The footballing Careys and the Glenravel connection

By John Curly McIlwaine

Last week I spotted a post on the Once Upon A Time in Glenravel Facebook page from Mártan Ó Ciardha from An Spidéal Co. Galway enquiring if anyone had history on his grandfather Henry J Carey who was born in Rathkenny, Glenravel in 1872. I did not know a lot about his ancestors to be honest but Mártan was soon flooded with info about his heritage from some of the many experts on the Glenravel site, and in this short time  is now more or less and honourary Glenravel man.

What caught my eye was the fact that Mártan was from Spidal so I messaged him to say that the local Con Magees club had spent two Easter weekends there in 1973 and ’74 in the Teach Furbo Hotel, had great memories of the place and that Planxty had played in the hotel on both the Easter Sunday nights we were there. We played a couple of challenge games both years, among the teams we faced were the mighty Corofin. However it has to be said that football was not the main focus of the trips.

This is where the story really starts.

Mártan got back right away and thanked me for getting in touch and told me he was a dyed in the wool GAA man himself and had covered the games in Galway, working for Raidió na Gaeltachta. He then dropped a real bombshell as he told me about how he felt his uncle Hugo might possibly be the first son of a Glenravel man to win and All Ireland Senior Football medal. Having worked on the team that produced the club history just four years ago I was knocked sideways by this statement. Nobody in the club had ever heard of Hugo Carey so I ask Mártan to send me on all the info he had on his famous uncle and true to his word he sent me the following email.

Hugo Carey

Hugo Carey (left) with his father Henry, mother Margaret and brothers Joe and Pádraic

Hugo Carey became possibly the first son of a Glenravel man to win an All Ireland Senior Football medal when he lined out at corner-back for Galway in their win over Dublin in 1934.

Named after his grandfather Hugh, Hugo was the son of Henry J. Carey, born to Hugh Carey (b. Rathkenny 1824) and his wife Mary McGowan (b.1829). Henry J. became a member of the RIC and was posted to Carna in Connemara.

There he and his wife Margaret Berry reared a family of seven, Hugo being the middle child and born in 1908.

Hugo Carey (4th player from left on the back row) on the Galway team who beat Dublin in the 1934 All Ireland final
Hugo Carey (3rd from left) on the Galway team in the pre-match parade before the 1934 All Ireland final.

He was on the Galway teams that won the Connacht titles in 1933 and ’34, reaching the All Ireland Finals on both occasions. They were beaten by Cavan in ’33 but the following year Hugo Carey earned his All Ireland medal playing on a side took revenge on the Brefni men in the semi-final, and then defeated Dublin (3-5, 1-9) in the final.

Within days of that win Galway headed to the USA where they played games in Boston, Jersey City, Philadelphia and in Giant’s Stadium New York, where Hugo marked Joe Stynes, noted republican and grand-uncle of the Great Jim Stynes the only non Australian-born footballer to be awarded the Brownlow Medal.

Hugo Carey was also a member of the Connacht team that won the Railway Cup final of 1933.

In later life Hugo was well known to people as the driver of the CIE bus from Galway to Longford, where he died aged 87 on Connacht Final Day, 21st July 1996.

Jarlath Carey

There is another twist to this story for although Hugo Carey was the first son of a Glenravel man to win and All Ireland Senior Football medal, he was not the only one – and not the only Carey. When Down made the famous breakthrough by beating the mighty Kingdom in the 1960 All Ireland final Jarlath Carey, son of Paddy Carey and Bella O’Loan, both from Glenravel, lined out at midfield and he was there again in the middle of the park the following year when the Mourne men beat Offaly before a crowd of 90,556, the biggest ever attendance at a football final.

Former Down star Jarlath Carey remembers playing football in the Crossroads field at the Oliver Hall during his summer visits to Glenravel in the 1950s.

Paddy and Bella Carey moved to Ballymartin Co. Down when Paddy was appointed principal of the local primary school and the boys grew up playing their football in the local club. However every summer they came back to Glenravel on holiday and Jarlath, Sean and Malachy played for the Con Magees at ‘Carnivals’ throughout the county, maybe not always strictly legally. Sean actually played for Antrim and was a member of the Saffron team who beat Down in the first round of the Ulster Junior Championship in 1946. Down appealed afterwards citing Sean Carey as being illegal and were reinstated at Antrim’s expense, and went on to win, not only the Ulster title, but also the All Ireland.

Were the two Carey’s connected. Coming from the same parish there is a good chance they were so I will hand the story back to Declan and his team of experts in the Once Upon A Time In Glenravel Facebook page to sort that one out

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