Kildimo-Pallaskenry on the brink of club history

Sixty minutes is all that separates Kildimo-Pallaskenry from senior hurling, 60 years after the club were almost lost to the game for good.

Kildimo-Pallaskenry on the brink of club history

Sixty minutes is all that separates Kildimo-Pallaskenry from senior hurling, 60 years after the club were almost lost to the game for good.

In the 1950s, with hurling in the club in a good place, Kildimo-Pallaskenry were a predominant force in the city junior championship.

However, an incident in a divisional final changed the course of history for the club.

Playing against Ballybrown, in what is now the LIT Gaelic Grounds, an unsavoury incident threatened not only the well-being of the club, but the future of Gaelic games in the parish.

After conceding what they believed to be a contentious goal, a player threatened the umpire. The same player, according to the referee’s match report, went on to be abusive towards him.

Then things began to get out of hand.

Match referee Stephen Gleeson, who two years earlier became the youngest man to ever ref an All-Ireland senior final, described, in his match report, what happened after the Ballybrown goal was awarded:

“A Kildimo player proceeded to threaten the goal umpire for raising the flag. I took his name and warned him. Later, the same player abused me. I took his name and ordered him to the sideline,” Gleeson wrote, reported at the time by the Limerick Leader.

“Apparently, this was the signal to the Kildimo team and supporters to launch a savage and hostile attack on my umpires, linesmen and myself.

“I picked out a Kildimo player racing down the pitch and vocally urging on his followers.

“I was struck by a Kildimo supporter as I withdrew toward the town goal.”

Gleeson’s brother Thomas, who was the linesman, was also struck on the head with a hurley, according to the report.

Most damning of all was the claim that nobody on the Kildimo-Pallaskenry side did anything to stop this, a point the club contested at a county board hearing.

“I can unquestionably say that not a single Kildimo player or official took constructive action to end the riot,” Gleeson wrote.

“While all this was taking place, the Ballybrown team stood peacefully in the middle of the field.”

In response to the claims, the Kildimo-Pallaskenry chairman of the time defended the club at a county board hearing.

He also promised to compensate anyone who suffered damages and gave an assurance that there would be no repeat of that incident.

But the club, and all its members, were given a five-year ban “from all GAA activity”.

Sixty years later, current club chairman Emmet O’Brien says that a club who were on the rise were “probably hard done by” with the severity of the punishment.

“There are a lot of views on it that the suspension was heavy-handed.

“By the time the suspension was lifted, the spirit, the best part of the team, had kind of gone. A lot of the team had emigrated. The team had moved on, it was the end of an era where the team had moved on.

“We look back on that still to this day, that team in the 1950s, if they had gone up senior at that stage, would we be senior now and how many county titles would we have won?

“When you compare to Patrickswell, who we were beating with ease back in those days, they have won 19 county titles in the interim.”

Tomorrow’s Premier IHC final is the curtain raiser to the Well’s bid to become the first team in Limerick to win 20 SHC titles. While the two clubs are on the same bill on Sunday, the last six decades have seen them take very different paths.

When Kildimo-Pallaskenry were falling apart, literally, it was decided that the club should split into two.

“We had been separate since the early 1970s and when the club separated the understanding was Pallaskenry would play football and that hurling would be played in Kildimo,” explained O’Brien.

“As things transpired over the intervening decades, Kildimo fielded a football team and Pallaskenry fielded a hurling team.

“There was a bit of tension there for a while between the two sides of the one parish which in hindsight was a bit foolish.”

However, with players from both sides going to school and socialising together, a rejoining was inevitable. The sides combined as Killulta Gaels at underage level, midway through the first decade of the new millennium.

“We competed very well with the underage set up and then on January 1, 2012, we joined as a playing amalgamation, Kildimo-Pallaskenry, and then from January 1, 2017, we formally joined the two separate clubs in the parish as one club,” he said.

“It was a slow process,” O’Brien admits, “but it was a process that was successful and we won the county (intermediate) title in 2017 and now we are in a county final now.”

Standing in their way of a place in the top tier of Limerick hurling is a Blackrock side who they drew with in the round robin stage of the championship.

It’s a road to senior they have been travelling for over 60 years — with the destination finally within touching distance.

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