Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ballymore-Eustace’s Proud Handball Record
Part 1

My first attempt at recording the history of the Ballymore-Eustace Handball Club was done at the request of the late Father Browne when he sought a piece on the Club for the 1972 Chronicle. In the 1953 Chronicle Tommy Lynch (profiled in the Echo of September 1977) had covered the Club's history up to 1953 so I covered the period from 1953 to 1972. When the Gaelic Football Club brought out a commemorative book to celebrate the GAA's Centenary Year I was more ambitious and tried to tell the story of the Club's history up to 1984.

The first thing I discovered was the lack of firm information about the Club's early days. My original source of information was Bernard Purcell but Bernard was no longer with us having died in January 1962. I next spoke with Mickey (died 1978) and Margaret Dowling who suggested that I talk to Christy Byrne (died January, 1973) who had been Club Secretary during the Club's first period of success in the late twenties and early thirties.

Christy's sad story was that during a spring-cleaning of his house all his handball papers and records ended up being dumped. So I was back to square one. Research of old newspapers in the National Library has yielded no new information. I had some luck when the late John Clarke of the Dublin Metropolitan Club kindly supplied me with information about the Official Opening (or Re-Opening) of our 60 by 30 alley. John was a brother of one of hardball's "Greats", Austin Clarke, and in partnership with Austin he won the 1942 All-Ireland senior hard doubles title. John was a handball historian and an avid collector of handball memorabilia.

According to John, a group of four players from his Club were involved in the Official Opening of the Ballymore 60 by 30 alley following the plastering of the walls and the laying of a new cement floor and from information in his possession it seems that the Opening took place on Sunday October 27, 1912. The four players involved took part in exhibition games, which resulted as follows:

James Clarke and Tom Redmond (DMC) beat Jordan and Devey ;
Peter O'Shea and Joe Kennedy (DMC) lost to Farrell and Hickey.

John Clarke thought that Jordan, Devey, Farrell and Hickey were also from Dublin. Jordan and Devey at least would appear to have been Ballymore men as the late Tommy Nugent of Ballybought (Profiled in the Echo of November 1977) stated:

"He (Tommy Nugent) loved handball and he remembers Tom and Joe Morrissey building the Ball Alley in 1910. They lived beside the alley where Dr. Purcell (died June 1988) now has his stables. The very first Handball Club was formed by Bernard Purcell, Ned O' Rourke, Pat Conner (Blacksmith), Jimmy McGrath, Jim Byrne (Schoolmaster), Jack McGee, Myles McGee, Peter Nugent, and Myles Lawler. He remembers paying his first shilling membership fee. The first singles match played there was between Kit Jordan and Patsy Devoy and the first doubles match was between Art Doran and Myles Lawler versus Jimmy McGrath and himself. He and his partner won. Tommy Leahy was the top player of his time and "I remember playing him for a bet and winning" Tommy recalls gleefully".

A James Whelan of Ballymore was a member of the Dublin Metropolitan Club Committee at that time. The source of John's information was his own Club's tradition and a weekly Dublin paper called "Sport". The James Clarke who played in the exhibition games was John's father and he was also the Dublin Metropolitan Club Secretary. Leading handball figure of those days, John Lawlor, apparently was in attendance.

I understand from Paddy Monaghan that a relation of the late Hubert Jackson by the name of Conroy was also involved in the building of the 60 by 30 alley which had the gallery and roof added in 1928. In 1953 the walls were raised as softball was beginning to gain a footing. Dressing rooms were built in 1975. Thanks to the generosity of the Mullion Family lights were installed in 1962 and replaced by a new system installed by Eamonn Deegan in 1978. Since then many much needed smaller repair and maintenance jobs have been carried out. In 1997, Anthony Campbell replaced the floor and I suspect others probably helped.

Clearly those who built the 60 by 30 alley in 1910 were farsighted people but I doubt if they could have envisaged the degree of success that Ballymore players would have over the following one hundred years. Our players won many All-Ireland titles in hardball, softball and 40 by 20. Our finest hour came in 1984 when two of our players won World titles.

© Matt Purcell (April 29, 2008).

Matt’s Memories

The Senior Citizens Party

It was great to see Mrs Sheila Mooney (nee Doyle) of Alliganstown at the Senior Citizens Party. Mrs Mooney was in a wheelchair but I gather she gets around quite a bit in it. In my late father’s time we used regularly see Mrs Mooney and her late husband Jim at Sunday Mass. Jim died in 1996. I know Mrs Mooney’s sons Mick and Kieran both of who played handball. Additionally, Mick was also a top athlete. Mrs Mooney’s daughter Bernie was also a top athlete and for several years Bernie dominated ladies athletics in our area.

The Nugents

Tommy Nugent and his wife Margaret Nugent (nee Toomey) of Alliganstown had six children. I knew their two sons Pat and Joe and their daughters Lucy and Madge. Madge married a Tyrrell from Blessington. Sadly Lucy died in 1975, while Tommy died in 1982 and Margaret died in 1983. Some years later, Pat died in August 2000. Tommy was a keen handball player as was his son Joe. In his younger days, Tommy was a contemporary of the great handball player Tommy Leahy. In later life, Tommy often dropped into the alley after Sunday Mass and had a game there. Tommy played handball until late in life. Joe was in England for a number of years but took up handball again on his return to Ireland.

Mona’s Sister

Reading my April Bugle article I found that I wrongly referred to the married name of Mona Nugent’s sister as Patty Jennings whereas her correct name is Patty Lynch. Mona’s grandniece Paula Jennings used to work with me when we were both in the Law Department, South Dublin County Council.

How Do You Do!

On Saturday March 29 I was sitting in my car while my brother James was closing our front gate. I sensed that James was talking to someone and it turned out he was talking to C.J. Darby who was out walking his dog. On realising I was in the car C.J. came over to talk to me.

Ballymore Bugle

Thanks to the Ballymore Bugle I know my neighbours Peter Pearse and Liz Deegan are proud new parents and that Tommy and Mary Deegan have become grandparents again. On a sadder note, I see where Mrs Gale has died at an advanced age. As a racing fan I would be aware of her late husband Johnny’s exploits as a jockey. Johnny was 55 when died in 1978.

Damien’s Quest

I read with interest of Damien O’Sullivan’s quest for his genealogical roots. Hopefully what follows will be of help to him. It seems his great grandfather, John O’Sullivan (Sullivan), was a brother of the late Jim Sullivan and the late Dinny Sullivan who lived many years ago in a terraced cottage, now demolished, at Swordlestown. I understand another sibling may have lived at Beggar’s End.

I believe both Jim and Dinny did occasional work for the Punchestown Race Course. Dinny had breakfast each Sunday after Mass at Whelans beside the Catholic Church. The cottage where the Sullivans lived was located about half way between Ballymore-Eustace and Naas. I presume the reference to a Baroness would be reference to Baroness De Robeck who lived nearby.


I visited Janet’s on March 29 in the hope of buying a Bugle. While there I learnt that Brigid’s photo appeared on the front page of the Bugle. Initially, I could not see Brigid in the photo but when I put on my reading glasses I had no difficulty in finding her.


Recently I learnt that Celia Quinn is the Secretary of the Newbridge Chamber of Commerce. In former times, Celia was a Davoran of Dowdenstown and lived there with her late parents. In the late seventies, Celia married John Quinn of Newbridge. Her late father Jack was President of the Ballymore Eustace GAA for several years before he died in 2000 aged 86. His wife Sheila (nee Keane) celebrated her 80th birthday in February 2003 and died more recently on October 28, 2005. Photos of Celia and her mother appeared in the Bugles of July 2003 and January 2005 relating to Senior Citizens activates.
Fr Sean Breen

Following Cheltenham, Fr Sean Breen spent sometime in Mount Carmel Hospital being treated for a chest infection. Happily, he got home on April10.

Black Belt

Recently I learnt that Jim Sheridan got his Black Belt in judo. I gather it’s a very prolonged series of studies and tests and Jim stuck with it over the years despite many pauses as work and life issues rightfully got in his way.

Michael Mullally tells me “while Ballymore can rightly boast that it has more than its fair share of All-Ireland handballers it is probably not high on the rankings of its local sons ever achieving the elite Black Belt”.

As Michael rightly says this was “some achievement for a guy who remembers An Tostal in Ballymore”. An Tostal in Ballymore took place in 1953. Jim’s late father was a guard in Ballymore while his late mother Bridget died in 1979. The two of them lived at Assumpta Terrace.
The Keegans of Mullaghboy

In 1842, Patrick Keegan of Mullaghboy (near Coughlanstown) headed for Australia. A descendent of his by the name of Leo Keegan now lives in Sydney, Australia. I had the pleasure of staying with Leo, his wife Maureen and family for a week in 1995 and again in 1997. Leo Keegan and his wife Maureen have two daughters Donna and Teresa. Teresa got married last November 17 while Donna got married on April 19. Due to a gap in the records we will never know if Leo’s Keegans and my Keegans are related but they certainly lived close to each other.


On Tuesday April 22, 2008 my brother James brought me to Punchestown. This was the first race meeting I attended since my stroke over a year beforehand. The first one we met on our travels was Seamie Clarke who was pleased to see me out and about again. Others I saw that day were Peter and Katy Fisher, Brendan Graham, Eamonn Deegan, Tommy Deegan and Margaret Clarke (nee Murphy). Some of the time James was with me. At other times I was on my own. Brendan regularly enquired from my brother Billy as to my well being. Eamonn, for his part, made a special effort to see me that I appreciated. Meanwhile, family members surrounded Margaret.

As usual, we met Monsignor Seamus Conway, his brother Tommy and Tommy’s wife Mary on the stand. Late in the day we met Meahall Murphy – one of racings “regulars”. P. Murphy of Longhouse was another that I met. Earlier arriving at my brother’s place in Naas we met Martin Gavin and his friend from Manor Kilbride. Martin visited me the second time I was in Naas Hospital.

James again brought me to Punchestown on Thursday April 24, 2008. That day we met Fr Breen. His horse Show Blessed pulled up in the race won by ScotsIrish the following day. In the same race Sean Mulryan’s Ambobo was third while Bernadine Mulryan’s Le Toscan also pulled up. On the Thursday, we met Dan’s widow Joan and her friend Rita. Along the way, we exchanged greetings with Ollie Deegan and his son Fionn. Sister-in-law Carmel kindly provided us with meals on Tuesday and Thursday.

Happy Birthday

Recently Tom O’Rourke (Senior) celebrated his 86th birthday while him and Rita are 61 years married.

Best Wishes

Best wishes to Katty Mahon (nee Clarke) who I believe is in the Larchfield Nursing Home.


The death occurred suddenly of Brendan Murphy of Blackhall on April 4, 2008 R.I.P. Brendan was the son of the late Gertrude and brother of the late Anna. His wife Irene, son Mark, father Louie, mother-in-law Teresa, sister Trudy, brothers - John, Louie, Noel, Kevin, Harry, Joe and Paul, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nephews and nieces survive Brendan. I only became aware of Gertrude’s passing on reading of Brendan’s untimely death.

The death occurred of John Headon of Ballymore Eustace who died on April 21, 2008 after a short illness R.I.P. John was pre-deceased by his wife Eileen. His son Tom, daughter-in-law Niamh, brother Pat, nieces, nephews, relatives and friends survive John.
John was a big figure in Ballymore-Eustace and was closely associated with the Fine Gael party in the area and also with the local Brass and Reed Band. He was involved with both of these groups for many years.

The death occurred of Mary Healy (nee Clarke) of Redcross, Co. Wicklow (formerly of Broadleas) on April 25, 2008 R.I.P. Mary was pre-deceased by her husband Denis and her daughter Maura (Vickers). Her children Eamon, Ann (Ryan), Nuala (Lowen), Breda (MacFadden), in-laws Mary, Bernie, David, Aedan, sister Katty, brother Kevin, grandchildren and great-grandchildren survive Mary. Mary was a sister of the late Johnny Clarke who died suddenly a month ago and of Katty Mahon of St Brigid’s Park.

The death occurred of Doreen Mullen (nee Kilbride) of Kilcullen, Co. Kildare (formerly of Tulfarris, Blessington) on April 28, 2008 R.I.P. Her husband Karl, daughters Louise, Niamh, Mary, Gaye and Anna, sons Karl, Paul and Marc, their partners and her grandchildren survive Doreen. In the late forties Doreen’s husband Karl was a top rugby player.

The death occurred of Frank Scott of Braemor Avenue, Churchtown on April 29, 2008 R.I.P. His wife Maureen, sons, daughters, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, sisters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren survive Frank. Frank was one of my Dublin neighbours. He was aged 87 and was married to Maureen for 58 years.

The death occurred of Kathleen Kavanagh (nee Holohan) of Killester, Dublin on April 29, 2008 R.I.P. Her husband Brian, children Colm, Bernard, Maria, Annette, Catherine, Damien and Norah survive Kathleen. Kathleen’s brother Brendan worked with me for the Law Department, Dublin County Council

© Matt Purcell (May 1, 2008).

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