Jim Kearney talks to Brendan Smith

We started talking about some old teams and some great teams then we went on to talk about Oldcastle. Oldcastle had a great team and they met Castletown in the final and they beat Castletown. That big field at Loughcrew Church on the right hand side was a cricket pitch and there was a cricket match going on when Mick Kiernan RIP (I believe he was a rate collector) was passing by, he got down off his bike just as the ball hopped  on the road. and he threw the ball out to the boys where they were playing. Mick got up on his bike again, he put one foot on the foot-path and it was then he saw that there was an objection and Oldcastle lost the Championship over this incident.

Actually, when I started hurling we had a team in Millbrook and I played centre field at sixteen years of age. I can remember Paddy Priest of  Kildalkey who played centre field for the Meath Hurling Team at the time. I was only a gasson then and I was a devil to hook or block a ball. I hooked him and I blocked him and the cheers of the crowd was a sight. I played Minor County for Meath Hurling at sixteen and one of the Geraghty’s of the town along with me. Connie Farrelly was on this good team. We were unbeaten for twenty-four months. We went through Junior Championships, Medal Tournaments and the Intermediate Final. There were eight of us on the team who came down with a bad flu, they got Doctor’s Certificates and brought them to Father McManus who was the chairman. Father McManus told theboys that he had all the sympathy in the world for them, but he said that the game was fixed for next Sunday and if they did not turn out there would be a walk over. We came out with a make shift of a team. It was a terrible bad Sunday with muck and dirt everywhere.

Dunmore beat us in the final.  We won the Feis Cup the same year and we were the only junior team to win the Feis Cup. This was in 1937. We met Navan Gaeis in the Feis Cup in Moynalty and we beat them 32 points to 2 points, and Navan Gaels came out after and won the Senior Championship of Meath. If we had played Senior that year we would have won the Senior flying. In 1938 there were three Senior teams in the Feis Cup – Navan Gaels , St. Mary’s of Moynalty and Screen. St. Mary’s were both Feis Cup holders and Senior Champions in 1938. They amalgamated from Moynalty, Kilbeg. There was Mattie Gilsenan, Dickie Cassidy, the Malones and the three McEnroes – all county men. The final result was 2-5 to 2-4.It was one of the best games ever played in Kells Park.

Fr. Tully was coming home from Croke Park with Mattie Gilsenan. Fr. Tully said to Mattie “Could you name that good Oldcastle team who won the Junior Feis Cup and Intermediate Final years ago”? Then Mattie said “why do you pick out that team”? Fr. Tully said that they were one of the greatest club teams of all time. It was a Parish team with Donal Kearney, Benny Rehill and Hughie Lynch who were the three half forwards – the like of this team was never seen again. Jim Smith was full forward with Little Johnny McEverly on one side of him and Jimmy Kelly on
the other. That was the “Golden Era” of the Oldcastle team.

I started my football with Rahahy Minor. I remember the beating I got from my parents at that time. I was coming home from Catechism after Mass in Moylough Church. I met a lorry on the Castle Road – Oldcastle’s minor team was going some place to play football. Benny Reilly was after telling them he’d play” They stopped and begged me to go with them. I got into the lorry and went off to play the minor game with thwithout going home. I used to be home to bring in cows on a Sunday evening. The worry was that I was missing. When I got home that evening I got one of the best tannings I ever got for going to play football.

The Rahahy Club fell through and I was hurling at the same time with Donal.

There were great sports in Kilnacrott at that time. They had the best prizes in the county and all the crowd came. It was in the first quarter mile that I won – I beat the quarter mile champion of Ireland, Paddy Flanagan R.I.P. The crowd came from Dublin and Drogheda and they stayed in the Naper Arms the night before. The main thing was to try and beat Flanagan.. He was both quarter mile and half mile champion of Ireland at that time. I didn’t want to go, but Donal forced me. I got into third position from the shot and these two Dublin lads were in front of me and Flanagan was in the fourth place. There was a big bend in Kilnacrott and I felt Flanagan was going to pull out left and I pulled out and we came level with the Dublin fellow, myself and Flanagan. Then next the Dublin fellow dropped out. He was only pacing it for the other fellow and from that to the tape I beat him by four yards. He put his arms round me and said, “Jim, I’m prouder nor Heaven of myself. This band came down from Dublin to try and dump me out of it to-day”. That was the only thrill I ever got. The Oldcastle Brass and Reed Band was there and Donal was inside. He encouraged me saying “You can do it!” Paddy Gilleran started beating the drum and Oliver Burns then started blowing the bugle – it was they that won it for me. They put yards on me.

I was playing my first Minor game with Oldcastle and someone said to me “There is a young lad playing with Oldcastle and I’m going to give you a tip. It won’t be long until he goes to the top”. I said “Is that right, and who is it”?. “He is a chap by the name of Jim Kearney””  When I was picked for the County I thought it was a mistake. I was picked to play centre field and Joey Loughran, to me at the time was a God.  I was a babe of the team in 1939 as I had only played minor the year before.

Sean Geraghty RIP was in Blackrock College and played only rugby and he was a great sportsman too and a good footballer. There was a game of football in the Park against Kilskyre or Kilallen. Sean was playing, with a few drinks in him before the game and he got the ball and put it under his arm and went down the field where the line is, the replay match was in Millbrook against Ballinlough. the biggest match ever there.  They came in asses and carts, ponies and traps and it was a terrific game. Christy “Web” Gibney RIP, scored the wining point from 60 yards from a free. Bailinlough minors were very good then. They were a strong team with the Gaynors and all. The Feis Cup team lasted for four and a half years.

Sonny Flood was a great left half back. Carnaross sponsored the Yore Cup and Oldcastle won it in 1947 , they were the first to win it. Liam Maguire, Connie Kelly were playing with me at that time.  Our trainer was Paul Russell and he used to run us up the road at night, I objected and he told me if I didn’t like it to get out. In 1951 I got  my knee out and that nearly finished me. Paddy Ratty refereed the final ahd he disallowed a good goal. There was only a point in it coming up to full time and we got the side line kick and I said to Ted “Stay out of it and follow this in”. The goalie saved it and he wasn’t able to hold it,  he punched it out and Ted (over 6 foot) came with the two fists and banged it into the corner to score a great goal. Ratty runs in and disallows it: he said “You could’nt palm a ball”. The long whistle went and we were beaten by one point. We played against Wexford in Dundalk and it was one of the toughest games ever played in Croke Park.

In 1939 Meath v Kerry in the All-Ireland. Paddy Beggan, Jim Kearney, Kevin Devin, actual players and Hughie Lynch, sub all coming from the small parish of Oidcastle. Four Oldcastle men on the team from a little club team reached the All Ireland. Hughie Lynch should never have been dropped from that team.
Hughie was a terrific County Footballer and when he came in as sub he wasn’t two minutes on the field when he had the ball over the bar.

In 1940 they won the Leinster Final again and were beaten in the A11 Ireland Semi Final. That was the year I got my knee out playing for Leinster and then I was off. I was playing club games and the old knee gave me trouble and I went up to St. Vincent’s and they kept me for four days and they were going to take the Cartilage out and because they couldn’t put my knee out while I was lying in bed. They sent me home and I was supposed to go back, but I never went back to them. ln 1947 I was in the Leinster Final playing Laois and we won that Championship and I was in the Semi-Final against Kerry, that was the year the final was played in New York.

We were playing against Cavan in the All-Ireland Semi Final in 1939. There was a clearance from our own goal at the start of the match. In the eight minute I caught the ball over Donal Morgan and I went to kick it with my left foot up along the wing and he dashed in to block me. On the swing round I gave this terrific lash out of me with the upper of my foot meaning to send it in and it went straight between the uprights and it opened the score to the match. It was supposed to be 75 yards, but it was the greatest fluke of all time. The boots I was wearing were rubber boots, they were lovely soft black boots and Sam Lowndes told me to bring them in and when he looked at them he said that there was no steel in the sole. He put steel in both of the boots for me and made a terrific job of them, it was actually Sam’s glory because only for Sam the point would not have been scored.

Jim Kearney talking to Brendan Smith

(From: “The History of Oldcastle GAA Club 1881-1984”   –  Editor: Tommy Sheridan)