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Monaghan goalkeeper, Thomas Bradley from Ballybay saw action at the Somme and at Paaschendale in World War I.
Monaghan goalkeeper, Thomas Bradley from Ballybay saw action at the Somme and at Paaschendale in World War I.

WW1 and the GAA - Thomas Bradley


The 1930 All-Ireland Final was a dismal affair for Monaghan. Before a crowd of 33,280 in Croke Park, they lost to a superb Kerry side on a scoreline of 3-11 to 0-2. This was one of the 1929-32 four-in-a-row All Ireland titles for the Kingdom.

The Monaghan side that day had a link with the Great War.

Monaghan goalkeeper, Thomas Bradley from Ballybay saw action at the Somme and at Paaschendale in World War I. A native of East Belfast, where he was born in 1895, Bradley enlisted in the Royal Irish Fusiliers early in 1914. He rose to the rank of sergeant and qualified as an instructor of bayonet fighting and physical training. He was stationed back at Portobello Barracks in Dublin when he married Agnes Kavanagh of Denmark Street in West Belfast in May 1917. After the war, Bradley remained in the army reserve until his discharge in early 1920.

After the war, Bradley returned to Belfast until 1922 when sectarian rioting forced them to move to his mother’s native place in Ballybay, Co Monaghan. He worked on the outdoor staff of Monaghan County Council and became a Group Leader of the Local Defence Forces in Ballybay at the start of World War II, before moving back to Belfast in 1941.

After he arrived in Ballybay he started to play for the local Pearse Brothers GAA club. He became the goalkeeper on the Monaghan county team from 1925. He won three Ulster Senior Football Championship medals in 1927, 1929 and 1930. In the 1927 Ulster semi-final he saved a late penalty-kick by Cavan’s Jim Smith, which allowed Monaghan to survive the day. Thomas Bradley also played for Ulster provincial teams from 1928 until 1931. He continued to play for Ballybay until the late 1930s and was also a referee until he and his family returned to Belfast in 1941. He died in east Belfast in June 1976.

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