Reviving and promoting these ancient games was the primary objective of the Gaelic Athletic Association and in October 1884, its founder Michael Cusack called on the people of Ireland to 'Take the management of athletics into their own hands and to promote every form of athletics that was peculiarly Irish'.
This article seeks to shed light on the people of Taghmon parish who responded to Cusack's appeal. It charts in chronological order the initiatives and events that gave root to a movement that changed the sporting and social life of the parish and enriched many lives. As well as looking at efforts to revive and promote Irish games in the parish from 1886 - 1915, the article seeks to provide an overview of the sporting environment in which these attempts occurred.
Track and field meetings were held regularly in Deacon's Sports field at Camross and at various locations at Taghmon including a field now owned by Mrs Mary McDonald at Cloughultagh. The 1902 athletic meeting at Camross was one of the first in the county to be held under G.A.A. rules and three years later Mr Gregory Walsh D.C. presided at a meeting for the purpose of organising Gaelic Sports at Taghmon.
Jack McCarty Fitzgerald and Rob Brereton, two well-known athletes were presented with gold medals on Christmas morning 1909 in recognition of their athletic achievements. C.J.Pigott well known in Wexford athletics and from Taghmon kept the flag flying in South Africa, winning the high jump and the 220 yards at an Army athletics meeting there.
Cycling clubs existed in Taghmon and Camross and both held regular outings and annual sports. In 1893 a man called Conboy, known as the 'Taghmon crack' left the village at 4 o'clock one morning on a '93 Roadster' and rode through Athy, Tullamore and Moate, arriving at his destination in Co. Galway, 160 miles away.
Boxing was hugely popular for a while and in 1910 over 200 people paid into M. Brown's loft to witness a boxing match between 'Sandy' Cullen, Taghmon and Jem Roche, Tottenhamgreen. Other local exponents of the art included Paddy Condon and Jack McCoy. Both stag and fox hunting were pursued and each year the Marquis of Connyngham's hounds hunted the otter.
Greyhound coursing meetings for the Forest, Taghmon and Racecourse Stakes were held at Greg Walsh's or at Rossitters of Coolaw and in the same fields terriers raced for the Taghmon, Brownscastle, Horetown and Poulmarle plates.
For a period the Taghmon Horse Race meeting was the most prestigious in the county. This annual event which was held in the Horseparks, or at Hillburn on the property now owned by Boyd's, included races for the Brownscastle Cup, Standhouse Plate, District Plate, Ladies Plate, Taghmon Plate, Trinity Abbey Cup and Staghunters Plate.
The most popular sport however, was cricket and the game was played at Rossitters of Coolaw, Kavanagh's of Mulmintra, Moore's of Old Boley, The Old Racecourse and at Parle's of Coolateggart.
A ballad was composed to commemorate the occasion and some of
the verses went as follows:-
In 1887, with seven new faces, Taghmon went back to Kilmannon to play in a tournament organised to help pick a team to represent the county in the All Ireland Championships. Taghmon, who were beaten by Kilmannon, wore black and gold jerseys with a green harp and shamrock. They lined out as follows: T.J. Murphy, Phil Roche, N. Whitty, N. Sinnott, J. Sinnott, P. Furlong, D. Kavanagh, J. Condon, D. McElroy, N. Murphy, A. Monaghan, J. Monaghan, T. Kearns, R. Corish, P. Corish, E. Brennan, W. Fitzhenry, P. Crean, J. Fanning, N. Brown and V. Whitty.
Due to the 'American Invasion' of 1888, it was decided not to have any competition. In 1890 however, the progress the new game had made in the parish was demonstrated when two teams, Taghmon FBC and Taghmon Shamrocks entered for the championships. In January 1890, the following team was listed in the People Newspaper to play Ballyhogue the following week: J. Moore, J. Murphy, J. Murphy, A. Pigott, E. Larkin, J. Morrissey, K. Redmond, M. Ryan, J. Fanning, D. Kelly, J. Heffernan, J. Walsh. J. Lawlor, P. Jordan, J. Hayes, G. Heffernan, A. Furlong, E.Gorman, P. Lennon, J. Murphy. For some reason Taghmon FBC failed to fulfil this fixture. However, in March the team travelled to St. Margaret's in Carne to play Lady's Island. In the first ever newspaper account of a match involving a Taghmon team, the People correspondent remarked
When the teams lined up it was plain to the crowd that Taghmon were the heavier men, but before the game was long in progress it was easy to see that they could not keep up with their more agile opponents.
It seems that the Taghmon backs couldn't cope with the rushes of the Island forwards and lost heavily 2-8 to 0-4.
Taghmon Shamrocks were drawn to play against Oulart, also in March. There is no account of this game however, and we have to wait until 1898 before a Taghmon team features in either championship or tournament again. There is no explanation for this fall off. Perhaps the game was discouraged by people of influence in the parish, or maybe it lost its appeal because in many quarters it was considered rough, dangerous and lacking in science.
Taghmon Cricket Club under the captaincy of N.J. Corish practised every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as Sunday afternoons during the season. Wm. Keating and W. Bennett acted as treasurer and secretary respectively and prominent members included M. Kelly, F. Fitzgerald, J.Fortune, R. Ward, J. Kendrick and C.L. Pigott.
In 1896, a new club with membership confined to the village was formed with Thos. Fitzpatrick as Captain, Treasurer Patrick Whelan and Secretary Wm. Keating. Committee comprised R. Ward, A. Furlong, P. Byrne, F. Pigott and J. Walsh.
In Old Boley, Tomcoole Cricket Club was no less active. Under the captaincy of James Moore they played regularly against teams from all over the county. Ed. Larkin acted as Sec. and treas. of the club, while Ed. Brennan, John Whitney, Walter Boggan, Walter Fitzhenry and J. McLoughlin joined him at the crease.
Mr J. Moore prior to his departure for the Argentine, recently disposed of his farm at Old Boley for a goodly sum. Mr. Moore, who endeared himself to all by his genial and gentlemanly qualities, made hosts of friends throughout the Co. Wexford and all will learn with regret of his intended departure. Mr Moore, who is a South American born is now more Irish than American. He is a champion gaelic footballer and a thorough going sports man in every respect and for this reason his brother Gaels with whom he waged many a hard fought battle on football fields will feel an added pang of regret at his departure from their midst.
In January 1916, a letter from Moore congratulating the All Ireland winning team of 1915 appeared in the Free Press.
Another footballer from the parish to represent his County around the turn of the century was Arthur Pigott, son of local Dispensary Doctor, John C Pigott. Arthur lined out with brothers John and Edward on several Taghmon teams.
In March, Taghmon FBC beat Mulgannon Harriers in the '98 Championship, but made their exit in May to the Young Irelands on a score of 1-13 to 0-3. The following team played against Mulgannon: A.Pigott (captain), J. Hamilton, J. Redmond, J. Faney, J. Pigott, N. Larkin, J. Murphy, S. Cullen, M.Ryan J. McDaniel and J.Murphy J. Hayes, M.Donohoe and M.Walsh.
In August at Poulmarle, a dispute arose during a match between Taghmon Shamrocks and Tullicanna. Tullicanna players claimed that a ball had crossed the sideline but when Morgan of Tullicanna, (linesman) supported the Shamrocks claim that the ball was not out his team refused to continue and left the field. The Shamrocks appeared to have been a very disciplined team and subsequent games against Campile and Raheen 'were marked by good feeling between the players'. Late in the year one of the above teams played Caroreigh. Regretfully, there is no report of this game.
The Shamrocks came to the fore in 1900, reaching the 3rd round of the championship before losing in March to Lady's island on a score of 1-6 to 0-2. County men Moore and Pigott starred in this game.
In April 1902, Caroreigh took on Camblin Rovers in the County Semi-final at the Showgrounds, Enniscorthy. On a wet day they had their supporters cheering when veteran Moore scored a goal midway through the first half. Strange to relate, though they pressed hard through the efforts of Moore, Callaghan and Furlong of Lady's Island, they failed to register another score and lost the exciting match 0-8 to 1-0.
Newspapers of the time reported widespread dissatisfaction within the county at the disorganised state of G.A.A. affairs. They claimed that objections had become contagious and that people wanted the bye laws abolished claiming that they had been framed to suit one or two clubs. 'Why' it was asked 'is it that in Gaelic Football no match can be played without a harvest of objections to follow'.
At a meeting of the County Committee in May 1903, the 1902 championships were discussed at length and it was considered advisable to abandon them and immediately start a championship for 1903. The Committee decided for the first time that sub committees be appointed in each district to run their own championships. It was decided also to introduce a junior grade. It is not clear, however, what grade parish teams favoured initially since neither Taghmon nor Caroreigh entered teams in 1903. In 1904, however, Taghmon entered the junior ranks, and the following team lost to Ballymitty in the Wexford District Championship on a score of 1-6 to 0-2. B.Brereton, J. Nash, P. Lee, P. Fitzgerald, G. Fitzgerald, P. Morgan, A. Pigott, J. Cogley, J. Murphy, J. Pigott B. Pigott, J. Hayes, P. Condon, N. Brereton and P. Cogley. They received an even greater beating from the Young Irelands in the 1905 championship, failing to score and conceding 4-7.
It seems that interest in football was once more an the wane and the parish again failed to field teams in 1906. Indeed the Brereton and Condon brother as well as W. Martin, J. Fitzgerald and J. Nash lined out for Galbally in the Enniscorthy district championship. Some football was played in the parish however and a report described how the 'Ballymore boys absolutely walked around the Taghmon boys' in a friendly at Ballymore.
Less friendly images were generated however by 'Touchline's' impression of a match between Taghmon and Insurgents. Using amusing hyperbole laced with sarcasm, he asked 'What is football'?
Football is a sport of safety valve for the long pent-up feelings of super endurance of the trials of the world; which means that when one set of 17 young men can find a party of 17 other young men as eruptive as themselves, they determine on destruction subject to certain rules on which the law winks and the people approve. They then adjourn to some public place and beat each other for an hour with mostly all of their clothes off. Large crowds gather to see them do it and when all the boil is worked off, those who are dead are buried and those who live go home as if nothing had happened.
He went on to say that
The Insurgents were determined enough, but not nearly so well trained as their opponents, not that that is saying much by any means. They process good material all right but have not yet made the most of it.
Later notes refer to training and the determination of the team to bid for county honours. The correspondent also expressed the hope that Screen would include 3 or 4 Taghmon men in their county junior selection.
Before a huge gathering in the district semi-final however, Taghmon succumbed rather tamely to a much more determined Bannow outfit on a score 1-11 to 0-1.
In spite of general antipathy, the game was popular in certain areas of the county. However apart from reference in 1889 to Brown and Furlong playing at Bridgetown, the game was not mentioned in a Taghmon context again until 1908. District notes for that and subsequent years show that villagers had taken up the game and were using every 'dead wall' available to indulge in their pastime. Their activities prompted the notes corespondent to muse:
Now that a revival of the grand old game of our fathers is taking place all over the county, we look to the young men of Taghmon to see that a proper alley is provided so that the fine old game could soon become popular with the youth.
This call was repeated during the following years and while several sites were considered suitable, nothing happened until 1913. In July of that year it was reported that work had begun on a new Ball Alley at Trinity and that half of the money required for its completion had been collected. The alley described 'as a handsome building' was finished in June, 1914 and among the first to use its facilities were locals J. Codd and T. Fitzhenry, Bob Doyle and John Roche of Tracystown as well as J. Furlong and T. Doyle.
In December a further impetus was given to the G.A.A. movement in the parish when a meeting was held in the village to form a hurling team. While the meeting elected Mr. Wm. Keating, Patron, it was decided to defer naming the club or electing a captain. It was stated that M. Kelly, R. Brereton, G. Rochford and W. Martin had worked indefatigably to form the club. Their first outing was against Camross in the old racecourse field in January 1909. Despite a cutting wind a large crowd turned out to see how the debutantes would acquit themselves. Although their backs played well enough, their efforts were neutralised by weak forward play and Camross, despite showing a distinct lack of combination, came out on top by 1-3 to 0-1. The team trained in M. Roche's field at Poulmarle and played several practice matches, including a return game with Camross. In May they played Glynn in the first ever Championship match involving a Taghmon parish hurling team. Reflecting their inexperience they lost heavily in a one sided game that according to a report 'provided merriment for the dwindling spectators'. Taghmon fielded only 16 players and were two down when another player received an injury before half time. The following week in a friendly against Skeeter Park in which O'Gorman, Condon and Rochford distinguished themselves, they scored a resounding 3-9 to 1-5 victory. In June, although out of the championship, club members felt it necessary to call a meeting to arrange for election of officers. At the meeting Ed. Rochford was elected captain, J. Whelan Treas., and Frank Fitzgerald Sec.
Reflecting the growing popularity of the game in the village a team for juveniles called Taghmon Emmets was formed. They beat Tracystown in May by 1-9 to 1-1. The Williams brothers. and J. Condon for Taghmon, P. McGrath and R. Reville for Tracystown were singled out. The team went on to play three games against Glynn, losing the first and winning the second. In the final rubber in September, the older and physically stronger Glynn boys won out. Grannell, Leonard, Williams, Condon, Roche, Cooper, Gorman and McCormack showed promise.
In June what was described as 'two interesting hurling games were played in the vicinity of the historic Rock of Camross', (Deacon's Sportsfield) A crowd described 'as greater than the event warranted' saw Camross loose to Clongeen and Taghmon beat Adamstown. In a stroke by stroke account of both games covering 2 columns in the Free Press, the only Camross player mentioned was goalie Jim Lawlor. Taghmon fared much better having goalie Brereton, Cullen at fullback, Cogley and Rochford at centre field, the brothers Martin and Andy Furlong in the forwards as well as Pender and Kelly mentioned. Taghmon hosted the return match with Adamstown in July. This game as well as a tie between Glynn and Newbawn was played in Roche's field at Poulmarle and a feature of the days entertainment was the presence of St. Fintan's fife and drum band of Taghmon, who played the teams onto the field.
In July also, the Camross hurling club held its first A.G.M. in Deacon's Public house. Edward O' Gorman presided over a full turn out of members. The following officers were elected: Moses Foley (captain), James Carroll (sec.) and James Morrissey (Treas.).
Evidence that the Gaelic movement in the district went beyond the playing of games was illustrated when the meeting decided to write to firms of Irish outfitters for quotations for a badly needed set of jerseys.
The consensus in the area was that 'assiduous practice had made the team extremely proficient in the use of the caman and that they should be well able to hold their own with any team in the Ross district'. This optimism was built on sand however, because in April 1910 at Barretts Pk., New Ross.; ''Camross made no stand at all' and were trounced on their championship debut by Templeudugan. Apart from inept play from both sides, the only other feature of the game was its premature end. This resulted from a fracas which came about when a dismissed Camross player refused to leave the field. On duty for Camross that day were: J. Murphy, J. Parle, E.O'Gorman, J. Carroll, N. Egan, J. Kendrick, J. O'Gorman, M. Jordan, P. Jordan, T. Edwards, M. Sweeney, Moses Foley, N. Rochford, B. Martin and J. Fox.
Despite their poor showing, the match reporter thought Camross 'a fine set of athletes' and opined 'that they will be heard of again in gaelic circles'. The encounter however, ended that team's brief flirtation with hurling.
Their humbling experience was not unique by any means. Following an initial bout of enthusiasm for hurling, the demands of competition made many clubs realise that it was folly to try to make hurlers out of grown men, and that it was much easier to find 17 competent footballers in an area, than it was to find one hurler .
In June at Wexford Pk., Rosslare strengthened by the Lady's Island men, proved too strong for Taghmon and won 1-4 to 0-4. In the park great interest was aroused in the dispatch of two carrier pigeons to Ballygeary announcing the half and full time scores. Taghmon team: 'Sandy' Cullen, Peter Fox, R. Brereton, P. Brereton, M. Martin, W. Martin, M. Crowley, M. Condon, T. Roche, W. Mills, M. Donnelly, J. Cogley, J. Fitzgerald, J. Monaghan, J. Foley, W. Foley and M. Ryan.
The years 1911 and 1912 were slack, the parish failing to enter either a hurling or football team for the championships. Indeed the only reference to Gaelic activity during these years was to a juvenile hurling game in which Taghmon defeated Modubeg by 3 goals to 1 goal. When the draw was made for the various district championships for 1913, Taghmon was not included either. In April of that year however, new football clubs were formed in Taghmon and Modubeg. It was stated that the latter team, captained by 'that veteran Gael' Matty Ryan would affiliate shortly.
The reconstituted St. Fintan's were admitted to the first division of the Wexford district at its May meeting. Following a new draw they were paired against the Forth and Bargy Heroes. This match was played at Murrintown in July and resulted in an easy win for the Heroes by 2-4 to 0-2. Lining out for St Fintan's that day were: J. O 'Connor (captain), Ed Rochford Wm. Blake, Wm. Martin, Michael Martin ,Robert Brereton, J Cullimore, J. Parle, George Parle, J Pender, Phil Jackman, J. Cullen, P Walsh, Wm. Walsh.
While that game ended championship aspirations for the year, renewed interest in football was reflected in the number of friendlies played. In July Camross beat Barmoney but then lost heavily to Clongeen in September. In what was a difficult year for the new St Fintan's club they lost to Murrintown in September and to Clongeen at Horetown in December.
The year 1914 marked the first date on which Taghmon entered both hurling and football teams in the Wexford district championships, Kehoe's field at Aughfad House was procured for training and it was reported that J.O'Connor, F.Ward and M.J. Martin did everything possible to ensure that both teams would made a good showing. If the number of injuries sustained during hurling practice is anything to go by, practice must have been intense. It was remarked 'that if the Taghmon team keep on injuring themselves at this rate, they shortly will not be able to have a team on the field at all' . In preparation for respective championships, both teams played several practice matches. In February they took on their Adamstown counterparts at Camross. Reporting the day's activities, the notes correspondent concluded that 'Taghmon put up a good fight in both matches and for rather raw material showed good form and later in the season can be expected to give a good account of themselves'. In March the hurlers scored a facile 7-4 to 1-0 win over Blackhall in Ryan's field at Tomcoole. However they barely shaded the return game 2-0 to 1-1. At a tournament game at Wexford Pk. in April, the footballers suffered yet another defeat at the hands of old rivals Forth Heroes. The match was described 'as a crude but tame affair in which neither side showed exertion or determination'. The Taghmon Team who were unlucky to lose on a score of 2-0 to 1-2 was: Bob Brereton, Peter Brereton, John O Capt., Lar Carley, P. Fox, Michael Martin, W. Martin, Wm. Walsh, John Cullen, Patrick Condon, J. Pender, Michael Cooper and Ed. Rochford.
While the footballers were struggling, the hurlers had an easy first round win over St. Ibars at Murrintown. While the match reporter thought 'that players in general indulged in too much go for the man style of play' it was never the less 'a grand thing to see a team winning from a district where there was never a hurling team before'.
In June however, in meadowlike conditions at Lightwater 'where repeated drawing was the order' the hurlers made their exit from the championship, failing to raise a flag against the Volunteers who managed to notch up 5-3. On duty for Taghmon were: J.O'Conner, E. Rochford, P. Brereton, M. Cooper, P. Fox, J. Cullen, W. Furlong, W. Martin, M.J. Martin, P. Condon, J. Pender, E. Larkin, L. Crowley, P. Quigley and A. Furlong.
The Footballers had better luck the following week beating Rathangan/Cleariestown at Trinity in a match organised to raise funds for the new ball alley there. Both teams travelled minus half a dozen of their players and had to canvass the field in order to make up teams. Taghmon secured the services of some of the Ballymitty men and won by 2-2 to 0-2. Canvassing appears to have been common in these days and could explain some incomplete team lists.
In June, now called Trinity Stars they defeated Parnells in a friendly when Screen failed to fulfil their championship engagement. They were described as 'the better exponents of the code' and having 'brilliant forwards' when disposing of Blues and Whites on a score of 1-4 to 0-1 in the district final at Bridgetown in August. Some of the Wexford men 'showed a marked tendency to wrestle' and the game deteriorated into a bout of fisticuffs towards the finish. Indeed a section of the crowd rushed the field and joined the melee.
Intact, they travelled to Adamstown in February to take on Ballyhogue/Davidstown United in the Co. semi-final. In a well contested game in one of Miss Downes' fields, Ballyhogue led by 1-0 to 0-1 at half time. The Stars however, went one better than Caroreigh 14 years earlier, booking their place in the Co. final by scoring 1-3 to 0-0 in the closing stages. The final result was - Stars 1-4 Ballyhogue 1-0.
Although 'Weakened by some of their best players joining up to beat the Germans', The Stars lined out against Gorey in the Co. final at Bellefield on the last Saturday of March 1916 In a poor game that started in a hurricane, Gorey opened with the elements in their favour and went onto the offensive immediately. Their attack however, lacked combination and vigour and the Stars defenders had little difficulty in safeguarding their territory. Even though Jas Kehoe managed to score a point against the elements, there was consternation among the Stars supporters when the wind abated leaving Gorey 2 points to 1 ahead at half time. Their favourites however, resumed with renewed vigour and following a free kick by Kehoe, Tom Codd scored a splendid goal. This was a significant score and paved the way for the parish's first championship, since Gorey only managed to add a single point to their total. The final score was Stars 1-1, Gorey 0-3.
To win a Championship in one of Wexford's golden years was a huge achievement and underpinned, not only the pioneering work of 'Gauger' Murphy and his comrades of 1886, but also the endeavours of all who responded to Cusack's call during the intervening years. The men who achieved the historic breakthrough and heralded a long and fruitful association of parish teams with the Junior ranks were; J Kehoe Capt, P Codd goal, G Parle, R Brereton, N Codd, L Crowley, J Pender, T Codd, E Rochford, M Parle, P Crowley, P Nash, Jas. Codd, W Martin, and J Cullen. (For full panel see photo)
Three members of this team, 'Skipper' Codd, Matty Parle and Jim Kehoe were selected on the Wexford junior football team in Easter 1916. Matty Parle recalled how they disembarked from the train and walked through the flaming Sackville St. (later O'Connell St.) on their way to Croke Park . The Easter Rebellion of 1916 had just ended.
Press reports indicate that the team and followers were very proud of the parish's first victory and Mr E Rochford, presiding at the club's AGM the following week, congratulated members of the team on the achievement of winning two sets of medals - one for the Wexford District League and the other for the 1915 Championship, 'Which they won on their merits'.
(Back row L to R): Paddy Fox (in uniform),Tom Codd, Tom Fane ,Paddy Nash,Lar Crowley,Rob Brereton, Willie Fox, (Middle row L to R): Pat Crowley, Nick Codd, Jim Kehoe (capt), Matty Parle, ''Skipper' Codd, (Front row L to R): Peter Fox, Tommy Nash, Jack Fane, Ned Rochford, John Fitzhenry, John Cullen, Pat Devereux. (missing was the photo-shy Billy Martin)