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KILLOE GAA

History – Senior Club

Senior Club

Name: Killoe Young Emmets (Emmet Óg)
Established: 1889*
Colours: White & Green
Teams: Senior, Reserve Senior, Intermediate B, U20

The first GAA club in Killoe was founded in 1889* as Killoe Erins Pride, and while clubs came and went in the parish in those early years, a single unified club bearing the name ‘Killoe Young Emmets’ emerged in the early 1900’s and continues to this day.

The club’s official name is Killoe Young Emmets, but it is also referred to as ‘Emmet Óg’ or in more recent years ‘Killoe Emmet Óg’, both of which have their origins in an effort by the County Board in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s to convert existing club names into an Irish form by popular acclaim – Young Irelands became Éire Óg, Young Grattans became Grattan Óg and Killoe Young Emmets started to be referred to in official circles as ‘Emmet Óg. Hence the dual naming convention which has continued since the 1960’s. All records prior to the late 1950’s referred to the club only as Killoe Young Emmets. In this history and across this website we refer to the club using this name for consistency purposes only.

1889-1919: Founding & Winning

Amid the great upheavals of Irish political and social life after the famine and towards the latter years of the 19th century, there came a revival of Gaelic culture, sport, language and traditions. A meeting in Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles on 1st November 1884 gave birth to the one organisation among many that would flourish best, and to the present day the GAA remains one of the great movements of modern Irish history. In the years that followed its foundation, the Gaelic Athletic Association permeated throughout the country with the establishment of clubs, competitions and county structures.

By 1888, the association had been instituted in Longford and soon new clubs sprang up across the county. In 1889 the first club was formed in Killoe – Killoe Erin’s Pride (originally named Killoe Erin’s Hopes), and this was followed by a second club in 1890 called Killoe McMahons. Some local divisions had given rise to two GAA entities (on either side of the River Camlin), though a single club would eventually prevail by 1905 under the name Killoe Young Emmets. While the Erin’s Pride name can be easily explained, it seems that the second club was named in honour of Heber McMahon, the Bishop of Clogher who led the northern forces against Cromwell in the 17th century.

The Association across Ireland could not escape the divisions of the Parnellite split of 1891 which were particularly evident in Longford, and the GAA in the county as elsewhere went into decline for the remaining years of the century. By the early 1900s, Erin’s Pride had been re-established as well as the newly formed Killoe Young Emmets (after the patriot Robert Emmet). Another short-lived unit called Soran O’Connell’s existed in the parish, though Killoe Young Emmets quickly became the established unified club and were to enjoy a prominent place and an abundance of success during the next ten years.

In 1904 Killoe Young Emmets featured in their first Senior County Final, beaten by Longford Leo Caseys. The same town club overcame the Killoe hurlers in the final of 1905. Killoe would claim their first football and hurling titles by winning the double in 1907 as Killoe Young Emmets, and held the senior football title for 9 years, between 1907 and 1915. Some of these championships may not have been finished, and it seems that Killoe won 4 finals during this period, as some championships took two years to complete. JJ Heslin captained the first championship winning team in 1907, when Killoe beat Drumlish/Ballinamuck by 1-8 to 1-0 at Newtownforbes. Around this time, Paddy Hagan of Rhyne served as Longford GAA Chairman from 1908-12.

In the years that followed, the legendary ‘Rabbit’ Morgan emerged one of the great Killoe and Longford players of that time. He featured on the county team between 1904 and 1907 and scored seven points as they beat Westmeath 1-13 to 1-12 in 1907. Morgan also played a major role in the championship successes between 1905 and 1916.

While the records had previously credited Killoe with the 1911 and 1912 titles, it seems certain that the records are all from the same 1911 championship. The listed final of 1911 was actually the semi final, and after some uncertainty over the final opponents, the eventually overcame Edgeworthstown in early 1912. This information, which confirmed the two titles as only one, came to light following analysis of the championship records in 2014.

In 1913 Killoe defeated Longford by two points to one in a replayed final. Killoe’s championship final in 1915 resulted in a win by three goals to Clonguish’s three points, but the game was not played until July 1916. With no championships in the years that followed due to revolution and Spanish flu, it would be 1919 before action resumed in Longford and Killoe would once again find themselves in a County Final, this time against near neighbours Clonbroney Camlin Rovers. The Ballinalee men won the day after a replay and thus ended the most successful period for any club in Co. Longford in the early years of the GAA.

1920-1969: Mixture of Fortunes

After losing out to Clonbroney in a final replay of 1919, the club went into decline from 1920 and would re-emerge mostly in the Junior ranks for most of the next 40 years. It was not unusual for a club to go through periods of inactivity and re-emergence and Killoe were to reconstitute in both 1926 and 1949. On all occasions, they would return to the name of Killoe Young Emmets.

Jimmy Quinn was a member of the Longford team that won the first Leinster Minor title in 1929 and Dinny Hughes was a sub on the All-Ireland Junior winning side of ’37. The Junior League and Championship were won in 1931, when Dromard were beaten in the championship final and Mullinalaghta in the league decider after a replay, eventually decided in 1933. In 1939 Killoe won the Junior League defeating O’Connells in the final. The team in that final was: B. Corrigan, J. Hughes, J. Mollaghan, P. McCormack, J. Quinn, J. Canavan, M. Lennon, J. McGuire, B. Tynan, J. Canning, E. Hughes, H. Hughes, James McGuire, P. Lennon and J. Bratten. They beat Mostrim in the championship final the following year but the title was subsequently awarded to Mostrim on account of two ineligible players in the Killoe lineup and despite beating Ardagh in the 1949 final, an objection due to the late appearance of the Young Emmets team on the pitch resulted in the title being rescinded. In 1951 Killoe won the Junior for a second time beating Clonguish and returned to senior football, but were to revert back to junior ranks in the following years.

Around this time the club was amalgamated with Shroid Slashers under the umbrella name Killoe Slashers until a meeting of the Killoe members in Esker Hall in 1956/57 resolved to secede and return to the field as a one-parish club. During this time, the county board encouraged and used the Irish form of club names in the late fifties and early sixties (including Grattan Óg, Éire Óg & Emmet Óg). The use of “Emmet Óg” alongside the official club name of Killoe Young Emmets continues to this day.

In 1957 Killoe won the Junior Championship and returned to senior football once again. Billy Morgan was the outstanding Killoe footballer of that era. Son of the legendary ‘Rabbit’ he won a Monaghan championship for Ballybay in 1952 and was a member of the Longford Junior team that won the Leinster title a year later. In 2000 he was named on the Longford Team of the Century.

Killoe’s return to senior football in 1958 precipitated a period of prominence that would yield two league titles and a championship. They lost the Leader Cup (senior league) decider to Longford Slashers in 58, though they exacted revenge the following year. The rivalry with Slashers was a particular feature of those years and the town side overcame Killoe in the championship final replay of 1959. When the same sides met again the county final the following year, Killoe reversed the result and claimed their first senior championship in 45 years. The occasion and achievement is now an important part of local folklore as the men of 1960 earned an iconic standing in the parish. Billy Morgan captained the side (who were the first winners of the Sean Connolly Cup) while Mickey Bracken was declared as Man of the Match, described in the Longford Leader as “the 25 year old Rock of Gibraltar, the small human dynamo who roved all over his half of the pitch eliminating any promising Slashers movement, as well as prompting his forwards with slick passes”. The team that won on a scoreline of 2-10 to 1-6 was George Doherty, Jack Toher, Sean McGoey, Liam Quinn, John Hagan, John Bracken, Mickey Bracken, Billy Morgan, Vincent  Duignan, Seamus Igoe, Tom McGoldrick, James McGoldrick, Joe Quinn, Davy Sheeran, Séamus McGuire, with subs  Tom Brady, Brian O’Hara, Jimmy O’Hara, John Kiernan, Johnny Clarke, John Pat Mahon, Tom O’Leary, Tony Bracken, Eamon Quinn and Mickey Hehir. 

Victory again in the Leader Cup followed in 1961 (over Slashers) with some of the younger players like John Kiernan, Hughie Clarke, Pat Devaney, Tommy Browne and Brendan Igoe among the medallists. They could well have defended their league crown in 62, but amid controversy and confusion over the scoreline in the final, the result went the way of Slashers. Thereafter however, Killoe’s fortunes declined with retirements and emigration and they would eventually surrender their senior status in 1965. While Longford’s fortunes were on the rise with a National League title in 1966 and a Leinster crown in 68, Killoe struggled at times to remain in existence against a positive backdrop for followers of the county team. 

1970’s: Revival & Growth

The seventies marked the foundation of the Killoe Minor Club in 1975, and led to a return to senior football by the end of the decade. A growing young population gave rise to the prospect that Killoe’s fortunes would be on the rise and a number of key individuals played major roles in ensuring that the club was on the ascent.

For much of the early 1970’s Killoe played at Intermediate level, and amalgamated with Sean Connolly’s as ‘Killoe Connollys’ (1972-1974 & 1976-1977) and with Abbeylara as ‘Killoe/Abbeylara’ (1975) to compete in a qualifier series for the Senior Championship which existed in those years (Intermediate teams could enter amalgamation sides to compete against the Senior club teams in the Senior Championship from 1972 to 1979).

In 1975 Killoe reached the Intermediate Championship final only to suffer a defeat at the hands of Fr. Manning Gaels. Despite this defeat it was becoming clear that an intermediate title was very much on the horizon, and in 1976 they reached the Intermediate Championship final again only to lose out to Abbeylara. This second Intermediate Final defeat in a row was a particularly disappointing result for players and supporters alike. 

The 1976/77 season was to prove the most successful for the club since the great days of the early sixties as the team remained unbeaten throughout to capture the Intermediate League, the Special Intermediate League and the Intermediate Championship, defeating Dromard in the championship final. Two weeks later in Kiltycon, the two sides met in the first round of the League and Killoe won this game, with John ‘Speedy’ McCormack making his debut at senior level. This young player was to be instrumental in the success ahead. 

The seventies also brought underage success which signalled better days to come with a Schools title in 1977, Minor Championship in 1978 and the U-21 title in 1979. That U-21 winning team was: Gerry O’Donnell, Hugh Flynn, John Toher, Mark Mimnagh, Frank Rowley, Eugene Murphy (capt), Eugene McNerney, Frank Kennedy, Brendan Lennon, Matt Duggan, John McCormack, Michael Caherly, Declan Rowley, James McGoldrick, Gerry Rowley, Damien Bennett and super sub Barney Mahon. There was a poignant feature however to the last few years of the decade as the club lost Frankie Farrelly following his untimely and tragic passing in 1978.

1980’s: Success at last

Their return to senior status didn’t bring immediate success, but the emergence of a thriving Minor club would eventually pay dividends. In 1983 Killoe finally reached the Senior Championship final, only to be beaten by Cashel by the narrowest of margins. Despite this defeat, Killoe had signalled its definitive return to the top level. The 1983 team was: Michael McKeon, Eugene Bratten, John Toher, Brendan Bracken, Frank Kennedy, Eugene Murphy (capt), Gerry O’Donnell, Frank Kiernan, Matt Duggan, Brendan Lennon, John McCormack, Declan Rowley, Seamus Nolan, Mark Mimnagh & Damien Bennett.  Rowley, Duggan and Bennett had featured for St Mel’s in their Leinster championship winning side of 1982.

Emigration however began to rob the parish of some talented players by the middle of the decade, though one of the stars was making a name for himself on the provincial and national scene. John ‘Speedy’ McCormack was by now an established intercounty player of note and topped the scoring charts in the GAA’s centenary year. He won a Railway Cup with Leinster in 1988 and was rewarded with three successive Allstar nominations. 

In 1985 Killoe captured the Leader Cup for the first time in 24 years under McCormack’s captaincy (defeating old foes Longford Slashers by 1-5 to 0-5), keeping hopes of a senior title very much alive, and in 87 they reached the Senior Championship final again, only to be beaten at the finish by Paul Victory’s last minute goal on a scoreline of 2-6 to 1-8. Brendan Lennon captained the team was honoured with the man-of-the-match award (he remains the only player from a losing side to win the Fr McGee trophy). The 1987 final team was Kevin Bracken, Brendan Bracken, John Toher, Mickey Bracken, Frank Kennedy, Paul Rowley, Brendan Lennon, Matt Duggan, M.J. Keogh, Jimmy O’Neill, John McCormack, Declan Rowley, Mark Mimnagh, John Hughes & Eugene Murphy. Subs used were Howard Carrigy, Frank Kiernan and Billy Bratten. Defeat was a particularly difficult pill to swallow as it was another one-point loss and still the Connolly Cup evaded the club’s grasp. The Killoe jersey was to change appearance slightly in 1987 with the return of the ‘green hoop’ which remained until recent years.

1988 marked the arrival of the McCormack brothers from Clonguish and a new trainer in Dessie Dolan. Success finally came in dramatic circumstances and Killoe would create history by becoming the first club to win both the Senior Championship and Junior Championship in the same year. Having overcome Cashel and Slashers (both by a point) to reach another decider, they entered the final as underdogs to Mostrim. The day itself was characterised by some noteworthy features and events – a late arrival on the pitch by a Killoe side that were deep in prayer; a first point that landed while the Artane Band were still on the field; and a trio of second half goals from the McCormack brothers, two of which came while Mostrim suffered a calamity of errors in their defence. Declan Rowley captained the team that prevailed by 3-7 to 1-7 and Frank Kennedy was man of the match. The cavalcade left the town that evening en route to the chapel in Ennybegs and a parish parade as Killoe celebrated an end to a 28 year wait. The 1988 Championship winning team was: Seamus Finnan, Eugene Murphy, John Toher, Billy Bratten, Jimmy O’Neill, Frank Kennedy, Michael Bracken, Declan Rowley (capt), Terry McCormack, Kevin Dooner, M.J. Keogh, John McCormack, Jimmy McCormack, John Hughes, Mark Mimnagh. Subs used: Brendan Bracken & Declan Bracken. Thus began a rich harvest. 

1990’s: Killoe builds on successes

While they struggled to add immediately to the success of 1988, the senior team remained among the top sides in the county alongside Slashers, Mostrim, Ardagh and Colmcille. The minor team, in an amalgamation with Clonbroney won a fourth championship in 1990 and the blend of youth and experience at senior level would eventually pay dividends. The junior team would provide an important conveyor belt to the next level and Killoe won the Special Junior Championship in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 – an amazing five-in-a-row; winning it again in 1997 and 1999 ensured that they were indeed kings of the junior grade. Along with this, came success in the Junior League in 1993& 1994 and the Intermediate (1A) League in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996 & 1997. 

At senior level, 1993 brought renewed interest in the senior team and their fortunes with the opening of the fantastic new grounds at Emmet Park in Clonee and the appointment of Tommy McCormack as team manager. The new development was opened by Peter Quinn in June 2003 as Killoe defeated Fr Manning Gaels while Roscommon under Dermot Earley overcame Offaly in the intercounty challenge.

Suddenly the time was right for another tilt at the title, though it would come against expectation. Slashers were favourites to regain their crown and were drawn against the Killoe men in round one. The two great rivals would meet for three years running in the opening round of the championship – all three encounters went to a replay. Killoe overcame the town side in 93 and qualified for the decider after victories over Rathcline and Mostrim (by a point). In the final, they defeated a Granard side that were making their first appearance in the county decider since 1982 by 0-9 to 0-7 and the legendary John McCormack was honoured as man-of-the-match as well as winning captain. A lacklustre game will be remembered for a brace of goals scored by the late Micheál Kiernan, which were all ruled out by the referee. As in 1988, they failed to break past the first round of the Leinster championship, losing out in Carlow to the reigning winners Eire Óg by 2-12 to 2-5 (in 88 they lost out to Athlone). A potential double was denied with defeat to Ardagh in the Leader Cup Final

Away from the field of play, the Killoe Scór na nÓg team were winning their way through Leinster and into the clubs first All Ireland Final, with the Novelty Act ‘Heavens just a sin away’. The Leinster title was captured on the stage of the Olympia Theatre, while the group came very close to victory in the All Ireland in the Gaiety Theatre in February 1993. Killoe reached the Leinster Final with the Novelty Act again in 1995 and 1999 but were unsuccessful, though the Ballad Group claimed a second provincial title in 2005. 

In 1995 with Tommy McCormack still at the helm, the Young Emmets showed fine spirit in capturing the Senior Championship crown for the eight time – after a gruelling championship campaign, they overcame Ardagh in the decider by 0-11 to 1-5. The 1995 championship will be remembered for the titanic struggles and replays with Longford Slashers and Colmcille en-route to the final – the second game with Slashers regarded as one of the finest club games in Longford of modern times. In the final, they fell behind and trailed by four points at the break but recovered to seal the title. Mark Mimnagh doubled as captain and club chairman, while John Toher was man-of-the-match. A week later, they won their sole Dublin Sevens title in Islandbridge before finishing the year with a visit to New York. St Marys’ Ardee ended any Leinster ambitions after yet another replay and Mostrim put paid to a possible double winning an ill-tempered Leader Cup final.

In the following years, Killoe captured another Junior B Championship title in 1997 as well as winning minor league titles in 1995, 1999 and 2000. The ladies team began their rise as a successful club during the late 1990’s, capturing the Senior B Championship title in 1995, 1996 and 1998.

A number of tragic episodes hit the locality in 1995-96 and the untimely loss of star player Micheál Kiernan brought a wave of grief to the club and parish.  

The golden era of the 1980’s and 1990’s eventually came to an end as the established players succumbed to retirement and left the stage. They had given their parish the best of times, with three county titles and a host of memorable days. In the years that closed out the century, Fr Manning Gaels, Dromard and Abbeylara emerged as new or renewed forces, while Killoe failed to make another decider and struggled to make an impression at senior level. The following years would see the seniors take a backseat in terms of prominence to the emerging force of the Killoe underage system.

2000: Transition and Rebuilding

The new millennium brought with it a period of transition for the club as they struggled to maintain the high levels set during the previous decade and while they suffered unlucky defeats in the 2000 and 2003 semi-finals to Abbeylara and Ballymahon respectively, ultimately Killoe were no longer a consistent force and came perilously close to losing their senior status in 2004 coming through a relegation play-off against Ardagh by a solitary point. There was some success to be had during this period though with an Intermediate League in 2001 and a Junior League in 2002 and the Minor Club’s re-emergence as an underage force promised better days ahead.

2005 brought renewed optimism with the senior’s producing their most consistent season in a number of years winning the Division 1 title for the first time having led the table throughout and reaching the Leader Cup Final. In the decider Killoe faced off against Ballymahon in what was a titanic struggle involving extra time, two red cards and a change of referee during the game. Sean McCormack scored eight points that day and with Michael Dunne particularly impressive on the ’40; Killoe won their first title in a decade by 0-14 to 0-13. The Minor Championship victory that same year provided further cause for hope.

The following years brought great promise but ultimately disappointment with a cruel one point defeat to eventual winners Colmcille in the 2008 semi-final the closest they had come. The declining economic fortunes during this period were beginning to take their toll on clubs throughout the country with Killoe hit hard by the loss of prominent players to foreign shores. By the decade’s end the club was in an almost continuous state of transition and were working hard behind the scenes to make that elusive breakthrough.

Beyond 2010: Back at the Top

In 2010 former Leitrim All-Star Seamus Quinn took the helm and guided the team to the top of Division 1 pipping county champions Longford Slashers to the title in the dying moments of the final day after a gruelling campaign involving 15 teams. The two sides met in the Leader Cup final for the seventh time in what was a very tense and tight match that went down to the wire with Thomas Nolan outstanding at midfield and Joe McCormack landing the winning point deep into stoppage time amidst very heavy fog. Final score Killoe 0-9 Longford Slashers 0-8. This success was just the springboard the club needed and the following year the U-21’s bridged a 32 year gap in defeating Fr. Manning Gaels 2-9 to 0-8 to win the championship crown. At county level, Killoe players were making a big impression with Sean McCormack, Padraig McCormack and Michael Quinn playing significant roles in the National League successes of 2011 and 2012.

2012 would prove to be the pivotal year for GAA in Killoe with victories in almost all grades from underage to ladies to senior, and after an epic County Final replay – including an unprecedented run of 9 Senior Championship games – Killoe Young Emmets made their long overdue return to the top of Longford Gaelic Football with victory over Longford Slashers to claim their 9th Senior Championship. The first game was a tough physical encounter dominated by both defences with a late free earning Killoe a second-day out. The replay turned out to be an absorbing contest with the lead changing hands on numerous occasions culminating in Daniel Mimnagh’s superbly taken point in the dying moments to bring the game into extra-time. Killoe scored five unanswered points to emerge victorious by 0-15 to 0-12. Cousins Joe and Sean McCormack had the honour of lifting the Sean Connolly Cup while Sean was awarded the man of the match. The expressions of pride, joy and relief across the parish was followed quickly by historic first successes in the Leinster Club Championship with victories over St. Annes Wexford by 2-7 to 2-4 and Navan O’Mahony’s on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-8 before bowing out to Portlaoise in the semi-finals after a tight encounter (1-11 to 2-5). The success continued with the Senior team completing the double for the first time in the clubs history, beating Longford Slashers 3-11 to 1-7 in the Leader Cup Final and the U-21 team successfully defending their championship title against neighbours Fr. Manning Gaels by 4-16 to 0-7. This brought to a close the most successful year in the club’s history and by virtue of the Senior Championship, Leader Cup, U21 and Minor titles, ensures Killoe’s place in history as the first Longford club to complete the ‘quadruple’.

Sean McCormack would make his mark on the National Football League in 2013, ending the league campaign as joint top scorer and earning a national reputation as a noted marksman. Senior Championship success would come quickly again in 2014, with Killoe beating Mullinalaghta in the County Final to capture our 10th Senior Championship title, which was quickly followed by the Leader Cup title and the U21 Championship title in a year when Killoe teams won 15 different county titles. The Killoe GAA website captured the last title of the year by receiving the Leinster GAA ‘Website of the Year’ award.

As Killoe GAA celebrated its 125th Year in 2014, there was much to be proud of across a century of immense political and cultural change. Killoe retained the Senior Championship title for the first time in the clubs history in 2015 with victory over Abbeylara in the county final and progressed to the semi-final of the Leinster Club Championship. The club ended 2015 by winning the Leader Cup to achieve the 1st back-to-back League & Championship titles in the history of Longford GAA and would go on to capture the ACFL Division 1 title in 2016.

History researched & compiled by John & Colm Devaney.