Drawn Out 1962 Campaign the Highlight before Moorefield’s Modern Dominance

The article below was penned by kildaregaa365’s Richard Commins and first appeared in the Kildare Nationalist newspaper dated 17th October 2018.

It looks back over Moorefield’s football history prior to their current period of dominance in this millenium.

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Moorefield’s history bears some similarities with Athy’s.

Both were formed in well-populated garrison towns in the late 1880’s. And both struggled for long periods to make a real impact on the football landscape in Kildare.

Newbridge was a strong soccer town, a place where the military barracks dominated the main street. Moorefield, originally called the J.J.O’Kellys after founding brothers James and John, also had to contend with rivals at the “lower” end of the town, Roseberry/Sarsfields, who were considered superior in playing terms and built a huge rivalry with Clane in the early days of the game in Kildare. The El Classico of its time if you like.

Moores did qualify for the 1902 senior football final but even that was by default. They’d beaten Kilcullen and Athgarvan before losing to Roseberry in the semi-final. But an objection saw them catapulted into the final against Clane.

It wasn’t a happy experience as they went down by 4-7 to 2-3. What followed in 1903 was probably more significant in determining the traditional “order of things” in the town. Moorefield free-taker Jim Scott, along with a handful of other players including Jack and Gundy FitzGerald, transferred allegiance to Roseberry.

Roseberry also benefitted from the local Dominican College in the same way that Clongowes Wood helped Clane. The colleges provided fields to the players of both clubs and probably more importantly, employment. It is said that lunch-time kickabouts in both Clongowes and the Dominicans provided one half each of the great Kildare All-Ireland teams.

By 1915, Roseberry had racked up no fewer than nine county senior titles. Moorefield were to fall somewhat into the background.

They did emerge with a Junior title in 1932 and Intermediate crowns in 1937 and 1939 but they made no inroads at senior level and were back winning a Junior title in 1948.

A number of losing Intermediate finals saw them re-graded Senior for 1958 and they gradually found themselves at home at that level. Indeed, they secured a treble of Leader Cups from 1958 to 1960. A losing championship semi-final in 1960 was the precursor for a first ever senior title in 1962.

The likes of Denis Craddock, Jim Cummins, Joe Moran, Paddy Moore, Toss McCarthy and Harry Fay were key men that propelled that group to glory. But it was a torturous path to a final against Kilcullen that didn’t take place until May 1963.

Moorefield and Kilcock met no fewer than four times in the semi-final. The first game was something of a battle and J.J.Ellis in the Nationalist blamed referee Burke for not clamping down on “vicious kicks, punches and elbows”. After Kilcock led by six points at the break Moorefield came back to draw 1-9 apiece with Robert Clinton grabbing the crucial Moores goal.

Clinton goaled again in the replay and this time Moores crept home by a point (1-6 to 1-5). There was an objection however to the eligibility of certain players, followed by counter-objections from Moores and eventually the Leinster Council decided on the course of least resistance by ordering a replay “For the good of the Association.”

In December, three months after the initial two games, they met again and of course… they drew! Not only that but the pent-up bitterness erupted. According to this paper’s reporter, a Moorefield player was kicked three times and carried off the pitch but returned to continue “not much worse of the experience.”

A rousing game eventually developed, and Moorefield again had to come back from a significant deficit of five points to tie the game at 0-9 to 1-6 with only the accuracy of Fay from frees saving them.

With winter upon them, the fourth match did not take place for another five months and in April 1963 Moorefield finally emerged convincing 2-8 to 1-4 winners with Fay scoring 2-6 in a game that surprisingly had no hint of the earlier animosity.

Of course, Kilcullen, also seeking their first title (they still are), had been cooling their heels for eight months while the saga unfolded and it’s no surprise therefore that they offered little resistance to the well-oiled Moorefield machine.

After the first fifteen minutes it was only a question of the final score and much attention focused once more on some of the “shenanigans” between the two teams. After some early “fisticuffs” a Kilcullen player (they tended to be un-named in the papers) was sent off for jumping on a fallen Moorefield player and punching him in the face several times.

Fay again led the scoring for Moores with 0-6 with Clinton grabbing yet another goal. The other goal in a 2-11 to 0-2 victory was variously credited to Fay or Joe Farrell depending on which report you read.

Moorefield were back in the final in 1965 but succumbed poorly to a Carbury team back-boned by four of the famous Kildare under-21 team from that year – Ollie Crinnigan, Pat Nally, Pat Mangan and Kevin Kelly. Kelly was the star as they won by 3-12 to 1-9 with Billy Quinn scoring Moorefield’s consolation goal near the end.

That was as good as it got for the rest of the twentieth century for the men from Pollardstown, which makes their rise to the top of the pile in Kildare (and now Leinster) all the more remarkable in the last eighteen years.

What changed? Certainly, the development of Pollardstown and the instigation of the club’s own underage section were instrumental as was the great work of the likes of Gerry Moran. Before the 1990’s the two Newbridge sides had amalgamated at underage level. The local schools, and the Patrician Secondary in particular must take a lot of credit for the development of both Newbridge clubs as forces in this century.

You’d need another article (or perhaps a book) to chronicle the deeds of this decade. There’s no arguing with eight senior championships since 2000 as well as two Leinsters not to mention all the League titles and underage and reserve successes.

Athy have a bit of catching up to do.