As in every other parish and townland the length and breadth of Ireland St. Johns Parish has been synonymous with hurling ‘lore long before the foundation of the GAA. Tales of great rivalries been played out over the hills of Dunmore and Johnswell had been frequently recorded. Not long after the birth of official GAA in 1884 the parish’s first GAA club was established – St. Johns ‘John O’Leary’ Hurling Club in 1887. It was the first of a few variations of GAA clubs established in the parish that competed in both Kilkenny GAA Football and Hurling Championships with varying degrees of success. However it wasn’t until 1969 that a group of locals got together spearheaded by St. Johns Parish curate at the time, Fr. Tom Murphy, and formed the club as we know it today. O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club took its name from a local family who were benefactors of the club. Fr. Murphy enjoyed success himself at inter-county level winning all-Irelands with Kilkenny in 1963 and 1969 and was the driving force behind the clubs formation recognising the importance of uniting the forces within the parish of St. Johns in becoming one strong entity.
From that point O’Loughlin Gaels GAA quickly began to make an impact on the Kilkenny GAA scene winning its first major County Title in 1972 by capturing the Minor Hurling Championship beating The Rower Insitioge. A member of that winning team, Kevin Robinson became the first O’Loughlin Gaels player to captain an All-Ireland winning side when he captained the Kilkenny Minor team when they triumphed over Galway in the All-Ireland Minor Championship of 1973.
The following years has seen the club rise to prominence as one of the most dominant forces in Kilkenny GAA and respected nationwide:
1974 - County Junior Football Champions
1975 - County Junior Hurling Champions
1976 – u21 Hurling & Football Champions
1978 – Intermediate Hurling Champions and Minor Football & Hurling Champions.
Within nine years of the club’s foundation O’Loughlin Gaels GAA had achieved Senior Status and most noteworthy achieved varying degrees of underage successes building a solid and sustainable future for the club. During this period the Club also developed the facilities at Hebron Road for it to become the envy of GAA Clubs and set standards for GAA facilities nationwide.
1980 saw the club achieve its 3rd Minor Hurling County Championship in 8 years and another O’Loughlin Gaels player the honour of captaining and an All-Ireland winning Kilkenny team in 1981 – Eddie Kennedy. 1981 was also the year that O’Loughlin Gaels won the u21 Hurling Championship. In recognition of its sterling administrative work over the years and the clubs growth as sporting organisation the club received the prestigious ‘AIB Club of the Year’ award received by Club Chairman at the time Luke Roche.
The following decade saw poor return with the senior ranks slipping to junior by the time 1994 came around. It was the year however that the Minor Hurling Championship was regained. O’Loughlin Gaels put the heads up and came back fighting and in 1995 achieved Intermediate status again be winning the County Hurling Junior Championship. In 1995 the club won its first ever u14A Hurling Championship and the following year, 1996, the Intermediate title was won and O’Loughlin Gaels GAA announced its return to the senior ranks. The following years brought further success to the St. Johns Park club;
1998 – Minor A Football Championship
1999 – minor A Hurling League, Junior B Hurling Championship
In 2001 O’Loughlin Gaels won the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship for the first time beating Graigue-Ballycallan on a scoreline of 1-17 to 1-6 allowing a club player captain a Senior All-Ireland winning side for the first time in 2002 and Andy Comerford became the first O’Loughlin Gaels player to climb the famous Hogan Stand steps and collect the Liam McCarthy cup. The club didn’t have to wait too long for its second County Championship as in 2003 O’Loughlin Gaels were county Champions again when a Martin Comerford inspired side overcame a DJ Carey led Young Irelands of Gowran in a replay 2-12 to 2-10. ( The first game ending O’Loughlin Gaels 3-9 to Young Irelands 2-12). This was also the year that O’Loughlin Gaels achieved its first Leinster Club Hurling Title by beating a very fancied Birr side of Co. Offaly.
O’Loughlin Gaels third Senior Hurling County Championship came in 2010 overcoming a star studded Carrickshock in emphatic fashion. The went on to win another Leinster Club Title with a win over Oulart the Ballagh of Co. Wexford but fell short in their first ever appearance at an All-Ireland Club Final when Clarrinbridge GAA of Galway took the spoils. As County Champions however the club had the honour of selecting the Kilkenny Captain for the following years Intercounty Championship and in 2011 the clubs most decorated player Brian Hogan proudly received the Liam McCarthy cup on behalf of then All-Ireland Champions. 2011 saw the clubs first All-Ireland success with the u14 team winning the Feile na nGael hurling title for the very first time. A great side these lads also had success in the same year in their division of Feile Peil in the same month. The club’s 4th County Title would come in 2016 when a Brian Hogan led side overcame Henry Shefflin’’s Ballyhale Shamrocks
In recent years the club has had unprecedented success at Juvenile Level. County football and hurling titles have regular and are testament to the extensive work and standards set at O’Loughlin Gaels GAA. In 2014 the club achieved Roinn A County Hurling Championship Titles at u14, u16 and Minor and currently hold these titles and all three corresponding Football titles. In this year also the Club won its very first County Seniour Hurling League and Junior B Hurling County Champions has been thrown in for good measure. The Minor win in 2014 allowed minor player , Daniel ‘Doc’ O’Connor climb the steps of the Hogan Stand as Kilkenny Minor Captain in2015 to receive the Inter County Minor Hurling Championship on behalf of Kilkenny. The juvenile success continue each year and the Clubs Roll of Honour makes for healthy reading
O’Loughlin Gaels GAA has over them last half century built itself up to one of the most respected GAA clubs in the country. Its level of success on the field is renowned and holds the status of been one of the top clubs in Kilkenny GAA. In 2019 the club will celebrate 50 years since its foundation and what a journey it’s been since Fr. Tommy Murphy gathered a small group to establish O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club
(Originally written by Eamon Doyle - edited for updates)