Sean remembers the sport-obsessed youngsters who grew up in the parish of Offaly


I was born in Killurin in 1959 to parents Andrew Kinnarney and Kathleen Kearney of Tully, Rahan. They had seven of us in the family, myself and my twin sister Dolores, Pat Joe, Kathleen, Phyllis, Pauline and Andrew.

Myself, Dolores and Andrew attended our first four school years at Killurin School until it closed in 1966 due to declining student numbers. It opened in 1932.

“Eggs and Slices for Killurin Dashers”

“Hay and oats for Derryadd goats”

“Chopped Furs for the Cures of Gurteen”

This is how the singing happened at Killurin School in the late 1950s and early 1960s as school children walked out of Killurin School with flying scarves. So many memories of our first days at school.

Most people walked to school, some rode bicycles. The Keenaghans, Dunnes, Whites, Mahons, McCanns, Mooneys, Meacles, Clavins, Meehans, Fogartys, Kidneys and Howells. Gurteen and the side road brought more Kellys, Dillons, Caseys, Molloys, Kearns, Bradys, McCormacks, Cleeres, Fitzpatricks, McDonalds, Greenes and McEvoys

Many more have joined the Killurin Academy for early learning. Bikes were hidden in the back of Maudy Kelly’s thatched house. There was great camaraderie of lunchtime football and hurling or swinging on the trees by the drain. We had babies, 1st, 2nd and 3rd with Miss Dunne. Mr. Bracken took the rest. I remember helping Miss Dunne light the fire in the classroom fireplace by rolling up balls of old paper so she could use them to light the fire. We ate our lunch very quickly as we didn’t want to waste our precious game time which usually consisted of throwing the hurleys we got from a barrel in the grass shed at the back of the school.

During the final closing, a raffle was organized for the school’s Atlas globe. Everyone got a ticket and you could hear a pin drop as a name was called, Aindreas Mac Heil “ah no not Andy Kinnarney” some said. It turned out to be the last straw for the school.

We then attended the national school in Killeigh.

The bedding was hard to do, but it all worked out in the end with Mr. Higgins and his team of teachers. A new prefab was set up but no hurling for the 3rd class boys who had to wait with the girls knitting and sewing. One day, ructions broke out in the new prefab as it was destroyed by disgruntled boys during a mud-throwing contest with the girls.

No screaming! We’ll see that, and the principal is in.

“Denis the Threat Act here.” That’s it ? The problem was solved by the priest and life went on. The 5th class turned out to be as exciting as any. Mr. Higgins’ “hot lozenges” were in the press. A certain customer received one every day after 2 p.m. now and the other was me, a teacher.

September was a good month as my friend and I were invited to go down to the stream to fetch water to make the ink. A beautiful day in the sun followed before we had to go home, we tested the apples in an orchard.

We always had a concert at Christmas and my claim to fame was to hold up a fork with a straw while the song “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” was sung. My role improved over time as the older children progressed.

I went on to study at Tullamore CBS and the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I graduated as a teacher from Maynooth University. I came back to teach for a while in Offaly, wanting to reunite with friends who were out in the world.

After getting a teaching job after graduating, I returned to throwing with Killeigh Juniors and scored four points on my first outing. “He could do a senior” was the word but it didn’t last long, I got called up for intermediate football and did a year and got injured and that was it. Hurling training consisted of tough internal matches. Killurin came out on their own in 1985. Eggs and rashers did well as our hurling teams raced past them winning the Junior B and Junior A championships, two leagues at Offaly and two Leinsters. They even achieved European glory in a golden age. As numbers dwindled, Clodiagh Gaels was formed following Na Fianna as a minor.

My goal on returning from university was to restore Killeigh Macra to its place among the elite branches in Ireland. In the early years the Killeigh Macra Hall was the social place to be, it thrived with dancing, bingo and cards at the back of the hall.

I met and married Elizabeth Bergin of Kinnitty in 1990. We have four family members, Sean Catherine, Eilish and Claire.

It is with a tinge of sadness that people across the Midlands and beyond have learned of the passing of Donncha O Dulaing in the past two weeks, just one week after the death of his wife Vera.

I remember when I got involved with Macra na Feirme in Killeigh as chairman. 40 years ago Donncha and his team lit up and entertained in the Killeigh Macra Hall as my committee and I invited him to perform his ‘Highways and Byways’ touring series on New Years Eve in 1981. It was then broadcast on RTE Radio One. and it was one of the last major sold-out shows in the venue held in aid of the Irish Wheelchair Association. His show featured a number of local variety acts, storytellers, singers and dancers. There was a lot of excitement and activity around Killeigh and Killurin and surrounding areas as prominent figures were sought out to be interviewed. Local stars who played the night included the great Nicky Rackard and the Long Ridge Céilí Band as well as dancers who performed reels and jigs. Some locals offered oats for the horses and stables but for anyone who remembers the show, it was not necessary!

The committee consisted of Catherine Kidney, Bernadette O’Grady, Eamon Walshe, Sean Bracken, T. Russell, James Kelly, and secretary Martina Dunne along with many locals who were busy preparing for the show. Local playwrights young and old were busy – Christy Murray RIP, Mick Murray RIP, PJ McDonald and the Kelly’s. Willie Coonan organized the painting of the hall along with many other volunteers who worked on setting up the heating and decorations.

As night approached, tickets were in high demand….. Sold…. Full house.

400 people marched through the night into the resplendent hall, photos were taken, interviews were given and refreshments for the audience and actors. The year 1981 was released at midnight by a 6th grader and 1982 was seen by a kindergarten student both from the national school. The two children held signs decorated with the years 1981 and 1982.

Later that year, Killeigh Macra won the county quiz and light entertainment competition, advancing to the Leinster final. Volleyball teams have been registered as well as badminton teams.

Later, the community was treated to Macra na Feirme Superstars in Killeigh. Men and women took part in numerous events, athletics, pull-ups, penalty shootouts, tug of war and tractor balancing. Gerry Walsh, Killeigh was the overall winner and the Killeigh club won the club events. Later that evening, presentations were given in the hall followed by a dance which drew another large crowd.

At that time, it was difficult to find a Sunday for field days, as Offaly was the kingpin of hurling and football. Killeigh also turned out to be the best dogs in hurling.

Remembering the past efforts of the young people of the parish in various organizations, the many friends that have been made, it would be nice to leave behind us a room for the community to grow and realize its dreams. It is great to see the hard work of the Community Development Committee laying out a way forward for the construction of the proposed community center in Killeigh. With these plans in place, Killeigh is evolving into a place to be and continues to fulfill its role in a bright future.


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