Kildare GAA: 100 year history of Leinster Leader Cup

From 1920 to 2019

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Kildare GAA: 100 year history of Leinster Leader Cup

Naas captain Eamonn Callaghan lifts the Leinster Leader Cup in 2019

Although the records testify to the fact that the Leinster Leader Cup has been played for 100 times since its inception in 1920, the competition was often finished a year or even four years late.
In the first 55 years of the Leader Cup, the winners were decided only 11 times in the year of the competition.
In his Kildare GAA Centenary history, Eoghan Corry writes that “With so many dates taken up for inter-county competition, the Senior League fell hopelessly behind schedule in the late '20s and was not brought under control until the 1970s. More often than not, the idea of the League was abandoned, and the Leader Cup became a knock-out competition similar to the championship.”
Kildare’s successes in Leinster and All-Ireland championships in the late 1920s and early 1930s meant that the main emphasis was on the county teams.
That had a huge effect on the Leinster Leader Cup competition with the result that the Senior League suffered greatly in relation to calendar dates.
Only once, in 1930, was the league principle strictly followed: there were no play-offs and the top team were declared winners. That Leader Cup was completed in April 1933 – three years behind schedule.
Naas and Rathangan drew their final match, leaving Naas a point clear in the five-match series.
Having started as a knock-out competition in 1920, a League was introduced, but was later abandoned and the Leader Cup again became a knock-out competition like the championship.
Round Towers (1955, '56, '57) and Moorefield (1958 '59 '60) are both credited with three Leader Cups in succession. But the finals were intermingled beyond recognition.
Towers started their run with the 1955 title in June 1956. Sarsfields won the 1954 title in 1958. Moorefield won the 1959 title in the year of the competition.
Round Towers won the 1956 title four years late - in November 1960, and in between the draw and replay of that final, Moorefield won the 1960 title.
In October 1961 Round Towers won the 1957 final and Moorefield completed their three-in-a-row by winning their first leg last - the 1958 final, in November 1961!
24 June 1956 (for 1955) Towers 2-7 Kilcock 1-7; 13 December 1959 (for 1959) Moorefield 2-5 Towers 1-6; 9 October 1960 (for 1960) ; Moorefield 4-8 Curragh 0-5; 6 November1960 (for 1956) replay Towers 3-7 Kilcock 1-3; 15 October 1961 (for 1957) Towers 4-10 Ballymore Eustace 5-5; 2 November 1961 (for 1958) Moorefield 0-10 Towers 1-4
Efforts to bring the Leader Cup up to date in 1960 were not successful. The 1962 competition was completed on schedule, but the competition fell three years behind before the decade ended.
In a glut of fixtures, five finals were played in 1968 and 1969.
In keeping with previous practice, Raheens, Carbury and Allenwood leap-frogged over each other in winning competitions. When first of the finals was played in 1968, it was for 1966 but the 1965, 1967 and 1968 were played after that.
Carbury won the ‘65 final on 12 November ‘68. The ’67 final was decided in November ’69 and the ’68 final in December ’69.
It is only since 1975 that the Leader Cup has been finished in the correct year without a break in sequence.
Coincidentally, that was the year in which the Dermot Bourke Cup, presented to the County Board by Carbury Club, was first played for.
Clane, led by Pa Connolly, were its first holders defeating Carbury by 2-7 to 1-6 after a 1-6 to 0-9 draw.

Captains and Three-in-a-row Winners
The only three-in-a-row winners were Naas (1928-30); Round Towers (1955-57); Sarsfields (1945-47) and Moorefield (1958-60).
Jack Higgins, Naas, was the first man to captain a winning team in three successive years - 1928-1930 – and it is in his honour that the Jack Higgins Cup is presented every year.
Thirty years later, Toss McCarthy who captained Moorefield to their 1958-1960 successes was the second and last man to captain a team to a Leader Cup three-in-a-row.
Since then, Raheens won three back-to-back titles in 1962/63, ‘66/’67 and ‘75/’76. Sarsfields had two such achievements – 1983/’84 and ‘88/’89. Monasterevan (1973/’74), Johnstownbridge in 1990/’91, St Mary’s Leixlip in 1998/’99 and Moorefield, the last team to do so, in 2010/’11.
Tom Malone was a three-time Raheens captain in 1962, 1966 and 1967.
John Crofton captained Sarsfields to victory on three occasions - 1981, 1983 and 1989.
Albert O’Neill, (Kildare), Peter Waters, (Raheens), Mick Brosnan, (Raheens) and Frank Graham, (Ardclough) each led their teams to victory on two occasions.
Moorefield’s Pat (1994) and Daryl Flynn (2017) are the only father and son to have captained winning Leader Cup teams.
Bill ’Squires’ Gannon had the honour of collecting the Leader Cup for the Kildare club in 1927 and the Sam Maguire Cup the following year.

John Joe O’Reilly led Army and Cavan to Victory
When the Army won the Leader Cup in 1948 their captain was Commandant John Joe O’Reilly who led Cavan to their historic win over Kerry in the Polo Grounds, New York on 14 September 1947 to win the Sam Maguire Cup on the only occasion the All-Ireland final was played outside Ireland. The score was 2-11 to 2-7.
He was chosen at centre-
back on the GAA Teams of the Century and Millennium. John Joe went to his eternal reward on 21st November 1952, aged 33, due to complications during surgery.
The stand at the Defence Forces GAA grounds at the Curragh Training Camp is dedicated to his memory. He was a brother of the late Frank O’Reilly of O’Reilly's Chemist in Naas.

Leinster Leader Cup Roll of Honour

In its 100-year history, the Cup has been won by 25 clubs
Raheens (14): 1932, 1933, 1941, 1943, 1944, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976, 1978;
Sarsfields (14): 1945, 1946, 1947, 1952, 1954, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1992, 2007, 2012;
Moorefield (12): 1958, 1959, 1960, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017;
Allenwood (7): 1964, 1968, 1970, 1979, 1993, 2002, 2004;
Naas (6): 1921, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1995, 2019;
Carbury: (6) 1938, 1940, 1961, 1965, 1972, 1982;
Johnstownbridge (5): 1980, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1991;
Kildare (4): 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927;
Rathangan (3): 1922, 1925, 2006;
Round Towers (3): 1955, 1956, 1957;
Clane (3): 1931, 1977, 1997;
Athy: (3): 1934, 1936, 2018;
St Mary’s, Leixlip: (3) 1937, 1998, 1999;
St Laurence’s (3): 2000, 2005, 2009;
Ardclough (2): 1949, 1950;
Kilcock: (2): 1953, 2003;
Monasterevan (2): 1973, 1974;
Caragh (1): 1920;
Maynooth (1): 1935;
St Patrick’s (1): 1939;
Curragh (1): 1942;
Army (1): 1948;
Suncroft (1): 1951 ;
Celbridge (1): 2014;
Confey (1): 2016.

SNIPPETS
Sarsfields won six titles in 9 years from 1981 to 1989.
Raheens won six finals in 10 years from 1962 to 1971.
Moorefield had six successes in 10 years – 2008 to 2017.