On the 27th March, 1887, a group of young men in the peninsula, known as the Cooley Independents, commenced training in Rev. Fr. Hugh Murphy’s field in the Castletowncooley area, to Sunday, twenty fifth of October 1987, when a Kickhams side, led by Tony McCarragher, were successful in the final of the A.C.C. Cup against Oliver Plunketts at Knockbridge.
Seven Senior Championships
The Kickhams had a glorious first hundred years. High points were their seven senior championship victories, the first in 1935 led by Jem Murphy from Ballug, the second in 1939, and the remaining five in the glorious seventies. There were ten Cardinal O’Donnell Cup wins, and the fine achievement of winning the Old Gaels Cup in each of their seven final appearances. There were other highlights, especially the Junior championship successess of 1934 and 1964, victories that heralded two of the greatest eras in the history of Cooley football. There were two other junior championships, an intermediate victory as far back as 1907, a junior two success, two under twenty ones, and the first of four minor Championships came in 1968.
Opening of Fr. McEvoy Park
The Kickhams had a somewhat nomadic existence for their first seventy years. Their meeting places ranged from committee member’s houses to various halls and schools to under the railway bridge at Monksland Cross. Down the years, football pitches were located at Castlecarra, Grange, Carlingford, Greenore, Whitestown, Willville, Johnstown, Mucklagh not forgetting Lordship and Ravensdale. Despite the generousity of the owners of these pitches, it was evident from early on that for football to survive in the peninsula, a playing pitch of their own was essential. Many hours were spent over the years discussing the possibility of this becoming a reality but it was not until 1964 that definite moves were made. Rev. Fr. McGrane, who took over as chairman due to the resignation of Hugh McGee, called a special meeting on the third of November and announced that Mr. Paul Feehan of Grange was willing to sell a site at Monksland for a nominal fee.
The committeestudied the proposal and unanimously agreed to its acceptance. Treasurer, Jack Marks, was not in attendance and a special on the spot delegation was sent to him to seek his opinion. Jack wholeheartedly agreed and, when the delegation returned, Fr. McGrane was instructed to go ahead with the deal. He was also asked to convey to Mr. Feehan the feelings and gratitude of the committee on behalf of the players and supporters of Cooley Kickhams. Five days later at another specially convened meeting, it was announced that at long last, the dream of generations of Cooley people has come true and the Kickhams had a pitch of their own.
The club opened their magnificent new football stadium in 1969, Fr. McEvoy Park, which nestles at the foot of the Cooley Mountains at Monskland. Rev. Fr. John McGrane, and his committee of those years can feel proud of their achievement in providing a base for the club, and can be assured that the provision of such a fine playing field and other amenities for the benefit of the people of Cooley was much appreciated, and McEvoy Park will indeed act as a monument to the G.A.A. in Cooley which can never be destroyed.
Two hundred Cooley players represent Louth
Two club mentors, the late Rev. Fr. Mullan, (1907 to 1909), and the late Peter Woods, (1939 to 1941), were elected to the top position in Louth football, the position of Chairman. Numerous other club mentors were active at county level, while over the years, at least two hundred Cooley players represented their county with distinction at various grades. In the 1943 Leinster Final against Laois, Cooley born players made up almost half the team. These were, Eddie Boyle (at that time attached to the Sean McDermotts Club in Dublin), Sean Boyle (who was working in and playing for St. Mary’s Ardee), Tommy Clarke, Jim Thornton, Kevin Connolly, Mick Hardy and substitute Pete McKevitt. In the 1948 Leinster Final victory over Wexford, Sean Thornton (Civil Service), Eddie and Sean Boyle, Kevin Connolly, Mick Hardy, Stephen White and Hugh O’Rourke figured prominently. Most of the great players of the seventies also played for Louth seniors.
Cooley had their ‘downs also
The Kickhams also had their share of ‘knocks’ during their first century. Their captain, Joseph Ferguson, was executed during the civil war; their failure to win a senior championship from 1940 to 1970, despite appearing in five finals; their failure to win a second division championship also after five final appearances; their disappointment at contesting six minor finals before success finally came their way in 1968; their unsuccessful attempts at winning the Leinster club championship; the bleak eighties when they failed to surmount the first round of the championship from and including 1984; the embarrassment of having to withdraw their teams from championship and league games in the early fifties due to internal friction and lack of resources; and the final nail in the coffin came in 1955 when their application for participation in the championship was not even considered by the County Board because there was no affiliation fee included with their application.
A club totally committed to the G.A.A.
The first hundred years of Cooley Kickhams are all about committees, families, and individuals who spared nothing and gave their all to promote the club and the G.A.A. in the area. This was done, sometimes at great personal inconvenience. It was done for the benefit of the people of the region and, despite many disappointments and setbacks, no effort was spared to ensure that the Kingdom of Cooley play its part in the promotion of our national games, our culture, and our Irish way of life. Cooley Kickhams rose to be one of the foremost, most feared and most respected clubs in the County. Committees, players, trainers, and supporters worked hard to achieve this down the years. The Centenary celebrations gave the club a chance to the nostalgic, but the memories and excitement generated by this nostalgia gave the club members a new impetus, and hopes were high of a major breakthrough to match the golden years of the thirties and seventies.
Offcial Opening Of Cooley Sports Complex
Probably the most historic occasion in Cooley Football was the thirteenth of July 1969, when G.A.A. President, Mr. Seamus O’Riain, officially opened Fr. Mc Evoy Park. Of no less importance was the fourteenth of April 1989, when the then President Mr. John Dowling, opened the new Sports Complex, also at Monksland. Mr Dowling said, “The facility you have here shows the strength of the Cooley club. It is not only a pleasure, but my duty to be here tonight. I am amazed that a club in such a small community can provide such a facility. On behalf of the G.A.A. I thank Cooley Kickhams for what they have done for the community and the G.A.A.”. Canon Sweeney blessed the Complex, and in a short speech, he said, “This is indeed a dream come through. Cooley celebrated their centenary in 1987. What a wonderful way to start the second century by opening the new Complex”. Sports commentator Jimmy Magee was estatic about the Complex, “As part of my job, i have travelled the world and visited many multi-million sports centers. How proud I am that just a quarter of a mile from where i was born stands one of the finest sports complexes I have ever seen”.