BATTLES LONG AGO – Hughie Lynch Remembers

Hughie Lynch:- I can look back on half a century of activity on the Gaelic Football scene in Oldcastle. We had our own schoolboys’ pitch on the Gilson Park, which ran at right angles to the pitch proper along the Fairgreen Wall. The goalposts consisted of our discarded clothing. If we had not more than fourteen players, we played ‘Backs and Forwards’. If we had more and a sympathetic adult we would have a match. The adult would preferably be a Garda who of course had an official-sounding whistle. I remember two gardai who were always willing to officiate, Gardai Kelly and Daly. Those were the days.

Some years later I graduated and was called on as a substitute for the ‘Big Team’ along with Jimmy Daly, (R.I.P.), and Jack Kellett (R.I.P.).
We were informed by the selectors that we were to be on the Square at 1.30 p.m. on Sunday with togs etc. to go to Ardkill, which was somewhere between Kilnaleck and Cavan, to play the local Junior Team in a friendly match. When we arrived there it was discovered that one of the chosen team had cried off and I was slotted in as right half forward. I was absolutely delighted to be included and better sti1l we won and I had contributed to the score.

After that Jack, Jimmy and I were allowed to practice on the big fellows’ pitch along with the recognised team. For me this was very heaven. Paddy Keely was our team mentor. The other members of the Harps’ Committee were, Owen Clarke, Chairman; Ownie Gibney,Secretary; Mick McGinn, Rep. on the Co. Board, Leo Herbstreet, Hughie Keeley, Peter Smith and Jimmie Kelly along with a few members of the team who had very litt1e say. The late Jackie Gilson was our masseur and tactician.

Some years passed without any significant success. except a few tournament medals. The breakthrough came in 1937 when we won the Meath Junior Championship tbr the first time. This was a great year for the Harps, it saw Paddy Beggan and Jim Kearney join the Meath Co. Team for the championship and I came on in the National League campaign of 1937-’38. That year also saw improvement in the performance of the Meath team and it saw Meath reach the National
League Final having defeated Roscommon in the Semi-final, only to be beaten by Mayo in the final in Ballina.

That year (1938) also saw Oldcastle Harps,now playing in the Intermediate Grade, win the Feis Cup Competition disposing of Kells Harps, Navan Gaels, Moynalty and the Meath SeniorChampions, Skryne, on the way. Needless to say there were bonfires on the Square and extensions in the pubs on that occasion.

The year 1939 was not a great year for Oldcastle but it was memorable for some of its players. Paddy Beggan, Jim Kearney and I took home Leinster Championship Medals to Meath for the first time. On the way to the All-lreland Final, Meath defeated the arch-enemy Cavan in the semi-fina1 only to be beaten by Kerry in the fina1. On that day another Oldcastle man, Kevin Devin got his place on the team at my expense. I was listed in the substitutes but after about ten minutes I was called on, much to my delight and finished the hour after at least doing justice to myself.

The following year (1940) Paddy, Jim and I got our second Leinster medals and Kevin his first.ln the subsequent semi-final we came a cropper to Galway. This was to be Kevin’s last game with Meath as he sustained a rather serious back injury. However I am happy to say that Kevin has made a name for himself as a golfer in Craughwell, Co Galway.

Nine years afterwards the Harps did at last contribute to a Meath All-lreland Championship, when Jim Kearney and Charlie Smith helped to win All-Ireland Medals. That Meath team was in my opinion the greatest Meath team to date. Paddy Beggan, Kevin Devin and I were ‘has beens’ by that time but I recall being on the Hogan Stand with them to cheer our lads on. It was to my mind Meath’s and Oldcastle’s greatest achievement until then and one we should be proud of.

In conclusion I would like to wish the Oldcastie Harps another century of success. I would like to pay tribute to all my football friends and opponents and I pray for the many I havementioned who are since deceased. May they rest in peace.

(From: “The Story pf Oldcastle GAA Club 1884-1984 – Editor: Tommy Sheridan)