Hurling in Arklow dates back many years. Arklow and Ballymoney had won Wicklow titles in 1910 and 1917-19. In the summer of 1953, then Willie Kavanagh, a farmer’s son from Wexford and well used to hurling was impressed with the Arklow Rock boys and together with Colin Byrne, John Dunne, Mick Mellon, Willie Clancy and John Byrne formed the first committee of the Arklow Rocks. The name was easy, the Rock was closeby and near that was the Parnell quarries. Since then, they have become poularly known as “the Rocks”. They originally trained in a field by the Rock, but later when land was made available, moved to Lamberton.

In 1965 the junior hurlers won the South league and then went on to face Kilcoole in the final, after a rough first half, they improved their play in the second half and beat Kincoole to win the junior hurler final. The 1970s provided some of the Rocks best performances. In 1970, the team made it to the Senior Hurling Championship against Avondale and beat them in the end 4-4 to 1-4. In 1971, they beat Carnew in the Senior Hurling Championship. In 1972, they beat Glenealy in the semifinal, but the other semifinalists were disqualified, so they won the championship by default. In 1973, the Rocks won the Kavanagh Cup in football, showing how well-rounded the club had become in GAA. In 1975, the won the Lacey Furlong Cup, but were beaten in the Senior Hurling Championship final by Glenealy, but in 1977, they avenged their loss by beating Glenealy to win the Senior Hurling Championship.

In 1978, the club won the minor hurling championship and in 1980, almost the same team won the under 21 title. They won the county sevens title in 1981 and then in 1982 recorded the best performance of their twenty year history. In 1982, the Rocks won the senior hurling championship, junior hurling championship, Kavanagh cup in football, the county sevens in hurling and the under 12 juvenile title. This was also the year that the team opened the new pitch at it’s current location behind the cemetery. Since then, the team has gone on to record another senior hurling championship in 1985, junior hurling championship in 1987, minor hurling championship in 1993 and a Junior “B” hurling championship in 2002.


An interesting review of the history of Arklow Rocks was published by Brendan Lawrence in the Bray People Sat 11th April 2020. The details of the article is below and can also be found in the independent Arhives. https://www.independent.ie/regionals/wicklow/sport/when-the-rocks-ruled-the-roost/39116161.html

Arklow Rocks players, mentors and supporters in Aughrim after the SHC final of 1970 where they defeated Avondale

Rarely does a club soar to such heights in such a short space of time as the Rocks managed to do but it would appear when looking in from the outside that hard work, courage, an inspirational leader and an abundance of skill are all necessary ingredients when planning to rise to the top of the hurling world in Wicklow.

Almost half a century has passed since Hacketstown’s Mick O’Brien accepted the cup in Aughrim after leading the Rocks to victory over the fancied Avondale side in the 1970 senior county final before a large crowd in the county grounds.

For a club that was started around 1953 following a moment of inspiration on a beautiful July day as a man by the name of Willie Kavanagh looked on over a ditch at some young Arklow lads playing hurling to claim the senior title having only won a junior crown in 1965 is a significant achievement.

Mick O’Brien, who sadly passed away, is a key figure in this story. A renowned hurler for Carlow around this time, he came to Arklow when himself and his brother-in-law set up a business. If Arklow Rocks, who had won the Wicklow junior hurling crown in 1965, were a powder keg waiting to explode onto the hurling world, then O’Brien was the spark to light the fuse.

‘No doubt about it,’ was how former Rocks and Wicklow player John Kelly put it when it’s suggested that Mick O’Brien was a massive figure in the rapid development of the Rocks.

‘He came to Arklow when him and the brother-in-law started up Arklow Homes – they were a kind of a prefab house – and that was how he started in Arklow.

‘He hurled for Carlow. I think he was still doing a bit of hurling for Carlow while he was with the Rocks. But then he threw his lot in with Wicklow and he was a big asset to the county when he came on board.

‘He was a gentleman, never drank or smoked or any of that craic. He was a brilliant hurler, outstanding. Mick was a great clubman,’ added John Kelly who played half-back on the team in 1970.

‘We won the junior (1965) and there was no intermediate that time, you went straight to senior and the only team we could beat at that time was St Kevin’s of Bray. That’s the only team I can remember us beating for a while. We got the breakthrough when we beat Avondale one time and we went on from that when Mick (O’Brien) arrived on the scene.

‘We were only young people at the time. We didn’t know what it was like to win a county final to us. It was only like winning a match to us. I know we drank for a week after it but it was different. It’s different now.

‘I don’t remember a great deal (about the final) but I do know there was a massive crowd at it. We filled three of Keogh’s big buses going up to it as well as people on their own. That time there were very little cars but there was a good crowd at it,’ said John who won Leinster and All-Ireland junior medals with Wicklow as well as acheiving national league success with the county over a rich and rewarding playing career.

As well as Mick O’Brien complimenting a strong and capable outfit in Arklow Rocks, their clash with Buffers Alley several months after their breakthrough in the Leinster club championship in Gorey and their subsequent relationship with the Model County in terms of invitations to tournaments and the chance to develop their game as a result was another aspect of their improvement that should be noted.

‘We went on and played the Leinster club championship (after beating Avondale), I think that was the first year of that competition, and we played Buffers Alley in Gorey and they only beat us by four points. And the Alley had a fair team at that time. Tony Doran, Fr. Martin Casey and all those lads were on that team. That was a good team. All the Dorans, the Butlers. I was playing corner-back that day. We had one lad who was sick that time and couldn’t make it. Our county final was in November of 1970 so it was into 1971 by the time we played that game in Gorey.

‘And it was kind of the makings of us in a way. We got well known down in Wexford and we started to get invited down to tournaments and we played a good bit of hurling down in Wexford,’ said John Kelly.

Memories of the games from that era are scarce for John. He is a soldier from a different era where nobody carried phones or inhabited the world of social media and he says that he or many of his colleagues wouldn’t have known many of their individual opponents except those who were well known. How games unfolded must also remain a mystery as the 50 years that have passed since have not been kind to the highlights reel in John’s mind.

But possibly more important is the sense of achievement that John has no problem in recalling. How that breakthrough felt, albeit probably not appreciated to the fullest at the time by young men brimming with gusto and zeal, but relished in later years when hurls have been left aside and bones creak and ache with thoughts of battles past.

The Rocks followed up their breakthrough win with a second title in 1971, beating Carnew Emmets in the decider by 2-8 to 1-9 in a game that was very important according to John Kelly.

‘Everyone said at the time you didn’t win a county final unless you beat Carnew. That was the talk around at the time,’ said John.

The 1972 title was awarded to the Rocks after the other semi-finalists were officially disqualified. They would lose to Glenealy in 1975 and beat the same opposition in 1977 before losing three finals in a four-year period to Carnew Emmets and then slaying the Wexford border side in the 1982 decider by 2-10 to 0-6. A short break then until 1985 when the Arklow men would beat Kilcoole to claim their last senior county title to date.

Sadly, five of the 1970 team are no longer with us. Willie Thompson, Paddy Reilly, Mick O’Brien, Joey McDonald and John Byrne have passed to their eternal reward in the years that have followed.

It was a rich explosion of success and quality from that breakthrough in 1970 until that last glorious win in 1985 and it is a voyage captured very well in that bible of Wicklow GAA, The Leathers Echo:

It was the summer of 1953 and the place was a field near Arklow Rock school. A number of young boys were playing hurling and Willie Kavanagh of Kilmurray was having a look across the ditch. Some of the young lads would have a hurling tradition. Hurling was played around Arklow in the early years of the present century and teams from Arklow and Ballymoney had won Wicklow titles in 1910, 1917/18/19. Willie Kavanagh, a farmer’s son from Wexford, had plenty of experience of hurling, and he was very impressed with what he saw, and decided there and then, to investigate the possibility of organising a hurling club in the area.

The Arklow Rock boys were like all other boys – all they wanted was someone to say the word. Willie agreed to act as the Secretary and later with Colin Byrne, John Dunne, Mick Mellon, Willie Clancy and John Byrne the Arklow Rock Parnell club was officially launched.

The main problem at that point was money, but the local response was good, and in a very short time ‘The Rocks’ as they are popularly known had a new set of green and white jerseys which cost seven shillings and six pence each at Cleary’s in Dublin.

Their name was no problem – the Rock wasn’t far away and the ‘Parnell’ quarries was right beside them. At first, they trained in a field at Arklow rock but later they moved to Lamberton.

The Rocks played their first games against Ballymoney in hurling and Annacurra in football. Right from the word go the club decided there would be no walkovers, and so it remained all through the fifties. The Rocks lost seven players through emigration in 1959 and they had to withdraw from all competitions. They came back again in 1960, and hoped there would be no more withdrawals.

They also heard the good news that Mrs. McCarthy, Ballynattin, was making a field available.

By 1964 they had junior hurling and junior football teams and they did quite well that year. In 1965 the junior hurlers won the South League and then went on to win the junior hurling championship. The final was at Ashford and the opposition was provided by Kilcoole.

They started badly in the first half but finished on a high note and won rather comfortably.

The Rocks had arrived!

The 1965 team was as follows – Jim Byrne, Willie Thompson, Mick Farrell, John Byrne, Matt Curran, John Gilbert, John Kelly, Aidan Finn, Seamus Barnes, George Barnes, Hugh Farrell, Paddy O’Reilly, Andy and Colin Byrne, Joe McDonald.

In 1967 the under 16 team won the O’Keefe Cup and in 1968 Mick O’Brien, a former Carlow hurler, arrived in Arklow and joined the club.

O’Brien played a major role in the emergence of the great Arklow Rock senior side. The big breakthrough came in 1970 when Arklow Rocks got through to the Wicklow senior hurling final. The opposition was provided by Avondale, for long a powerhouse in Wicklow hurling, but the Rockswere not without hope.

It turned out easier than thought – Rocks won 4-4 to 1-4 and enthusiasm knew no bounds.

Listen to Willie Kavanagh who was Secretary of the club for 16 years – ‘I remember it well and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I was standing on the far sideline in Aughrim when Eamonn Downey blew the final whistle. It didn’t sink in for a while. It was marvelous to think that the club had won a senior hurling championship, just 17 years after that July evening in Arklow rock when we first thought about forming a team. We forgot all the near misses, all the disappointments and all the frustrations.

‘That night the team got a great welcome in Arklow when they arrived home with the cup and by then the great achievement was beginning to sink in. It was great to bring the cup back to Arklow where the Rocks were always respected and supported. Every time we looked for help the Arklow people responded and we were glad that they could now share in a great win’.

The local bards were in business straight away with a new piece –

The Rising of the Rocks:

Oh tell me Mick O’Farrell, tell me why you hurry so,

Are you coming down to Arklow where the porter soon will flow,

Mick O’Brien has got the cup, Balfe will fill it quick and soon

And the boys will be merry by the rising of the moon.

The team who made history in 1970 comprised as follows – Jim Byrne, Willie Thompson, Mick Farrell, Tony Reilly, John Kelly, Bill Reilly, Matt Curran, Mick O’Brien, Paddy Reilly, Andy Byrne, Mick Canavan, Joey McDonald, Kieran Mellon, Tom Scott, Tommy McCarthy. Sub: Peadar Keogh.

They were only headed once in that game and really never looked back after Andy Byrne had cracked in an early goal.

It was the start of a golden era for they went on to win three titles in a row. In 1971 they proved they were a really good side when they beat a powerful Carnew side 2-8 to 1-9 with Mick O’Brien playing a star role. There was little change from 1970 except that Tom Byrne joined the team in the final against Carnew.

The 1972 win was a little unsatisfactory because after beating Glenealy in the semi-final they found there was no final – the other semi-finalists were both disqualified.

In 1973 the Arklow Rock footballers won the Kavanagh Cup – the popular South Wicklow trophy. They beat Annacurra in the final and Art Byrne recorded a few verses about the win.

On this unique occasion these few lines I pen:

To greet once more the Rock Parnells, the team of champion men,

It was the twenty-seventh of the month, the day was calm and clear,

As those youths, with togs and boots, for honours did appear.

Tom Byrne was the captain, his height was five feet-ten,

He could be seen at centre-field surrounded by his men,

He called them all around and told them what to do,

‘Always stand beside your man and never let him through’.

When the ball was thrown in, ’twas plainly to be seen,

The Rocks Parnells were dressed in white – Annacurra in gold and green.

The game is was some minutes old – and still there was no score,

Till Finn he caught – a point he shot, it was the opening score!

Annacurra then took over and played from left to right,

Like the gold and green we oft had seen in many a gallant fight.

They then began to mark their man as they did of yore,

They were here, there and everywhere, and yet could get no score.

In 1973 the Arklow Rock won the Lacey Furlong Cup, but were beaten in the senior hurling final by Glenealy. The next big day was 1977 when they beat Glenealy to gain their fourth senior title.

The team on that occasion was as follows – Jim Byrne, Pat Monaghan, Matt Curran, Pat Higgins, Bill O’Reilly, Tom Byrne, Myles Fortune, Mick Byrne, Paddy O’Reilly, Jack O’Reilly, Kieron Mellon, Gerry Byrne, Andy Byrne, John Byrne and Peadar Keogh.

In 1978 the club won the minor hurling championship and in 1980 almost the same team won the under-21 title. They won the Co. Sevens title in 1981 and then in 1982 recorded the best performance in their twenty years of existence. They won the senior hurling championship, the junior hurling championship, the Kavanagh Cup in football, the Couty Sevens in hurling and the under-12 juvenile title.

Another milestone was reached in the club’s history in 1982 when their new Park at Cemetery Road was opened. This was the culmination of much hard work over the years and much credit must go to the founder members who are still actively involved in club affairs.

It was a proud day for all concerned when the new grounds were officially opened on June 26th, 1982. Club President, Willie Kavanagh, had special words of thanks for Arklow Urban Council, the people around Arklow Rock and Arklow town, and a large number of people who helped in many different ways.

When Arklow Rocks beat Carnew, 2-10 to 0-6, in 1982 they were recording a major surprise. The team lined out as follows: Jim Byrne, Johnny Byrne, Matt Curran, Pat Monaghan, Paddy Reilly, Bill Reilly, Charlie Monaghan, Harry Kavanagh, Myles Fortune, Mick Byrne, Garry Byrne, Jack Reilly, Andy Byrne, Kieran Mellon, Ray Ryan. Sub: Pat Corr.

The Byrnes of Plattenstown must hold a record all their own. Nine members of the family have played with the club from time to time.

Five of the club were involved in the 1982 win and Coll was the first Chairman of the club.

Next door neighbours, Jack, Bill and Paddy Reilly have also made a huge contribution, while other families like Powers, Farrells, Clancys, McDonalds, Regans (from the Rock) and the Monaghans have also been very prominent.

Here’s hoping ‘The Rocks’ will still be going strong 100 years from now.

Back l/r Charlie Monaghan Peadar Keogh James Byrne Miley Fortune John Sunderland Martin Barnes Mick Byrne Jack Reilly Kieran Mellon f/r l/r Damien Farrell Pat Higgins Pat Monaghan Jim Byrne Joe Gilbert Harry Kavanagh Pat Corr.


Eddie Regan gave a nice interview to the Wicklow People on Sat 9 Jan 2021

Eddie O’Regan has witnessed some magical days with Arklow Rock Parnells, from the building of the new clubhouse to toppling the fancied Carnew Emmets in 1982 and many more besides, and his winning of the Lifetime Achievement award from Wicklow GAA is a just reward for decades of service.

The 85-year-old never figured significantly on the playing fields for the Rocks having spent much of his prime in England, but when he returned, he put the shoulder to the wheel on the administrative side of things and helped the club in any way he could.

‘I went to the Rocks school. Before the Rocks started in the early 50s, I played football with the Geraldines.

‘I was on the Wicklow Minor football team in 1954. Kildare bet us in the championship,’ said Eddie.

‘Then I went to England for a while and when I came back, I got involved (with the Rocks) and I’ve held every position other than treasurer.

‘I was involved with the county team, too. I travelled a bit with Jackie (Napier). I was reading his bit (interview in last week’s edition) about being up in the North. I can remember it well. If you hit the ball too high in the air you could hit a helicopter.

‘I never played much with the Rocks. I was sort of past it when I came back from England. I was there for building the new clubhouse and all that, raising money and that. We have a fine clubhouse now.

‘I was chairman in 1982 when we bet Carnew. Carnew were going for five-in-a-row. We beat them by double scores in Aughrim. I was chairman that year. We got a good man to train the lads: Mick Kinsella, from Wexford. Mick had the lads flying fit and Carnew didn’t know what hit them. We were winning championships back then,’ he reflects fondly.

There is some wonderful work going on at underage with the Rocks at the moment as well, as Eddie notes.

‘They’re doing a great job with the young lads at the moment. There are a few nice hurlers coming through,’ he said.

He may have stepped back from his involvement in the running of the club but Eddie O’Regan is always keeping an eye on developments and was surprised and proud to win the lifetime achievement award.

‘A great surprise, a shock really. I’m not involved that much anymore. I still go to matches, weather permitting. I’m 85 this year,’ he said.


In March 2009 ARKLOW ROCKS clubman Tom Byrne has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to the promotion and development of hurling at the 13th annual AIB GAA Provincial Player Awards where he was presented with a prestigious Coaching and Games Development Award.

Tom was an outstanding hurler in his own playing days, his skills and ability being recognized in his native Laois and Wexford as well as here in Wicklow.

Tom was deeply involved in the administration of the GAA in Wicklow, where he was assistant county secretary, and he also played a pivotal role in Leinster games development.

In Oct 2008 Billy Byrne Cup found a new home in Arklow Rock Parnells

A pressure point from a 65 metre free into the wind by T.J. Byrne earned ARP their first trophy in Senior hurling in twelve years. This curtain-raiser to the SHC final, played at Aughrim on Sunday was an excellent game and finished in a welter of excitement.

County Chairman Andy O’Brien presented the cup to ‘Rocks captain Brian Byrne and congratulated both teams on a highly entertaining and sporting game.

ARP: Keith Barnes; Chris Higgins, Brian Byrne, Kevin Reilly; John Foxton, John Furlong, Tony Kinsella; John Harper (0-2), Kevin Moorhouse (1-0); T.J. Byrne (0-7), Charlie Monaghan, Mark Nolan; Danny Curran (1-1), Patrick Keogh, Derek Heffernan. Subs. – Martin Reilly (0-1) for Keogh; Phillip Byrne for Nolan; Vinny Byrne for Moorhouse.

Also in October 2008 we saw the juvenile section of the Rocks grow and start to reach their potential

Arklow Rock Parnells 1-7, Barndarrig 1-0: The U-12 B hurling final at Avondale on Sunday morning was contested between Arklow Rock Parnells and Barndarrig, two clubs who were former hurling strongholds in the county.

This game was played in front of an exceptionally large crowd for an U-12 B hurling final which was turned into a very colourful spectacle by the array of green and white and blue and white flags and pennants and strips of spectators.

After the game, Pat Mitchell presented the trophy to Arklow’s captain Jack Furlong and the Wicklow People man-of-the-match award to Rocks star midfielder Paddy Mellon.


In Nov 2009 ARKLOW ROCK Parnells reinforced their championship win over the hurlers of Kiltegan with a four points win in the Dessie Murphy Cup final at Arklow.

However, in a game where play was dictated by the strong breeze, the Arklow men had to hold out against strong second-half pressure from their opponents before victory was achieved.

This victory means that ARP have put silverware on the sideboard in each of the last three years – the Billy Byrne Cup in 2008, and the Intermediate championship title in 2007 – and it maintains the steady progress the team has been making over the three seasons.

Mono Murphy and Des Burton present Arklow Rock Parnells captain TJ Byrne with the Dessie Murphy Cup after his side had defeated Kiltegan in the final at Arklow.


Rocks win a thriller in Oct 2012

In 2011 Arklow Rocks Parnells lost the Junior C hurling final by a point to Western Gaels, in 2012 at Aughrim they were toasting championship success after beating Enniskerry by one point in a cracking C decider that went to extra time before we had a decision.

Also in 2021 ARKLOW ROCK PARNELLS secured the 2012 U-14A hurling shield with a comprehensive victory over Bray Emmets in the county grounds Aughrim.

Powered on by the outstanding skill and fitness of Kieran O’Shea, Jake Keogh, Tiernan McBride, Daniel Long and Wicklow People man of the match Cormac O’Shea the Arklow lads were always in control of this game.


In 2014 there was sad news when the decision of the management of the Arklow Rock Parnells Club to pull out of Senior hurling, effective immediately.


Details of club activity from 2018 to present day can be found under seasons https://arklowrocks.com/seasons/