Friday, January 22, 2021

Eye on the Past No. 1464

HE was born in 1901, the youngest of seven children, and grew up in Rheban on a small farm with the nearby Grand Canal as his youthful playground. His name will be forever linked with Rheban Gaelic Football Club, which he helped to form in February 1929. Tom Moore was living in No. 7 Offaly Street when the Taaffes arrived from Castlecomer in 1945 to live in No. 6. We were neighbours and I was friends with Tom’s sons Willie and Mickey; together we shared with Teddy Kelly, Basil White and Tom Webster much-treasured youthful memories.

Tom Moore and his brother John were Gaelic footballers who played for Athy for many years prior to the founding of Rheban Football Club. Both featured on the first Athy team to contest a Kildare Senior Championship Final. That was in 1923 when Naas defeated an injury-hit Athy team whose performance was described as less memorable than that of the Athy Jazz Band “who paraded in fancy dress before the match.”

That Athy team comprised, in addition to the Moore brothers, Eddie “Sapper” O’Neill, Chris Lawler, Dan Nolan, Jim Clancy, Paddy Hayden, Tom Forrestal, Johnny Kelly, P. Brogan, Tom Germaine, George Dowling, Mikey Grant, Dick Mahon and M. Byrne.

I wonder if Athy club’s loss of the Senior County Finals in 1927 and 1928 while the county Senior Team won the All-Ireland Finals in those years might have prompted the Moore brothers to join their Rheban neighbours to form the new football club in 1929.

Whatever the motivation, John and Tom Moore were to the forefront in establishing Rheban Gaelic Football Club, with John elected as the club’s first chairman and his younger brother Tom as the treasurer/ secretary for the next 55 years, during which time he oversaw many successes by the Rheban players on the field of play.

The club’s very first victory was achieved in Geraldine Park, Athy when Rheban defeated Suncroft in a Junior match in 1929. That first winning team included the two Moore brothers, as well as a young Paddy Myles, who played so well on the Kildare County Junior Team which won the Leinster Title in 1931 that he was promoted to the Kildare County Senior Team. Uniquely, his first and only time to play for the county seniors was in the All-Ireland Football Final against Kerry in 1931.

Under Tom Moore’s stewardship Rheban won its first championship final in 1940 when defeating Ardclough following a replay of that year’s Junior Championship. That was followed two years later by the club’s success as county champions in the Intermediate Championship, and in 1945 the same team contested the semi-final of the County Senior Championship.

Pat McEvoy, who was a member of the 1942 Intermediate Team, wrote the now famous *******Rheban Victory Song****** to celebrate the club’s success in the Junior Championship of 1940. The song concludes with a reference to those non-players “who brought us fame, Ben Kane ever faithful, Tom Moore for his brains and Tom Mac for his field where we could always train.”

The history of Rheban Gaelic Football Club is inextricably linked with the life of Tom Moore. In addition to his role as club treasurer/ secretary, he served as a county board delegate and as selector for the county junior team which won the All-Ireland in 1970. He also served as a selector for the county minor team which won Kildare’s first Leinster Minor Title in 1973. Tom, who worked as an insurance agent, served one term as a Fianna Fáil member of Athy Urban District Council from 1955 to 1960.

Tom and his wife Margaret, a native of Rathcormack, Co. Waterford were an ever-present part of my growing up in Offaly Street in the 1950s. I don’t know what prompted Tom to call on me to join the Rheban Club but join I did, travelling with Willie Moore to play in matches in the field just below the Railway Bridge at Kilberry. I only lasted one year before rejoining Athy G.F.C, but I’m afraid Rheban G.F.C never missed me.

Tom Moore’s service to Rheban G.F.C and the wider GAA community was marked in 1954 by the presentation to him in the old school in Kilberry of a gold medal.

Fifteen years later he was presented with a seven day clock to mark 40 years uninterrupted service to the club. Tom passed away in 1984, just five years after the club had purchased grounds which over the following years were developed to provide up-to-date playing facilities.

On Saturday 19 June 1999 the grounds, now supplied with dressing rooms and parking facilities, were officially opened and re-named as the Tom Moore Memorial Park. It was a fitting tribute to a great Gael and a man who I remember as a quiet, gentlemanly neighbour of whom I have many good memories.

Frank Taaffe

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