PICTURES: Strong Laois connection brings Sydney GAA club reunion to Portlaoise

Michelle Hogan

Reporter:

Michelle Hogan

A Sydney GAA club that has celebrated many successes and united Irish people in Australia for 50 years is having a special reunion in Laois soon.

The Young Ireland Gaelic Football Club in Sydney was established in 1969 and is bringing its anniversary celebrations to Portlaoise for a huge reunion thanks to the deep-rooted Laois connections over the years. 

The club has provided generations of Irish men and women, new arrivals to Sydney, with a family, friendship, fun, fitness, some Championship medals and a home away from home.

There has been strong Laois representation in the club throughout the years with locals from Portlaoise, Ballyfin, Shanahoe, The Heath, Clonaslee, Mountmellick, The Rock, Emo, St Joseph’s, Graiguecullen, Timahoe, Park Ratheniska, Ballyroan, Annanough, Ballinakill, Portarlington, Gracefield and Walsh Island all involved with the club over the years.

In Syndey, the club has celebrated the anniversary with events including a tournament in the Bat and Ball Oval, where the first Young Ireland match was played 50 years ago. 

Given the many friends of the club that have made their lives back in Ireland, they have decided to commemorate this milestone with a local celebration too.

All Young Ireland teammates, their friends and family are invited to join the celebration at the Midlands Park Hotel in Portlaoise on Saturday, October 5 for a night of stories, music and celebration.

Tickets are on sale now and include a great evening of music, entertainment and a three-course meal. Get your tickets here.

There will be special guests on the night, to mark the anniversary and a fantastic opportunity for old friends to get together and for each generation of Young Ireland teams to meet those that have gone before them and carried on the club traditions since.

Follow the event on Facebook here.

Click through the picture gallery above for some Sydney memories.

Jack McGovern & Brian Deane explained the Laois influence on the club. 

“Over the years, many Laois players have been part of our NSW Championship successes including, since the turn of the century, all the lads listed on pages 1 to 3. 

“Former Laois senior dual player and Clonaslee native, Declan Rooney left Laois nearly 20 years ago and became a totem figure within the club. He played for ten seasons, winning seven championships, including two 3-in-a-rows. 

“Together with his brothers Mark and Darren back home, they built a strong recruiting network ensuring that almost every Laois person who came to Sydney was connected up to the club. This helped to deliver the most successful period in the club’s history, from 2001 to 2009. 

“As well as the on-field contribution of so many Laois and Offaly players, there was plenty of support off of it. Bosco Ramsbottom played a big role in his time and Terence Conlon from the Rock was involved on the sideline at matches and at training sessions. 

“Until he moved abroad in 2014, Ronan ‘Frankie’ Mitchell from Mountmellick took up the mantle of recruiting Laois players to the club, after Declan Rooney retired. But the most significant contribution may well be that of Aidan Coleman from Portlaoise as Coach. Taking on the role after the league in 2006, Aidan coached the club to the 2006 and 2009 championships and has been involved in the club where possible over the years.

“There have always been pockets of players from places such as Portlaoise, Emo and the Heath. Our current goalkeeper, Marty Dowling is a product of the Heath club, having started out training with Young Ireland in the company of his club mate Daithi Carroll in 2014. Daithi returned home before the season began but Marty gradually established himself as the club number one over the following seasons. 

“On the Ladies team sisters, Nicole and Shona Phelan from Ballyroan played together for Young Ireland in 2017. Nicole has become a stalwart of the club and is currently serving as its Secretary. Shona has played for Laois ladies and was a big addition to the club in the 2017 season.

“Then there are the unknown success stories of people who were not GAA players in Ireland but took to the game with Young Ireland before achieving success as part of the club. 

“Nicole Phelan would be a good example of that as would Richie Coss from Portlaoise. 

“Richie joined Young Ireland in 2005 for the craic more than for the football, having never represented his hometown club at any level. 

“He was happy to be sub goalie in his first year but as he got used to the training in the following years, he became a sharp corner forward. Richie was a starting player in the 2006 and 2007 championship final wins and scored the decisive goal in the 2007 League final victory. 

“After moving to the UK in 2008 with his girlfriend Catherine, he joined St. Brigid's and continued his success in the Lancashire competitions. Richie went on to represent Lancashire in the British Championships and played in the All Ireland semi-final of the Junior Football Championship for his adopted county.

“There have also been great dual players at the club such as Tommy Fitzgerald and Tommy Mulligan from Portlaoise and James Walsh from Ballinakill. All three enjoyed success on the hurling field with Sydney Shamrocks, as did Declan Rooney, while also playing significant roles in the Young Irelands teams of the day.”

Listing of Laois People involved with Young Ireland over the last 20 years:

Portlaoise

Aidan Coleman 2002 to present (Winning Coach in ’06 & ’09)

Richie Coss 2004 – 2008

Tommy Mulligan 2006-07, 2011-12 

Pauric Phelan 2003-04

Fergal Fennell 2003-04 

Jason Lalor 2003-07

Niall Fitzpatrick 2004-05

Brian Fitzpatrick 2008

Caroline Fitzpatrick 2008

Brian Bohane 2003-04

Michael Fennelly 2001?

Tommy Fitzgerald 2005

Dennis Kavanagh 2007-2008

Allan Daly 2003-04

Grellan Delaney & 

Gillian O’Brien (Cork) 2014 - Present

Mark Mulligan 2007

Ballyfin

Paddy Hyland 2005

Barry Carol 2005-07

Paul Dunphy 2005

Michelle Finn 2004-05

Shanahoe

Margerite Sides 2005-07

The Heath

Seamus Mulhare 2006-07

Mick Lenihan 2007

Marty Dowling 2014 – present

Joe Salmon 2003-4

Noelle Hyland 2004-05

Emer Tracey 2003-04

Aine Fingleton 2003-04

Cloanslee

Dec Rooney 2001 - 2011

Mark Rooney 2001

Sharon Rooney 2002 to present (Married to Aidan Coleman)

Kieran Hogan (Formerly Tullamore Co. Offaly) 2008

Mountmellick 

Martin Forde, 2006 - 2008

Frankie Mitchell, 2008 - 2014

John Gormely 2004 - 2008

Anthony Quigley 2006 - 2007

The Rock

Eoin (Bull) Dooley (RIP) 2006

Junior Harding 2008

Brian Conlon 2008 – 2012

Terence Conlon 2008

Kieran Conroy  2008 - 2009

Emo

Niall Wheeler 2008 – 2014

Darren Strong 2007 

Michael Dowling 2015 

James Flavin (Ex-Kerry) 2006 - 2007

Rory Moore 2005 - 06

St. Josephs

Colm Kelly 2007

Aaron Moore 2008

John Lalor 2007

John Flemming 2007

Graiguecullen

Sean Kinsella  2007-08

Timahoe

Miguel Delaney 2007

Park Ratheniska

Bosco Ramsbottom 1995? - 2002?

Ballyroan

Shona Phelan 2017

Nicole Phelan (Current club secretary) 2013 - present

Paddy Lalor 2007

Annanough

Donal Miller 2007

Ballinakill

James Walsh 2006

Portarlington

David Murphy 2004

Paddy Murphy 2004

Brian Whelan 2009

Adrian Whelan 2009-10

Paul Maher 2006

Lizzie Emerson 2004-05

Gracefield

Padraig Maree 2004-05

Bryan Smith 2004

Peter Smart 2007

Walsh Island

James Gallagher 2007