By Brendan Barry
There are records of hurling being played in the Parish of Tracton in the early years of the nineteenth century. The healthy rivalry between teams representing Tracton and Carrigaline has been described in song and story as far back as 1829.The rivalry that existed all those years ago still manifests itself among the present-day players. Hurling was the main source of entertainment among players and spectators and the resulting enjoyment helped to cement the parishioners together so that there was a special deep-seated loyalty among all who were supporters of the Hurling Club. The games that were played in the early nineteenth century continued right up to the year of the founding of the GAA in
Thurles in 1884 and the Tracton Club quickly affiliated with this new organization in 1888 so that they could now participate fully in expertly
A problem arose initially when the President of St. Finbarr’s Club, Fr.O’Connor, broke from the Cork County Board and formed a new board. Tracton aligned with Fr. O’Connor’s Board but the division was healed in 1885 and Tracton was drawn against such opponents as Blackrock, Carrigtwohill, Dungourney, Midleton, Castletreasure, Passage, Glenville, Ballincollig, Carrigaline, Ballymartle, Owenabue Rovers and Shamrocks. Tracton also played football at this time.
As the GAA organisation was progressing all over the country and particularly in Cork, it was decided to divide the County into Divisions and the South East Board was officially formed in 1924. There were many titanic games between Tracton and Carrigaline for South East honours. Prior to 1973 the Tracton Club had no permanent base and was deeply indebted to many local generous land owners who put their fields at their disposal for many games, namely the Coveneys, Tracton; the Quinn family, Ballyfeard; the Walsh family, Farranbrien; the
Dempseys, Farranbrien; the Canty family, Tubrid; the Lynch family, Tubrid; the Brady family, Boardee; the Corrigan family, Laharn; the Drinan family, Ballynoe; and the Coveney family, Oldcastle. The boys in Knocknamanagh School perfected their hurling skills, under the watchful eyes of Master Barry, in a field near the school owned by the Coveney family, Oldcastle. A very active committee of
the club purchased seven acres at Ahane and a new field was developed and officially opened in 1973. Dressing rooms were erected and a Club house consisting of a concert hall and meeting rooms was completed in 1978. Tracton GAA Club now had a first class permanent home as a result of the super efforts of a team of voluntary workers.
On the playing field the Junior Hurlers were reasonably successful in attaining championship honours at South-East level but were not so lucky initially in attaining county glory. The first county break-through came in 1930 when the Minor Hurlers reached the County Final where they were defeated by a Lough Rovers team which was subsequently declared illegal and Tracton were crowned County Minor Hurling Champions. The Junior Hurlers maintained their spirit and determination down through the years with limited success until they reached the HOLY GRAIL in 1957 when they were crowned Junior Hurling County Champions. This victory was the culmination of many years of disappointments and the resulting celebrations are still vivid in peoples’ memories. In the sixties and seventies, the Club became active at all levels right up to Minor and Under 21 in football and hurling with many successes but the new crop of outstanding hurlers achieved the ultimate accolade by winning the Junior Hurling Cork County Championship of 1979. Who could forget the three South East final games against Shamrocks?
Having graduated to Intermediate Hurling after their 1979 victory, the team went from strength to strength with the under-age stars blossoming into Junior and Intermediate hurlers. The Intermediate Hurlers of the 1980’s showed signs of greatness, many of whom had now graduated from Minor and Under 21 successes.
The first signs of success came when the Under 21 Hurlers reached the County Final of the Under 21 Hurling League for the first time in 1984 and after a gruelling struggle, narrowly succumbed to powerful Glen Rovers. With the nucleus of this team, the club then went on to win the County Intermediate Hurling League three times in the late eighties. In 1990 Tracton and St. Finbarr’s served up a titanic game in the Intermediate County Hurling final when Tracton were leading into injury time only to be deprived of victory by a doubtful goal in the final seconds.
Nevertheless, Tracton rose like the Phoenix and achieved ultimate honours by capturing the Intermediate County Hurling Championship of 1991, dramatically conquering Inniscarra. This victory of 1991 exemplifies the true spirit and determination of the Tracton hurlers who came back from the disappointment of 1990 to achieve ultimate honours the following year.
The successful progression of the Tracton GAA Club from 1888 up to the start of the twenty-first century was made possible by the unselfish dedication of many voluntary parishioners down through the years, whose loyalty to the ideals of Cumann Luthchleas Gael resulted in a thriving GAA club in this area of Tracton.