Turtle Bunbury

Writer and Historian

 
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THE DOCKLANDS - ST LAURENCE O'TOOLE GAA

'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.

Saint Laurence O'Toole's GAA Club

The Saint Laurence O'Toole G.A.A. club was founded on Seville Place in 1888 and, associated with the Gaelic League from earliest times, became one of the most iconic clubs in the city. During the Easter Rebellion of 1916, over seventy members of the O'Tooles club took their stand among the city garrisons. Tom Clarke, President of the Saint Laurence O'Toole Pipers, was executed after the Rising, as was Sean Mac Dermott, a non playing member of the O'Tooles club. Other club members who took part included Liam O'Briain, Professor of Romance Languages at U.C.G., Citizen Army Sergeant, Frank Robbins, who later became President of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and Tom Ennis who was later a Free State Army General. One young man who joined the club was Ernest Blythe, a friend of Sean O'Casey, who became Minister for Finance in President W. T. Cosgrave's first government and was later managing director of the Abbey Theatre.

The 1920s was the football club’s golden age, with two All-Ireland and five Leinster titles falling to the tiny parish of St Laurence O'Toole's. Between 1918 and 1931, the club won the Dublin Senior Club Football Championship eleven times. The various McDonnells, Synotts and Kavanaghs who played for the club have become part of Dublin folklore. Nine of the Dublin footballers playing at Croke Park during the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre were from O'Toole's club. The fleeing Tipperary players were taken to the streets of Seville Place and hidden in the houses of O'Toole's players. Amongst these were the McDonnell brothers who were apparently the receiving point for weapons smuggled in at the North Wall from London and Glasgow. After the match, Johnny McDonnell had to quickly dispose of a kitbag of revolvers and other weapons in his house.

Johnny's brother Paddy co-founded the St Laurence O'Toole's Drama Society in 1917 with playwright Seán O'Casey, also present in Croke Park that day. (It was here that Peter and Jim Sheridan learned their skills, performing O'Casey's 'Shadow of a Gunman’). The club’s last football victory was in 1938. In 1969, O'Tooles won their first senior hurling championship. They have won seven more since, most recently in 2002. In recent times O'Toole's have shifted their operation to the Malahide Road.

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