Shannon Rangers History

Historical context.

The Shannon Rangers club was formed in 1940. Prior to this a number of North Kerry teams had competed in the county championship {Listowel, Irremore , Knockanure, Ballylongford, Brosna, Ballybunion, Duagh, Craughdarrig, Tarbert, Newtownsandes, Castleisland, Dromclough, Ballyduff, Gunsborough and Ballyconry}& three had reached finals {Irremore 1894 & 1897, Listowel 1925 & 1926 and North Kerry 1932 & 1938} but the county championship trophy never made its way to North Kerry.

Irremore is situated between the villages of Lixnaw, Finuge & Mountcoal. In 1894 they won the only game played in that year's county championship {beating Lixnaw 8 points to 1 in a quarter-final}. No other games were played & the county board decided in December that year that the county final would be a contest between Ballymacelligott & Irremore. Irremore failed to appear & the match was awarded to Ballymacelligott who thus became county champions without kicking a ball - Not only in the county final but in the entire championship.

Irremore were even more unlucky in 1897. They qualified to meet Tralee Mitchels in the county final. The game was played on a pitch at the rear of the Half-way house bar. Irremore won, what was by all accounts a fine sporting game, on a score line of 0-8 to 0-7. Tralee Mitchels objected, on no fewer than 8 counts. A County Board meeting was held in Tralee on May 18th, 1898 to deliberate over the objections. The referee, Mr. M. Bunyan, was on the side of Irremore, but to no avail. The match was re-fixed for Listowel on 29th May, 1898. However Irremore refused to play {understandably enough} & the match was subsequently awarded to the Tralee Mitchels.

There was no parish rule at the time Listowel contested two county finals in 1925 and 1926. Listowel could legitimately call on players from the entire North Kerry area, once they did not represent any other club in the same year. As an example in 1925 Con Brosnan {Moyvane}, Bob Stack {Ballybunnion} & Jack Walsh {Craughdarrig / Asdee} played for Listowel. In 1925 Listowel lost the county final after a second replay. In the first game Listowel & Tralee drew 6 points all. In the replay the scoreline was Listowel 3-0 to Tralee 1-6. Listowel were looking good at half-time but failed to score in the second half. In the second replay Listowel were again ahead at half-time, leading 0-4 to 1-0. However they again failed to score in the second half && Tralee won 1-5 to 0-4.

In 1926, despite being able to call on the services of the multiple All-Ireland winning trio mentioned above, Listowel were well beaten by Tralee, 7-7 to 2-1.

It was decided in 1930 to enter just one team in the North Kerry district to compete in the County Senior Football Championship. The team would be known as North Kerry. North Kerry were defeated at the quarter-final stage in 1930 & subsequently reached the county finals of 1932 and 1938. In 1932 North Kerry was able to count on the services of Con Brosnan {Moyvane}, Bob Stack {Ballybunnion} & Jack Walsh {Craughdarrig / Asdee}, as were Listowel before them, but with the addition of Johnny Walsh {Ballylongford}. That is 23 All-Ireland senior medals & each of the four men mentioned has a football pitch named after them. This must be a record of some sort. After a draw in the first game North Kerry lost by the narrowest of Margins to Rock Street {Austin Stacks} in the replay 2-3 to 1-5.

In 1938 North Kerry lost the services of Jack Walsh but was able to rely on Eddie Walsh of Knocknagoshel as an able deputy. Another man with an All-Ireland or five in his pocket. This North Kerry side could also call on many of the household names of the era - men like Michael McEllistrim & Eddie Hanrahan of Ballylongford, Michael Buckley of Tarbert.
However the star-studded team lost the county final to Dingle, again by the narrowest of margins. The final score was Dingle 3-3, North Kerry 2-5. Dingle had won their first county championship, North Kerry were once again the bridesmaids.

A new beginning:
It was against that background that the Shannon Rangers club was established. Johnny Walsh was the driving force and he said "I felt it had to done at the time". Johnny was subsequently interviewed by a Kerryman reporter about the evolution of Shannon Rangers & he was quoted as follows "For years only one team from all of North Kerry contested the County Senior Football Championship, but due to narrow defeats in 1932 and 1938 a feeling of frustration crept over many players in the Ballylongford, Tarbert, Ballydonoghue and Ballybunion clubs. It was felt that the area was too scattered and unwieldy for one team and many players were turning away from the game as they saw no hope of getting on a Championship team. A more localised team who could come together more frequently would develop better combination, better team spirit and better loyalty to each other."
And so, early in 1940, players and supporters from Ballylongford, Tarbert, Ballydonoghue and Ballybunion held informal talks on the matter. Tarbert was represented by John Sheehan, Mikey Buckley and Brendan Scannell, Ballylongford by Eddie Hanrahan, Dick McEllistrim, Pat Holly, Tim O'Sullivan and Johnny Walsh. Dick and Denis Walsh attended from Craughdarrig while Ballydonoghue were represented by Bill Barry, Jack Kissane, Pat O'Sullivan and Tom O'Connor & Ballybunion by Bob Stack and Mick Lynch.
A decision was taken to enter a team for that years County Senior Football Championship. There was the question of finding a name for the team. Shannon Gaels and Shannon Rovers were among the names suggested before the name of Shannon Rangers was finally agreed to. The club colours were decided - Blue and White.
In April 1940 the first panel of players from the Clubs already mentioned were picked to train for Shannon Rangers; Johnny Walsh, Dick McEllistrim, Michael McEllistrim, Johnny Culhane, Tim O'Sullivan, Paddy Neville, Eddie Hanrahan, Willie O'Connor, Baker Mulvihill, Ballylongford, Henry O'Donnell, Brendan Scannell, Michael Buckley, John Finucane, Jim Finucane, John Dunne, Tom Ashe, P. O'Connell, M McGee, Tarbert, Tom O'Connor, Paddy O'Sullivan, Tom Walsh, Tullamore, Jimmy O'Carroll, Ballydonoghue, Harry Reidy, Beale. Of course there were many others that were playing members of the Shannon Rangers team of 1940 but were not available when that first training session was called.
Apart from a brief hiatus from 1956 - 1963 {when Feale Rangers represented North Kerry}Shannon Rangers have continued to represent the various clubs along the southern edge of the Shannon Estuary in the county championship and currently our constituent clubs are Asdee, Ballydonoghue, Ballyduff, Ballylongford, Beale & Tarbert.
These early Shannon Rangers teams were a little bit ahead of their time, perhaps, in that they employed collective training. Later very much in vogue with successful inter-county teams it was subsequently banned by the GAA. The club was founded during the "Emergency" & travel was difficult and petrol was rationed. So all the players would stay at McEllistrim's in Ballylongford {known as "The Hotel" at the time and still home to the McEllistrim family}. Johnny may have been the club captain & trainer but order in the house was kept by Fr. David Walsh - Johnny's brother and a man to whom even Johnny had to defer! The players would go & work in the fields for local farmers during the day & train at night. The training regime might have been unorthodox but it was successful as Shannon Rangers were competitive from the off.
In 1940 Shannon Rangers beat reigning county champions Kerins O'Rahillys in their very first game in the county championship, before going on to record victories over both Killarney and An Gaeltacht. In the semi-final they lost by just a goal to eventual winners Dingle.
In 1941 came the real crunch match - Shannon Rangers vs. North Kerry. The game was played in Ballylongford & ended in a draw. The replay took place in Listowel and Shannon Rangers won by a single point {0-8 to 1-4}.

Extract from "Face the Ball".
Shannon Rangers succeeded in bringing the title to North Kerry for the first time {In 1897 Irremore had defeated Tralee Mitchels in the final but lost on an objection}. The team was drawn from the areas of Ballylongford and Tarbert.
Early in the game Rangers showed traces of stage fright, but an easy goal came as a tonic & settled them down. It was a very even game of good, firm football. It could scarcely be termed brilliant, for there was too much looseness in marking & wild shooting by both sets of forwards. Fielding too, because of the slippery ball, was not always reliable. Having led by 2-0 to nil at half time, Rangers managed to keep the Mitchels at bay in the second half.

Extract from "The Kerryman".

After more than 50 years persistent but fruitless endeavour, a North Kerry team had won the Kerry football title. The honour fell to Shannon Rangers, drawn from Ballylongford and Tarbert who beat John Mitchels at the Austin Stack, Park, Tralee. Shortly before noon rain fell in torrents and the conditions no doubt deterred hundreds of cyclists and others, who by every means of convenience would have otherwise made the trip. Yet there was a large attendance (gate £266). Representatives of all parts of the County and they were rewarded with a clinking struggle, one of the best furnished for the blue riband of Kerry football.
Early on Shannon Rangers showed traces of stage fright but an Eddie Hanrahan goal in the 10th minute saw them steadily improve. Through the field generally they were superior. Honours of the match went to McEllistrim who gave a grand exhibition of goalkeeping. He was covered by 3 good backs the pick of whom was Denis Walsh. One fault in their play was that they often allowed the lighter, nippy Mitchels forwards get possession. Lawlor put in great work in the half back line. Holly rose to great heights at midfield while Johnny Walsh was the pick of the half forward line and the front row of Keane, Hanrahan and Carmody was probably the best ever to leave North Kerry.
T. Healy and S. O'Donovan were the mainstay of the Mitchels defence; Pierce at midfield was the pick of the side but all the forwards were disappointing.
Shannon Rangers had the wind in their favour with football which was of a lively order and Holly set his side pressing; Hanrahan jumped to get possession but missed from close range. Shannon Rangers threatened danger but Mitchels also came marauding. Then after 10 minutes came the goal from Hanrahan, having been placed by Buckley. Still Mitchels came forward in search of that opening score but Lawlor and Culhane stood firm. Staunton raised a white flag and then in a grand combined movement started by McElligott, Hanrahan won possession sent a clever pass to Carmody who shot to the net. Mitchels were roused and swept downfield but again McEllistrim saved and when Hanrahan pointed to leave the half time score 2-2 to 0-0 in favour of Shannon Rangers.
The second half saw Mitchels open their account through Dunne in the 8th minute. Eventually McEllistrim was beaten as Gorman charged in to drive the ball home. Now 4 points behind Mitchels were striving might and main to come to terms but Denis Walsh stood to the bombardment while at the other end Callaghan was called upon to clear. Captain Walsh pointed and then turned provider for Staunton. Gorman and Bailey split the uprights for Mitchels but still Shannon Rangers came forward and Hanrahan pointed. Mitchels were now squandering scoring opportunities and it was left to O Donnell from a free to close the games scoring.
Final score Shannon Rangers 2-4 John Mitchels 1-3. There was wild enthusiasm when Johnny Walsh was presented with the County Championship Cup. Mitchels are deserving of a word of praise for their plucky display. They died gamely and lived true to the great tradition of their club. Mr. D. Clifford, Killarney was a very strict and capable referee.
The teams that lined out on that historic occasion were -
Shannon Rangers, D. McEllistrim, J. Culhane, D. Walsh, R. Walsh, M. Leahy, T. Lawlor, M. McElligott, P. Holly, M. Buckley, J. Staunton, J. Walsh, M. Lynch, J. Keane, E. Hanrahan, J. Carmody.
John Mitchels, P. O Mahony, D. J. Healy, S. O Donoghue, F. Callaghan, N. O Donoghue, T. Healy, C. Irwin, J. Pierce, J. Baily, C. O Donoghue, J. McSweeney, B. O Donnell, F. Dunne, M. Daly, J. Gorman.

Extract from "Face the Ball".
The Shannon Rangers v Dick Fitzgeralds {Killarney} semi-final took three games to decide. For the first meeting every form of transport available - cars, bicycles, traps, lorries and horses - were pressed into service for the trip to Tralee. The unaccommodated were not at all put out by having to make the round trip on foot. It was a tit-for-tat struggle throughout & the final score was Shannon Rangers 1-07; Dick Fitzgeralds 2-04.
The replay also ended all square, Billy Myers getting the equalising goal for Fitzgeralds in the closing minutes.
In previewing the third game P.F. had said "two teams in the County Championships have won the hearts and captured the imaginations of thousands of football fans. When the history of this year's competition is written, their names will blazon forth as first-class thrill-makers and fine, sporting, manly players".
The game was over before fifteen minutes of the first half had elapsed. Three quick goals put Shannon Rangers in a commanding position and Dick Fitzgeralds never really recovered from these hammer blows {Final score in the second replay was Shannon Rangers 3-07 Dick Fitzgeralds 2-03}.

The final saw Shannon Rangers meeting the other Killarney team, Legion, and the game ended in a draw, 2-03 to 1-06. Shannon Rangers won the replay 1-07 to 0-05. The "Kerryman" described the replay as not a patch on the drawn game.
The half time score was 0-03 to 0-01 in favour of Shannon Rangers, and a second half goal from Eoghan Egan clinched the honours for the men from North Kerry.

In addition Shannon Rangers reached the county final in 1948, 1953, 1971 & 1974.
In 1948 Shannon Rangers lost to Dingle, 0-05 to 2-10.
The Shannon Rangers team was Gerald Stack, John Culhane, Denis Dowling, Dick Walsh, Mick Finucane, Eddie Dowling, Mick McElligott, Gus Cremin, Liam Finucane, Joe Shanahan, Jim Brosnan, Johnny Walsh, Pat Kissane & Seán Boland.
In 1953 Shannon Rangers lost to Kerins O'Rahillys, 0-05 to 1-04.
The Shannon Rangers team was Leo Stack, Paddy Fitzmaurice, Colm Kennelly, Danny Dowling, Tim McCarthy, Tom Costello, Mick McElligott, Dermot Dillon, Gus Cremin, Dan McAuliffe, Eddie Dowling, Billy Cantillon, Brendan Kennelly, Eddie Kennelly, Diarmuid Dillon. Substitute was Mick Finucane.
In 1971 Shannon Rangers lost to Mid-Kerry, 1-06 to 0-12, in a reply. The score in the first game was Shannon Rangers 4-06, Mid-Kerry 2-12.
The Shannon Rangers team was Paddy O'Hanlon, Donie Mulvihill, Paudie O'Donoghue (c), Tom O'Connell, Patsy O'Connell, John McCarthy, Michael McEllistrim, Jackie Walsh, Tom O'Donnell, John Bunyan, Eamon O'Donoghue, Richie Bambury, Mossie Carrig, Brian McCarthy, Seán Hilliard. Substitutes were Michael Walsh & Barry O'Connor.
In 1974 Shannon Rangers lost to Kenmare, 1-05 to 2-12.
The Shannon Rangers team was Paddy O'Hanlon (c), Pat O'Connell, Paudie O'Donoghue, Johnny Wrenn, Donie Mulvihill, Michael McEllistrim, Dennis "Ogie" Moran, Patsy O'Connell, Tom O'Donnell, Jackie Walsh, Barry Walsh, Eamon O'Donoghue, Brian McCarthy, Richie Bambury, Mossie Carrig.

In recent years, unfortunately, Shannon Rangers have been less competitive in the county championship. Perhaps it is a cyclical thing - after seven years of plenty comes seven years of famine, perhaps it could be explained on economic grounds - North Kerry never seemed to profit from the Celtic tiger as much as other areas, perhaps interest in top-level county championship football has waned, but hope springs eternal and all who care for the club hope to see Shannon Rangers back amongst the upper echelons of county championship teams in the near future.

Shannon Rangers remain the most successful North Kerry team at senior level. With five county championship titles the club remains two titles ahead of our near neighbours Feale Rangers.