Old Hard Road
Ardee to Aughnacloy ... how the scene has changed in 50
years. Written by Seamus McCluskey.
The returned Bostonian was making his return journey northwards
by Expressway, from Dublin back to his native Co Monaghan.
He had taken a front seat in the bus so that he might be
able to put chat on the driver, hopefully not disturbing
him in his serious task of negotiating the two hour journey.
A native of Ballybay, he would be going all the way to Aughnacloy
as his daughter had married a South Tyrone man and he wanted
so much to meet his grandchildren for the first time. It
was 2002 and he had not visited his home-patch
for fifty years.
As he left Ardee he noticed a new sculpture to the left
of the roadway and the bus driver informed him that it was
a recent monument to the Fallen Warrior in memory
of Ferdia, who had been killed there by Cuchullain many
centuries previously and who had given his name to the town,
Ath Fhirdia (Ardee). A rather ugly looking
monument he thought to himself but then I was
never one for that arty-farty stuff. A round-about,
and then a second round-about - these certainly werent
there in 1952.
From Ardee to the Monaghan border ... it was almost a straight
line, with wide road and plenty of room to overtake, and
the bus driver was certainly making good time. In 1952 it
was one of the worst roads in Ireland - twisted and narrow
all the way. The Monaghan County Council, he hoped, would
have done a good a job when he crossed the border into his
native county as the Louth County Council had obviously
done to the N2 north of Ardee. He would be disappointed,
but not all the time.
At Acclinct Bridge he crossed the border into Monaghan and
a thrill went right through his bones. Over to the left
was a factory called Lissadell that manufactured towels
- an encouraging start, he mused, and then a roadside sign
which said Welcome to Killanny. He knew he was
home. But the road suddenly deteriorated and from there
to Carrickmacross it was one long series of twists and turns
that must have been a nightmare for the driver, but then
he did this trip every day so he would have been used to
Nearing Carrickmacross he looked over to the right and saw
new buildings nestling among pleasant wood plantations and
a lovely looking golf-course. The big sign said Nurewood
Hotel. He had heard many reports of that one and had
been told that it was one of the finest hotels in all Ireland.
The Irish soccer team, he had also been told, usually spent
a week of relaxation there before an important international
fixture abroad. He would certainly visit it some day soon
and taste its hospitality.
Carrickmacross and the Capital of Farney. Many
a match he had played there against the Emmets in days gone
by, but he wouldnt look much of a specimen now if
he tried to tog out at seventy-four years of age. The St.
Louis Convent on the right, he couldnt remember if
that had been there before he left, but the small stone-cut
building opposite, bearing the title Gael Scoil,
and that certainly wasnt there in 1952. Gael-Scoil,
the driver told him, was where the pupils were taught everything
through the medium of Irish, and Gaeilge was the daily language
of the children. What a lovely idea, he thought, and what
a wonderful way to help restore the native tongue. He hoped
it was something that was widespread throughout Ireland.
The driver told him that there were at least four Gael-Scoileanna
in Co Monaghan.
What a mess of traffic there was in Carrickmacross. God
be with the days when you could ride a bicycle up that main
street, but now there were more direction signs, traffic
lights, white lines and parking lots that he doubted if
a bicycle could even get half-way up the same street. Yet,
it was a far cry from the major traffic problems of Boston,
and for that, he could assure the home folk
that they should be truly grateful.
Exiting Carrickmacross he saw Emmet Park down to his left
off the Ballybay Road. That wasnt where he had played
as a Ballybay minor in 1945 when he won a Minor Co Championship
medal with the mid-Monaghan club. That same medal had been
his most treasured possession down through the years and
he carried it with him everywhere he went. It was even now
in his inside pocket and he turned it over gently, recalling
those glory days. What a pity that he had to emigrate seven
years later, when he was just 25 years of age, and would
miss Ballybays great championship wins in 1953 and
1954. Clontibret was the Big Name in senior
football when he left and they had just won the third of
their famous four in a row of Senior County Championships
- the first time ever in Co Monaghan history.
The road to Castleblayney was brilliant ... straight and
wide, and he was sorry that he had been so uncomplimentary
to Monaghan Co. Council for the Acclinct to Carrick piece.
Entering Castleblayney, he saw the new Castleblayney Faughs
grounds to the right. They looked magnificent and he would
love to have played there rather than on the old ground
out the Dundalk Road. Castleblayney, he thought, looked
real business like ... large-fronted shops and obviously
plenty of money about the place. And then a fine looking
hotel called The Glencarn as he headed towards
Monaghan. The road to the left swung towards his native
Ballybay and he would get there some time during this vacation,
but not on this first journey northwards on the Letterkenny
More twists and bends as far as Annyalla, and then straight
ahead on a really fine piece of roadway. Passing through
Clontibret he saw the old field over to the right, beside
the parochial house. It was now no longer a football pitch
but he had played both in minor and senior grades there
before he left in 1952, but Clontibret had been a hard nut
to crack, and men like Big John Murray, John Rice, Joe Smith
and the rest of them were footballers apart. What a pity
Monaghan could not have had more like them and an All-Ireland
or two must surely have come our way. Opposite the church
was the sign-post pointing to Clontibret ONeills
GAA Park. He had heard a lot about it and he might
get to a game there before returning to the USA.
Another stretch of lovely roadway into Monaghan town. Over
there to the right was the old Gavan Duffy Park where he
had played in a Brennan Cup game against Emyvale - he couldnt
remember who won but there was a right ould shemozzle after
it and the county chairman, Big Jim Cahill, had suspended
four of them ... two from each side ... for two months apiece.
Wouldnt he just love to meet the McKenna fella he
had the dust-up with and they could enjoy a pint together
and recall the old days when football was football.
Monaghan town was a different place entirely. New shopping
centres where Pattons Timber Yard used to be, a new
road over towards Convent, traffic lights, one-way signs,
etc., etc. Theyre catching up on America,
he mused. Into the Bus Station and a rest for ten minutes
or so. This used to be the GNR Railway Station and it was
here that he had taken the train to Belfast on the first
leg of his emigrant journey exactly fifty years ago. The
smell of steam and smoke even returned to his nostrils as
he could see the train from Clones pulling in at the far
platform which now doesnt even exist. Theres
a Furniture Factory over there now and smells of a different
The Bus Inspector puts chat on him and he learns that his
name is Paddy Gollogly, that he had a son playing for the
Monaghan Under-21s and that he is a very much involved with
the Corduff club that took Junior Championship honours this
year. A man after my own heart, he thought.
Snack and chat over, he re-boards the bus on the last leg
of his journey. The road to Emyvale is still twisted, but
much wider. Just before he crossed the bridge into Emyvale
he could see the old pitch over to the right ... referee
Jack Rock Treanor from the Monaghan Harps club
had once lined both himself and an Emyvale fella,
also called Treanor, for a bit of an argument they had had
in a game there, but they became great friends afterwards.
Treanor had also emigrated to America about the same time
as himself but he had lost contact.
Emyvale had a new pitch out the Glaslough Road, the driver
told him. Wasnt it wonderful to see all these club
teams with new pitches ... before he had left there were
very few grounds owned by the clubs, while Ballybay and
Clones were the only two county grounds in the
county. Ballybays Pearse Park had opened in April
1951 ... just eleven months before he had emigrated. Further
down the road was the Truagh Gaels St Mellans Park,
yet another excellent show-piece for a Co. Monaghan rural
club. Truagh Gaels werent even in existence when he
had left. From there it was yet another straight run down
the N2, across a brand new bridge at Moybridge; not a customs-man
to be seen anywhere, and then into Aughnacloy where his
daughter would await him.
A delightful trip the full length of his native Co Monaghan
from Acclinct Bridge to Moybridge. How that great little
county had changed, but changed for the better and Well
Done to them all for so doing.
Taken from Monaghan's Match