Harry Bolands Hurling Club History

The Early Days

The Chicago Harry Bolands hurling and football club has a long and glorious tradition dating back to the early twenties. Its formation here in 1925 is closely connected with legendary figures in the glorious Irish Easter Rising of 1916, and the struggle that followed during which many of Irelands finest gaels were imprisoned or killed in action.

The year was 1921 when Eamon DeValera and Hary Boland two prominent leaders in the struggle for self-determination, visited Chicago on a fund raising effort for the cause. Mr. DeValera who was American born was the last Irish general to surrender to British Forces after the Rising. He later became leader of the new political party Fianna Fail, An Taoiseach and President of Ireland. His young friend Harry Boland was a well-known leader in the freedom fight with Michael Collins, with whom he parted company in the Irish Civil War. In addition, he was a star hurler with the famed Faughs and Dublin hurling teams.

Thousands of Chicago-Irish welcomed DeValera and Boland that historic Sunday at Chicago’s first Gaelic Park, 4700 S. California Ave, according to another legend of his time Galwayman, “Evergreen” Mike Mulryan who was the secretary of Chicago GAA at that time. Harry Boland actually played in the exhibition hurling game that afternoon to the delight of his many friends.

Unfortunately, shortly after his return to Ireland Harry Boland was killed in Civil War fighting and his countless friends at home and in exile, especially here in Chicago mourned his loss to Ireland and to the old caman game. His Chicago friends, including Mr. Mulryan, Frank Burke and others decided to form a hurling and football club and name it after their fallen hero, Harry Boland.

Perhaps inspired by the many heroic deeds of the young Dublinman on the field of battle and play both ‘Boland’s’, teams hurling and football, wearing their familiar green and gold sweaters,dominated the GAA scene, winning championships in both codes. The hurlers remained undefeated until the forced cancellation of the games in 1933, winning the Kelly Cup outright in contests with teams from St. Louis. The footballers also won several Chicago titles including one back to back in 1929-1931.

Some of the star hurlers of those days included Mike Mulryan, Paddy Burke, Mike Walsh, Galway, Jimmy Connollan, Matt Spelacey, Clare, Mike Sexton, Limerick, Tom Mahoney and Billy Mulcahy, Cork, Billy and Jimmy Faulkner, Tipperary, John Newall, Galway, Steve Heffernan, kilkenny, Paul Burke, Cork. Footballers to impress were, Bernie Collerman, John Stenson, Sligo, Paddy Heaney, Roscommon, Billy Twomey, Cork, Martin Campbell, Mayo and “Sparkey” O’Donnell, Tipperary.

An economic depression, plus World War II, forced the cancellation of the games during the 30’s and it was not until the late ’40 when immigration opened up again that the games of the Gael were reactivated in 1949.

The Reactivation

The Harry Bolands hurling club without a football affiliation, was reactivated in 1949 with its first officers being, chairman, Pat Hennessy, Secretary, Frank Burke, Treasurer, Paul Burke, Registrar, Mike[Galway] Kenny. Hennessy and Paul Burke were elected to similar positions with the first Chicago GAA Board also reactivated that same year,1949.

The first games under the auspices of the Chicago GAA were played at Washington park, 5100 So. Cottage Grove, in May of 1950 and “The Bolands” captured the first championship, winning the much coveted Mike Sexton Cup. Galwayman Mike Fahey captained that first team which included some other stars of that time, Jim McCormack and Mike Carey, Tipperary, Mike and Nick Fahey, Chris Heneghan, Galway, Con McAuliffe, Cork, John Leahy, Kilkenny and Mike Kenny, Kerry. Seven of the winning team won places on the Chicago all star selection to win the first Midwestern States championship title defeating Cleveland at Rockne Stadium in 1952 and recapture the title in 1953 defeating Cleveland and Toronto over a big gaelic weekend at Cleveland.

The promotion of the games in Chicago received another set back in the early fifties when young Irishmen answered the call of their adopted country and served with distinction with the U.S forces in the ‘Korean Police Action’. In order to continue the promotion of the games older members of the respective clubs filled in to make up the numbers and the names of those men who gladly and proudly donned the famed Boland sweater should never be forgotten when a Boland team steps onto any playing field. They are Mike Mulryan, Tom Mahoney, Billy Faulkner, Frank Burke, Paul Burke, Jimmy Connollan and others.

After the international hostilities ceased, Chicago gaels returned to their homes and loved ones and the promotion of the games continued with even greater enthusiasm. New hurling clubs like Shannon Rangers, Eire Og, Limerick and later St. Vincents came onto the scene and greatly enhanced the standard of play. Both codes, hurling and football, benefited and attracted larger crowds at Shewbridge Stadium, Rockne and other city owned locations. Big names of those years included Tom Egan, Paddy Fahey, Galway, Frank Mc Lysaght, Kilkenny, Frankie Davis, Limerick and others. In that decade the club captured 6 Chicago titles and became ‘ the team to beat’, almost every year.

Chicago was instrumental in the formation of the Midwestern GAA board with teams from other cities, Cleveland, Pitsburg, Detriot and Hartford. But, unfortunately only Cleveland could field a hurling team so the competition was limited with Chicago winning titles during the 1950’s.

In 1959 the Midwestern board gave way to the formation of the North American Board, which substituted inter-club for inter-city contests. This was enacted in order to help the weaker cities, but it removed ‘The bite’ of inter-city games, and discouraged a New York selection from waiting to contest an all-American championship against an inter-city selection of the North American Board, with the winner winning a place in All-Ireland semi-finals.

The Sixties

Shannon Rangers, a fine combination in those days led by Mike Kenny, Pat Murphy, Pat James, Mike Carey and others was the first Chicago club to win North American titles back to back, 1963 and 1964. Harry Bolands began the climb to the top when an all star selection captured its first title at Detroit, in 1966, defeating a strong Canadian selection from Toronto. Led by the late Eddie Meagher, Tipperary and with other fine caman wielders, Liam O’ Brien, Mike Connoly in goal, Nick Tierney, Jim McCormack, John Martin Kenny, Fr. Eoin Murphy, Richie Glynn, Jerry Lynch, Jim McLaughlin and others this team had to pull out all the stops to win. Title number 2 came in 1969 against Toronto (Garryowen) at Detriot, after a draw at Toronto some weeks before. Boland stars that day included, Jack Talty, Eddie Meagher, Mike Connolly, Joe Quirke, ‘Mickaleen’ Corbet, Seamus Quinn, Alex McGrath, John O’ Brien, Nick Tierney, Geoff Butler, John Landers and Frank Falkner (better known as the silver fox).

The Seventies

Joe Quirke captained the team in 1971 against Boston Galway as the team captured its third title. Others to impress that day included Irish stars, Mick Crotty, Kilkenny, Kevin Cummings, Cork, Jack Talty, Victor Blake, Simon Grace in the goal, Nick Tierney, Geoff Butler and again ‘Mickaleen’ Corbett, perhaps the best man for his size ever seen on a Chicago playing field. Two more titles came in the 70’s against Toronto (Garryowen) in 1972 and Boston, Cork in ’76. This was another ‘Golden Era’ for the club making the number of titles now five and putting the club on top, where it has remained ever since.

During the 70’s the club was helped by the inclusion of such Irish stars as Sean Silke, Galway, Jim Fogarty, Tipperary, Jimmy Carroll, Limerick, Mick Holden, Dublin and dual all-star Paddy Quirke, Carlow. Chicago based hurlers to impress were Pete Ward, Frank Spelman, Ned Campbell, Jimmy Duggan, Tommy and Pat Dolan, John O’ Brien, Alex McGrath, Jack Talty, Seamus Quinn and others.

The Eighties

The 80’s was another decade of glory with titles being won in ’80 against San Francisco, ’83 against Boston, (Fr.Toms), ’84 Boston, Cork and San Francisco again in ’89. Most of the above figured in the early 80’s before a new crop of fine camen wielders including the Culkins, the Horans, Padrig Kelly, Pat Leen, Pat Neylan, Sean Gilligan, Mike Ryan Johnsie Murphy, Jerry Riordan and others burst on to the scene making it another memorable decade and bringing home four titles.

The Ninties

Another fine Tippeary hurler, Mike Ryan soon distinguished himself on the playing field and as a fine administrator and with the above named players and others such as Eddie O’Dwyer, Bryan McEvoy (Kilkenny), Dermot Turley, Ray Grealish (Galway), Paddy Dunne (Waterford), Paul & Vinny Walsh (Tipperary), Alan Browne, (Cork), Conor McCann, (Dublin) and John Troy, (Offaly), helped to win titles 10 and 11 in 1993 and ’96. The end of the century proved to be very successful for the Harry Bolands winning against Cork Boston in Washington in 1998 and returning to Chicago in 1999 to win the North American league against Erin’s Own (Chicago) in a History making final. Players such as David Martin (captain 1998), Lenny Higgins (player of the year 1999), Tommy Murphy (Carlow), Brian Greene (Waterford), Joe Broderick, Alan and Rory Kenny (Galway) and many others shared in these great years. In 1999 the Club formed a junior and went uncontested to represent Chicago in the North American Finals. As the club heads into a new century we look forward to another 75 years of hurling glory.

Big events, which the club was involved in over the years, included the staging of the Tipperary (Irish champions) against a New York, all star team, at Chicago in 1965 for the national league title. Tipperary won a cliffhanger at Reevis Stadium that day for possession of the beautiful Malachy Mannion (a staunch Harry Boland supported over the years) and Dan Sharpe trophy. The famed Jimmy Doyle accepted the trophy on behalf of the Tipperary team. Mayor Richard J. Daly provided a civic reception for both teams at city hall. Another big event was the holding of the golden anniversary celebration of the clubs formation at the Lexington house, Chicago in 1975. Over 800 people attended this dinner –dance, including Kevin Boland, T.D. who traveled from Dublin for the big occasion. Mayor Richard J. Daly, and other political leaders honored the club by naming it, “The Harry Bolands Day In Chicago”.

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