St. Thomas’s – A Brief History
Two adjoining parishes, Kilchreest and Peterswell, both situated South West of Loughrea on the route to Gort, joined forces in 1968 to form a new club, St. Thomas’s. Both parishes were associated with hurling since the foundation of the GAA and Peterswell in particular was a major force in Senior championship hurling in the early years.
On the 15th August 1884, Michael Glennon of Kilchreest, was among a deputation of seven men, led by Michael Cusack, who met in Loughrea with a view to forming the Gaelic Athletic Association. Unfortunately, this was not to be as the ageing Bishop of Clonfert, Dr. Duggan, declined the offer to become patron of the fledgling association. Instead he recommended Dr.Croke of Cashel. As a result, the actual founding of the GAA moved to Thurles on the 1st November 1884.
Kilchreest won the South Board Junior Championship in 1928 and again in 1951 when they reached the county final, only to fail to Skehana after a replay. The club won the South again in 1955, but suffered a semi final defeat at the hands of Moycullen. The final championship victory was in the 1960 South Junior Final with a win over Kinvara but they lost the county semi final to Abbeyknockmoy in a best forgotten game in Craughwell. With declining fortunes and numbers the next few years saw a decrease in participation which resulted in amalgamation with Peterswell in 1968. This began a new era.
Peterswell, in the early 1900s, was regarded as the top team in senior club hurling in the county. During that glorious period, the club won 7 Senior Championships and 2 Junior Championships. So strong was hurling in the parish that in 1902, the Peterswell No. 2 team, as they were known, reached the County Final, only to be defeated by Ardrahan. Many members of those successful teams wore the Galway jersey with distinction.
Like most other aspects of Irish life, the “troubles” of the 1916-22 period severely interrupted the hurling life of the parish. From 1922 onwards, and especially after Galway’s historic win in 1924 of the previous years’ All Ireland, hurling flourished again. From this time until the last senior team of 1935, the men of Peterswell could hold their own with any team in the county. They lost the 1928 county final to Duniry.
Due to emigration after the war years, the number of hurlers in the parish dwindled and this is evident in the lack of success of the parish team. The club won the South Junior Championship in 1954 but the next fourteen years were lean ones with no team success coming its way. This prompted an amalgamation with neighbours Kilchreest to form St.Thomas’s in 1968.
The club was formed at a meeting held in Peterswell in early 1968. Officers elected for the first year were: Chairman, Fr. Matt O’Connor; Vice-Chairman, Sean Fahy; Secretary, Andy Lynskey; Ass. Secretary, Bernie Forde; Treasurer, Michael Coleman.
The first year in competitive hurling was a successful one. The under 14 team brought the club its first success by winning the county title. The under 16 county title was won in 1970 and the South Board minor title was won in 1972. The club now had a group of young committed players and the amalgamation was running smoothly and proving to be a success.
The junior team won the South Board Championship in 1972 but lost to Meelick/Eyrecourt in the County Semi Final. However, in 1974 Thomas’s progressed further by winning the County Junior Title after a classic confrontation with Castlegar in Ballindereen. Cyril Farrell was trainer and coach to that team.
St. Thomas’s were now in Intermediate hurling and expectations were high. They lost to Kiltormer in their first year at this grade at the semi- final stage. In 1978 another milestone was reached when the club was promoted to senior ranks after reaching the county intermediate final, which was lost to Kilbeacanty. Having achieved Senior status, the St Thomas’s club decided that a clubhouse and playing pitch were required urgently. The collection of money for better facilities had begun in 1976 and land was bought in 1977 and the clubhouse building project was undertaken voluntarily. The hall opened on the 20th of January 1978.
Having completed the hall the next undertaking was the pitch development. Plans were prepared under the guidance of John Mulqueen of An Forás Taluntais. Work commenced in August 1979 and to the delight of all the people of Kilchreest and Peterswell the grounds were officially opened by the President of the GAA Mr Paddy Buggy on Sunday 5th June 1983.
Following promotion to senior ranks in 1978, the club has endured a chequered existence in senior hurling. Having been relegated on a number of occasions, the club secured promotion quickly with Intermediate championship victories in 1996 and 2004.
Since 2004 a group of young, talented, dedicated hurlers have emerged with championships secured in both Minor and U21 in later years. These players now form the backbone of this Championship team who play today in the clubs first ever Galway Senior Championship final.
The past decade has seen further development in the provision of facilities with the new hall and additional dressing rooms being officially opened by Uachtarán na hÉireann Mary McAleese, in May 2006, and also the purchase of additional land to provide a much needed second playing field.
Did you know?
- The current Galway Senior Hurling manager Anthony Cunningham is a proud St. Thomas’s man.
- Anthony Cunningham made history in 1983 as the captain of the first minor team to win the Irish Press Cup. He also captained the U21 All Ireland winning team in 1986 and won senior medals in 1987 and 1988.
- The current Thomas’s manager John Burke and his son Dara, centre back today, have the unique distinction of captaining the Galway inter-county Vocational hurling teams to win All Ireland titles, John in 1982 and Dara in 2012.
- Full forward today Richie Murray played in the 2001 All Ireland Senior hurling final at midfield against Tipperary having captained the Minors to All Ireland success the previous September.
- The 1996 All Ireland minor hurling final and replay featured two Thomas’s players, Kevin Coy and Enda Tannian who lines out today.
- Kenneth Burke captained the All Ireland U21 winning team in 2005.
- The Secretaries report to the County Convention in 1907 credits “this is the first time in the history of the association in which a Connacht team has annexed an All Ireland final”, his note refers to the winning of the Croke Cup against Munster representatives Clare on the previous October 13th. The minute also states, “The hurling Championship had been won by Peterswell and also the Croke Cup by the same club”.
County Champions 1898, 1899, 1900, 1904, 1905, 1907.
Front Row L-R: Tim Forde, Pat Fahy, Larry O’Donnell, John Healy.
Second Row L-R: Mick Sherry, Mickey Wash, Willie Burke, Martin Fitzgerald, Tom Burke, Martin Leary, Martin Farrell, Pat Moylan (Teacher).
Third Row L-R: Pat Hayes (Publican), Martin Helly, Bartley Healy, Fr. Pat Geraty, Pat Burke (Captain), Tom Larkin, Patsy Connors.
Back Row L-R: Patrick Burke, Willie Burke, Pat O’Donnell, Pete Fitzgerald, Pete Hallinan, Joe Finnegan.
Roll of Honour
Senior county: 1889, 1898,1899,1900,19054,1905,1907,
Senior south: 1928,
Junior south: 1908,1914, 1954
Junior south: 1928,1951,1955,1960
All-Ireland Club Championship: 2013
Senior County Championship: 2012
Senior League: 2011
Intermediate Championship: 1996, 2004
Junior: 1974 A, 1980 B
Under 21: 1980 B, 1995 B, 2011 A
Minor: 2002 B, 2005 B, 2008 A
Under 16: 1970 A, 1988 B, 1997 B, 1999 B, 2006 A
Under 14: 1968 A, 2006 B
Under 12: 1984 C, 2002 B, 2007 A,