The Early Years
THE EARLY YEARS
No one can be sure when the game of hurling was first played in the Parish but we do know for certain that in 1741, the game was flourishing in the area. We are aware of this because in that year a game involving teams from Cork and Tipperary met in what is widely regarded as the first ever Cork v. Tipperary Inter County game. The game took place at Glenagoul near Rathcormac. It was in essence a challenge between a side drawn from Tipperary organised by Donnacha McGrath of Kilbehenny and a Cork side organised by Colonel McAdam Barry of Lisnagar in Rathcormac. On the Cork side for this match in 1741 were several Barry brothers from Ballinaglogh in Carrignavar. Tradition relates that there were seven or eight sons of William Fitzredmond Barry on this team. They were cousins of Colonel McAdam Barry of Rathcormac. There would have been no knowledge of this game were it not for the fact that the result was disputed. A bard from Tipperary who had obviously accompanied his team to Glenagoul put it about and boasted that the Tipperary team had won. This was denied by the Cork side and Sean O'Murchu na Raithineach one of the Gaelic poets of Carrignavar put down in verse a rebuke to the Tipperary poem and in his poem he claimed that it was in fact the Cork team won. There were actually ten verses to Sean O'Murchu's poem and the foremost significant verses which of course were written in Irish have been translated by Tom Barry of Garrynacole and they are republished here:
Twas improper of the Northern party To boast its feats in lasting poetry Whatever result they bandied about, The Barrys won without a doubt.
Mistaken was the team that came Loudly boasting of its hurling fame In the fearsome gap of Glenagoul To find that we instead prevail.
Before McAdam leader of the district And every noble at the conflict
With skill we wrung the match ahead To leave your verses larne and dead.
This winning band not easily swept away This fighting band untiring in the fray This able band to open any lock
Be aware these men from Ballinaglogh.
The tradition that the match was played in the locality has survived down through generations in Rathcormac and also in the Carrignavar district. In his book 'The Banks of the Bride' the late Patsy Barry, the local historian remembered that it was a much talked of event in the locality in years gone by and the actual field of play which is on the roadside in Glenagoul is still pointed out. Tom Barry of Garrynacole in Rathcormac who has done considerable research on this particular game points out that the year 1741 was a particularly disastrous year for Ireland. There was a great frost the previous year in 1740 which almost totally destroyed the potato crop and lead to a scarcity of food. Whole villages were reported as being Wiped out. The crisis finally came to an end about August or maybe earlier in 1741 when an exceptionally good harvest was recorded. It is possible that the Glenagoul hurling match marked the ending of the local crisis or famine and if not organised for a wager, it could have been organised to restore spirits and morale generally. Whatever the reason the fact remains that the earliest known Cork v Tipperary hurling match was played in this parish and happily to say, it has been the forerunner of many other clashes between Cork and Tipperary down through the years.
The GAA in the Parish
In the 1880's 'rough and tumble' football was played in the parish, according to local tradition. The first reference to the GAA in the parish is found in The Cork Examiner of October 1885. In a list of forthcoming athletic meetings, one such meeting under the auspices of Bartlemy GAA Club was scheduled for Sunday Oct. 25th 1885. Advertisements for this Athletic meeting appeared in The Cork Examiner on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday previous to the event. Unfortunately there is no published account of the days activities or the results of any of the contests. The GAA in its early days, from 1884 onwards and right down to 1922, embraced both athletics and the team games of hurling and football with which it is now principally associated. At the outset the athletic side of its programme met with a greater response than did that of hurling and football. The years 1885 and '86 saw athletic sports meetings under GAA rules in many country parishes where hurling and football clubs were yet unheard of.
The circumstances surrounding the 'founding' meeting of the GAA in Hayes' Commercial Hotel in Thurles on November 1st 1884 have been well documented. The second meeting of the new association was held in the Victoria Hotel in Cork on December 27th. It was at this meeting that replies were read from Dr. Thomas Croke, Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell accepting the invitations to become Patrons of the GAA. Interest in the new association spread rapidly throughout the country. The first GAA. competition organised in County Cork was for the "Challenge Cup" in hurling and commenced in March 1886. In the final of this competition Cork Nationals defeated St. Finbarr's in a low scoring game which was played over eighty minutes. A total of 21 clubs affiliated to the GAA in Cork in 1886. The first County Board was elected in December 1886 and the main officers were:
President- Alderman Dan Horgan, Lees.
Secretary: D. M. Lane, Cork Nationals.
Committee: Eugene Cotter, Blarney.
S. Mahony, Aghabullogue.
P. Scott, Little Island
W. Sheehan, Carrignavar.
T. O'Sullivan, Inniscarra.
The first official County Senior championships were contested in 1887. Lees won the football title with a narrow win over Lisgoold. Passage and Cork Nationals qualified for the hurling final but it was never played.
Start of the GAA in the Parish
The years 1888, 1889 and 1890 were momentous ones for the GAA in Rathcormac parish with Rathcormac Football team and Bartlemy Hurling team competing with great success.
In compiling this book the writer has been very fortunate in regards these early years and the records that survive. Richard Barry of Ballinwilling, Bartlemy who was an ardent GAA supporter and was closely involved with both teams left a very detailed hand written account of the games, scores and players for the years 1888-1890. His writings are invaluable historical material. Then in the 1930's Patsy Barry published a series of books which featured local history, sport, folklore, poetry and short stories. Patsy Barry was a good friend of Richard Barry and would also have attended many of the games in the early years. In his book "By Bride and Blackwater" he gave a detailed account of the three year period when the local teams were very prominent. Using these two sources I was able to locate in the files of The Cork Examiner- the actual match reports of many of the games and meetings.
In covering these early years I have. decided to quote extensively from Patsy Barry's book and also from Richard Barry's memoirs. To these I have added the contemporary accounts which I have found. The role of Fr. Edmond Barry P.P. with the GAA clubs in the parish cannot be overstated. He was reluctant initially to get involved but when he eventually did so it was with an infectious enthusiasm.
Fr. Barry was born in 1836, his maternal ancestors being from Desert in Bartlemy. He was appointed as Parish Priest to the parish of Rathcormac, Bartlemy and Kildinan in 1885, the year after the GAA was founded. The success achieved by "Fr. Barry's Teams" was phenomenal. In the space of three years the Bartlemy Hurling team and the Rathcormac Football team achieved success at tournament and championship level. The unfortunate split in the County Board at the end of 1888 had a very divisive effect and resulted in three different County Boards coming into existence.As we shall see later there was a degree of co-operation between two of the Boards. When the split was eventually healed, it might have been expected that the very successful Rathcormac and Bartlemy teams would continue to prosper. The exact opposite happened and the clubs went out of existence, thus ending a glorious era in hurling and football in the parish.