Football was played in Gneeveguilla as far back as the 17th Century. The famous Sliabh Luachra poet Eoghan Rua O’ Suilleabhain often wrote about hurling and football matches on the area. In later years, the Gaelic league, Land league and Sinn Fein played a great part in developing Gaelic Football. Brosnans field at Coom Cross, O’ Connors field in Gneeveguilla and O’ Callaghans field were used during the Land League years to play Football. During these years a local band called “Lisheen Fife and Drum”played at the local matches. At this time there was more of an emphasis on Football than on Hurling, however a little Hurling was played.
In 1926 - ’27 the game of Caid was introduced in to Gneeveguilla by Father Ferris. This game was a mixture of Football and Rugby and some rough games were played on the banks of the Blackwater and Collawa rivers. Caid was a game without rules and was therefore quite a dangerous game. For safety reasons it had to be discontinued and Football came into playing again. Football skills were learned from local College Students. Handball was also played at the time and proceeds from two famous matches held in O’ Callaghan’s field were used to build a handball alley in the Village. This was situated where Jerry Moynihans now stands.
In Thady Willie O’ Connors Hall the first club was formed. The officers elected were as followed:
Chairman - Jeremiah Cronin.
Vice Chairman - William Daly.
Treasurer - John C Hickey.
Secretary - Tim Dineen.
The first Club was called the “Blackwater Rovers”. Later their name was changed to "Eoghan Rua’s" This name change occured when the Gneeveguilla side and the Rathmore side joined together. The jerseys were blue with a white collar. The newly formed Club played it’s first East Kerry league match in Gneeveguilla. They won by one pint to Lisivigeen. The Club lasted only a few years as there were no set boundaries for players and this led to a lot of resentment amoung the teams.
Foundation of the Present Club 1960
In the year 1960 the new Club was formed by a group of promising young players. The Chairman was Patrick O’ Donoghue, the Vice Chairman Bernie Nagle, Secretary Con Hurley, and the Treasurer Brendan Cronin R.I.P.
The new Club won it’s first East Kerry League match against Rathmore, it’s neighbouring Club. This match was played in Maurice O’ Connors field. The Club struggled on to survive
through the next ten years. They rented a field in the Village from John O’ Mahony which is now their own playing pitch. Their first big success was in 1963 when Jerry McCarthy won an All - Ireland medal with Kerry. Another successful player at this time was Pat Moynihan.
The Club during the 60's
The Club would not have survived through the 60’s but for the dedication of Jerry McCarthy, Pat Moynihan and other hard working officers. Money was scarce and so in order to raise money Fund - raising dances were held in Paddy Moynihan’s Hall. Clun membership was a half - crown. A field was rented in the Village from John O’ Mahony ( the present day playing pitch ). Young men gathered there on Sundays to train. They took part in Parish Leagues and met outside teams. Gneeveguilla minors joined with Rathmore and won three East Kerry titles from 1963 to 1965.
In 1966 Gneeveguilla went into the semi - final of the O’ Donoghue Cup but were defeated by Rathmore. This year Tom O’ Keeffe played with the Kerry Minors.
Around this time Gneeveguilla players helped East Kerry to County Championship glory.
Bord na nOg was founded by Father Linnane. Gneeveguilla entered underage teams in Competitions and reached the East Kerry Final this year. John Joe McCarthy R.I.P. played with Kerry Minors.
Juvenile teams were trained and this year under 14 won the County Final against Tarbert.
Things were looking bright for the Club as they were promoted to Division 2. Dan O’ Keeffe played with Kerry under 21.
Dan O’ Keeffe also played with Kerry Seniors in 1973. Glenflesk beat Gneeveguilla in the semi final of the O’ Donoghue Cup. The minors were unlucky to be defeated in the East Kerry and County Finals. The present playing pitch was bought from John O’ Mahony. Development plans were and the total plans were drawn and the total outlay was estimated at 12000 pounds. The grounds measures over 5 acres.
Tops of the Parish 1973
A talent competition was held in March 1973. This got more people involved in the Club. The Parish was divided in to four districts; Tureencahill, Leam; Gullane and the Village. These divisions have been a great benefit because each concentrates on bringing it’s own supporters out for the event. The young and old of the parish enjoy three nights of wonderful entertainment. As a result of the contest the parish is abundant with musicians, singers , dancers and comedians. This was a major event in the Parish up to a few years ago.
A Producer was in charge of each group. Eamonn Lawlor; Eileen Fleming: and Aenie O” Leary occupied this position for 23 years. The contest was sponsered by Dawn Dairies anually. A profit of £2,600 on average was obtained each year, and so was the Clubs chief source of income.
Again this year Gneeveguilla defended their title against Dr. Crokes in the replayed final. Sean O” Leary was man of the match. They also won the County Club Championship after two unforgettable clashes with Castleisland Desmonds. Eugie O” Leary was man of the match Ambrose Donovan won an All - Ireland medal with Kerry. This was the best Gneeveguilla team ever - a team of very fine dedicated players.
One of Gneeveguilla’s best footballers John Murphy Og, his two brothers Denis and Michael also played with the senior team.
Around this time Denis McCarthy died tragically. At a very young age. He was one of the famous McCarthy family having the record of having six brothers - all playing in the Club.
AIB: Gneeveguilla won the A.I.B award this year. This was a national award.
The hard work of the Club officers and Juvenile mentors saw it’s results. Two teams took part in the League and 27 players togged off for the O’ Sullivan Cup Final giving a total panel of 60 players. They were beaten by John Mitchels in the “B” Championship -Tralee being the underdogs at the time.
This was another year of glory for the Club. They met their old rivals Dr Crokes for the third year in the O’ Donoghue Cup Final. It looked like it was going to be a victory for the Crokes. However after the switching of John Murphy to midfield the tide turned and the Gneeveguilla boys - Ambrose O’ Donovan and Humphrey Moynihan picked off the winning point in the last few seconds of the game. It was "A victory that will be part of Folklore" reported the Kerryman. This was won of the best matches and man of the match was John Murphy.
The Clubs first Club House was a “shanty” (which was an old hut previously used by the Quarry Cross workmen). Since the opening of the park they had they had the building of dressing rooms as a priority. The plan of the County Board was to have dressing rooms and showers in every playing field in Kerry by Centenary Year - 1984. A fund raising committee was set up with the view of raising money for a Community Centre in the Village. The G.A.A. already had a suitable site adjacent to their playing pitch A.N.C got involved in the project under a local foreman Brendan Ashe. Club members did a great deal of work in the laying of concrete floors and plastering. 15000 was borrowed from the bank . Denis Murphy Memorial Committee donated 5000 towards the centre and the hall was named after the late Denis Murphy (Musician). The whole building complete with two fine dressing rooms and toilets cost about 15,000.
The backbone of the Club and the man who played a major part in the building of the Community Centre was Brendan Cronin R.I.P.. Brendan died on February 1983 just a few months before it was officially opened. The parish of Gneeveguilla will always be indebted to him.
The Gneeveguilla Community Centre was opened on Sunday the 8th of May 1983 at 6:30, by Frank King, Chairman of Kerry County G.A.A. Board . This was followed by a match between East Kerry and Duhallow.
This was the proudest year for Gneeveguilla. On the 23rd of September 1984 one of it’s men Ambrose O' Donovan captained Kerry to win the County’s 28th All Ireland. The centenary year of the G.A.A. made this a still sweater victory. Ambrose then 22 had played a major role in the successes of the Club.
Centenary year was successful at both minor and under 16 level for the the Club. The minors beat Firies in the East Kerry B Final. Under 16’s were successful when they beat Fossa in the East Kerry League.
This was also a great year for Gneeveguilla. Gneeveguilla minors won the County Final showing great promise to make a wonderful senior team. It will be remembered as “The year of the Minors”. They defeated South Kerry and won the County final for the first time - after Mike Finegan slammed home the winning goal. Denis Kelleher was captain. Gneeveguilla won the Cuspoir - Cantrell Award for Community Development - 500 and a trophy.
Ambrose O’ Donovan won his second All - Ireland medal for Kerry.
This year Gneeveguilla became the first Club in East Kerry to open a licenced premises in it’s grounds. Seniors were runners up in the East Kerry football Championship against Dr Crokes. Minors won the East Kerry Minor Championship beating Dr Crokes. James Brosnan was Captain. A bus load of players and supporters went for a weekend to London in October.
There was nothing to boast about this year. The Tops Of The Parish and Carnival went ahead as usual.
This year was another bad year for the Club. It was an anti - climax for the Club. The Club went on tour to London - a tour which was organised by Joe Crowley, Gullane.
This year the Senior team reached the O” Donoghue Cup Final.. They were however beaten by Spa.
Once again the Senior team reached the O’ Donoghue Cup final to be beaten by Dr Crokes. The B team won the O’ Sullivan Cup competition in Kilcumminover Rathmore, beating A teams of Glenflesk, Listry, and Kilcummin on their way to the Final. A meal and dance took place in the Hall to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Club.
For the third time running Gneeveguilla were once again beaten by Dr Crokes in the O' Donoghue Cup Final. They were however successful in the juvenile side when Gneeveguilla won the under 16 league, beating Rathmore.
This was not a good year for the Seniors, but they did win the East Kerry Minor League Final beating Glenflesk. On Sunday August 9th the new Brendan Cronin stand was officially opened. He total cost of this stand was 15,000 - 10,000 from the national Lottery and 1,100 from Denis Kelleher, U.S.A.
The standard of the Senior teams this year was very disappointing. They were now in Division two. However hope for the future sparked from the Juveniles. The under 12’s won the County. The under 16’s won the County division four, beating Rathmore in the Final. Nine of these players won under 16 All Ireland School Medals.
Under age teams were coming to the fore again this year. Under 10’s played very well. Under 12’s won all their games and retained their shield. Under 14’s won the East Kerry Division 1 Final, beating the Crokes.The Captain was Conor Teehan. Under 16’s won the County Division 4 A Final beating Milltown. The Captain was Michael Fleming. Tureencahill, Meentogues, and Gneeveguilla schools took part in the National Schools Competition.
Both Charlie McCArthy and Ger Cremin both won All Ireland Minor Medals with Kerry in 1994. Charlie Getting Man Of the Match in the All Ireland Final.
Eire Og - Once again the Dungarvan under 14 players were hosted in Gneeveguilla during the Feile weekend of the 16th to the 19th of June. A total of 25 players and 10 mentors were accommodated for.
The Senior teams were very disappoijnting and were relegated to Division 3 of the County League. However two players represented Gneeveguilla in Croke Park. Charlie McCarthy gave an outstanding display. Ger Cremin who was sub - goalie also had a good game. They are holders of All - Ireland Minor Medals and have a very promising future.
Gneeveguilla is very proud to have a selection of very fine referees down through the years, men like Gerard McCarthy, Brendan Ashe, Biiy McCarthy and Paudie Hickey. The success of the Club is due to the hard work of many dedicated people. One man in particular deserves to be mentioned, that is Johnny Barry who has always been totally committed in the playing field, as a selector, and as a hard working committee officer.
Go fada buan an Cumman
The winning of Division 3 County League was the highlight of 1995, winning all four games which gave an outright victory. They also won the East Kerry Senior League defeating Rathmore in the Final.
This year they won the East Kerry Junior League Champions James Doyle Cup. They also secured their position in Division two of the County League and are in line for promotion. Under 14’s won Division three County League.
Eire Og - 12 players and 11 mentors from Carlow were hosted and entertained in Gneeveguilla for a weekend.