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Archie McLoughlin - Edenderry's great enigma

posted 14 Apr 2020, 05:56 by Edenderry GAA   [ updated 14 Apr 2020, 22:20 ]

By David Farrell & Kevin Guing

Professional sporting transfers are big business in today’s world of highly paid players and managers. Each week, if inclined, a person can spend hours and even days checking online for the latest rumours and transfer possibilities in relation to every high-profile professional soccer player in the world. Most of what is written and posted online is fake news and completely fabricated, but just every so often a story will break in relation to a big transfer, and, within minutes, the whole internet will be awash with information being peddled as factual.

The main sports channels can now even dedicate one whole day of programming in relation to transfers in and out of clubs on the final day of transfer activity.

They first spend days bombarding us with adverts telling us "deadline day" is approaching. The customary menacing countdown clock is displayed to the side of every screen and adds to the anxiety and sense of impending excitement. But no matter what build up any transfer ever gets,  it is very rare that the outcome ever lives up to the hype.

In GAA circles transfers are viewed in completely the opposite way. Any transfer of a player between clubs is shrouded in as much secrecy as possible. Simply put, transfers in the GAA are generally a messy affair. They can be as a result of a club and player fallout and this in turn usually means that there are several parties involved who are less than happy about what is perceived as the ultimate betrayal and most mortal of sins one can commit in the GAA.

On occasions players will transfer to clubs in a different county from the one they currently play in, and bizarrely, this is seen as a lesser sin and somehow softens the blow of a player abandoning his hometown club. The level of anger and sense of betrayal can also be an indicator of the ability of the player attempting to transfer. If the public outcry is not too great, well then it can be assumed that he or she is not seen as an integral part of the future success of the club. 

But what happens when the perfect storm hits? When both sins collide? What happens when the clubs star player not only transfers out of his home club, but proceeds to transfer to a strong rival club within the same county? 

Well that is exactly what happened in Edenderry in the 1950's when then current Offaly star forward and free taking sharpshooter Archie McLoughlin joined Edenderry from Tullamore. Amazingly Archie's home club was in fact Clara and he was listed as a Clara club man when lining out for Offaly in the 1947 Leinster minor championship.

However, as per his brother Frank, Clara didn't have any underage teams at the time and Archie went on to play for Tullamore. But in joining Edenderry in 1951 would this high profile transfer ever live up to the hype?

(Archie's Father, Francis McLoughlin, was born in Drumbibe near Ballinamore, Leitrim on 17/9/1897 to Arthur McLoughlin and Bridget Curran)

Archie's Early Days:

The name "Archie" has an interesting ring to it. It is an unusual name in today’s Ireland let alone the Ireland of the early 1900's. To the ear the name itself seems to conjure up images of a person who is a bit of a character, a likeable rogue, and a bit of an enigma. And that is exactly what Archie could be described as in the context of the history of the Edenderry GAA… enigma.

Archie McLoughlin was actually born ARTHUR McLoughlin in Dublin in the summer of 1929. His parents were Francis McLoughlin and Rose O'Sullivan and they had married on April 14th of 1928 in Kiltallagh Church near Castlemaine in Co. Kerry. Rose O'Sullivan was a farmer’s daughter originally from an area close to Kiltallagh called Ballyfinane. She was a Nurse in the locality. Francis McLoughlin was a member of the Civic Guards or An Garda Siochana and was then stationed in Castleisland.

Francis was originally from a small area near Ballinamore in County Leitrim called Drumbibe and was the fourth of seven children born to a farmer called Arthur McLoughlin and his wife Bridget. By the time his first child was born in the summer of 1929 Guard Francis McLoughlin had been transferred to Dublin. So he had already moved from Leitrim to Kerry and then to Dublin. This habit of transferring, as mentioned earlier, didn’t stop with Francis McLoughlin.

(Kiltallagh Church, near Castlemaine, Co. Kerry - This is where Archie's parent's got married)

The Move to Offaly:

While we can’t be sure when exactly it happened, we do know that Garda Francis McLoughlin made one more transfer before settling down. This time he was on the road to County Offaly and Clara to be exact. He and his wife would raise a family here and this was where his son Arthur "Archie" McLoughlin would begin playing football. 

Archie would learn to play football well enough to be seen, from a young age, as a star of the future. While Archie was a registered Clara player and more than likely played for his national school in Clara, this was a time when clubs did not have multiple underage teams. Most clubs didn’t even have a minor team as this was a relatively new idea but Archie, along with fellow Clara club men Vin Cowen, Tommy Moyna (Monaghan) and Johnny Kinahan were deemed good enough to be selected to represent Offaly Minors in 1947.

It would prove to be an historic year for Offaly as this minor team would go on to win the county’s first ever Leinster Minor title. Archie was playing in defence mostly at this time and lined out at number 6. Match reports praise his strength and powerful bursts from defence. They would go on to lose in the All Ireland Semi Final of 1947 to the eventual champions Tyrone but Archie had already caught the eye of the then Offaly seniors selection committee.

(Archie McLoughlin, 5th from the left in the front row with his arm around the great Paddy Casey)

Senior football with Tullamore:

The following year Archie would begin playing senior football for Tullamore and yet again this would prove to be another successful time for Archie. Tullamore would go on to win the county title that year and Archie would play a huge part in this win. Ironically, as we will see later, it was Edenderry that Tullamore defeated in the final of 1948. 

Archie was playing against some future team-mates in the likes of John Blong, the legendary captain of Edenderry. Again, as we shall see later, these 2 men would become firm friends in the years ahead. Archie already had two great successes in his footballing career, he now had a Leinster minor medal and a county senior medal and he has not yet reached the age of 20.

In May of 1948 Archie would make his debut for the Offaly senior team and again in an ironic twist his first senior game for Offaly would take place in Edenderry in a Cardinal Gilroy tournament game versus Dublin. Archie is said in the match reports to have played “outstanding” in a 2-7 to 1-5 victory over the men from the capital. Mention is also made of Archie as being a member of the previous year’s successful minor team and no doubt there was a lot of expectations already on the shoulders of a young Archie McLoughlin.

Archie would make 2 championship appearances and 5 national league appearances for Offaly in 1948 and was already an integral part of the county team.

In 1949 Archie was again playing senior football for Tullamore and was one of the mainstays in a team that reached the county semi-final V Rhode. They lost after a replay by a single point but while Archie was again mostly playing in defence he has also become an important free taker for his team. There are several mentions in match reports of his excellent and accurate free taking and of his ability to score from very long distances, a very difficult thing to do in those days of a much heavier ball. 

Good free takers in those days were a very scarce commodity so Archie was a very valuable player to have in any team. He was versatile also and could be used in defence or attack and be equally effective. He would again represent Offaly in 1949 and after a great early championship win over Dublin, Offaly would be knocked out by Westmeath in the following round after a replay.

Again in 1950 Archie would be an ever present on the Offaly team in League and championship making 6 appearances that year all in the number 11 shirt. Offaly would be knocked out of championship at the first hurdle by Kildare and Tullamore would also be knocked out of the championship at the early stages. Archie at this stage is also playing the then very popular factory leagues for DE Williams in Tullamore, better known as Tullamore Dew Whiskey distillers. We can only assume that Archie was also working for DE Williams around this time.

Work life:

In the early 1950’s DE Williams, like many Irish business, were struggling to stay competitive due to a number of outside factors including heavy taxes on whiskey imposed by the Irish government. Tullamore Whiskey distillers would in fact eventually cease production in Tullamore in 1954. Again, we are only assuming but maybe Archie was struggling for work at this stage in his life. 

(A DE Williams truck in Tullamore)

Whatever the actual reason we do know that in late 1950 rumours were rife in Edenderry that Offaly star Archie McLoughlin was moving to Edenderry to take up a role with MP O’Brien in Edenderry and that he was on the verge of transferring to play with Edenderry seniors. Some people would even say he was actively being head hunted by the Edenderry club and that his then good friend and fellow Offaly star John Blong was “assisting” the club in this endeavour.

It was now down to Archie, the club had secured him a barman job with MP O’Brien’s ‘The Tap Bar’ (modern day ‘The Station House’) in Edenderry and he knew he would be going to a club who had some hope of success with the likes of Sean Foran, Alo Brady, Christy Carroll and John Blong in the playing ranks. 

Archie in Edenderry:

The rumours about Archie would prove to be accurate as he officially joined Edenderry for the 1951 season. This was a huge coup for Edenderry as they already had a very strong squad of players with a good mixture of youth and experience and had been close in the championship over the previous few years. But there can be no doubt that adding a player of the calibre of Archie McLoughlin to their ranks must have send shock waves through Offaly football. 

As stated earlier not only was Archie a very versatile player but he was an excellent free taker and almost guaranteed a minimum of 3 or 4 points per game for his team. He was a star for Offaly and at the age of 21 he was already a very experienced and decorated player.

Archie began working 'The Tap Bar' for MP O’Brien’s and started training with Edenderry footballers in preparation for the championship campaign of 1951. He already knew several of the players from his Offaly experiences and settled in quickly to the team. 

In yet another twist of fate Archie would make his championship debut against his former team Tullamore in Rhode during May of 1951. It would be a winning debut as Edenderry beat Tullamore on a score line of 2-6 to 2-0. Archie would score 2 points in the first half before showing yet again his versatility by moving to the full back line in the second half and helping his new team see out the game as winners.

Edenderry would meet Durrow in the semi-final in July of 1951. In what is described as a “classic” game the reds would eventually win by 3-7 to 0-11 and book a place in the final versus Cloghan. Archie scored a goal directly from a side-line kick and towards the end of a hectic encounter he would add a vital point to give Edenderry the cushion that was needed. 

As in his first year playing senior football for Tullamore, Archie would again play in a county final in his first year playing with Edenderry. Archie was not only a great player but a lucky charm.

(The legendary Archie McLoughlin)

Senior football with Edenderry 1951-1952:

Edenderry were strong favourites for the final against Cloghan and had some true legends of Edenderry football lining out for them that day. Men such as Sean Foran, Alo Brady and Christy Carroll to name just 3, but as Captain John Blong led the team out another legend was about to join the lists of greats. Arthur “Archie” McLoughlin from Clara, who was born in Dublin, to parents from Kerry and Leitrim and who had already played for Tullamore was about to have a huge say in Edenderry winning only their second ever senior title.

Cloghan had beaten Edenderry in a tournament game earlier in the year and started the match much stronger. They had 1-1 on the board after only a few minutes. As Edenderry struggled to contain the Cloghan attack, Archie was again moved to the full back line. The move paid off and Edenderry steadily worked their way back into the game. Archie’s free taking this day was at its deadliest and he notched four points in the first half alone. As the second half wore on Edenderry were eating away at Cloghan’s lead. As the game entered its last minute, Edenderry were one point behind when they were awarded a free.

Archie showing great coolness stepped up and as the report says “tapped” over the equalising score. From the very next kick-out Edenderry won possession and again were awarded a free during the resultant attack.  This was probably going to be the last kick of the game and as Cloghan players all around him protested loudly, Archie kept his cool and without any fuss kicked over the championship winning score. He had notched 0-7 of his team’s total of 0-12.

The Irish Independent report of the following day awarded Archie “Man of the Match”, the reporter also states that Archie was “a dominating figure throughout”. And so, in his very first year with his new club, Archie had won yet another county medal and few could argue that he had been the difference in Edenderry winning or losing their second senior title. 

(The 1951 winning senior football team featuring Archie McLoughlin - Last man in the back row on the right)

In 1952 Edenderry would make their way to another final with relative ease, with some great performances from Archie along the way, notably scoring 0-8 in the semi-final against 1950 champions St. Marys. The final was also expected to be a foregone conclusion with Edenderry as the hottest of favourites. But as so often happens in sport things don’t work out as expected.

On a day where pretty much everything went wrong for Edenderry including their influential captain John Blong having to leave the field injured in the first half, Edenderry would lose and Archie would have a nightmare in front of goals. He misses several easy frees that he would normally convert. He would end the day scoreless as Edenderry went down to Durrow on a score line of 3-4 to 1-4. 

The shock in Edenderry was palpable as almost everyone assumed Edenderry would bring home their third senior title. The shock gave way to blame and Archie, being an outsider and having missed so many easy frees was at the focus of most of the blame. Was he simply an easy target in the blame game that happens in the wake of a county final defeat?

The whispers around town was that Archie had “thrown” the final. By all accounts the frees he missed on that day would normally have not been any problem to him. There had been an internal rift in the Tullamore club and a number of extremely talented players had transferred to the neighbouring Durrow club, some of whom Archie had played with at club & county level so one of the additional rumours doing the rounds in Edenderry at the time was that Archie had “helped” his former friends win a title. 

At the end of 1952 only one fact was crystal clear, Edenderry had been dethroned as champions of Offaly.

Answering his critics 1953:

After a long winter of disappointment, a new year and a new sense of optimism would prevail around Edenderry as the 1953 football season kicked into action. This optimism was helped by the addition of some great young players to the ranks of the senior footballers. Sean “Hooper” Farrell, Liam Moran, Joe Corcoran, Mick Nolan and others would bring a new energy to the squad and add to the already fierce competition for places on the first fifteen.

Edenderry would win a close encounter against Cloghan in the first round of that year’s championship, with Archie again to the fore notching up 0-3 of our total. The next round was against Walsh Island and would see Edenderry togging out in a brand new set of red jerseys. The smart new look would also lead to a smart performance as they romped home on a score line of 5-13 to 1-2 with Archie scoring 1-3 on the day.

Next up was a semi final against Tullamore and with Edenderry two points behind coming towards the closing minutes it would be a hotly disputed penalty converted by Archie which would turn the tide in Edenderry’s favour. On a day when Edenderry would win by 1-4 to 0-6 all the scoring for Edenderry would be done by one Archie McLoughlin. 

(County champions 1953 - Archie McLoughlin scored 0-4 in the final)

Thoughts of that horrible day in the final of the previous year were completely forgotten as everyone looked forward to the final of 1953 and a date with our near neighbours and biggest rivals Rhode. Archie had scored 2-10 on the way to the final but would need to again have his scoring boots on for this, the biggest of games against the toughest of opponents.

The Midland Tribune would state the following in their report from the week after the final.

“It can be recorded that this 1953 final will rate as one of the best ever”

In a pulsating game that ebbed and flowed throughout it was a goal by Mick Brady, after clever play by Christy Carroll, when he completely deceived the Rhode defence with a reverse pass to the legendary Mick Brady who would slam the ball to the Rhode net, that would prove to be decisive. Edenderry would defend like heroes for the rest of the game and after a few late scares the final whistle blew. Edenderry had won their third senior title on a score line of 1-8 to 1-5. 

Archie McLoughlin again would be a massive factor in this game, he would score 0-4 of his team’s total on the day and would erase any mention of his performance in the final of the previous year. He had more than made up for that by amassing a total of 2-14 on the way to maybe Edenderry’s greatest ever title win.

(Members of the 1953 winning team)

1954 football & marriage:

1954 would prove to be a disappointing year on the footballing front for Edenderry and for Archie. He missed the first round championship game against Cloghan but would be back for yet another game against Rhode in the semi-final. In a very tight game, in which Archie scored 0-5, it would be a late Mick Casey score for Rhode which would be the difference. Edenderry were knocked out by a point in a low scoring game, 0-7 to 0-6. 

Archie would also line out at full forward for Offaly against Wexford in the Leinster Championship but again it would be a disappointing day as another single point defeat would end Offaly’s participation in that years championship. As it so happened this defeat to Wexford turned out to be the last time Archie McLoughlin would don the green, white and gold jersey of Offaly in championship football despite his young age of just twenty five years old.

On a happier note, in March of 1954 Archie would get married. His bride was Susan Murphy from 29 St. Francis Street in Edenderry and the local paper reports that a small wedding reception of forty people was held in the East End Hotel in Portarlington.

The mass was celebrated by Fr J Killian with Archie's brother Frank serving as Best Man and Susie's sister Francis as Bridesmaid. Another of Susie's sisters, Kathleen, was married to a former Edenderry footballer, the legendary Mick Hughes, who was the first man to captain Edenderry to a senior football title in 1936.

(Susie & Archie McLoughlin)

1955 - He came, he saw, he conqured - And just like that, he was gone:

Archie McLoughlin would be 26 years old in the summer on 1955. He was at an age where most players would be looking forward to their best playing days being ahead of them. But amazingly as it sounds, 1955 would be the last year of his football career. In the early part of the season mention is made of Archie lining out for Offaly in a tournament game in Athlone against Roscommon, but, as far as records show, this would be his only appearance for Offaly in 1955, his inter county career would come to an abrupt halt. Archie had made 37 competitive appearances for Offaly between 1948-1954.

On the club front, he would line out for Edenderry in a great win on their home ground at the Carrick Road against old rivals Tullamore, and again the scoring machine that was Archie McLoughlin contributed 1-3 in a 3-7 to 0-4 victory. They would set up another meeting with Rhode in the semi final of 1955 and in a game where Edenderry are described as being “sluggish and erratic” and didn’t look in any way like a team that was “littered with county men”, Edenderry would go down on a score line of 1-5 to 1-2. 

But most tellingly of all Archie would not register a single score. Little did supporters know that this was to be his last ever game for Edenderry. In a career where he scored freely almost every time he played, it seems very ironic that, his last ever club game, would end in this manner, scoreless.

Soon after this game it became public knowledge that Archie and his new wife were planning another eastward move, but this move would be to England and in particular East Dulwich, London. In a time where many people were leaving Ireland for work this was not that unusual an occurrence, but for the club to lose a player of Archie’s ability was a huge blow to morale. Archie’s footballing adventures with Edenderry had sadly come to an end but he had certainly made a big mark on the club.

In his short but successful time he had played in 3 finals and 2 semi-finals and had won two county medals with Edenderry. It could be argued that Archie had proved to be the missing ingredient needed to help Edenderry get back to winning championships. 

His amazing scoring feats in those 5 seasons had made Edenderry a team to be feared by everyone. The enigma that was Archie McLoughlin had came, saw and conquered and just as quickly as he came, he was gone.

(The players gather at Nolan's Hall for a celebratory dinner)

A fleeting glimpse:

It is the morning of the 28th September 1958. Dublin and Derry will meet in the All-Ireland Football final later that day. In Edenderry, mass has just ended and some of the locals are chatting outside the church, a few of the younger lads are standing together, my Father among them.

John Blong stops a while to chat as he knows my Dad from travelling with him to Offaly senior games that year. John is a selector with Offaly at this stage and my Dad was playing corner back for Offaly that summer. John was one of the few people with a car and he drives all the Edenderry players to the games. Offaly had been knocked out by the then All Ireland Champions, Louth, in the Leinster semi final.

Louth would in turn lose the Leinster Final to a star-studded Dublin team including, Kevin Heffernan, Ollie Freaney, Lar Foley and John Timmons. Liam and Sean Corcoran are with my Father and are chatting about the big final. John lets the younger lads know he is going to Croke Park for the big game and they could come along if they wanted. Liam and Sean immediately agree and convince my Father to join them. Arrangements are hastily made to meet up a little later that day.

Noel Guing, Liam and Sean Corcoran pile into the back of John Blong’s car ready for the big day ahead. They quickly notice another passenger in the front seat and soon recognise the man as one of their footballing heroes of the past. The man in the front seat is Archie McLoughlin. Archie has been living in East Dulwich in London for the last 2 years. 

The 3 lads in the back chat together as the two old team-mates talk quietly in the front. My Dad doesn’t remember too much of what is said during that car journey, but he does remember one exchange between John and Archie. When asked by John “how are things going in London?” Archie resigned response of “far away hills are greener” might just tell a story in itself.

(John Blong & Archie were friends & teammates)

The car slowly moves towards Dublin as John and Archie are chatting away and the 3 lads in the back seat, on the outside looking in. The youngsters anxiously watch the clock ticking closer to game time, but there seems to be no hurry on the driver as he chats and smokes his way to Croker. By the time they eventually get to the ground the match is about to start and the “Full House” signs are up on all the entrance gates. As the young lads try to negotiate their way into the ground, they realise that John and Archie are nowhere to be seen. While the youngster scramble to find a wall that is possible to climb, sitting safely inside the ground for the start of the big game are Archie and John. 

The three younger men are yet again on the outside looking in. They have no doubt by now realised why the two older men were in no particular hurry to get to the game. Why stand in long queues? Why rush to get a good seat? Just make yourself known to a friendly gate-keeper who will gladly let two legends of the GAA into the game. Noel, Sean and Liam have no option but to stand listening to the game by radio outside Croke Park as an Ollie Freaney inspired Dublin power to a 2-12 to 1-9 victory over first time finalists Derry.

As the lads stand waiting by John Blong's car after the game, finally two older men come rambling along the road still chatting and exchanging views on the great game they had just witnessed, both agreeing that Derry’s number 10 Sean O’Connell had played a great game and was their “Man of the Match”. The 3 lads again pile into the back of the car and again sit quietly on the outside looking in as the two old friends chat all the way back to Edenderry.

This was probably the last time any of these men would ever see Archie McLoughlin. This was a rare, if solitary, short visit to his former home of Edenderry. Yet again it seems, as soon as he had arrived, Archie was gone. 

(Susie & Archie McLoughlin on the right pictured with Susie's brother John & his wife)

Life in England:

In 1956, Archie and Susie McLoughlin left Edenderry and their home at 29 Francis Street along with their first born son, two year old Mark. They moved to East Dulwich in London to live with another former Edenderry great, Mick Hughes and his wife Kathleen Murphy who was Susie’s older sister.

Mick Hughes had captained Edenderry to their first ever senior football title in 1936 before emigrating to East Dulwich at the start of ‘50’s, just before Archie arrived in town. After a few years living in East Dulwich, Archie and his family moved to Croydon and a second baby boy, Colin, was born in 1958.

Archie worked at Mount Pleasant in London as a Postman for a number of years but eventually, due to deteriorating health, he finished his rounds and moved indoors, working from the Post Office. His son Mark, who works as a cab driver in London, regularly passes his fathers place of work and no doubt the memories of his late father come racing back each and every time he does.

(Post office at Mount Pleasant, London where Archie worked as a Postman)


Having retired to Black Country, Dudley, just outside Birmingham with his wife Susie, Archie McLoughlin sadly passed away at the age of 60 on December 17th 1989 following a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. His wife Susie died five years later on November 8th 1994. 

They are survived by their sons Mark and Colin, their grandchildren and on a happier note, a great grandchild is due later this year.

(Archie's son Mark McLoughlin and his grandson Paul)

1951 reunion:

In 2001, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1951 victory, Edenderry GAA held a function night in the teams honour. Archie's brother Frank attended and collected a presentation on his behalf. Frank, a former Clara footballer & Dowling Cup winner in his own right, now resides in Clane while his son Paul (Archie's nephew) was a member of the Kildare minor football team that won the Leinster Championship final in 1983.

Paul recently managed the Wexford senior football team and is living in Rosslare for the past number of years, keeping the proud McLoughlin GAA tradition alive.

Archie McLoughlin 1929-1989

And so, we come to the end of this amazing player’s story. We can’t deny how difficult it has proven to be to somehow capture Archie McLoughlin’s time in Edenderry. In keeping with the title of this article, he has been an enigma all the way and we can only hope we have done him justice. But how does one sum up Archie McLoughlin? Well on a footballing front there can be no doubt as to the value of his contribution to the success of our club. 

He was an Edenderry player for only 5 years, but in that time, he not only helped the club win two championships he was pivotal to their success. He was a losing finalist or semi-finalist in the other 3 years with the club. He had raised the standards of what was needed or required to win the Holy Grail. Archie was a huge character in the early 1950's in Edenderry and Offaly footballing circles. He brought a scoring flair to the red jersey that maybe we were missing before his arrival.

While we can’t be sure of why he came to Edenderry or how the move actually came about, we can only be thankful that it did come about. For both Archie and Edenderry this high profile transfer would be a resounding success and Archie McLoughlin would most definitely live up to the hype.