In the 1880’s the Manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, John Caul, and Bill Duffy a local farmer and prominent figure in the Racing World at that time, were founding members of the Ratoath Hurling Club. Duffy utilised his racing colours, (which were green with a yellow, over the shoulder sash), as the first strip used by the club. This was not unusual as many teams, in this era, played in local racing colours. It’s in this strip that Ratoath Hurlers took to the field for the first time.
In 1912 Ratoath won the Senior Hurling League title, the first recorded honour for the Club, and a Junior Hurling Championship followed in 1929 at the expense of Kildalkey.
St. Patrick’s, known locally as St Pats, was a team formed in the late 1940’s by Ratoath Club Players (who were then a Junior Club) with players from other Clubs such as Kiltale, Batterstown, Drumree, Skryne and some Priests from Warrenstown College. There were only about three Senior Clubs in the Meath at this time. These amalgamations were allowed to accommodate the best Junior Players at Senior Level, and to promote a higher standard of Senior competition. (The County Hurling Board was only formed in 1946). During these years Ratoath paired up with players as St. Pats, Ratoath men won S.H.C. honours in 1953 and ’54, beating Trim on both occasions. The O’Growney Cup was won in 1955 and ‘56.
The Club colours changed sometime during the early twenties and Ratoath began to wear a blue jersey, which had a laced neck front and white collar. It is believed that the Club retained these colours up to the early fifties.
Paddy Woods recalls that a group of Clubmen, who had attended an all Ireland Final involving Tipperary in possibly 1949, were very impressed with the smashing jerseys that Tipperary had worn on the day. It is hardly surprising then that within a few years, Ratoath were wearing the famous Tipp blue and gold, the club colours to this day.
In the early years the foundling club used lands at Fairyhouse racecourse, no doubt helped by John Caul’s connections. Shortly afterwards they had the use of Bill Duffy’s and later Harry Everard’s lands on the Curragha Road, from the mid 1910’s up to the ‘1960’s as playing pitches. This land, known as ‘the hurley field’ was the Santry stadium of Ratoath for nearly fifty years. All events of any consequence were held on this land. But this was also a working farm and the field was not always available
In 1960, Ratoath contested it’s first Senior Hurling Championship Final, beaten by Trim on the day. Ratoath returned to the Final again in 1963 and faced Dunboyne in a very exciting final. This was a huge day for both villages. Dunboyne were considered favourites on this occasion, and it had been many a year since they had reached this stage in this competition. Likewise for Ratoath, this was a great day, and the pride of the parish was at stake. Down by 11 or more points during the second half, Ratoath battled on to emerge victorious by a score of 9-3 to 6-11 (30pts to 29). Sadly, neither Club has won a S.H.C. since. The score in itself is probably a record, which may stand for quite some time.
Ratoath appeared in three other Senior Hurling Championships, losing to the 1996 Champions Athboy in 1967, winning again in 1968, and losing the 1969 decider to Kilmessin. Ratoath also won the Junior Hurling League in 1968, beating Killyon 4-4 to 0-4. In September of 1981, Ratoath contested the Intermediate Hurling Championship against Kilskyre. They had beaten Athboy, Kilskyre, Gael Colmcilles and Longwood to reach the final.
In 1983, a youthful Ratoath team met Dunshaughlin in the I.H.C Final, in Trim. Dunshaughlin were the favourites, led by Capt. Ollie O’Neill. (Yes, the same Ollie that busses and referees many of our Juveniles today). Ratoath were beaten 1-5 to 0-6pts. In 1988 Ratoath beat Killyon in Navan in the semi –final of the J.H.C., and beat Kilmessan in the Final An injury time point, from Paul Kirwan, won a J.H.C., in 1999 against Dunboyne.
Up until 1956, Ratoath were exclusively a Hurling Club and Players interested in Football, generally played with neighbouring Clubs like Curragha, Kilbride and Skryne. In 1956, a group comprising of Paddy Everard, Paddy Dolan ( Secretary ), Christy smith and Andy Eiffe, formed a Football section with the Club, and Ratoath made an immediate impact in the 1956 Junior Championship. The local newspapers carried the headline, “Ratoath will meet Nobber in Junior Final. ” But it was pre-mature and never actually happened. The Meath J.F.C. ‘A’ was eventually won in 1961, and as was the case in those years, the winners went on to play the J.F.C. ‘B’ winners, who happened to be Walterstown
In 1970 Ratoath went on to beat Cortown (2-8 to 0-6) in the J.F.C. ‘A’ final in Navan, and then met Navan O’Mahoneys the ‘B’ winners. Ratoath beat them in Trim and pulled off the double Championships and trophies were becoming scarce, and the next significant trophy was a M.F.C. won in 1977, beating Kells 2-8 to 0-7. In ‘79 we met Moynalty in the semi final, drew the match, and beat them in the replay 1-12 to 0-5. Sean Eiffe scored 1-5 in this game. We eventually met Navan De La Salles (O’Mahoneys) in the final and won this Minor trophy again (1-8 to 2-4). On both occasions Ratoath were amalgamated with Donaghmore.
In 1980, having beaten Skryne in the esemi-final, Ratoath lost the J.F.L. Final following a replay to Moynalvy. The game was played in Dunshaughlin with a few points separating the sides. Ratoath were associated with St Martins at Minor football level from about 1982/83, and this amalgamation lasted some ten years. This amalgamation won the M.F.C in ’87. Navan De Le Salle were beaten in the quarter final, St Cutberts in the semi (1-14 to 2-5) and Slane in the final, 0-5 to 0-4. Eight of the nine points were scored from frees.
In 1992 Ratoath contested the JuniorA Football Championship Final against Gael Colmcille. We beat Enfield in the quarterfinal (1-12 to 1-9), beat St. Vincents in the semi (2-4 to 0-9), and unluckily the final was lost 2-9 to 2-6. Terry Rooney was man of the match on final day. We beat St. Brigit’s in the Div. 4 J.F.L final also in 1992 (1-9 to 0-10). In 1997 Ratoath beat Clonard in the Under 21‘A’ Football League, score 1-10 to 0-10. Ratoath returned to the Junior A Championship Football Final in 2003, having won all of their Group Games along the way. Their opponents on the day, Wolfe Tones, were also unbeaten going into the Final, and an exciting decider was eagerly anticipated by football followers across the county. However, Wolfe Tone’s recent experience of finals gave them a sharper edge, while Ratoath’s younger team found if difficult to settle in the tense atmosphere. Ratoath also qualified for the Junior C Football Final and the Div 4 Reserve League Final in 2003. The Championship decider was played in Dunsany and, after a promising opening period of dominance, Ratoath were eventually beaten by Moynalvey.
Ratoath returned to the Junior Championship Final in 2004 and faced a Dunsany team that had beaten them convincingly in the opening group game two months previously. However, it was Ratoath who used the intervening period more productively as their skill and fitness levels overwhelmed Dunsany in what turned out to be a comfortable win for Ratoath. Leonard Brown was Man of the Match for Ratoath and Captain Paul Kirwin was presented with the Matthew Ginnity Cup. The Team arrived back to the newly opened Brownstown Clubhouse on the back of an opentop truck to a rapturous welcome from the huge mass of assembled supporters. A huge bonfire burned in the background as the celebrations went well into the early hours. This would have been a fitting end to the season, but there was more drama yet to come.
Ratoath represented Meath in the Leinster Junior Championship and preparations began immediately. A round-robin series against the Louth and Longford Champions was negotiated with relative ease and Ratoath went through to the Leinster semi-final against the Carlow Champions, Castledermot. This game, played at Athy, proved to be a very close and keenly contested match with Ratoath emerging victorious by the slimmest of margins. Ratoath were now through to the Leinster final and would face the Offaly Champions Kilclonfert.
Ratoath’s agreement to play the semi-final in Athy was rewarded with home venue for the Final. Kilclonfert travelled in numbers and a number of friendly Juvenile matches were played that morning to add to the occasion. Shortly after the Ratoath goal, the Referee blew the final whistle, sparking a wave of celebrations around Sean Eiffe Park, as Ratoath Captain, Paul Kirwin was presented with the Leinster Junior Cup by Nicky Brennan, President of Leinster Council. This was the fourth trophy that Paul has accepted in 2004, and Ratoathwere now through to the All Ireland Junior Football Series, with Stewardstown of Tyrone their next opponents on Feb 20th 2005, at Breffni Park, Cavan. Sadly, the 2004 epic journey ended in Breffni Park where the Tyrone Champions, Stewardstown Harps, proved too strong on the day. Ratoath could now look forward to a short rest and then re-group for their pending Meath Intermediate Championship campaign.