The strength and buoyancy of a community depends on the foresight and determination of its inhabitants. This is shown especially in their ability to avail of opportunities to add to the social life of the locality. Balbriggan, in 1918, showed this sense of responsibility, through the determination of a few local men, who strove to keep the Gaelic Games and pastimes alive following the demise of the Balbriggan Commercials Football Team.

Other Gaelic Football teams that had come and gone before O’Dwyer’s came on the scene were Balbriggan Wanderers, who won the Gold Medal Tournament in 1902 and also Balbriggan Rovers competed the Dublin Junior Championship in 1913. O’Dwyer’s, local rival for many years was the Pioneer Football Team. They were winners of the Dublin Junior Championship in 1932 and runners up in the Intermediate Championship in 1934. On Tuesday night, 26th March, 1918, at a County Board meeting, held in 68 Parnell Square, O’Dwyer’s G.F.C. was affiliated to the G.A.A. The club was granted the permission to enter a team in the Junior and Minor championships. Chairman of the County Board at the time was a well-known man called Harry Boland and the Hon. Sec. and treasurer was Larry O’Toole.

Contrary to the belief held by many, the Club was not called after the great Wicklow patriot Michael O’Dwyer, but takes its name from the great Limerick Prelate, the Most Rev. Dr. Edward Thomas O’Dwyer, Bishop of Limerick. Bishop O’Dwyer was born in Tipperary, on the banks of the Suir, in 1844. A Panegyric delivered by Most Rev. Michael Fogarty Bishop of Killaloe, on the occasion of the month’s mind celebration of the death of Bishop O’Dwyer in St. john’s Cathedral in Limerick on 18th September 1917 gives some insight into the type of person he was and why in 1918, the founders of O’Dwyer’s G.A.A. club chose his name for their club.

Bishop Fogarty said “the greatness of Bishop O’Dwyer is now the possession of history. His memory is enshrined in the heart of Ireland and until the sacred vase is broken it will never be forgotten. This great Bishop in his day was a burning and shining light, first to the people of Limerick and then to Ireland. The tongue that set all hearts on fire is heard on longer. Hot tempered, fearless, gallant, quick at letters and manly exercises, these are the elements out of which greatness comes, and these are the qualities which distinguished young Edward O’Dwyer as a boy on the banks of the Suir, and these are the qualities that gave us the priest, the ardent apostle, the vehement churchmen, and the dauntless champion of his country’s freedom.”

Bishop Fogarty concluded by saying “Far be it from me to represent him as faultless, to do so of him would rob the dead of that which is his highest merit, that like every great man, he was great in spite of his imperfections. Like many a strong man he may have struck sometimes harder than he thought, harder than he meant to, but he never struck with malice. Of the many high honours that cover his grave, this is not the least, that after all his encounters and contests, he died without an enemy.” “I entertain,” he said, in what were almost his last words in public, “no enmity to any living person but if I am to speak at all on public questions, I must say the truth, and if I put my views strongly, it is not for the purpose of offence, but because the matter at issue is of vital importance and touches my deepest feelings.”

“Ireland will be silent without him. Long will his country inconsolably lament him.” These few words of Bishop Fogarty give us a picture of the type of person Bishop O’Dwyer was, and why in 1918, our founders held him up as someone to be emulated by the members of their newly formed G.A.A. club. His motto was Virtuti Fido non in armis i.e. trust in manly excellence and not in implements of war, virtue before aggression.

Now almost a hundred years on, players, mentors, club members and supporters may look back with some considerable satisfaction at the achievements of the club though the years, despite difficulties not felt by city clubs. Notable success over the years was firstly the winning of the Intermediate league in 1924 whereby the club gained senior status in Dublin competitions. This was followed by winning the senior football league in 1927. Around that time the club won a notable “three-in-a-row,” when they won the “Kells Tournament,” having beaten teams from Dublin, Meath, Louth and Cavan.

The next major success was winning of the Junior Championship in 1950, and this was followed up by winning the Intermediate Championship in 1956. The Dublin Senior Football league Division 1, was captured in 1970, when St. Vincent’s were defeated after a reply. All Fingal competitions run under the now defunct Fingal G.A.A. board were won by the club at some time or the other. Through the years many O’Dwyer’s men have worn the county jersey with distinction. Among those who won All-Ireland senior medals were Stephen Rooney, George Wilson, Paul O’Carroll and John O’Leary, who captained the “Dubs” to All-Ireland success in 1995.

Like all other north county clubs, O’Dwyer’s has been known over the years as a football club, but in its recent history, since the early ’80’s, the hurling side of the club has been developing, and now the club fields a junior hurling team and also under-aged hurling teams. It is hoped that with the help of recent coaching efforts, this side of the club will develop further. In its short history the O’Dwyer’s hurlers hive won league trophies, as well as the Fletcher and the Miller Shield. In days gone by, the woman of Balbriggan competed in Dublin Camogie competitions. The game has been resurrected in recent times, and hopefully it will achieve some of the success of the past.

A very important side of any G.A.A. club is the social and cultural side. For some years now O’Dwyer’s have competed in the National G.A.A. competition called Scor, reaching finals for Ceili and set-dancing competitions on several occasions. The Eithne O’Donnell competition for céilí and set-dancing is held annually in the clubhouse to honour the memory of Eithne O’Donnell, who gave so much of her time to the furtherance of all things Irish, especially Irish song and dance.

Like every club, the hard work and the dedication shown by the clubs founders, is needed by the present day members, in order to meet the ever increasing demands of the coming years.

Fr. M. Hassett RIP
Former Club Chairperson