While Athenry is known throughout the country as being the centre of hurling in the county, it was the Newcastle area which won the parish’s first county title. The Connacht Tribune of 2 December 1911 provided a comprehensive report on the victory, with Derrydonnell gaining revenge for a reverse to Claregalway in the ‘Tribes League’ earlier in the year.
En route to the final, Derrydonnell comprehensively dispatched all before them including a 25 point triumph over Oranmore, and an impressive victory over Killimor in the semi-final after a reverse to them the previous year.
Shortly after the appointed hour, Mr L. Lardner, Secretary of the Co. Board, who had charge of the whistle, set the lively teams going, and within a few minutes a Derrydonnell man, and one of the main- stays of the team, was hurt and obliged to be replaced by a “sub”. Derrydonnell forced the ball to the “Clare” goal ; the defence was good, the ball reaching the centre. The “Claree” getting command, rushed the Derrydonnell goal and on being repulsed, again forced matters. In a scrimmage at the goal mouth the ball went over. The free awarded Claregal- way was well sent back, and invading the 21 yards quarter, Derrydonnell made a vigorous onslaught, which the “Clare” goalkeeper brilliantly defended. Derry- donnell regained possession and shot wide and later narrowly missed a couple of splendid openings. Claregalway, with good combination, on the leather being sent to midfield, pressed the Derrydonnell backs and warding off their defence, shot a goal. The re-opening placed Derrydon- nell on the alert, and quickly getting away, they made another onslaught on the Claregalway goal, to be again unlucky. On the puck-out, Claregalway attacked, and Derrydonnell’s goal threatened dan- ger. At half-time, the scores were :-–
Claregalway – 1 goal
Derrydonnell – Nil.
On the resumption, Derrydonnell put on their mettle, and playing with superior dash to that displayed by them in the opening half, made desperate efforts to penetrate the Claregalway citadel, even- tually succeeding in notching a point, to which they shortly afterwards added two goals. Claregalway experienced ill-luck in many efforts to minimise the leaders’ score, failing simultaneously with their approach to Derrydonnell goal. The lat- ter boys sent the ball to Claregalway goal and increased their lead by another goal. Exciting play was witnessed, in which an improved style was shown by both teams. Derrydonnell maintained their lead at the conclusion, winning on the remarkable margin of two goals and 1 point, The final scores were :-–
Derrydonnell – 3 goals 1 point.
Claregalway – 1 goal.
The team was given a tremendous reception when they arrived home, with the Connacht Tribune correspondent writing that “there was great jubilation in Derrydonnell… bonfires and torches blazed in all directions to greet the hurlers”. Then, “a meeting was held at which team Captain Patrick Keane, in a few well chosen words thanked the members of the team”.
Regret was also expressed at the accident that befell Jack Ruane in the first few minutes of the game and the team were unanimous that were it not for the accident the score would be much larger. After the meeting the team adjourned to a dance held in their honour – one which lasted until the small hours of the morning.