In what must remain one of the most fantastic achievements of any club or county team in the entire history of the Association, the Maryborough men of 1889 were fixed to play two major championship matches on the same day.
I have never seen anything to indicate that it ever happened before or since and have not heard anyone even suggesting that it did. But that was precisely what this Maryborough side faced on Sunday, October 13, 1889.
They were fixed to play Wicklow champions, Bray Emmets, in the Leinster semi-final, and should they manage to succeed this stiff test, they had to turn out again some minutes after the conclusion of that game against a fresh Newtown Blues side from Louth in the final. To say it was unbelievable is hardly overstating the case, but here again it proves that fact is stranger than fiction. It was almost three months since Maryborough had defeated Wolfhill in the county final and now, if they hoped to win the provincial title they had to beat two of the top teams in Leinster on the same afternoon! And that’s exactly what they did!
The Leinster Express of 19 October 1899 takes up the story:
The members of Maryboro’ Football Club left home by the evening train on Saturday, 12th inst., accompanied by a number of the most prominent Gaels of the town, to take part on the following day in the matches to be played on the St. Patrick’s Grounds at Inchicore for the championship of the province. The weather was beautifully fine for this season of the year and enabled two or three thousand spectators present to thoroughly enjoy the sport … In point of physique it would be hard to beat the Queen’s County men all of whom were splendid specimens of bone and muscle, looking extremely well in their green jerseys and stockings and white buckskin breeches. Winning the toss, Maryborough decided to play for the city goal which gave them the advantage of the fairly strong breeze … Maryborough took first blood by scoring a point … The Emmets’ goalkeeper now kicked out the ball without the authority of the referee and the Maryborough men getting on to it quickly sent it between the goalposts. A long dispute occurred over this eventually ending in it being allowed to stand as a disputed goal …
Maryborough had six points to spare at the break. Emmets improved on the resumption and cut the leeway but the Queen’s County men finished strongly to win by nine points to four. After being allowed an hour to recover, the Maryborough men were back on the field to play Louth champions, Newtown Blues, who had defeated the Dublin champions, Faugh-aBallaghs, some weeks previously. The report added:
Few thought that the Queen’s County men would have a look in against Newtown Blues, as two matches in the one evening are somewhat too trying for any ordinary team but, contrary to all expectations, they played most brilliantly and in better style if anything against the Wicklow champions, defeating the Louth champions by three points to two. It was a wildly exciting and brilliant game throughout and taking this into consideration it is a pity that it must be designated the roughest match that has yet been kicked at Inchicore. There was entirely too much tripping, catching and general fouling …
The game started at half past three and the Blues, winning the toss, opted to use wind advantage. The Maryborough defence played brilliantly and conceded only two points in the opening half. The shoe was on the other foot on the restart and the Queen’s County champions scored three points and were awarded the provincial title. “The winning of two matches in the one evening by Maryborough is certainly a most creditable performance”, the report concluded. The team was the same, with one exception, as that which played in the earlier match but the report did not reveal the “exception”.
The Maryborough team was listed by the Leinster Express as follows: John Delany (captain), John T. Whelan, William King, Thomas Cushion, T. H. Cushion, Patrick Cushion, Daniel Cushion, Michael Cushion, James Fleming, Joseph Walsh, Joseph Teehan, Thomas Sheil, Joseph Murphy, Nicholas Maher, Patrick Brady, John Troy, Daniel Drennan, Joseph Dunne, John Connor, Thomas Conroy.
You will note that only twenty names were published in this brief era of twenty one a side. In any case, the team listed, in fact, bore little relation to that which lined out on that famous day in Inchicore. An article I wrote for my “Ninety Years of GAA in Laois” which was published in 1973 gave a detailed account of the day of the double at Inchicore and of the circumstances surrounding the All-Ireland final which was played at the same venue on the following Sunday.
In an interview given many years later, which I included in the article, Wolfhill clubman, Peter Brennan, recalled the day. He explained that Maryborough, as county champions, were allowed to select players from other clubs in the county for the inter-county competitions.
“Wolfhill in those days had a splendid team, all long kickers. Among them were Owen Smith, Peter Whelan, Mick Dunne, my brother, Pat, and myself. Owen Smith and I were selected to travel to Dublin with the Maryboro’ men and also on the team were Mick McEvoy and Larry Maher from Knock, Jack Murphy and Peter Farrell of the Kellyville club, Mike Kearns and Andy Bowe, Ballyroan and Jim Mahon, Loughteague. Jack Delany from Marboro’ was our goalie while the two Cushions, Tom and Mick, Joe Tehan, Dick Drennan, Tommy Murphy, Joe Dunne and a player named Troy were among the twenty-one who took part in the two games …
“Bray Emmets were captained by Paddy Howard while on the team were four Doles – good footballers every one of them … we won by nine points to four … Peter Farrell scored a goal that wasn’t allowed …I remember one part of the game very well. A Bray player came up the side of the field with the ball between his feet tapping it along. I was playing in the backs and it was hard to take me off my feet in those days. I made a dive at the Bray man who, with the ball still between his feet, stooped down and I fell over him. He rose up under me and lifted me clear onto the paling, where I lay while the crowd jeered and cheered. I bided my time and when he came along with the same antics, I made a rush at him but instead of falling over him, I gave the ball a kick sending it fifty yards …
“When we had the Emmets beaten, the Newtown Blues were waiting for us. We took a rest on the side of the field, had some light refreshments and walked in again to play the Louthmen whom everybody expected to win. The Blues were a hardy, able lot of footballers, smarter than we were, but the long kicking of our backs kept them at bay. They had the favour of the field and the wind and scored two points in the first half … With the favour of the breeze we scored two points and for ten minutes such a game was never seen as we both strove for the winning point … There it was a draw with five minutes to go when we got a free about forty yards out. It was at a sharp angle with only a little daylight between the posts. I was called on by Peter Farrell to take the kick and like an arrow I shot the ball between the posts to win the first championship for Laois. I did not play the following Sunday as I got hurt and (in any case) did not get word to go to play against Bohercrowe in the All-Ireland final.”