|Since its foundation in 1941, Our Lady's Boys' Club has been a constant source of guidance and inspiration to the youth of Galway, most specially those of working class background.
From their first nervous day of membership, right through their teens, and even after they have taken up the challenge of adult life, the spirit and watchful eye of the club is ever with them.
This wonderful structure which owes a great debt to the Jesuit Order, was founded by the late Father Leonard Shiel S.J., a priest of outstanding foresight, who, after some years as Spiritual Director, went on to further Pastoral work in England. His work there took him up and down the country in connection with the founding of Irish Missions to aid our immigrants.
The Presidency of ''Our Lady's'' is not just a bestowed honour, but in fact a time consuming, arduous and responsible task, pioneered by Peter O'Donoghue, for the first four years. After him came William J. Silke, Lorcan Kennan, Ambrose Roche, Desmond Kenny, Gerald Glynn, Paul O'Dea, Thomas Nevin, Desmond Kenny was President again from l961 to 1972. Next came James P. Cunningham who is President to date making ''Boys' Club'' history as the first ''Club Boy'' to come all the way up the ranks.
In addition to Father Shiel and Peter
O'Donoghue and to complete the picture of
the starting years the following is a list of the
Committee of 1942: Eoin McKenna. M .
Heaslip. Michael McLoughlin. Lorcan
Kennan. Ambrose Roche. Richard Emerson,
Edward Mulholland. John Donnellan.
A'homas Cahill. Edward Burke, Michael
Lohan and Michael Crowe.
In 1945 - 46 the club went through a delicate
period as a result of some dissection among
the organizers concerning policy. but was
rescued the following year by William J. Silke
who came together with Father Perrott S.J.
and got the ball rolling again.
The sad and untimely death of Father
Perrott. at the early age of forty-seven, was
deeply felt. Though his association with "Our
Lady's" was short. his memory is held in
honour for rescuing the club in its darkest
The Jesuits continued to assist, making
available Spiritual Directors and it was in
1949 that Father Michael McGrath took up
the banner and lost his heart forever to the
In his first year he formed an association
with club manager Desmond Kenny that was
to become a lifetime friendship. Together they
gave their time unselfishly to the continuance
of this great project.
The need for such a club, especially in the
early yearns was enormous. as there was little
or no recreation available to the youth of
Shantalla, Bohermore, Claddagh and
adjoining areas. Here at least they could come
together in a spirit of good fellowship and
enjoy whatever games and competitions the
committee would provide for them and all for
a nightly fee of one penny.
Teams were formed and indoor games
supervised by the senior committee. Each
team played two games per night for which
they could gain a maximum of four points. As
the club was advancing competition games
changed from darts, draughts and rings to
include volleyball, basketball, groundball and
skittles. Nightly scores were posted inside the
door of the main club room and the tension
that mounted as the season progressed had to
be seen to be believed.
As well as these team games the boys had a
free hour from seven-thirty to eight-thirty to
enjoy table tennis. billiards or snooker and
here also competitions were held at intervals
on a knock-out basis for perpetual trophies
accompanied by handsome cups. which the
victor could retain permanently.
At eight-thirty sharp the whistle of the club
manager meant that all casual games stop
promptly and teams assemble in formation in
the outer hall for ten minutes of military style
drill. Many will remember Gerry Glynn as a
most fearful drill master. "lt was God help
anyone who gave a "Cle lompaigh'' instead of
a "Deas lompaigh''. In the course of this
exercise committee members were judging
and a good performance meant valuable
points to a team.
At eight forty-five team games were
allocated and under way, finishing at
approximately ten p.m. Without delay all
assembled again in the main hall and the
Rosary recited with decades rotating nightly
so that each boy got a chance from time to
time during the year to lead the prayers.
At ten twenty it was time for tea and buns
served up in double quick time. As everyone
sat round in a circles relishing the
refreshments, a most valuable chat from
Father Michael, Mister Kenny or whoever
was at the head of the flock at the particular
time was always well received.
During this ten minutes the boys listened in
absolute silence to the many pointers on how
to behave in company, how to behave at
home, how to treat their girlfriends and how
in later life prepare for marriage. They were
constantly reminded that they were a1l under
the umbrella of Our Lady and would never get
too far out of line if they practiced their
religion, wllether they stayed at home or went
Wednesday nights were set aside for the
Intermediates (over sixteens). This was always
a good night or discussions and meetings on
the outdoor activities of the Club.
Saturday nights gave the seniors a chance to
relax and enjoy a proper game of billiards or
table tennis, without having to cater for the
Year after year "Boys' Club'' participate
admirably in many different sectors of sport,
and has long since gained recognition as one
of the most versatile youth clubs in the
Michael ( Mickey) Sullivan and Edward
Fahy (Coachbuilder) were first on this scene
and were responsible for training some fine
teams. In the years that followed, the task of
managing the soccer section was taken on in
turn by: Tom Cooke, Michael Darcy, Tom
Feeney, Mike Cunningham, Willie Naughton,
Patsy Burke, Joe Cunningham and Billy Carr.
The earliest individual player to shine was said
to be Martin Naughton. Others who helped to
pile up the soccer trophies were Peter Casey,
Stan and Eoin Deeley, Paddy Power (who
was capped twice for Ireland and was the
Galway Soccer Sports Star of 1959), John
Rushe, Paddy Walshe, Danny Collins,
Blackie Berry, Barney Birkett, Brendan
bowlings, and Billy Carr.
Boys' Club soccer families included The
Carts, Carricks, O'Connors, Connells,
Clohertys, Clearys, Caseys, Folans and
Nolans. In 1977 Miko Nolan was honoured
with an irish Cap at junior level.
Father Michael was one of tile first to
introduce the boys to the oval ball. He was
rugby coach in Mungret College before
coming to Galway and acted as Chairman
when the first O.L.B.C. rugby team was
formed, with Michael Cunningham, Michael
O'Shaughnessy and P. J. Murray as
committee. Under his supervision the team
reached the final of the Easter Minor Cup that
year. Desmond Kenny and Gerry Glynn got
this section affiliated to the Connacht Branch.
Training sessions were held in South Park (or
the "Swamp'' as it was commonly known
before it got the major face lift in the '50's).
Paddy Beatty (a former Sparks player) came
shortly afterwards and captained the juniors
for several years. His unique style and
organizing ability on and off the field was a
tremendous asset to the game. Despite
numerous offers from senior clubs he forfeited
a great career to stay with the boys. When his
playing days were coming to an end he took
up refereeing and is presently bringing much
honour to "Our Lady's'' in this category. The
highlight of his career to date was when he was
appointed to referee a schoolboys
International, England v Wales in 1976
snaking him Connacht's first International
Referee. He was honoured again the following
year with the England v France Schoolboys.
Sean Malone (another Sparks player)
joined the ranks in its infancy. This ever
tolerant coach. who never allowed a foul word
to pass his lips, is largely responsible for the
juniors constant high position in the
Connacht League and Cup.
James P. Cunningham and Michael
Grealish were also at the centre of things
for a lengthy period and other dedicated
players included the O'Shaughnessys from
Eyre Street, the Burkes, Casserleys, Griffins,
Grealishes, McDonaghs, Casserleys,
Cunninghams, Horans, Nolans, Connells,
Cassidys, Crowleys, Cronins, Hynes and
others (whom I beg not to take offence at not
SWIMMING AND LIFE SAVING
Swimming and Life Saving was introduced
by Father O Brolchain and carried on by
Desmond Kenny who passed the knowledge
down along the line.
Culture was further expanded when Fr. O
Brolchain taught Irish Dancing to Willie
Wallace, Eamonn Fitzpatrick, Jimmy Folan,
Willie Wade, Peter and Dominick Joyce,
Tommy Carr. Here again Peter Joyce carried
on the tradition and his pupils brought home
many All Ireland and various Feisheanna
"Our Lady's'' goes right back to
the start to the time of Ambrose Roche and
Michael Lohan. Perhaps the greatest to come
out of this sport was Paddy Delargy who
carried on at professional level in England,
here again there wert some very dedicated
coaches, remember Jimmy Dodd? or Eamon
The Annual Camp (or Tommy Kelly Week
as they are synonymous) has always been the
highlight of the year, despite the ever
increasing expense. Even during the bad war
years "Our Lady's'' has always managed to
beg enough money from their ever patient and
generous benefactors to carry it on. The mere
mention of Lough lnagh, Lough Cutra,
Roundstone or Vungret will bring a flood of
golden memories to so many boys, young and
old. Boys who have spent the happiest and
most carefree days of their young lives on
Another major event was the Annual
Retreat in the private chapel at the back of the
Jesuits School. For this occasion Fr.
McGrath would bring some great Missionary
to participate for the four nights of Rosary,
Benediction and Sermon and four mornings
Mass. This Retreat was always heavily
attended and became somewhat of a reunion
time for the boys, many of whom had long
since grown up and married.
The records now show that there are
countless tsclub boys'' in every walk of life
who have made a most wonderful success of
their commercial and civic efforts. They will
proudly tell how "Our Lady's'' influenced
their whole outlook to business and pleasure
and even how it helped them cope with all
sorts of problems, marital or otherwise.
For the less fortunate who for one reason or
another have stepped out of line, the
knowledge that the Club is ever ready to
intervene, often makes what seems to be a
hopeless situation that bit more bearable.
Working behind the scenes with the
authorities club officials (whether it be the
President, Patron or Fr. McGrath) have had
many successes. Often getting a second chance
for a boy who was truly sorry for his bad deed,
thus sparing him from hayings prison record,
that could stand against him for life.
In cases where someone is sent to jail, in
Ireland or England, or at times even to a
mental institution, again the Club follows
their cases to the last.
Thankfully the amount of boys that go
astray are quite few by comparisons and of
these, there is usually an emotional or
unstable background history.
Yes indeed, a book could and should be
dedicated to the wonderful work achieved by
Our Lady's Boys' Club.
On my own behalf and I am sure on behalf
of all of us who have had the good fortune to
be associated with "Our Lady's'' I would like
to say thanks for your time and thanks for the
OUR LADY’S BOYS’ CLUB
Galway 1941 was a far cry from the thriving city that we see before us today. Food rationing was in force due to the Second World War, work was hard to find, the prospect of Third level education was a long way of for the vast majority going through the schools and it would be another twenty years before the arrival the large internationals in Galway would signal the start of the industrialisation of modern Ireland.
With parents rearing large families in the housing estates on the fringes of the city there was a great need for recreational facilities and family support and the Jesuit Community responded to this need when Fr. Leonard Shiel S.J. founded Our Lady’s Boys’ Club in 1941.
It must have been a great relief to many parents that their sons could go to the Club at least two evenings a week, enjoy a range of activities and after The Rosary, enjoy a supper of bread and jam before returning home.
Soccer teams were soon set up and also Rugby teams later on. Other activities have included a Boxing section, Irish Dancing, Swimming and Lifesaving and later a Golfing Society.
A weeks holiday in summertime always referred to as “The Camp” has taken place without a break since the founding of the Club.
Many of the older members of the Club will remember the Annual Retreat. It was held before Christmas and ran from Wednesday or Thursday to Sunday. Mass was held each morning in the Boy’s Chapel at The Jesuits and Rosary, sermon and Benediction each evening. The Retreat finished after Sunday morning Mass with a fried breakfast prepared and served by the Committee in the Club.
The members of the Committee of the Club in 1942 were:
Fr. Leonard Shiel S.J. (First Spiritual Director)
Peter O’Donoghue (President 1941-45)
Lorcan Kennan (President 1947-48)
Ambrose Roche (President 1948-51)
Michael Lohan and
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