Interview with James ‘Jas’ O’Reilly
“Player, selector, administrator and fund raiser”
Jas is involved in Portlaoise over 60 years as player, selector and administrator, son of James O’Reilly who was a Chairman of the Kilminchy Club. In 1949 Portlaoise and Kilminchy met in
the minor final with Kilminchy having the greater edge. After the final Fr. O’Donnell, a Portlaoise Priest and brother of Nick O’Donnell a great Wexford hurler urged a merger between the clubs and this was agreed to. Some players went to The Heath and some to The Town.
1956 saw Jas playing in the u/16 and minor football and hurling finals. The Town were victorious in all four and the young Jas had four county medals to his
Jas started his playing career with The Town in 1953 with his first match against a team from
down O’Moore Place way called De Montforts. He recalls defeating Barrowhouse in the
Intermediate Final of 1966 but success was hard to come by for a number of years.
1958 saw a lot of consternation with Portlaoise defeating The Heath in the Senior Football
Championship final, only to lose it on an objection which was heard in the Courthouse chaired by Lar Brady. In 1960 the club lost the hurling final to Borris by one point and this was a major blow to our ambitions.
The big breakthrough came in 1964 when Portlaoise won the Senior Football Championship for the first time in 57 years. There was a new cup presented to the winning captain Jim Hughes which is still in place as the Jack Delaney Senior Cup. The team lost to Graigue in the 1965 final but then completed the three in a row.
Jas recall that one of the all time greats, Paschal ‘Red Lad’ Delaney had been sent off for Laois against Kerry in the All Ireland u/21 final and missed out on the SFC win in 1964 as a result.
Players of thin era that stood out to Jas were Alfie Lewis, Noel Delaney, Phil O’Keeffe, Paddy
Bracken and Jim Hughes, Mick Dalton, Pat Dalton and Teddy Fennelly.
In 1981 John Joe Ging was appointed Captain of The Town hurlers and with Tom Lalor and
Jimmy Doyle in charge, this team went on to create history by winning the county final four time in a row at different venues with the 1984 final going to a replay. John Joe captained the four with Billy Bohane captaining the replay. Players that stood out were Paddy Brennan, Tom Bracken, John Hughes, ‘Tom Lalor (the Daddy) at centre field, Hackie Dunne and Mick Dalton.
From around this period Bill Phelan took the juvenile section under his wing and did so until his untimely death in 1993, when Mick Reynolds, John Costelloe, Ned Murphy and many others came on board to help out.
“In 1972 Portlaoise won its first Leinster SFC title which was a brilliant occasion. We then went to 1982 for a further break through which saw the Town win the Club All Ireland in March 1983, in Cloughjordan.” The outstanding players that Jas recalls in football were, Eamon Whelan, the Prendergasts, the Brownes and Jim Harding. In the hurling Jas admired John Taylor, Liam Bergin, Pat Critchley and the Bohanes as great players. “On the administration side Teddy Fennelly deserves great credit for his vision in getting the club grounds at Fr. Browne Ave and was helped by people such as Dick Sides and a lot more.” Chairman of recent periods going back to the 1970’s were ‘Teddy Fennelly, James O’Reilly, Peadar Molloy, Niall Kavanagh and current* chairman Vincent Dowling.
James in presently* Vice Chairman of the club and is also a Vice President.
*at time of this interview in 2013