How it all began for Urhan and Beara football in 1927

November 17th, 2021 8:20 AM

By Tom Lyons

The Urhan football team that were Beara and county champions in 1927.

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THE victory of Urhan over Bride Rovers in the county junior A football quarter-final recently, their first win in the county championship since 2007, brought a smile to a lot of Urhan faces but none more so than to the face of the legendary Connie Paddy O’Sullivan, one of the greatest to ever lace a football boot not only in his native Urhan and Beara but in Cork county.

As young football teenagers in the 1960s, Connie Paddy was one of our first football heroes and how we thrilled at his performances in the red of Urhan, Beara and Cork. We hope to have a good chat with the Urhan legend in the coming weeks and to get his ideas on the present football scene in Cork.

In the meantime, so delighted was Connie Paddy with Urhan’s latest win that he asked his daughter, Lisa, to send on a photograph of the very first Urhan team to win the Beara and county championships.

The year was 1927 so we did some research on that historic victory, mainly through the late Riobard O’Dwyer’s fine book on the history of Beara football. The fact that the Cork county junior football final of 1927 was actually played in Killarney was enough to pique our interest.

The first football match under GAA rules was not played in Beara until 1900 and between 1900 and 1927, matches were of an informal nature, with no Beara championship in existence and no affiliations to the county board. Then in 1927, the Beara Division affiliated to the county board for the first time and the very first Beara football championship was run off. Just as happened in neighbouring Carbery 40 years earlier, hurling had been played in olden times in Beara but the new divisional board did not affiliate any hurling teams.

Six teams took part in the first official Beara junior championship – Adrigole, Ardgroom, Allihies, Urhan, Bere Island and Garnish. Urhan and Allihies reached the final, which was fixed for Castletownbere on July 10th. County secretary, the great Padraig Ó Caoimh, was invited to referee the final but was unable to attend because he was refereeing two games in the city the same day. The well-known Ralph P Keyes of Bantry took his place as referee.

Close on 1,000 people attended the first ever Beara final and it turned out to be the best game of the year, Urhan winning by a single point, 2-3 to 2-2. The silver medals given by the county board were presented to the winning captain Paddy Hanley the following Friday night at a division board meeting in the Berehaven Hotel by vice-chairman of the Beara Board, Pat O’Neill N.T.

The Urhan team that won that historic final included Jer Kelly (goalkeeper) (Inchinteskin), Pete Con O’Sullivan (Urhan), Paddy Hanley (captain) (Gorth), Pat Merwick (Coulagh Ard), Stephen Paddy O’Sullivan (Urhan), Pete ‘Seer’ O’Sullivan (Gorth), Patie ‘Connie’ O’Neill (Coulagh), Patie ‘Gow’ Harrington (Ahabrock), Jer Sheehan (Cahirkeem), Jeremiah Murphy (Cahirkeem), Dan Sheehan (Cahirkeem), Michael ‘Gow’ Harrington (Ahabrock), Mick Duggan (Cahirkeem), Bill Sheehan (Cahirkeem) and Maurice Power (Coulagh Ard).

The question now was how good were the Beara winners in comparison to the top junior teams in the rest of the county? The answer was not forthcoming in the first round of the county as opponents, Geraldines of Cork, failed to travel to Bantry to play the game and Urhan received a walkover. Next up in the semi-final were the Dohenys, winners of the new South-West Cork division, beating Innishannon in the South West final. Their captain was the famed Ned Young, survivor of the historic Kilmichael Ambush. That game was fixed for Bantry but before the game, Dohenys objected to the size of the Bantry pitch, a common occurrence in those early days. Urhan’s first outing in a county championship ended in a clear victory, 0-6 to 0-1. Dohenys’ objection to the pitch was over-ruled by the county board and Urhan were through to their first ever county final, the first Beara team to do so.

The final, against Duhallow champions Newmarket, was postponed until the following Spring, 1928. The Beara Board applied to have the game played in Bantry, or, second choice, in Kenmare but the county board made the strange decision to have it played in Killarney on March 4th. Apparently, the convention of the Munster Council was being held that day in Killarney and the Cork delegates could kill two birds with the one stone. The final was played in a field near the bridge at the Kenmare side of the town. Jim Cronin in his history of Cork GAA gives the final score as Urhan 1-6, Newmarket 1-0, but the Cork Examiner the following day gives the score as 3-3 to 1-0. Either way, Urhan won their first county title. Also playing in the final were Donal O’Sullivan N.T., just out of training college, and Mike Downing (Scrahan). Was it the only Cork county final to be played in Kerry? Three of the Urhan team were picked on the Cork team of 1927, Paddy Hanley, Patie Harrington and Bill Sheehan.

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