History of the Club
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 hours.

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 cause.

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 overseas.

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 multitude.

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 country.


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 being mentioned).


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 medals.


Boxing in "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 Hosty.


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 Camp.


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 memories.

Galway's Own
published: 1977


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)
Eoin McKenna
M. Heaslip
Michael McLaughlin
Lorcan Kennan (President 1947-48)
Ambrose Roche (President 1948-51)
Richard Emerson
Edward Mulholland
John Donnelan
Thomas Carroll
Edward Burke
Michael Lohan and
Michael Crowe.


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