Austie and Andy “Comrades in Arms”
“There is no such thing as a small club, every club is pulling their own weight in their own parish” Nickey Brennan, former president of the GAA, St Brigid’s School, February 2009.
It’s hard to envisage the Geraldines Patrick Moran’s Foxrock without Arthur Hynes and Andy Gibbons, they are the fabric of the club. You’ll see the duo on the sidelines of Minor matches, umpiring at Adult games or even still helping out with the upkeep of the pitch – if there’s a match on, they are likely to be there. They are Geraldines to the core.
Andy walks into the back room of Austie’s home and a smile appears straight away on both of their faces, they are ready to be interviewed. Their paths first crossed when the Moran’s, a hurling club amalgamated with Foxrock Geraldines in the early 70s. At the time Austie was working in Canada but returned to Cornelscourt in 1972 and, more importantly, back to the Geraldines. Even after fifty years of friendship, they remain the best of friends and it was evident straightaway when Andy arrived.
Cornelscourt has changed a lot since the 70s but the Gers still remain a constant in the local community. The area has grown hugely and the population is always rising in the locality. “The parish bought the field for €5,000 in the 1950s” said Austie as he began to reminisce on his early days in black and amber. “The club would have been one of the first clubs to have a premises of their own, in behind where Londis is now, to hold ceilis and dances on a Thursday Night “ added Andy.
“When Dunnes opened up, they had buses from the city bringing out shoppers and men at that time wouldn’t have done much shopping so the men would go into the Magic Carpet for a few pints while the women did the shopping.” Austie also added that “on Sundays when teams used to come out to play us, the men would be out playing in the field while the woman would be in next door doing the shopping, it was a like a day out for them.”
The juvenile structure in the club is ever growing after years in the wilderness. There are now underage football teams to hurling teams to camogie to ladies football, there is something for everyone. “There is a continuation in the club that there never was before, where before we didn’t have minors or juveniles coming through the club but now there is a great structure in the club” said Austie.
They both agreed that the club’s recent on pitch success at adult level have been down to the stewardship of Dónall Ó Flatharta, who has decided after years of service to step away from the adult team. Under Fla, the club has achieved four promotions in six years, climbing the leagues from 10 south to the Junior A Championship. “The best thing ever” is how Austie described Fla’s involvement with the Gers while Andy said “not even the Dublin manager could have done what Fla has.”
Two vivid moments stand out for both Andy and Austie, one of which was Aaron McDonnell’s goal against Naomh Olaf’s to secure promotion to Division 6 last year. “To see 70 or 80 people on the sideline in Sandyford was immense” said Austie as the Gers came from two points down to battle back and secure the league title.
The other is a game in the 70s against our old rivals, Stars of Erin, in a game which the Gers needed to win, with us two points down late into the game, a high ball was put in by Mick Kelly and Austie jumped highest to fist it into the goal to win, sparking wild celebrations. “It was the satisfaction we got from beating the Stars” admitted Andy, “it was like Darby’s goal”.
Another standout memory for Andy was “the disappointment in the dressing room after the Cuala match in the summer”. A game in which the adult ‘A’ team could have secured promotion against our neighbours but were beaten on the day by a better Cuala side. “ [Donal] Howley was in the dressing room with his head in his hand, he knew it was his last game and he was so upset. “When you think Howley, a fella who was only in the club for two seasons to be so disappointed.” That moment epitomised the magnitude of how far Fla took the club forward and showed all the work that had been put in last year by the team.
The pair reflected on the 125th anniversary celebrations of the club with enormous pride, a day that will live long in the memory. “All the club togged out, the road was closed from Cabinteely to the pitch, the Artane boys band was there” said Austie. He was the Grand Marshall and led the parade up to the pitch. “We set-up little games for the juvenile members as well” he added.
The game of hurling remains close to Andy’s heart having being a fine hurler in his playing days with the Morans. “Brian Nolan used to call me screw-foot when I played football, I was only a stand in when the numbers were low.” said Andy. Hurling has been rejuvenated back into the club, with the club back fielding hurling teams up to under 12’s. “It’s a credit to Andy that the juvenile hurling is getting strong as well” said Austie. Nothing would please Andy more than to see the Gers back in the adult hurling league.
“If you get involved with the Geraldines, you get involved with the best club in Dublin, no doubt about it” said Austie, whose family has been at the heart of the club for decades. Austie, himself has taken up nearly every position in the club from player to captain to secretary to chairman and he is a part of four generations of Hynes’ to represent the Gers, the youngest of them being his grandchildren who are involved in the under-age set up. Not many people in GAA can boast a feat like that. “I have lived for the club since I was eight” added Austie.
I asked both to reflect on their involvement with this club, to describe what it means. “The club is so unique there can’t be another like it” said Andy while Austie added “I wouldn’t think so, especially one that has been going on so long.” Andy described the local village of Cornelscourt as like “any local village in Ireland, it’s the spirit of the people that counts. To see the lads walking up past their own village in their club strip, it’s marvelous. You think, God, in the time of Cunningham [former landlord of the pitch in Cornelscourt and member] did they do the same?”
When asked to give a sentence on the other person’s involvement with the club and their friendship together, Andy said this about his friend, “Austie has always been here and he always will be”. While Austie added that “we seemed to click from the beginning and ever since we have been working for the good of the club and one tried to do as good as the other. From both our points of view, we have put the club first instead of everything else, we’ve had a great comradeship. We’ve never ever had a row, I don’t think.” There was a long pause from Andy before he said that “you often insulted me alright.” They laughed it off in typical fashion.
There have been good days and bad days but the good will always outweigh the bad. “The club is life and death but it’s more important than that” finished Andy while Austie could do nothing but echo those sentiments.They are still ever-present in the club and can still be seen down at training even on cold winter nights. Those involved with sports clubs will appreciate the efforts of Austie and Andy over the years. Two men who have kept the flame going over the years and they are the reason the club is where it is today, so quite simply all we can say is, go raibh maith agat.