The earliest mention of a football team in the parish of Skryne relates to a twenty-one-a-side team known as The Kilanna Shamrocks, centred on Grange and functioning around 1900 but unfortunately no record exists of any of the games played by this team. Players mentioned were Dick and Tom Corcoran of Trevitt, Jack Dillon of Oberstown and brothers Paddy, Peter and Mick O’Bnen of Marshalistown. The latter was grandfather of Paddy and Miceal of ‘49/’54 fame. Around 1906/’07 a Skryne team reached the final of a tournament in Mullafin v. Ardcath. A great footballer named Jack McCarthy, together with the late Dan Killeen of The Naul and Jack Hand (father of Tommy, Ja and Christo) were on the Ardcath team that day. This was practically the same Skryne team as in photograph taken in 1910 . They wore green jerseys with a gold diagonal sash similar to the jerseys worn by Meath county teams up to the thirties. The greatest achievement by this team was to reach the Meath Junior Foot- ball Championship final in 1912 in which they were beaten by Carnaross. This entitled Carnaross to select the county team with four players from the rest of the county. Paddy Callaghan was the only Skryne player chosen and he thus became the first player from the club to play on a Meath football selection. For the record Meath beat Louth and then Westmeath but lost by 1 point to Carlow in the final of the 1913 Leinster J.F.C. The Great War of l914-’18 and the Troubles in Ireland in the ‘twenties left a void which was filled when a team was formed in Oberstown in 1922 by Paddy Dolan, Mickey O’Brien and Christie McBride. Players included Ben Smith (captain); T. Halligan, P. Halligan, Jim Tancred, Martin Dolan, Bill Logan, Bob Douglas, and Johnnie O’Brien.
There is a suggestion that their colours were black. and amber (Kilkenny style).
This team only existed for two years. On one occasion in 1922 the Oberstown team was rounded up by the Black and Tans while practising. They were all brought down to Oberstown Crossroads and made to wipe out an “Up the I.R.A.” sign which had been daubed on Charles’s wall and instead paint in its place: “God save the King”. Bill Logan and Martin Dolan were taken to Dunshaughlin Barracks that evening but were not detained. In or about 1926/’27 Paddy Callagahan was instrumental in reforming the Skryne team with the assistance of Martin Moore who was then a steward in Corbalton and Brian Smith who had arrived in Skryne as a National Teacher. Some confustion exists as to the colour of the jerseys worn by this team but it is more or less certain that they were green with a red band, Mayo style. Names mentioned as being associated with the team were Peter Darby (father of Peter of Trim, captain Meath 1967), Hughie Devine of Tara, Mick Manly of Ross, Jimmy Griffin and the Faman brothers. During the twenties a Junior football team existed in Rathfeigh and a Minor football team was formed in Painstown.
This was about the time when the Meath Minor football championship was first started in 1924. The Painstown minors wore green and yellow vertical striped jerseys and it was with this team the the late Tommy Mooney commenced his football career. Painstown were drawn against Ardcath in the first round of the champion- ship and the match was played at Curraha in Mr. Dick King’s field at Hammondtown. Painstown found it hard to get a full 15 together and in order to bolster up the side they included two players who were over age one was Johnnie Brien, father of Tom and Seanie, and the other was Percy McDermott. The referee was the late Christy McGrath of Garlow Cross, better known as ‘The Shed’. ‘The Shed’ knew the two ‘boys’ were wrong, as they say, and he wouldn’t allow them to play. In desperation Painstwon togged out Pa Marley and Tommy Mooney, both of whom were rather young for even the minor grade at the time. In fact Tommy was only thirteen then and lit addition was small for his age. Dick Byrne said it was one of the funniest things to see Tommy completely enveloped in a jersey which he wore outside his short trousers and which actually touched the ground as he moved about. To complete the story it deserves recording that Painstown won but only as a result of a bad mistake by an Ardcath player who unintentionally kicked the ball in the wrong direction and scored a goal against his own team from all of 50 yards. The Rathfeigh team of the 1926/’30 period wore red jerseys, great big heavy woolen ones as was the custom in those days.
They had the unenviable record of being suspended for 6 months following an incident in their first match when the self-same Percy McDermott refused to give his name to the referee, the late Paddy Brien of Duleek. Walterstown provided the opposition that day. In 1929 Skryne reached the semi-final of the Meath Junior Football Championship but rather ironically they were beaten by Drumconrath who were then backboned by the late Rev. Fr. McManus and the Very Rev. Fr. Irwin, P.P., Donore.
The brilliance of Fr. McManus at the time was one of the great talking points in G.A.A. circles but unfortunately his playing career was cut short while he was still in his prime. He played his last match for Meath against Dublin at Drogheda in 1930. Then in 1931, to the overwhelming joy of all those connected with G.A.A. affairs in Skryne, the living legend, Father Mac himself was transferred to the parish. He arrived at a time when things were at a low ebb. Matt O’Toole, senior, of Greenpark, was in command in Curraha and many Skryne players including Paddy Callaghan and Dick Byrne played with Curraha in that year. Packie Mooney played with Curraha in 1930 before moving on the Donaghmore in 1931. Father Mac set himself the task of getting all the players, from the parish back into the football fold, so.to-speak and at the same time he also brought the Colvinstown hurling team beneath the Skryne umbrella under the name of Oberstown. This enabled players of either code a certain amount of freedom of choice, particularly with regard to players of the calibre of Billy, Pat and Tony Donnelly who always played hurling with Kilmessan.
The Donnellys of course lived in Tara and were therefore in Skryne parish but in 1932 they were playing football with Bective. A new and previously unknown enthusiasm swept through the club for, as a player of that era said, “Father Mac was a man’s man and young and old alike took to him in a big way.” In 1932 Skryne reached the semi-final of the Meath J.F.C. but lost to Navan De La Salles in a match which was played at the Deerpark, Garlow Cross. There was a dispute over a score in this game which led to much unpleasantness and to this day you will find Skryne players who firmly assert that they “won by two points and yet lost by one.” Meath won the first major title ever to come to the Royal County when in 1932-’33 they won the N.F.L. by beating Cavan in the final. Skryne was rep- resented on the team by the one and only Tony Donnelly and thus became the first of a long line of great players from the club to bring honour to their native county, Packie Mooney was also on the Meath team on that occasion but he was still playing with Donaghmore at the time although he then was, and indeed always remained a Skryne parishioner. In 1933 Skryne changed over from the green and gold jerseys to the now famous blue.
The enthusiasm within the club knew no bounds as Skryne swept through the final stages of the Intermediate Football Championship—the hardest title of all to win in Co. Meath. With the championship being played on the league system Skryne went into their last match against Rathkenny needing only a draw to become champions. But they lost by a point and this resulted in both Rathkenny and Skryne ending up level on points. The final proper ended in a draw, but Rathkenny claimed the match through an unfortunate error on the part of one who shall remain name-less. The list of Skryne players handed to the Rathkenny team only contained 14 names although the list received by the Secretary of Meath Co. Board had the full 15 names. Objection and counterobjection finally led to an appeal to the Leinster Council who in their wisdom referred the matter back to Meath Co. Board. The latter body ordered that the match be re-fixed and it finally took place on Easter Sunday of the following year. Skryne emerged decisive winners thus bringing the first Meath Championship title ever to come to the club or the parish. The missing name which caused so much bother was that of Tommy Tully of Tuiterath, brother of Rev. P. Tully, former chairman of Meath Co. Board G.A.A. In 1934 Packie Mooney was transferred to Skryne from Donaghmore and he was soon to help his new club achieve a memorable triumph over his old team- mates as Skryne qualified for the final of the Feis Cup against Martry. The latter had a great team in those days and qualified for the final by beating the redoubtable Navan Gaels. Interest in the final was so great that it is claimed to have been the biggest attendance ever to watch a Feis Cup final. An indication of the enthusiasm which Fr. Mac engendered in Skryne is home out by the fact that Very. Rev. C. O’Farrell, who was then PP. in the parish decided 10 attend the match. Nothing unusual in that you might think, but those who knew him remember the late Fr. O’Farrell as a very austere man and not given to attending football matci es. To the amazement and of course the ultimate delight of all Skryne, Fr. O’Farrell ohained the loan of a four wheeled horse drawn cab from the Misses Reilly. of Proudstown and with Mr. Jimmy Gray, resplendent in his tall hat and full accoutrements acting as coachman, he travelled to Pairc Tailteann in regal style to see the match. Nor was he disappointed as Skryne emerged victorious by a three point margin after a thrilling game. The hero of the hour was Jim Clarke of Skerryhill, who gave a tremendous performance as full hack on that memorable day. Father McManus was transferred from Skryne to Longwood parish in 1935 but he was back again as a guest of honour at a unique ceremony in 1936 at the playing field in Skryne. He had been instrumental in securing the field on behalf of the Skryne club from the Irish Land Commission when the Capt. Sleator- Wilson estate was dividcd. Much hard work most of it manual, was required to develop the ground into a suitable playing field and Father Mac set the example, not alone by word but very much by deed as well.
Machinery for this type of work was unknown then and men involved in the work tell that they recall seeing a team of four horses engaged in the job of mole-draining the field. As a thoroughly deserved tribute and lasting monument to the young curate who had achieved so much in such a short period of time the Skryne club called their new ground Fr. McManus Park. The blessing and official opening was performed by Very Rev. Fr. O’Farrell. Rarely has such a tribute been paid to any man at such an early stage in his own lifetime. Nor was it an empty sentiment for still in 1984 he is spoken of in Skryne with an esteem and awe which, like the Steeple of Skryne itself, has stood the test of time.
Inspired no doubt by the feats of the footballers it deserves to be recorded that the young ladies of the parish were by no means behind when it came to achieving great things on the playing fields in tjmt same four or five year spell. This was at a time when camogie reached its zenith in Meath and I well remember the excitement and interest which the all round high standard arouseC not to mention the deadly rivalries which existed. One of the best games of camogie was played on Ladys Day in Slane in 1935, when a team from Painstown con- quered the great Kentstown team of that era. Nancy Fox (now Mrs. M. Ryan of Edoxtown) was the Painstown heroine that day and she was carried shoulder high around the pitch after the game. And it also deserves to be recorded that the girls cycled to Slane and back. Painstown’s team was as follows: Misses Nancy Fox, Bridgie Fox, Maureen Browne, Mary Daly, Doris Kavanagh, Audri Kavanagh, Lizzie Lynam, Osie Whyte, Babs Coyle, Ciss Bird and Eithne Dempsey. In 1936 the Donnellys, together with Nicky Kennedy and Frank Mulvany were transferred to Kilmessan and football slipped somewhat as a result. But now it was the turn of the Oberstown hurling team to take the limelight and they won the Meath J.H.C. for the first time. In 1936 also a minor football team was started in Rathfeigh under the guidance of Tom Byrne, Matt (Beggy) Lynch, Joe Moss and Willie Kavanagh to mention but a few. This team made its own little bit of history by winning the first minor football championship ever to come to Skryne parish by beating Bettystown in the final. They were beaten by Navan De La Salles in the 1937 final following a drawn game.
Rathfeigh also fielded a junior football team in 1937 but without much success and the club went cut of existence before the 1938 championships commenced. Skryne won the Intermediate Football Championship in 1937 without actually taking part in a final proper. This arose through all the teams competing in one group only and with the points system in operation the situation even- tually arose where Skryne finished up in an unassailable position. Thus Skryre retunied to senior ranks in 1938 and they have remained there ever since. Oberstown again came to the fore in 1940 when they won the intermediate Hurling Championship thus completing a great hat-trick for Skryne, who also won the Senior Football Championship and Feis Cup hurling in that same year with practically the same panel of players. Oberstown was iepresented on the Meath J.H. team which won the 1948 All-Ireland title by Brian Smith and M. O’Brien. Thus when Meath won their first All-Ireland S.F. title in 1949, both Brian and Miceal joined the ranks of the elite who hold All-Ireland medals for both codes.
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