The day the Black and Tans stopped a Kildare GAA match and interrogated players

Senan Hogan

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The day Black and Tan soldiers stopped a Kildare GAA match and interrogated players

Black and Tans pictured in Dublin in 1921. Source: Wikipedia.org

The early years of Robertstown GAA Club are intertwined with some of the most tumultuous events in Irish history, according to a new book to mark the centenary of the club.

The lavishly illustrated "The Town” A Centenary History by James Durney and Maurice Musgrave charts the fascinating story of the Club from its humble beginnings in 1919.

The 268-page book, published by Newbridge-based Merrion Press, tells how  the Black and Tans once stopped a Robertstown GAA game and interrogated players - and how a county final match involving Robertstown was called off due to the fall-out from the Bloody Sunday atrocities in Dublin.

The Black and Tans were an armed police squad recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence to help maintain control of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

They became known for their attacks on civilians and civilian property.

The nickname "Black and Tans" arose from the colours of the improvised uniforms they initially wore.

The book says: "An interesting story was told by one of Robertstown's great players Jim Dowling, of a match against Blacktrench in Joe Connell's field at Annesborough, Robertstown in the autumn of 1920.
"A lorry of Black and Tans arrived and ordered the game to be stopped while they interrogated some of the players.

"They were looking for known republicans, but no arrests were made."

A few weeks later, the reverberations of the infamous 'Bloody Sunday' were felt in Kildare.

On Bloody Sunday, an IRA unit led by Michael Collins killed 15 people during an attack on undercover British agents working and living in Dublin.
However in a reprisal act, members of the Auxiliary Division and RIC opened fire on the crowd at a GAA match in Croke Park, killing 14 and wounding at least 60 others.

Robertstown were due to play in a Junior Football Championship county final against Rathangan at the Dominican College grounds in Newbridge but the match was called off.

The referee was a Jack Fitzgerald, a prominent Newbridge GAA man and an officer in the Irish Volunteers.

Fitzgerald was arrested by the British military, charged as being an officer in the IRA and interned in Ballykinlar Internment Camp in Co Down.

As  a result, the 1920 Junior final wasn't played until two months later on January 16, 1921 and according to a match report in the Leinster Leader, Robertstown were well beaten by Rathangan with a scoreline of 2-4 to 0-4.

In the 100 years since Robertstown Gaelic Football Club was formed, the club has won six Junior county championships and many league titles in Junior, Minor and Underage competitions.

Co-author of the book, Mr Durney is a graduate of NUI Maynooth and an award-winning author of over 20 books on Irish history.

He works in Co. Kildare's Local Studies, Genealogy and Archives Department, based in Newbridge Library, and was Historian in Residence for Co Kildare's Decade of Commemorations Committee from 2015 to 2017.

Maurice Musgrave was Principal of Robertstown National and has been an active member of Robertstown GFC for almost 50 years, serving as Club Secretary, PRO and is the current Joint President.