a juvenile team or an U16 side as it was referred to back then. St. Senans juvenile team won four football championships in 1951, 52, 53 and 54. John Kennelly was very involved with those young men and the main mentor was Mike Fitzsimmons from Parkmore, Shanagolden. During this period, Sgt. P.J. Garvey who was stationed in Shanagolden, received reports that bicycles were being stolen in the village by the juvenile footballers. The young men were using the bikes as transport to get to Foynes for training. Sgt. Garvey spoke to Mike Fitzsimmons and Mike resolved the issue without much fuss. Mike Fitzsimmons laid on his own transport, he tackled his father’s horse to the creamery cart and brought the boys to training.

The 1950’s in the Parish is often referred to locally as the “Bowen Madigan Era”. St. Senans junior footballers, captained by Bowen Madigan, won the county championship in 1953. Many of the St. Senans players also won a senior football title with Western Gaels in 1953. In 1954, St. Senans took the minor football county title, this team was captained by Donie Mullane from Foynes. Donie Mullane won three county medals during this period in the most unusual manner. The first county medal he won was a senior with Western Gaels in October 1953. In December 1953 he won a junior county medal with St. Senans and the following year, 1954, he led St. Senans to their first minor title.

When talking about the 1950’s we have to mention the Limerick minor football team of 1956. Limerick beat Kerry in the Munster final in Killarney and St. Senans had three players involved. Moss Downey starred at midfield, Mick Walsh played at corner back and Mike Malley was on the substitute’s bench.

Moving on to the 1960’s, the decade was also going to be eventful. In 1961, St. Senans lost a junior West football final to Ballysteen and this really marked the end of the “Bowen Madigan Era”. In 1965 St. Senans won the juvenile West title and this led to   very successful minor teams. St. Senans mirror footballers won two West mirror titles in 1966 and 1967. The teams were coached by the legendary Pakie Mulvihill and were captained by Joe Behan. This minor football team were very unlucky not to win a county title. To complete the 1960’s, St. Senans captured two U14 football championships in 1968 and 1969.

The 1970’s opened with a very historical shift in G.A.A. policy. Up to 1971, there existed a rule in the G.A.A. which was known as the “ban”. This “ban” was officially Rule 27 which did not allow players to play “foreign” games – namely soccer and rugby. With the removal of Rule 27, there was a huge knock on effect for all clubs. Most clubs at that time had players playing soccer and now they were available for selection. St. Senans won the West Junior championship in 1972 beating Mountcollins in the final in Newcastle West. St. Senans however lost the title following an objection. In 1973 St. Senans regrouped and captured the West title again and went on to defeat Na Piarsaigh in the county final in Bruff. This team was managed by Pat Lane, trained by Joe McGrath and captained by Joe Behan. St. Senans G.A.A. Club retuned to senior ranks and held their senior status until 1980. During the 1970’s St Senans featured strongly in the U14 and U16 championship. The club also fielded minor and U21 football teams and in the late 1970’s the club affiliated a Junior B hurling side with player coming from Gerald Griffins and Glin.

The 1980’s were going to prove possibly the most historical in the history of Gaelic Games in the parish of St. Senans. The 35 year lease on the playing pitch was up for renewal and Mike Mullane and Vincent Kelly were going to drive the campaign to purchase the playing pitch in Foynes. Having secured the purchase of the pitch from the Mount Eagle Estate, the club proceeded to build a club house and plan ahead for the celebrations to mark the centenary of the G.A.A. in 1984. On the playing fields, St. Senans were very active in the 1980’s. In 1981, St. Senans defeated Gerald Griffins in the West Junior championship. The team was captained by Laurence Hayes sand trained by Vincent Kelly. In 1986 St. Senans won the West Junior football championship defeating Gerald Griffins in Glin and the team went on to win the county title. The team was captained by Donal Mulvihill, trained by Jackie Walsh and managed by Joe Behan. The 1980’s also saw the arrival of Bord Na nÓg and St. Senans were going to play a major role here. In the 1980’s the local primary schools in Foynes and Shanagolden began to promote Gaelic Games. Both schools competed in Cumann Na mBun Scoileanna Leagues and won many titles. This had a huge knock on effect for underage football in St. Senans club. The U12’s, U14’s and U16’s were now competing at the highest level and were very successful.

Michael Moroney from Ballycormac became chairman in the late 1980’s and during his term great work was done on the field development programme. Michael Moroney, with assistance from Mick Cleary, John Roche, Mick Meade and Cathal Breen played a leading role in the revival and promotion of hurling in the parish. St. Senans won U12, U14, 15, U16 and minor titles in hurling during this era. St. Senans also fielded a successful Junior B hurling team throughout the 1980’s.