Firies/Ballyhar GAA Club. The Parish is made up of Ballyhar, Farranfore and Firies. Clubs colours: Sky blue. Club Grounds: Pairc Eamon

Club history

By Tom Kelliher

In 1952, Fr. Ml. O'Leary, the recently appointed curate, presented a Silver Cup to the footballers of the parish. The trophy was to be awarded annually to the winners of the parish league. The league consisted of six nine a side teams namely: Rathcomane, Coolbane, Ballybrack, Farranfore, Firies(Molahiffe) and Kilnanare. Around 1956, when Kilnanare had registered its fourth triumph in a row, there were rumblings of discontent. A number of the other teams complained that Kilnanare was too strong and that one of its players should join another one of the teams. When the Kilnanare players refused to accede to this rather strange request the Parish league lapsed. This Parish league during its four years of existence was well supported by football followers from the parish and beyond. The admission charges collected at the various matches were given to the Parish Church restoration fund.

The ill-fated parish league was important in another respect: it resulted in the parish being represented by a single football team. In 1954, Ballyhar, with the assistance of c.7-8 Firies players, entered the East Kerry Junior League. Ballyhar beat St.Agatha's, Glenflesk in the final of the competition. The team wore red jerseys with white collars and cuffs.

This ad-hoc arrangement was given a more definite status in 1955, when a new club St. Patrick's was registered with the appropriate G.A.A. authorities. The only weakness in the club structure concerned the status of the Farranfore area -Farranfore remained an open area. The inaugural officers of St. Patrick's club included: Cornie Quirke, Jack Sheahan, Dan Joe O'Sullivan, Timmy Horgan.

In 1955, St. Patrick's met the Legion in "Penders Lawn" in the first round of the O'Donoghue Cup. A Legion of memories includes the following report about the match. "1955 saw another East Kerry title coming Legions way. In the first game of the championship, Legion beat Ballyhar (sic) by 1 point (0-6 - 0-5) at Ballyhar after a thrilling game. This was a hard fought game. Both sides were level at half time. It was only in the closing stages that Legion got the winning point off a penalty by Donie Murphy. Ballyhar were unlucky when they failed to score off a penalty in the last minute of the game"

On that occasion the St. Patrick's team included the following players: Tom Fitzgerald, Con O'Sullivan, Brendan O'Brien, Seamus O'Brien, John J. Courtney, Con O'Leary, Tom Brosnan, Jimmy O'Connor, Owen O'Connor, Hugh Courtney, Michael Allen, Mick Carey, Con Allen, Jerry Foley, Donal O'Meara, Michael Doherty.

J.J. Sheahan played with Legion on that day. On another occasion in the 1950's - 1958, St. Patrick's were beaten by a last minute goal by Dr. Croke's. The final score was Crokes 2-6 St. Patrick's 2-3. Other players who played for the club in the 1950's were dual Kerry Minor Austin McMahon, Fr. Dan Browne, Thomas Hartigan.

In 1959, Fr. O'Leary made further efforts to re-activate the parish league. His efforts were not rewarded and a period of inactivity ensued.

There was no senior team in Firies in 1959, 1960 and 1961. In October 1961, at the behest of Fr. Ml. McMahon C.C. Dan Joe O'Sullivan, Timmy Horgan, Dermot Meara, Danny Flynn, Cornie Quirke and Ml. J. O'Sullivan, Ballincarrig, the present club was formed. D.J. O'Sullivan acquired a set of sky blue jerseys with white collars and cuffs, and the club entered the East Kerry Arena once again.

In the late 1950's Croke's and Legion were the dominant teams in East Kerry; they were so strong that the rural teams were reluctant to enter the O'Donoghue Cup. This problem was solved in 1960, when an East Kerry rural league was begun. Dr. Croke's and Legion were excluded from the competition. Instead, the top teams in the rural league joined with Legion and Croke's in a knock-out competition to determine the winners of the O'Donoghue cup. On the 16th December 1962, Firies beat Rathmore in the East Kerry rural league final. The team lined out as follows: Timmy O'Riordan, Con O'Sullivan, Seamus O'Brien, Jerry Foley, Tom Walsh, Timmy Doherty, Joe Murphy, Thady O'Donoghue, Jimmy O'Connor, Dan Prendergast, Owen O'Connor, John O'Donoghue, Jimmy Cullotty, Sonny Flynn and Bill Fell. The substitutes included Charlie O'Riordan and Mick Allen.

On the 15th February 1963, a victory dance was held in the John Marcus O'Sullivan Hall, in Firies; admission to the dance was 20p! In 1963 a number of more-experienced members of the team retired; This weakened the team which resulted in considerable problems later in the decade.

In January 1963, the club presented a successful motion to the county G.A.A. Convention: consequently players from Farranfore were regarded as Firies players by the County Board. This motion met with trenchant opposition from the neighbouring town-clubs ; in the past Farranfore had been a very happy hunting ground for them. Michael O'Ruairc's comment that when he "lived in Farranfore, it was always a part of Firies" helped to convince the assembled delegates of the justice of the Firies motion. The club held its first social in 1963; its guests of honour were Dr. Eamonn O'Sullivan and Dr. Jim Brosnan, Chairman of the County Board.

The remainder of the 1960's proved to be barren years for the senior team. In a three year period between 1964 and 1967, they failed to register a single victory: the turning point was a 3-10 to 2-4 victory over Glenflesk in Rathmore.

Despite these problems, and poor match results, Firies-Ballyhar senior team fulfilled all its scheduled fixtures. This was important - it kept the club together and the participation of juvenile teams in East Kerry competitions was facilitated. The under age footballers of the 1960's won no trophies, but many of them played at Senior level for Firies since then. The following players played under age football in the 1960's: Donie, Paudie and Christy McCarthy, Neilie O'Shea, Seamus and Tony Falvey, John O'Sullivan, Brendan O'Brien, John Browne, Gerard Hickey, Neilus and Tim O'Connor, David and James Daly, Neil and Dermot O'Mahony.

In 1971 Firies beat Templenoe by 1-10 to 0-4 in the Rural B County championship: since then, the clubs U12, U14, U16 and minor teams have won numerous competitions. The present senior team is comprised of players who have played previously at juvenile level. The policy of "Starting them young" begun in the 1960's, has paid rich footballing dividends.

Acknowledgements to Jimmy O'Connor and Jerry Foley.