History, Castledaly is a small club, nestled close to the Offaly border between Athlone and Moate, with a proud tradition of perseverance in the face of adversity. A completely rural club, Castledaly is located in the south of Co. Westmeath. In 2011, Castledaly had a total population of approximately 1180 people in its catchment area (according to CSO figures). Battling against the odds has made success difficult but all the sweeter when tasted. The GAA Club has been the dominant figure in Castledaly life over the past 75 years and has been a binding force in the lives of so many people in the community. There are very few people hailing from this district that wouldn’t be someway affected by Gaelic football in their everyday lives.
We have endeavoured to provide a comprehensive history of the Club from its formation to the present day to function as a reference in the years to come. As such, we set out with the intention of reporting on every County Final that the Club has participated in over the decades. One might demur with the approach of recounting all the losing finals but, in our view, these finals are part of the historic fabric that has been woven over the years. The players who fought in losing battles are no less worthy of acclaim than the ones who landed the ultimate prize.
There have been repercussions to the pursuit of this aim. In trying to report on all these games, space has become a premium. Another book would need to be written to characterise the wonderful folklore of the natives. It has been heart-warming to see how a people could be so generous with their knowledge and time. Perhaps, coaxing chat from visitors is a trait of Irish Midlanders in this land of moors, raised bogs and broad waters where many have passed without ever truly exploring. And it has been a privilege to listen to many wonderful tales of yore, told with great charm and, on occasion, no lack of embellishment. Regrettably, many of these stories could not make it into the book as there simply is not enough room and a line must be drawn somewhere in the bog.
In the history of Gaelic games in Westmeath, there have been some bizarre incidents. The appearance of a cross-dressing male player in a county camogie final is one example that springs to mind. Sonny Farrell and his Tubberclair team-mate climbing on to the crossbar to prevent an opposing team from scoring a winning point is another. Castledaly has also been involved in its fair share of peculiar incidents down the years. It has been claimed that Castledaly players were once given tablets designed for the use of greyhounds in a bid to improve their performances. The tablets may have had unintended consequences. And it has been said that one player sprung from his bike after a rabbit after having ingested these tablets!
But maybe one anecdote can be included here to offer a glimpse into the consciousness of Castledaly people. It relates to the so-called “curse” which the Club was purported to have been apportioned and, in a way, may have become self-fulfilling the more people spoke of it. A Castledaly team of the 1940s played a match and rather than returning to the Procession in Moate, they called into a public house in Kilbeggan where they remained for a considerable time. The priest at the time, it was alleged, cursed them for their actions.
A Castledaly official in later years was requested by a number of people in the parish to contact a priest about the curse. Castledaly had been unfortunate not to have a Championship title recorded to their name and many believed that due to the curse, they never would. The official duly obliged and went to the priest where he asked him if he could do anything about the curse. The priest said that he would do what he could, paused for a moment and then added with a shake of the head: “Listen, I’ll say the Mass, but I’ve seen ye play and honestly, the fact of the matter is, ye’re not worth a shite!”.
We have not attempted to create any particular version of the history of the Club in this book. Rather, we leave the facts, compilations, scores, scorers, dates, team-sheets, and associated personnel laid bare for readers to analyse and form their own opinion of what the life of Castledaly GAA Club represents. And so it should be. No two people will completely agree on what took place in any given match, let alone the narrative of a Club. Debate and discussion is healthy and hopefully this book will provide a basis on which future arguments will be based.
To a large extent, the indigenous population has remained pretty much the same in Castledaly over the last century. Therefore the history in the early part of the book will largely relate to many of the families in Castledaly today. In addition, this is a contemporary history which runs right up to the date of publication in 2014. We would hope not to cause any offence to any person or family in relating this history due to anything that is either written or omitted.
Hopefully, current and future generations will feel proud of the voluntary effort that has upheld the spirit of our national games over three-quarters of a century in Castledaly. At a time where it is proving increasingly difficult to attract volunteers into organisations, we would hope that the contributions of so many down through the years will act as example which others will follow. In a world of globalisation and online social networking, it is vital that the community of Castledaly remains relevant, maintains its identity and never loses the art of the good neighbour. The GAA will be a critical influence in shaping the psyche and well-being of the locality into the future.
Roll of Honour
Senior Championship (1) 2008
Intermediate Championship (1) 1994
Junior Championship (1) 1983
ACL Div 1 (2) 2004, 2010
ACL Div 2 (4) 1983, 1996, 2000, 2019
ACL Div 3 (1) 1978
ACL Div 4 (2) 1983, 2000
ACL Div 5 (1) 1998
Feis Cup (1) 2000
Senior ‘B’ Championship (2) 2000, 2008
Junior ‘B’ Championship (1) 2006
Intermediate League (1) 1987
Junior League (2) 1942, 1976
U-21 Championship (1) 2004
U-18 Championship (6) 1946, 1994, 1995, 1998, 2003, 2008
U-18 Premier League (1) 1998
U-16 Championship (4) 1993, 1997, 1998, 2010
U-14 Championship (3) 1998, 2000, 2001
U-12 Championship (4) 1989, 1990, 1996, 1997
U-21 Championship (1) 2002
U-18 Championship (2) 1964, 2011
U-16 Championship (1) 1996
U-14 Championship (1) 1993
Kilcleagh NS (2) 2000, 2007
Ballinahown NS (1) 1989
U-13 Football (1) 1990