A Brief History of the Raheens G.A.A. Club 1925-2005

The Raheens football club which takes it’s name from a wellknown townland in the Parish of Caragh was founded in 1925. A team had existed in the Parish prior to that year and had borne the name of another wellknown townland, called Blacktrench. They had in fact, won the Kildare Junior Championship in 1916. A number of players who had played with Blacktrench joined the newly formed Raheens club which had it’s headquarters in pitches supplied by both the Waters and Malone families.

The first Secretary of the club was Peter Waters, who in later years became a prominent figure in G.A.A. circles, both as an outstanding footballer with Raheens and Kildare and as a referee. He won two Leinster Championship medals with Kildare in 1931 and 1935 but unfortunately Kildare were beaten in the All-Ireland finals in both years. As a referee he took charge of Kildare County finals, provincial finals in Ulster, Leinster and Connacht and was accorded the ultimate honour of being asked to referee the 1936 All-Ireland final.

In the formative years of the club, finance was a critical factor and supplying jerseys and getting players properly togged out was a major problem. Peter Waters who was a student at Newbridge College at the time often assisted by bringing several pairs of togs from the college.

Raheens first came to prominence in 1928 when they reached the Junior Final for the first time. After playing an exciting draw with Celbridge in Rathcoffey they won the replay in Naas by a comfortable margin. Moving into the Intermediate grade they made little impression until reaching the final of the league in 1931 in which they were paired against Athy. The game, which was played at Athy, saw the home side emerge victorious.

About that time, the Caragh club, who had fielded a successful Senior team became defunct and four of their players joined Raheens. Two of these footballers, Frank Malone and Mick Connor, had won All-Ireland medals with Kildare and brought with them a wealth of experience, which immediately blended with the natural talents of the other team members. In 1934 the restructured Raheens team reached their first Senior final against Athy. After a drawn game they were beaten in the replay on the score Athy 2-6, Raheens 1-4. The following year saw Raheens taking their first Senior crown when they beat Kildare Town in Newbridge – Raheens 6-3, Kildare Town 1-0. In 1936 they were again successful when they beat the Curragh Command in Newbridge in a game which was played in a severe thunderstorm.

A member of the 1936 team was the great Larry Stanley who had won All-Ireland medals with Dublin and Kildare and who was rated as one of the leading exponents of Gaelic football in those years. His name is synonymous with the golden era of Kildare football and is spoken of with respect wherever football supporters gather. Raheens were indeed fortunate to have enjoyed the services of this fine sportsman.

Lean years followed the 1936 victory and the next major trophy won by the club was the Leinster Leader Cup in 1941. Raheens again captured this trophy in 1943 and 1944. They also won the Senior Championship in 1943 after an epic struggle with Ellistown. The teams finished level after the first and second attempts but Raheens won the second replay.

From 1944 onwards the club struggled and it became extremely difficult to field a full strength side. The game in the Parish began to decline and as a result the two Parish teams, Raheens and Caragh agreed to amalgamate in 1953 under the name Young Emmets. This pooling of resources from a Parish richly endowed with footballing talent immediately proved successful. In 1954 Young Emmets won the Intermediate Championship and were promoted to Senior status. However, the partnership only lasted two more years and in 1956 Raheens became a separate entity once more. They were graded as an Intermediate team by the County Board and immediately began a quest for the Championship. The old spirit and determination was once again evident and having reached the final in 1958 they showed all the old never-say-die spirit of former Raheens teams by beating Castledermot.

They were now back in Senior ranks again and in 1962 and 1963 were winning the Leinster Leader Cup. These victories marked the beginning of an extremely successful period for the Raheens club. They reached the Senior final in 1964 and after a great game of football they beat Clane (Raheens 3-10, Clane 1-9). County honours came their way in 1968, 1973, 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1981 and they were winners of the Leinster Leader Cup in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1971, 1975, 1976 and 1978.

The year 1976 was indeed a special year for the club. In that year the Senior team won the Senior Championship and Leinster Leader Cup; the Allenwood, Ballyteague and Kill Tournaments, and the All-Ireland seven-a-side Club Championship at Kilmacud – six major titles in one year. This achievement represented enormous application by a dedicated panel of players who, in the summer months of that year turned out to play twice and sometimes three times weekly. This dedication and application was amply rewarded as it was again in 1978 when five more trophies were added to the impressive club tally.

The culmination of this glorious period in the club’s history is undoubtedly the winning of the Leinster Club Championship in the 1981/82 season. At the time of writing Raheens remain the only Kildare club to have won this title. This team was arguably the greatest team ever to have worn the Raheens colours and it was only fitting that a team of outstanding footballers be rewarded with one of the major trophies in club football. It was not won easily as the first round game against St. Vincents ended in a draw and the next round against Navan O’Mahonys necessitated three games to get a result. The final was played in Athy against Portlaoise and after a great game Raheens emerged victorious.

After the win in 1981, it is now fair to say that the club entered into a period of slow decline. Raheens were still a force to be reckoned with, reaching the County final in 1985 only to be defeated by Carbury, but thereafter they became less of a threat to the major clubs of the day. In the closing years of the Millennium Raheens were relegated to Division 2 of the Senior League and a serious effort to rebuild the team was undertaken. After two years in the lower division 1999 proved to be a successful year with the club winning the Division 2 title and promotion to Division 1 after winning all but one of their league games.

Despite this success it wasn’t long before Raheens returned to Division 2. Then in 2005, following a couple of near misses in previous years, Raheens were relegated from the Senior Championship to return to the Intermediate ranks for the first time in almost 50 years. This was a great disappointment to a club with such a proud tradition but with a strong underage structure now in place and some very talented young players emerging it is hoped that the club’s return to the Senior Championship will be sooner rather than later.

In detailing the exploits of the Intermediate and Senior teams, we must not forget all the Junior teams fielded during the years. They may not have recorded many notable successes with the exception of a few League victories but they did create their own little bit of club history in 1974 by winning the Junior B Championship and subsequently beating the Junior A Champions, Ballykelly, to win the coveted Jack Higgins Cup. In so doing they became the first Junior team from a Senior club in Kildare to record such an achievement.

Raheens won two Minor Football Championships in 1971 and 1972 and won the Under 21 title in 1974. Many of the players who played with those teams featured prominently in the highly successful Senior teams of the following decade.

In these few short paragraphs we have endeavoured to sketch the history of the Raheens club to date, a club that has established a proud tradition and a reputation for tough sporting football. Many great Gaels have worn the saffron and blue colours with distinction over the years (some of which are profiled elsewhere on this site) and the club has become known on a countrywide basis. Hopefully it won’t be long before the rich history of the club is added to and we have cause to extend these pages.