Dear members and friends,

November 21st 1920 is a date etched in the proud and illustrious history of St Laurence O’Tooles GAA club.

On that fateful day 13 people went to Croke Park to watch a game of football between Dublin and Tipperary and never came home. Another, the corner back of Tipperary Michael Hogan was also fatally wounded on the field of play.

O’Tooles were the dominant football club in the city at the time and we had 12 players involved in the Dublin team on that fateful day.

It is the clubs ambition to commemorate this occasion with the respect it deserves at an appropriate time when the current health crisis abates.

We had planned a number of events which we have postponed and hope to revert to in due course.

In the meantime as a small gesture of respect we will lower the flags of the club to half mast on Sunday the 21st November.

Our social media platforms will also display an array of information on the tragic day over the next few weeks which we hope will assist and inform people in understanding the events of that tragic day.

The story …

On the morning of Sunday, November 21st 1920, with the permission of the Dáil Cabinet and under the leadership of Michael Collins, fourteen British secret service men, known as the Cairo Gang, were shot and killed by the Twelve Apostles in their homes and lodgings, some in front of their wives and girlfriends, in Dublin City.

The Twelve Apostles were Michael Collins secret assassins. They were founded on 19th September 1919 at 46 Parnell Square, with the aim of executing British spies in Ireland. The murdered British military spies were sent to the capital, under the guise as commercial travellers, to counter the activities of the Volunteers who were rapidly becoming the army of the Irish Republic. Collins had in one fell swoop, wiped out the British spy network in Ireland.

Of the 14 men killed that morning, six were intelligence agents, two were court martial officers, two were Auxiliaries and one was an RIC agent, another was a landlord, Hugh Montgomery was a staff officer while both Leonard Wilde and Patrick McCormack were civilians. The wife of Captain William Newbury, who witnessed his death, gave birth to a sleeping baby one week later.

Despite the unease in the city on the morning of November 21st, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 spectators travelled to Croke Park for the match. The ball was due to be thrown in at 2:45pm by referee Mick Salmon from Kildare but due to the swell of the crowds it was decided to delay the game until 3.15pm. After about ten minutes of play there was no score despite numerous Tipperary attacks.

Suddenly a plane flew over the grounds and omitted a red signal-flare. This flare was a signal to the armed forces outside the stadium that the match had gone ahead and that the invasion could commence. Immediately, armed forces of the Crown surrounded the ground and without warning opened fire, first with small arms, then from machine guns hastily set up on the ground just inside the main entrance.

The RIC from the Depot with fixed bayonets charged up the outside road, lorry loads of Black ‘n’ Tans, Auxiliaries and British Military all joined in, firing volley after volley on the inoffensive crowd. The crowd thought at first they were firing blanks but then machine gunfire was fired in increasing volume. The crowd stampeded towards the Railway wall, furthest from the gunfire.

The result of this atrocious attack on unarmed persons was the killing of fourteen and the wounding of sixty-three, some of whom died later due to their injuries. Most of the victims were from the country and included a number of women and children. One boy was bayoneted, two women shot dead. The casualties included Jeannie Boyle, who had gone to the match with her fiancée and was due to be married five days later, and 14-year-old John Scott, so mutilated that they thought he had been bayoneted to death. Another two victims were Jerome O’ Leary and William Robinson, aged 10 and 11 respectively. William succumbed to his injuries two days later. Tipperary footballer Jim Egan was also shot upon as he tried to escape.

Amongst those killed was Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan after whom the ‘Hogan Stand’ in Croke Park is named. His body was found, still in his football attire, lying in a pool of blood at the Clonliffe end, adjacent to Hill 16. A young Wexford man, Tom Ryan, who tried to whisper an act of contrition into his ear was also shot dead. Heroine of the day was Sligo girl Annie M. Burke, who risked her life by running across the field to place a coat over his remains. Father Patrick Crotty of Mullinahone, Co. Tipperary arrived on the scene and he administered the ‘Last Rites’ while Annie lay kneeling beside the corpse.

Hogan’s remains, accompanied by his team many of which had stayed with the Dublin players for a few days, arrived in Clonmel the following Wednesday. Thousands joined in the funeral procession to Grangemockler. The men who witnessed the frightful scene of his killing laid his coffin, draped with the Tricolour, to rest.

The Players …

Whilst all but 2 of the Tipperary team were drawn from the South Division the Dublin side was largely backboned by members of the famous O’Tooles club which supplied nine of the 15 players who took the field on Bloody Sunday.

Dublin O’Tooles Selection All Ireland Finalists 1920

THE McDonnells

Johnny McDonnell & Paddy McDonnell : These two brothers were among the most famous players of the Twenties and were outstanding leaders. Johnny had a marvellous record as a goalkeeper whilst Paddy was regarded as an inspirational captain.

Johnny was described as “that ageless goalie with the black felt hat’ and together with Paddy lost his place on the Dublin side in 1921 when O’Tooles were defeated in the championship. However, they were back to win All Irelands in 1922 and ’23 and figured on the losing side in 1 924 which proved to be Paddy’s last All-Ireland. Johnny, however, was still there in 1934 when Dublin lost to Galway in the final.

The McDonnell’s were honoured by the All-Ireland selectors for the Tailteann Games of 1 924 and 1 928 and they starred too for Leinster sharing in a three in a row record in 1 928, 29 and 30. Johnny was captain of the Leinster [earn that won the Railway Cup in 1 935 – truly a fantastic playing record. Paddy had won his first All-Ireland in 1914 when Dublin won the junior title.

The Careys

Paddy Carey & Jack Carey: The Carey’s were another famous Dublin family of the twenties and together with the McDonnells and the Synotts they formed the backbone of many successful Dublin teams. The Careys, then playing with the Emeralds Club, won All- Ireland Junior Medals in 1914 when Paddy captained the team. The Emerald club disbanded after 1916 and half of the team including the Careys and the Synnotts joined O’Tooles. It was reported that “the golden era of O’Tooles greatness was at hand – and Dublin’s glory would coincide with it”.

Having played on the winning team of 1921 Paddy Carey captained the Dublin team that defeated Galway in the 1922 All-Ireland Final and he won his third All-Ireland in 1923.

The Synnotts

Josie Synnott, John Synnott & Stephen Synnott: There were eight Synnott brothers, six of whom played with O’Tooles. Four wore the Dublin jersey and the three who played on Bloody Sunday – Josie, John and Stephen became household names

As youngsters they learned their football in an area known as “The Blocks” and together with the, McDonnells and the Careys they made tremendous sacrifices to play the games of their choice. They were hurled with stones and insults by the advocates of soccer until a band of Tipperary men formed the Brian Borus and joined the O’Tooles in training. The O’Tooles were not just a mere Gaelic team, they were a club and a school for everything Irish and National.

Stephen and Joseph Synnott won All-Ireland Junior medals in 191 4, John Synnott was a member of the team that won the Senior title in 1921 whilst John and Joseph teamed up in 1922 with Joseph, again member of the three in a row winning team of 1923. All three brothers had played on the team defeated by Tipperary in the 1920 final played in June 1922.

William Robbins

Another prominent player With the O’Tooles Club, William played at corner back on the Bloody Sunday team and also on the team defeated by Tipperary in the 1920 All-Ireland Final. He had compensation, however, in 1922 when he won his All-Ireland medal again playing corner back on the side which defeated Galway.

John (Jack) Reilly

This O’Tooles defender boasts a great record on the outstanding Dublin teams of the Twenties. He played on the team defeated by Tipperary in the 1920 Final and figures on the winning teams of 1921 and -1922. Though not on the side which won a three in a row in 1923, he was again to the fore in 1924 when he played on the team which failed to win a four in a row by going under to Kerry in the final.


Further information can be found below …