2021 Finuge Club History

CLUB OF THE WEEK, FINUGE. With Christy Kileen

Finuge GAA - a chequered history

The ancient game of “Caid” regarded as fore runner of Gaelic Football was extensively played in the North Kerry area with some mighty games between Finuge and neighbouring parishes according to older folk of the community. Writer Maurice Walsh stated how he remembers as a “mere lad” around mid 1890’s a famous game in Woulfe’s five acre field at Kiltean. “Our side of the river Galey – a combination of Ballydonoghue and Ballyconry were playing the other side of river including Finuge. The goalposts were piles of jackets, sidelines were the hedges and of course the goals grew narrower as the game proceeded !. Everyone played who could play – (or could’nt !) and finally thirty five aside took the field. There was no referee, the rules were ‘rough and tumble’, nothing barred, no fouls or frees !. The game lasted two hours, it would have lasted longer only the bladder burst as the winning goal by Finuge side was scored. The remarkable thing is that during those strenuous two hours not a hand was lifted in anger”. Around that period Irremore (Finuge) had a strong team – reaching two County finals in 1894 and 1897 being narrowly defeated in both. The decline of this great team in the early 1900’s saw the club disbanded during a period of political divisions.

The club was reformed some years later under the name Erin’s Hope enjoying a good decade of football before giving way to the small ball of hurling in 1918, but the club came under great pressure from its neighbours and sadly ceased as a club in the early 1930’s. Locals reformed the club in late 1030’s with the nucleus of a football team from around the village, competed well and progressed to the club’s first taste of success in 1943 by annexing the North Kerry Junior c’ship. They then made the big step up to senior grade, reached semi final of N.K. senior c’ship in 1944 losing to a strong Army team stationed in Tarbert. Buoyed by this progress they scaled new heights in ’45 when reaching the club’s first ever North Kerry senior Final before losing out to mighty Ballydonoghue in a replay. Success eluded them over next few years, were regraded and eventually faded as a force. The introduction of the “parish rule” in Kerry, forced Finuge club to disband. From 1953 to 1960 the club ceased to exist, with no team from the Finuge area, a huge loss to local footballers as a result of the restrictive “parish rule”.

By 1960 a younger generation of footballers was emerging in the locality, thankfully with the honest endeavours by local leaders aided by North Kerry Board officials, an agreement re catchment area facilitated the rebirth of the Finuge club. Their first game was in the Intermediate championship against Tarbert in Tarbert’s old pitch (site of Comprehensive school) and came away with a fine victory. Following further victories they qualified for the final, emerged victorious but lost the match over an objection. However Finuge team recovered from this setback to win 1961 Intermediate championship. In 1962 Finuge moved up to senior level, winning their first game but experienced narrow defeats after great tussles against the stronger teams. Over next two years success was hard to achieve but one noteworthy feature was the development and success of the underage teams – winning N. K. Under 14 and Minor championships in 1963. From these teams emerged a crop of future senior players. Finuge competed at Intermediate level again for further two years culminating in winning another intermediate c’ship which propelled the team back up to senior grade for 1966 competitions.

1967 proved to be the key moment in the history of Finuge football as it’s team performed well in Frank Sheehy tournament losing final to Athea after a replay in two epic games.

In the championship they overcame the challenge of the traditional strong teams to qualify for final against mighty Ballylongford. This was Finuge’s first appearance in a senior final since 1945, they prepared well and captained by Timmy O Sullivan made the big historic breakthrough as they overcame Ballylongford in the North Kerry final. Since that breakthrough the club has enjoyed lots of successes in North Kerry adding four further N.K. senior c’ships, 1987, 1996, 2001 and 2011. Other notable achievements in North Kerry include four Minor, four U-21 and six Junior c’ships, two intermediate, two senior league titles plus numerous junior and underage leagues / championships. The footballers of Finuge also annexed four Kerry Junior c’ships in 1983, 1996, 2002, 2004, a Co. Novice c’ship in 1996 and a Co. Intermediate C’ship in 2012 and gained promotion over a few years in the County leagues going from Division 4 to Division 1, crowned Division 2 champions in the process. A further notable achievement for this small rural club was it competed in Kerry senior football championship in 2013 overcoming Laune Rgs. in a round one game played at James O Sullivan Park. Perhaps one of the club’s proudest moment occurred in 2005 when it was crowned All Ireland Junior club champions overcoming Tyrone champions at Portlaoise, while another major achievement was Finuge footballers played in Croke Park in February 2013, coming up short despite a gallant effort in the All Ireland Intermediate club final. Finuge footballers have contributed to Feale Rgs. championship teams over the decades being part of c’ship success in 1979, 1980 and 2007, plus the minor success of 1983. Notably many Finuge players have worn the Kerry jersey in all grades of football and hurling over the decades with
pride and distinction. Finuge proudly boost of having 17 all Ireland senior medal holders in its ranks, namely Jimmy Deenihan (5), Paul Galvin (4), Eamon Fitzmaurice (3), Paud O Sullivan (2), Eamon Breen -current club Chairman, Enda Galvin and Maurice Corridan with one each, with Peter Linehan having one all Ireland Minor & Junior medal, while many other players have won all Ireland and Munster medals at various grades, not forgetting the 5 All Stars awards received by Paul Galvin (3) Jimmy Deenihan (1) and Eamon Breen (1) - quite an achievement for a little rural club located in the hearth of North Kerry !.
Finuge is a proud and unique rural club with most of its players being talented Dual players who also play hurling with Lixnaw, facilitated by positive co-operation between both Finuge and Lixnaw hurling clubs. The club are also fortunate to have developed solid under age structures over the decades supplemented by a team of dedicated mentors and volunteers, which formed the basis of the club’s list of successes.
The club have promoted Cultural activities and regularly participated in Scór events over the decades, enjoying success at North Kerry and qualifying for many Kerry finals. However the club achieved another major success in February 2020 when its young members won the Ceol Urlise competition at North Kerry finals, then Kerry final followed by being crowned champions at All Ireland Scór na nÓg finals at the INEC Killarney – a notable achievement. Finuge club reformed in 1960, made the big breakthrough in 1967, all without playing pitch or facilities – relying on the generosity of local farmers for their grazing fields.

Local visionaries with great foresight and enthusiasm set about developing facilities for the future, culminating in official opening of James O Sullivan pitch, dressing rooms with a fine stand on 18 th May 1980 – another proud and notable achievement by the club and local community.

Club members and officers deserve tremendous credit for volunteerism and commitment to the cause throughout the past century, their contribution has been immense in building the club to its current proud status of today, while also acknowledging the contribution of those officials to both North Kerry and Kerry GAA.

The club’s logo encapsulates many aspects of a proud local community, heritage, culture, fauna, landscape and environment with a motto of “Neart trí Iarracht”. Fionnúig Abú.