fánaithe na claise

VRs & the Irish Volunteers - commemorative jerseys available

  • Jun 04,2021

Commemorative jerseys available to purchase in gold or back, in every size from kids to adults, including player and regular fit. 

If you wish to place an order before July 4th, please text your Name, phone number and size to any of the following:

- Tomás O Brien 085 116 6730 

- Cormac Desmond 087 794 6252 

- or purchase in the VR Club Shop, which is open every Friday between 6 & 8pm or connect through Facebook Messenger by clicking on the following link:

All orders to be placed please before July 4th and prices are as follows: 

- Adult (Small to XXL): €50

- Youth (age 11, 12 & 13): €45 

- Kids (up to age 10 & 11): €40


Note: The 'lonely woods of upton' lyrics are printed on the back of the gold jersey. 

Sincere thanks to Murt and Michael O Sullivan for documenting the history below of Valley Rovers and the Irish Volunteers, what an amazing read!

Today and for about the last 70 years the Valley Rovers GAA clubs caters for the entire parish of Innishannon and Knockavilla. But it was not always so. From the early 1900’s to the late 1920’s Knockavilla fielded very successful hurling and football teams. Castlelack also had GAA teams at different times. In the 1940’s Ballymurphy hurling and football teams enjoyed great success. Those four teams were located in the catchment areas of the four national schools, Innishannon, Knockavilla, Castlelack and Gurranes. The Shamrock Maids camogie club was based in Ballinacurra.

In the final decades of the 1860’s and the early years of the 1900’s there was a very significant increase in nationalist spirit in the country as evidenced by:

- The emergence of the Land League

- The establishment of the Gaelic League

- The setting up of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)

The disgraceful treatment of the Irish by the British government during the famine of the 1840’s contributed to a great resentment of the British rulers and ultimately to the formation of the Fenians in 1867. In turn the spirit generated by the Fenians led to the establishment of above-mentioned Nationalist organisations. Frequently the young men of our area were members of both the Gaelic League and the GAA. In 1914 this growing Nationalist spirit led to the formation of the Irish Volunteers. Their objective was to wrest freedom for the Irish from the British invader and oppressor.

In his book “Towards Ireland Free” Liam Deasy from Kilmacsimon tells how he was a member of the Bandon company of the Irish Volunteers. In early 1918 Tom Hales, Knocknacurra, who was the Commander of the Bandon Battalion of the Irish Volunteers, asked Liam Deasy to set up a company of the Irish Volunteers in Innishannon. Liam Deasy (uncle of Jerry Deasy) relates that he was a member of the Valley Rovers GAA club, founded in 1912, and that they practiced in fields in Dromkeen on Jerry O Sullivan’s farm and Ballymountain. When he “sounded out” his teammates he found out there was great interest in joining the Irish Volunteers. The Innishannon company of the Irish Volunteers was duly founded and within a short period 80% of the Valley Rovers members joined the Innishannon Volunteers. The newly formed Volunteer Company practised their drills in the same fields where they did their GAA training. In addition to Liam Deasy and his brothers, Con O Sullivan Dromkeen, the Russells of Ballymountain and others were members of both the Valley Rovers GAA club and the Innishannon Company of the Irish Volunteers.

The Brigade was the biggest unit of the Irish Volunteers- The Brigade was made up of a number of Battalions and they, in turn, consisted of 7 or 8 companies. Membership of Companies could vary from 20 to well over 100. There were 3 companies in this parish viz…

- Kilpatrick - set up in 1914

- Crosspound – formed on 1/10/1917

- Innishannon - established in early 1918

The parish of Innishannon and Knockavilla was located at the eastern end of the 3rd West Cork Brigade area, therefore the Brigade area stretched from Killeady in the east for almost 100 miles westward to Eyerees and Dursey.

As in the case in Innishannon where a large majority of the GAA club were volunteers, several members of the Crosspound Volunteers were members of the Knockavilla hurling and football teams. This close association of the GAA and the Volunteers pertained throughout the country.

Dick Barrett, the Principal of Gurranes National School and a leading member of the Crosspound Volunteers and who later became Brigade Quartermaster, was also a leading member of the Knockavilla teams. Another Crosspound Volunteer Sean McCarthy and his brothers of Dunkereen played for Knockavilla and was County Board GAA chairman in 1917 and held that position for about 20 years. Sean was also elected President of the GAA.

Sean McCarthy was a TD for many years and Lord Mayor of Cork on 5 occasions. Because he was then a teacher in Blossomgrove within the 1st Cork Brigade area he frequently brought intelligence from the 1st Cork Brigade to the 3rd Cork Brigade, (based at O Mahony’s Belrose House for long periods). Incidentally Sean McCarthy’s nephew Con Murphy, who played for Valley Rovers for many years and won 4 All Ireland medals with Cork, also served as GAA president and offered great support to Crossmaglen GAA club when they were severely harassed and restricted by the British in the 1970’s. Other Crosspound Volunteers to play for Knockavilla were Tom Kelleher, Crowhill, Paddy O Leary, Ballyhandle and many others. Another Crosspound Volunteer, Jim Lordan , Dunkereen won a county medal with Éire Óg in 1928. Three Curtin brothers from Castlelack played for Knockavilla. Eugene Curtin played for Cork. 

In her book “There is a bridge in Bandon” Kathleen Keyes McDonnell tells that a number of the Castlelack hurling club joined the Kilpatrick Volunteers in 1914.

There were several major volunteer engagements in the parish including:

- Brinny Ambush in August 1920

- Tooreen Ambush on 22/10/1920, which was marginally outside the parish boundary but was planned in Ballymurphy.

- Upton Train Ambush on 15/2/1921 sadly resulted in many deaths including 6 civilians and 2 railway workers (one of these being a young lad John Sisk who was returning home after his night shift at the Cork Railway Station).

- The Battle of Crossbarry on 19 March 1921 (Crossbarry Ambush)

3 Volunteers were killed at the Upton Ambush, namely:

- Batt Falvey, Ballymurphy (a cousin of Mrs Teresa Spillet, Belrose).

- Sean O Faolain, Liverpool, a teacher of Irish parents.

- Pat O Sullivan, Raheen (Uncle of Michael and Murt O Sullivan, Raheen was wounded mortally.

In addition, Dan O Mahony, Belrose House, (Uncle of Seamus and Eileen O’ Mahony), and Jack Hartnett, Kileens were wounded and as a result, Dan O Mahony died 2 or 3 years later and Jack Hartnett spent long periods in hospital for the rest of his life.

Charlie Hurley, an uncle of Mrs Eileen O Connor, Russell hill and Mary Collins, Ballincollig, was the commander of the 3rd West Cork Brigade and was in charge of the Upton ambush. Charlie was injured and was taken to safety to Patsy Sheehans, Kilmore, by Tom Kelleher. Dan O Mahony was helped escape by Den Doolan, Crossbarry, and Paddy O Leary, Ballyhandle, helped Jack Hartnett. Pat O Sullivan managed to get to the “Safe House” of Cronin’s, Clashanimud- he died in the North Infirmary Hospital 2 days later. The other Volunteers involved were: Brigade Officer Flor Begley, Bandon, John Butler, Barna, Uncle of Mrs. Mary Jo Duggan née Butler and Mrs Lordan, Denny Desmond, Ballyhandle and Paddy Coakley, Lissaniskey. Coakley was tried in court a few days later. Had the train remained the normal 30 minutes at Kinsale Junction, (Killeady), the scouts would have reached Upton before the train and would have told Charlie Hurley that there were 35 extra British soldiers who seated themselves next to civilian passengers. Armed with this information Charlie Hurley would have called off the ambush. It was generally believed that the British had prior knowledge of the planned ambush supplied by a local informer.

Just over a month after the Upton Ambush, the Crossbarry Ambush took place on Saturday 19thMarch 1921. There were 104 volunteers drawn from different battalions of the Brigade with Tom Barry in command. Liam Deasy, who was to succeed Charlie Hurley as Brigade Commander was 2ndin command and also at the Command Post was Tadhg O’ Sullivan, Timoleague. The medical officer was Dr. Con Lucey, a Cork Hurler, and his assistant was Eugene Callanan (later a very eminent doctor in the Innishannon and Bandon area). Flor Begley marched up and down Harold’s yard playing rousing Irish war tunes and thus inspiring his colleague volunteers. Henceforth Flor was known as “The Piper of Crossbarry”.

The site of the ambush was a short distance west of Crossbarry and ran from Harold’s farmyard (later Moores), through Beazley’s and on a further 100 yards eastwards.

The volunteers were divided into 7 sections of 14 men each. 5 of these sections were behind the roadside fence with another section under Tom Kelleher, Crowhill about a half a mile to North in the vicinity of Ballyhandle Castle and the 7th section to the North West of Harold’s farmyard so they could engage with any enemy from the road from Bandon and also from the minor road to west. This section was commanded by Christy O Connell, Eyerees. The roadside sections were commanded by:

- Sean Hales, Knocknacurra- his brothers Bob and Bill also fought at Crossbarry. His brother Tom was interned at this time. Sean later became a TD but, sadly, was shot dead in Dublin on 7/12/1923. His friend and colleague Dick Barrett along with 3 others were executed as a reprisal on the following day (?) 8/12/1922.

- John Lordan, Newcestown was in charge of the next section.

- Mick Crowley, Kilbrittain commanded the 3rd section.

- Pete Kearney, Dunmanway commanded the next section which was slightly set back from the roadside fence.

- The final and most exposed section was led by Denis Lordan, Kilbrittain.

The first British troops arrived in lorries from Bandon- the Volunteers opened fire on the first 3 lorries killing about 10 and others who tried to flee through the fields to the south. Then a contingent of British soldiers arrived from Kinsale attacking Denis Lordan’s section which was supported by Pete Kearney’s section. There were a number of British casualties and also 3 volunteers were killed:

- Jerry O Leary, Corran, Leap.

- Con Daly, Carrig, Ballinascarthy.

- Peter Monaghan, Scotland.

In addition, Dan Corcoran, Newcestown and Jim Crowley, Killanetig were badly injured.

Next troops from Bandon tried to encircle the Volunteers from the south and the west but these were repelled by Christy O Connell’s section and finally troops from Cork and Ballincollig approached from the north east through Ballymurphy. Here Tom Kelleher’s section performed heroically to keep their troops at bay thus preventing encirclement of the volunteers and preserving a retirement route for the volunteers. The British suffered many casualties in this area. One volunteer, Jim Crowley, Killaneetig, Killbrittain was seriously injured in this engagement. Tom Barry gave the signal to retire on the long distance to O Sullivan’s, (Gurranareagh. The headquarters for the volunteers for the Crossbarry Ambush was at O Leary’s, Ballyhandle, now McCarthy’s & their descendants.

Though outnumbered, possibly 12 to 1, the volunteers inflicted a crushing defeat on the British at Crossbarry. However, sadly, even before the ambush started, the Volunteers heard shots from nearby Ballymurphy where the injured Brigade Commander Charlie Hurley was staying at Forde’s. Charlie had been shot dead as he valiantly tried to escape. Almost certainly Charlie Hurley’s whereabouts had been leaked to the British by the same local informer who gave information on the Upton ambush.

The defeat of Crossbarry was a major factor in influencing the British to seek a truce just over 3 months later.

The volunteers were fortunate to have the great support of Cumann na mBan- in this parish. There were branches in Crosspound and Kilpatrick. Cumann na mBan carried dispatches, prepared meals, did laundry, provided first aid and often carried arms and ammunition. The volunteers also enjoyed the great support of the vast majority of the community who provided “safe houses”. Many of those who played leading roles on the Valley Rovers and Knockavilla teams were those who distinguished themselves as Volunteers in the Innishannon, Crosspound to Kilpatrick companies.