Roscommon All Ireland winning Under 21 team of 1966 Honoured

July 4th, 2016

Roscommon All-Ireland under 21 football champions of 1966
are guests of honour at the 2016 Connacht senior and minor finals to be played
on Sunday next July 10th in Pearse Stadium Galway. The team led by Captain Colm Shine will be introduced
to the crowd at a ceremony after the minor game and before the much anticipated
Connacht Senior Football Final between Roscommon and Galway.

We’re delighted to be able to use Tony Conboy’s wonderful
article from his own blog

Noted GAA
correspondent John D. Hickey suggested that if Roscommon were to beat Kildare
and win the All-Ireland Under- 21 Final of 1966 it would be ‘an eighth wonder
of the world’. In a glorious hour’s football, after a game of swaying fortunes,
Roscommon did just that and the critics were confounded. Roscommon became the
first holders of the Clarke Cup, ironically donated by Kildare County Board in
honour of a long-serving Kildare official in the third year of the competition.
This made up for the disappointment of ’65 when a fine Minor side were beaten
in the Semi-Final by Derry.

In retrospect this
was a star-studded side but three of the starting side Earley, Cox, Kelly were
still only minors such plus O’Gara who came on and substitutes Feely and
O’Sullivan. Through the campaign they played with dash and style and the final
against reigning champions Kildare was an exhibition of football.

Convincing in Connacht:

They gave first
notice of their possibilities with a top class display against Galway in the first
round where Pat Nicholson was outstanding. Roscommon 1.9  Galway 1.5. However they just shaded the
Semi-Final v Leitrim with the first of series of fine performances from Martin
Joe Keane. Roscommon 2.6  Leitrim 1.8.
In the Connacht
Final Mayo raced into a six point lead. Roscommon made some telling switches
and Mayo were reeled in by half-time. Roscommon dominated the second half and
ended convincing winners. Roscommon 1.15  Mayo 0.9. Dermot Earley accounted for 0.8 of
Roscommon’s total.

Close call in Semi-Final:
Roscommon 2.2 Donegal 0.5.
The odd scoreline
gives some indication of the game. Roscommon should have won more convincingly
but shot an unhealthy number of wides. Tom Heheghan had the side’s only first
half score, a great goal, which left them ahead by a point at half time.
Heneghan was also involved in the second goal being brought down for a penalty
which Jim Keane converted. Heneghan and Martin Joe Keane starred while
Roscommon had a great half-back line of Gerry Mannion, Paul Mockler and Colm

Grand Final Victory:
This game included
all that was best in Gaelic football and will rank among the best performances
by a Roscommon side in Croke Park. Roscommon started with three quick points
from Jimmy Finnegan and John Kelly (2). Kildare responded with five points
without reply and led at half-time 0.7 to 0.5. Kildare dominated the third
quarter and raced to a six point lead and seemed to be on the way to retaining
their title and being the first holders of their own cup. Roscommon
restructured their side bringing Earley to midfield and Martin Joe Keane to the
edge of the square and Jim (Jumbo) Keane to centre-forward. This had the
desired effect and Roscommon came back with a cracking goal from Jumbo followed
by another from Jimmy Finnegan after good work from Martin Joe. These goals
decided the outcome as the ‘lily whites’ wilted.
In the latter
stages it was a total team performance of great passion, character and
efficiency. The back line personified a ‘thou shall not pass’ tenaciousness as
represented by Clarke and Shine. Up front the speed and accuracy of John Kelly
showed him up as one of the outstanding forwards on view among a star-studded
cast from both sides. It should be remembered that Kildare were defending
champions and were favourites for very valid reasons. Eleven starting players
and one substitute had been on the victorious team versus Cork in ’65. The side
included quite a number of players who were to become household names not only
in their own county but in the broader Gaelic spectrum. These included Ollie
Crinnegan (goalkeeper), Pat Mangan, Tommy Carew and Pat Dunny.

Roscommon team
Captain, Colm Shine, accepted the Clarke Cup (ironically just presented by
Kildare in memory of a long-serving official) from the GAA President Hugh
Byrne. By co-incidence it was just twelve months to the day that Mr Byrne had
presented Mick Hoare with the All-Ireland Junior Hurling Cup in St. Coman’s

The team made a
triumphal tour of the county on their return, breaking with tradition by
crossing the Shannon at Tarmonbarry. From there they visited Strokestown and
Elphin to an explosive reception in Boyle where Johnny Keaveny’s coal lorry,
acting as rostrum, left its mark. The team then visited Castlerea and Ballintubber
on their way to a County Board reception in Roscommon town.

The team:
Pat Reynolds
(Elphin), Pat Clarke (Boyle), Pat Nicholson (Boyle), Colm Shine (Capt./ Clann
na Gael), Gerry Mannion (St. Brigids), Paul Mockler (St Croan’s), Tommy
Heneghan (Castlerea), Martin Joe Keane (Creggs), John O’Connor (Roscommon
Gaels), Jimmy Finnegan (Castlerea), Dermot Earley (Michael Glaveys), Jim Cox (
St. Barry’s), Marty Cummins (Shannon Gaels), Jim Keane (St. Brigids), John
Kelly (Elphin). Substitute used Mark O’Gara, (St Croan’s).

Of the group of players four are gone to their eternal
reward,  Pat Reynolds, Dermot Earley,
Marty Cummins and Jerome Dufficy however they will be represented by family
members on the day. 

Roscommon GAA would like to thank Colm Shine and Tony
Conboy for their efforts in helping to organise and make this fiftieth anniversary
celebration a reality.

Picture Courtesy Tony Conboy 101 Years of Gaelic Games in Co Roscommon 1889 to 1990. 

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