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Mick Falvey - The Clare man with Offaly Co. medals

posted 19 Jun 2018, 07:20 by Edenderry GAA   [ updated 20 Jun 2018, 13:20 ]
(The late Mick Falvey)

By David Farrell.......

This Sunday Offaly take on the banner county of Clare in the All-Ireland football qualifiers in Bord Na Mona O'Connor Park at 1.30pm. The counties are better known for the famous hurling clashes over the years particularly in the mid to late 1990's but there is a connection between the counties dating back to the 1930's.

Our story begins in 1936 when a Clare school teacher arrived in Edenderry and donned the red jersey. Born in Barnanageeha just outside Clarecastle in 1903, Mick Falvey was a Clare hurler who had won a Munster championship medal in 1932 when he lined out at full back in the 5-2 to 4-1 victory over Cork in Thurles and later at midfield in the All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

His name was synonymous with GAA and due to the nature of his job he was a well travelled man. In 1935 Mick Falvey lined out for the blues of Tullamore and helped both their hurlers and footballers to a memorable senior double. However, in 1936, Falvey transferred to Edenderry having taken a post in Ballybryan NS just 6km outside of Edenderry town.

In the 1930's Edenderry was far more renowned as a hurling club but they were operating at senior level in both codes in 1936 having won the 1933 junior football championship. The reds had shown signs of improvement in 1935 and potential was evident despite the one point defeat to Daingean in the 1935 senior championship. A goal in the last minute helped Daingean to a 2-2 0-7 point victory. It was back to the drawing board for the 1936.

The acquisiton of the great Mick Falvey turned out to be a huge coup for the reds as he togged out for Edenderry as well as training the team. He also played senior hurling for the reds and helped Edenderry to beat and knock out Coolderry on a score-line of 4-3 2-1 with Falvey, Willie Coyne and Kevin O'Kennedy to the fore. However, they were beaten by Falvey's former team Tullamore who went on to complete four in a row in 1937.

(The 1936 Edenderry hurling team training)

The 1936 campaign began with a match v Ballycumber, the 1935 junior champions. The game was played in Rhode and Edendery ran out comfortable winners 4-8 1-6 with Willie Leonard (making his debut) and Ger Cullen the prominent players. Edenderry had begun to develop a strong team with Falvey a massive addition. However, he was not the only addition as Rhode natives Willy 'Spot' Leonard and Kit Leavy were also added to the side.

The semi final was played in Edenderry on September 19th when the reigning champions Tullamore came to town. With just twenty minutes played Tullamore led 1-2 0-1 before play was halted due to torrential rainfall. After the resumption of play Edenderry came back into the game with a goal from Ger 'Midge' Cullen and a point from Captain Mick Hughes. Defensively Edenderry held strong with stand out performances from Ned Walker at corner back, Kit Leavy at centre back and Peter 'Leesha' McGlynn at left half forward

Following a goalmouth melee late in the game Ger 'Midge' Cullen fired home Edenderry's winning goal as they avenged the hurlers semi final defeat and ended Tullamore's dreams of a double double.

Semi final team:

Tom Nolan
Willie Coyne, Daniel Dunne, Kit Leavy
Pat Walsh, Ned Walker, Mick Hughes
John Hughes & Kevin O'Kennedy
Mick Falvey, Dick Hughes, Peter McGlynn
Willie Leonard, Ger Cullen, Ned Cullen

Sub: Paddy McCormack

(Willie Coyne & Mick Hughes - Stars of the 1936 team)

The final was played on October 4th in O'Connor Park, Tullamore. The opposition was a star studded Walsh Island team who had defeated Rhode 2-3 1-5 in the other semi final. In what was Edenderry's first ever senior county final they got off to the worst possible start. A goal from Tom Mulhall had Walsh Island in front but the game was just ten minutes old when the Clare man Mick Falvey pointed for the reds. Falvey pointed his second moments later and a goal from Ger 'Midge' Cullen had the reds in control. 

Kevin O'Kennedy had a goal disallowed for Edenderry as the Walsh Island men held a one point lead at half time. Willie Coyne, Peter McGlynn, Kit Leavy, Willie Leonard and Mick Hughes were to the fore as Edenderry began to dominate proceedings. A melee broke out after Edenderry scored another goal and it involved players and spectators from both sides. As a result of the melee Mick Falvey was sent off but this roused up the Edenderry team and a goal from captain Mick Hughes saw Edenderry run out 4-6 3-3 winners to capture their first ever senior football championship.

1936 Final team:

Tom Nolan
Dan Dunne, Willie Coyne, Ned Walker,
Peter McGlynn, Kit Leavy, Pat Walsh,
John Hughes & Mick Hughes (Capt)
Kevin O'Kennedy, Mick Falvey, Willy Leonard
Ger Cullen, Ned Cullen, Dick Hughes

Subs: Pat Tyrrell, Paddy Mangan, John Blong

(Mick Falvey's 1936 county medal)

Mick Falvey was described as a fine Irishman by the Leinster Leader in 1937 but his decision to play for Edenderry created considerable pique, to use a mild word. He enjoyed great popularity before he joined Edenderry but became somewhat of a pariah afterwards, "especially when it became known that he trained the team to victory" the Leinster Leader claimed in 1937.

Regarded as a controversial character, Falvey was suspended for three months in 1937 at a county board meeting in Kilcormac. Tullamore referee Jimmy Flaherty had refereed the Edenderry v Cloghan game in the opening round of the senior football championship and accused Falvey of questioning his decisions and of passing nasty remarks about his refereeing performance in the Dublin and Louth football match. 

Offaly chairman Sean Robbins (Birr) stated that Mr Falvey's name constantly cropped up for abusing referees and that it must stop. Edenderry delegates Mr George O'Connell and Kevin O'Kennedy staunchly defended Mr Falvey and said that he was playing football and hurling in Offaly for 6 or 7 years and "had not become a cannibal since he moved to Edenderry". Mr O'Kennedy suggested an ulterior motive was behind this matter.

Mr O'Connell suggested that the man they were about to suspend had a long and honourable reputation in the GAA and perhaps, longer and more honourable than those who were taking part in the debate. A vote took place with eighteen clubs choosing to abstain. Mick Falvey was suspended for three months on a 10-9 voting outcome. Mick Falvey later transferred to Kilmessan GAA upon taking a principal job in Nobber in Co. Meath where he had married local school teacher Maura McEntegart, the daughter of a well known building contractor.

George O'Connell, who had defended Mick Falvey at his suspension hearing in 1937 was his best man. O'Connell  served Edenderry in numerous capacities including club secretary and was a former Vice President of Edenderry GAA and Leinster council delegate for the Co Board. Mick Falvey continued his distinguished career and won a senior hurling and football double with Kilmessan in 1939.

Image result for Kilmessan gaa
(Mick Falvey continued his winning ways with Kilmessan GAA)

In 1948 Edenderry GAA held a reunion for their 1936 senior winning team and there was two special guests welcomed on the night. The first guest was Mick Falvey, the Clare man who had trained the reds to their first ever senior title while also scoring two points in the final, while the second special guest was the then Offaly GAA chairman, Jimmy Flaherty, the former referee who had gotten Falvey suspended for three months in 1937. In 1952 Falvey took a principal job in Dublin and in total played with five counties throughout his career.

Clare, Waterford, Dublin, Offaly and Meath were the counties Mick Falvey represented while he also played with De La Salle in Waterford, University College Dublin, Tullamore and Edenderry in Offaly and Kilmessan in Meath.