Stars of Erin on a high despite struggling to field adult team

GAA club is 10 miles from O’Connell Street but a million miles from Croke Park

Ian O’Riordan visits Stars of Erin GAA club. One of the county’s less high profile clubs it was founded in 1903 and claims to have the highest pitch in the country, located as it is in Glencullen in the Dublin mountains. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Depending on which way the wind is blowing, a miscued kickout at the Stars of Erin GAA pitch in Glencullen carries the risk of landing in the next county, the Wicklow border just a few fields away.

And like any mountainous landscape, it can by turns of the hour or light be touchingly calm or tortuously bleak, or else covered in a blanket of snow.

Several Dublin clubs can claim to be the biggest, richest or most successful. Only one can claim to be the highest, and possibly the most scenic, and not just in Dublin.

For years Stars of Erin disputed the claim as the highest club in Ireland with An Tóchar in Roundwood; then in 2005 it moved from its old pitch behind Johnnie Fox’s (“famed” as the highest pub in Ireland) to its new pitch a few hundred metres up the road and a famous few metres higher.

What is certain is that it is just 10 miles crow-flying from O’Connell Street but a million miles from the booming Dublin super-clubs and crowded noise of Croke Park on All-Ireland football final day.

Follow the simple geography of south Co Dublin, and Glencullen is the first valley into the Dublin Mountains: the next valley, Glencree, is in Wicklow; the next valley after that, Luggala, is in another world.

Greatest honour

Stars of Erin is also one of Dublin’s oldest clubs, founded in 1903. This year happens to be the centenary of the club’s greatest honour – in 1916 it won the Dublin junior football title and went on to represent the county in the All-Ireland which, due to the Easter Rising, was not played until 1917 (they beat Limerick in Croke Park after a replay).

Now, 100 years on, it is the Sunday before the All-Ireland football final, and Stars of Erin are playing St Patrick’s Donabate in the junior football league division eight. It is their last game of the season, and although the club struggles to field one adult team they survive for another year in the division (winning 1-14 to 1-8).

The club fields several juvenile teams and a women’s team, but they represent the opposite of your typical Dublin GAA club, especially those a few miles down the road such as Kilmacud Crokes and Ballyboden St Enda’s. Stars of Erin is strictly rural with the philosophy that comes with it (Glencullen, pop c300, has a pub, a church, a school but no shop).

Third generation

With views across to the Sugar Loaf in Co Wicklow and the Irish Sea beyond, the club’s current pitch is now complete with a modern clubhouse. Yet it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning Glencullen was still owned by the Fitzsimons estate. “So they trained and often played their games at night under the stars – hence the Stars of Erin,” says Gerry Mulvey, the third generation of his family to play for the club, his son Gavin the current goalkeeper.

And visiting clubs discovered something else. “Back in the day Stars would have had a reputation as being a tough place to come,” says club chairman Tommy Roe.

“We have hurling and camogie in the club now, but back in the 1960s they spoke about getting a hurling team going. They county chairman got word of it, and his comment was ‘them lads are bad enough without giving them sticks.’ We’d make them feel at home when you got them here.”

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