Santa came early to Glenealy!
By Tommy Glynn
Who remembers December the first in 1957 when the young hurlers of Glenealy ran on to the green sod in Ashford to take on well fancied Avondale in the Senior hurling championship final? Avondale had won on many occasions, but Glenealy were going for their first. But that was the year that Santa came early to Glenealy, because that evening, amidst wild excitement, captain Bob Douglas carried home the first Senior Cup to the little village under Carrig Hill. The ground was packed to capacity and the atmosphere was electric when referee Rosengrave from Dublin threw in the ball. Everyone that could lift a leg was there from Glenealy and early on we noticed Sadie and Kathleen Douglas, Jim McCall, Kitty Richardson, Dolly O'Neill and Harry Meridith, and hosts of local fans roaring their heads off as the lads from Kilcandra, Ballyfree and Drumdangan roared into attack.
The play flowed from end to end in the opening quarter and Glenealy were holding their own. Larry Staines was superb in the Glenealy goal saving shots from all angles, while in front, the man of steel, Paul Kelly, was like a stone wall. There was a battle royal at midfield where Bob Douglas and Sean Kennedy were having a great battle with the Avondale pair, Tom Shanley and Shay Doyle. The first big cheer came from the Glenealy fans when the former All-Ireland star, Sean Kennedy sent the ball over the bar, but Avondale countered quickly with a similar score from McEvoy. The pace was a cracker and we wondered who was going to crack first. Soon it was half-time and the Glen fans heard the bad news — Bob Douglas, a hero of the first half, was unable to continue due to an injury.
It is rumoured that Jack O'Neill broke two hurleys at half-time driving home his pep talk! Whatever he said it worked like a dream because on the restart Glenealy were dominant. Sean Kennedy started to play like a man inspired and the forwards cantered through the Avondale defence. Charlie Byrne levelled the scores with a great point. Peter Kavanagh hit a rasper to the Avondale net and Kennedy set up Noel Quinn for a repeat performance three minutes later. Now the Glenealy choir led by the Douglas sisters was in full song. The dream of a lifetime seemed to be on and old-timers talked of days that might have been.
But suddenly the singing waned - - there was a massed attack in the Glenealy goalmouth and Steadman got the vital touch and Avondale were back in business. Now we wondered would it be the old story — so near and yet so far! Would Avondale take over in the last ten minutes? Would our defence be overcome? No, this was Glenealy's day! Three times Jack Hamilton in the Avondale goal had to show his skill in dealing with shots from Tom Cooney, Billy Luddy and Paudge Byrne. But he couldn't stop them all and when Mai Byrne broke through and hit the net like a rocket the cheering could be heard half-way to Rathdrum.
The celebrations were already in full swing on the sideline and though Ned Walsh scored a late Avondale goal it didn't cause a ripple for the egg-timer was out of sand and Rosengrave's final whistle was the signal for celebrations that were to last for a fortnight and are still remembered from Ballykillavane to Kilnamanagh.