Down Memory Lane – Four county titles for Western Gaels  in a glorious ten year spell

Western Gaels Senior Football County Champions 1960. Back row, from left: Billy ‘The Barber’ O’Connor, Tom Kelly, Tom Barrett, Bob O’Donnell, Moss Hurley, Jack Kelly, Mort O’Connor, Tommy Danaher, Mick Fitzsimons and Timmy Woulfe. Front row, from left: Tommy Kelly, Willie Kelly, Davy Cahill, Donie Mullane, Jim Kelly (captain), Paddy O’Donnell, Paddy Sammon, Donie Nestor, Tom Carrig.

It has been the bone of contention for many years between the clubs, the County Board and the divisions on whether or not to admit divisional sides into the Limerick Senior Hurling and Football Championships. In the early years of the competitions, many clubs that entered the competitions comprised of players from a number of parishes.
As far back as 1893, the South Limerick Hurling Club with players from as many nine parishes won the County Senior Hurling Championship by defeating St. Michael’s, probably another group team, 9-1 to 0-1 in Croom. The South Limerick Hurling Club was based in Bruree hence on the roll of honour the title is credited to Bruree.
Divisional Boards started coming into being at the beginning of the 20th century, the West and City Boards were formed in 1902 and after a few abortive attempts the South Board finally came into being in 1924 while the East Board is of much more recent origin formed in 1943.
When the idea of divisional teams in the County Senior Championships was first mooted is unclear but generally believed to have been in the late 1940s it has led to considerable debate, much of which is very negative in nature. The idea was that the divisions would be allowed to select players from the junior and intermediate sides within their jurisdiction to form a team to compete in the Senior Championship. It was to provide those players with a platform to showcase their ability on the highest stage possible at club level.
The concept never found universal acceptance and hence the divisional teams have been in an out of the competition down through the years. Why there is animosity towards such combinations is hard to figure out. The reason certainly is not that these groupings have proved too strong and are walking away with the County Championship every other year. In fact since divisional teams were formed, Western Gaels representing the west are the only division to win the Limerick Senior Hurling Championship when they were crowned champions in 1961 and retained the title in 1962. Western Gaels were losing finalists in 1954.
They are also the only division to win the Senior Limerick Senior Football Championship winning in 1953 and 1960 and just missing out on making it back to back titles in 1961.
The eastern division under the banner Geraldines contested three hurling finals in seven years and lost all three, to St. Patrick’s in 1949, Treaty Sarsfields in 1951 and Ahane in 1955.
A team drawn from the city division, City Gaels contested the 1950 final which was an all-city affair and they lost out to St. Patrick’s.
The south division were the last of the four to reach a county final when they did so in hurling in 1963 and lost out to Feenagh-Kilmeedy. They were also the most recent division to reach the decider when in 2010 they lost an all-south final to Kilmallock.
Western Gaels have a decent record in county finals. They contested six between 1953 and 1962 winning two hurling and two football. In three of the four finals in which they were successful, they defeated Treaty Sarsfields 1953 and 1960 football and 1961 hurling. No doubt there was a collective sigh of relief in the Thomondgate area of Limerick city when the divisional sides in the championship lapsed.
The Gaels also enjoyed county hurling success after defeating Kilmallock in the final in 1962 while the defeats came in 1954 to Cappamore in hurling and in 1961 in football to another east Limerick club, Oola.
This week we take a look back at Wester Gaels’ six appearances in finals.