Before the foundation of the G.A.A. in 1884 games of hurling and football were played on an irregular basis. There was a team from the Castlelyons area called the Barrymores, which used to take part in hurling tournaments and were captained by Gearoid Barrymore who was reputed to be the best hurler in Ireland and was able to strike the ball into the air, eat a potato and strike the ball again without letting it touch the ground. He is reported to have eaten 20 spuds without letting it touch the ground.
At the end of the last century, athletics were quite strong in all parishes, and among the events being featured at that time were high jumping, hurdles, and weight-throwing. Some noted exponents of these events in the locality were Dick Kent of Bawnard, who represented Cork in 1903-1904 in the inter-county competitions, William Buckley (Bronce), for high jumping and hurling and Maurice Buckley, Glenarousk, for high jumping.
Around this time, 1890, games were being organised on a regular basis and Castlelyons and Coolagown fielded teams in football tournaments held in Lisnager, Glenville, Ballyhooly, and Lisgoold.
An interesting cutting taken from a newspaper in 1888 reads as follows; "The G.A.A.- A preliminary meeting was held at Castlelyons on Sunday to form a branch of the G.A.A. The horn blowers of Coolagown, who were prosecuted for resisting the collection of the Leahy blood tax, and the following other prominent men attended; Messrs. James B.Mayne, David R Kent, Patrick Moynihan, Maurice Leary, John O'Keeffe and Denis Mahony, President Castlelyons Band, who occupied the chair. After a few remarks form those present it was arranged to hold a meeting at Castlelyons next Sunday at 2.00 p.m. to perfect all arrangement for the formation of the club".
Around the turn of the century Coolagown participated considerably in football tournaments, which were a major feature of the G.A.A. at that time. In April 1900 they played in Lismore against Ballyduff, the match being billed as an inter-county game; Coolagown (Cork) v Ballyduff (Waterford), Coolagown won 1-7 to 0-0. On Sunday March 31st. 1901 Coolagown and Skeheenarinky played at Glanworth in a game billed as Cork v Tipperary with Coolagown again winning 1-9 to 0-2.
In 1902 Coolagown entered the County Football Championships fielding 2 teams. First (senior), and seconds (junior), success however did not come their way.
Around this time also, a number of local players featured with the Cork team namely; Jim Daly, Bridesbridge, who captained the county team in 1895, J. Mawe, who played in 1898, George Smith, Ballyoran, who featured with Cork in 1899-1900, Peter Lenihan, Coolagown, and Jack Kent, Coolagown, both of whom were on the Cork team of 1905/06 defeated in the All-Ireland final by Dublin, while Jack Kent also featured on the Cork team of 1907 beaten once again by Dublin in the All-Ireland decider.
These players also featured with Fermoy senior football teams of this time and Jim Daly captained Fermoy in 1895 to win their first ever County senior title. George Smith was on the Fermoy team that won county finals in 1898-1900 while Lenihan and Kent were on the Fermoy team that won the Cork senior title when beating Rosscarbery 0-8 to 0-0. This was the 1906 final but it was not played until March of 1907.
After this period there appears to have been a lull in G.A.A. activities, with perhaps the Civil War and the 'troubles' playing their part in dividing the mentors into rival camps and therefore not being in the spirit of getting together to play G.A.A. games. However, we have mention of an Aghern/Castlelyons hurling team that played around 1920 and among those who participated were; Three Buckleys, William, Jack and Lar (Captain), Martin Riordan, Johnny Ring, Dick Quirke, Ned and Dan Cronin, Ml. Barrett, Paddy Mullins, Jackie Kent, Jackie Fitzgerald, Ned Twohill, Mick Moore, Tommy Barry, Tom Connors, Mick Hickey. Lar Buckley also played senior for Carrigtwohill around this time.
The next mention of Castlelyons comes in 1925 they had Jack Kent as their delegate to the East Cork Board and fielded in the junior hurling Championship but were defeated by Lisgoold 1-0 to 0-1 at Dungourney.
In 1928 the football club was formed and went under the name Bridevalley, and among their players at this were Jim Crowley, Chairman and Secretary, Seán O'Keeffe, Killawillian, Tommy O'Keeffe, Neddy O'Keeffe, Billy O'Keeffe (sub), Tommy Green, Bridesbridge, Mickey Green, Bridesbridge, (sub), Dick Verling and Johnny Kilty, Castlelyons, Paul Cashman, Francestown, Charley McCarthy, Coole, Johnny Maloney, Corrin, Mick McCarthy, (teacher), Coole, Batt Sullivan, Deerpark, Jimmy Sullivan, Bridesbridge, (goalie), Dick Scanlon, Ballyarra, Johnny McAuliffe, Ballyarra, Dan and Peter O'Brien, Bridesbridge, and these were joined by four from outside the area; Tricky Mahony, Kilworth, Mick Kearns, a Kerryman who worked at sinking pumps, Mick Brady, Dublin and John Hyland, Kildare.
Among the staunch supporters at this time were Paddy Arnold, Michael Ronayne, Dick Shinnick, Jimmy Fouhy, Tom and Denny Long and Tommie O'Connell. All practice was held in Shinnicks Rocks and transport was by Creamery lorry. A poem written at the time went as follows:
With Conn Flynn at the wheel,
Sure away we did steal,
From the lovely sweet banks of the Bride,
When the Whistle was sounded,
the ball it was grounded,
And quickly Bride Valley Boys Showed.
For O'Keeffe said, we'd win,
For he had faith in his men,
Proud Victory to the Banks of the Bride.
At this time football seemed to be all the go until a hurling club was founded in December 1936 and the members involved were John Spillane, Jimmy Broderick, Tom Connell, Billy Moynihan, and Jim Kenny. The hurling match was played in Bridesbridge against Bride Rovers in February 1937 and the team was; Mick Lynch, John Browne, Jimmy Kenny, Jimmy Murphy, Batt Sullivan, John Spillane, Matt Linihan, Tommy Keeffe, Billy Keeffe, William McAuliffe, Jimmy Broderick, Billy Moynihan, Billy Shea, Dan Beacher and Dave Beecher. Cactlelyons won this match but were later defeated by Carrigtwohill in the Championship.
Whilst Castlelyons teams were active during the period, success just did not come their way. In 1941 another interesting team appeared on the horizon. This was a team from Currabeha which went under the name of John Mitchels and their hurling team read as follows; Moss Murphy, John Barry, Sun Cotter, Batt Murphy, John Coughlan, E. Flynn, John Buckley, Jerry Cronin, M. O'Riordan, Paddy Carroll, Dan Hoare, Arthur Cronin, Paddy Cronin, Garrett Sheehan, Tom Carroll, Subs; William Cashman, Eddie Bucley, Jim Sheehan, Sun Caples, Jim Murphy. At this time also Coolagown figured prominently in camogie.
The first success came to the Castlelyons club in 1953 when Castlelyons won the East Cork B. Hurling Championship and the team was; Frank Murphy, Jerry Mackey, Dan Daly, Jim Kenny, Michael Sheehan, Dick White, Eddie Hurley, Tom Kent, Jim Lomasney, Jim Coughlan, Andy Scannell, Michael Riordan, Bertie Connors, Dan Shaughnessy, Tom Buckley.
Success was to come to the club again just two years later in 1955 when Castlelyons captured the East Cork A Grade hurling Championship beating neighbours St. Catherines on a 3-10 to 4-6 scoreline. The Castlelyons team read; James Murphy, Michael O'Riordan, Tom Joe O'Riordan, M. Flynn, M. O'Regan, T. Kent, Liam Cronin, P. Meade, B. O'Regan, F. J. Lomasney, P. O'Regan, J. Coughlan, Martin O'Riordan, D. Shaughnessy, T. Buckley, subs; J. Spillane, J. O'Brien, W. Gleeson, D. Twomey, M. Sheehan. This game was played at Midleton.
The sixties brought East Cork titles to the Club. The first of these was 1965 when Castlelyons defeated Sarsfields in the final played at Midleton on December 5th. The successful Castlelyons team, which won on the scoreline 6-8 to 2-3 was; D. O'Leary, F. Waters, T.J. O'Riordan, E. Meade, C. McCarthy, S. Randles, P. White, T. McNamara, P. Crowley, S. Flynn, T. McAuliffe, M. Hegarty, J. Barry, D. Hegarty, T. Murphy
1968 was the next year to see an East Cork title com to the Village when the Castlelyons football team won the Junior B Championship with a 1-3 to 1-1 victory over Youghal at Midleton. This game was played on December 8th and the Castlelyons team was; D. O'Brien, T. McAuliffe, T.J. O'Riordan, S. Randles, T. McAuliffe (Ballytrasna), D. McCarthy, J. Ronayne, M. Hegarty, F. Waters, K. Fitzgerald, J.J. Crowley, P. Crowley, P. O'Leary, T. Buckley, J. Barry (Capt.). It was the first football title for the club.
The seventies saw two adult East Cork Championships come the way of Castlelyons. The first of these was the B. Football Championship in 1974 when they overcame Cobh in the final at Riverstown on November 24th. Castlelyons won 0-10 to 0-2 and their team was; John Richards, Florence Waters, Mick McCarthy, Dermot McAuliffe, Dermot Kelly, Donal McCarthy, Michael Marray, Matt Hegarty, Rayond Murray, Sean Barry, Henry Hegarty, John Murphy, Liam Barry, J.J. Crowley, Pat Crowley.
Castlelyons minor footballers made history in 1983 when they captured their first ever East Cork minor B final when beating Glenville 3-7 to 3-5 at Rathcormac. Castlelyons lined out as follows; C. Casey, M. Buttimer, D. Buckner, K. Barry, D. Sheehan, P. O' Donoghue, D. Buttimer, S. O'Connell, T. Carroll, K. Barry, S. Gray, P. Shanahan, B. O'Regan, D. Walsh, M. Gray.
The eighties also saw two adult titles come to Castlelyons. In 1986 the B Hurling Championship was won when Castlelyons beat Cloyne 1-10 to 2-4 in the final at Carrigtwohill. Castlelyons also won the East Cork Hurling league that year again beating Cloyne in the final 4-6 to 1-5. The Castlelyons team in the Championship final was; John Barry, David Waters, Ger Sheedy, Tom Hegarty, Bertie Murphy, Mick Spillane, Tom Carroll, Henry Hegarty, Mick Flannery, Donal Sheehan, Nelius Murphy, Ned Kearney, Paddy Kearney, Paddy O'Leary, Ger O'Regan, John Murphy.
1989 was probably the most historic for the Castlelyons club for it saw the first ever County Championship come to the little village. The Cork county B football Championship was won in an epic encounter with Whitechurch at Watergrasshill with Castlelyons taking the title by the bare minimum 3-4 to 1-9. The Castlelyons team was; Adain Barry, Paul O'Sullivan, Anthony O'Regan, Ger O'Regan, Declan Spillane, William O'Riordan, Nelius Murphy, Mick Spillane, Donal Sheehan, Ger Barry, Ned Kearney, Joe Hartnett, Martin O'Riordan, Kieran McGann, Aidan Crowley.
The great advantage of modern technology is that this historic victory by Castlelyons can be re-lived over again because this final is available on video. In recent years a number of Castlelyons players represented their county at one level or another. The first of these was Tom Joe O'Riordan who played junior with the Cork hurlers of 1956. In 1969 Matt Hegarty won a National League medal with the Cork Senior hurlers. John Murphy won a Munster minor medal with the Cork minor hurling team but unfortunately were beaten in the All-Ireland final.
The most successful player from Castlelyons in the modern times must surely be Mick Spillane who won an All-Ireland junior football medal with Cork and a senior county medal with Imokilly.