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Abbeydorney, The Cistercian Abbey In North Kerry.

Abbeydorney or in Irish Mainistir Ó dTorna, meaning "Monastery of the clan of Torna" is a village just 6 miles on the road that travels north from Tralee to the coastal town of Ballybunion and forms part of the parish of Abbeydorney / Kilflynn.

To the south and east of the village, the foothills of the Stacks Mountains form part of this civil parish once known as O'Dorney. The village itself was known variously as Montnagee or Abbey O'Dorney before the name evolved into its present form. 

The entire region rests in the upper valley of the Brick River and is intersected by a tributary called the Shanow which is crossed by two attractive stone bridges in the village. The Shanow then joins the River Brick and runs a twisting course north to the sea. 

Abbeydorney takes its name from the ancient abbey of Kirie Eleyson founded here in 1154 by O Torna, chieftain of the district before the Norman invasion. It was a Cistercian foundation the only Cistercian foundation in medieval Kerry and was a daughter house of the monastery of Nenay from the abbey of Magio, (near Croom), County Limerick, the abbot was a lord in parliament. 

The name of the abbey, Kyrie Eleison, is interesting and is due to the similarity of the first word Kyrie, to the name of the territory in which it is situated Ciarrai (Irish for Kerry). The Cistercians tried to give names to their foundations which would in some way reflect the name of the surrounding territory.

The abbey and its possessions were conferred, at the dissolution, on Edmund Lord Kerry, who was created Baron O'Dorney in 1537; but they were to revert to the crown in the event of a default of male heirs; and some of the lands were granted by Queen Elizabeth to the provost, fellows, and scholars, of Trinity College, Dublin. 

All that remains is the 15th century Church and some cloistral ruins. The church now is in a very dangerous condition and completely fenced off with no access to the public. The monastery was dissolved in 1537 and at present the grounds are used as a local cemetery.

The village that developed around the abbey became a strong farming community as the surrounding land is flat and low lying. In 1895 Abbeydorney Co-operative Dairy Society was formed however in 1920, during the War of independence, the village creamery and a number of houses were burned to the ground by RIC Auxiliaries and Black and Tans in a reprisal attack. 

But this did not deter the people of Abbydorney, like several towns and villages in County Kerry Abbeydorney had a railway station which was originally opened on 20 December 1880 on the line from Tralee to Limerick via Listowel.

However Passenger services were withdrawn on 4 February 1963, although the route through Abbeydorney continued to be used by freight trains for a while before the line to Listowel was finally closed altogether in 1977 and then to Tralee 1978. The station closed on 6 February 1978. 

Abbydorney has a post office/shop, public house (The Abbey Inn), petrol station and associated convenience and hardware store. Services include a Garda Station, primary school, crèche, nursing home and a community centre.

The Community Centre has an indoor hall and a health centre. Sports facilities include GAA grounds, and a sports complex with basketball court, tennis court and an indoor hall.

There is a strong GAA tradition in Abbeydorney. The Club won the first of its four County Championships in 1893. When one realizes that in 1891 Village neighbours Ballyduff had brought to Kerry its first and only Senior All-Ireland title in hurling, it becomes obvious that Kerry hurling during that era was as good as anywhere in the country.

Indeed it is said that an Abbeydorney man, Dave Fitzgerald of Killahan was a substitute on that same Ballyduff team. The team also won the Championship in 1896. The Club had to wait seventeen years before winning its next title (1913) and then the long gap of 61 years to 1974 for its fourth and last Co. Senior Title.

A red letter day in the history of the club was the A.G.M. of January 29th, 1969, because it was at that meeting that the decision was taken to form a Field Committee which would go to purchase land just north of the village the property of Mr Thomas Harty (Publican) who had died in 1963, and which today gives Abbydorney one of the finest sports fields in North Kerry.

The Abbeydorney Ladies Football Club was the feeding ground for the great Kerry Ladies teams of the 1980s and 1990s.

In more recent years they secured back-to-back All-Irelands. They won the Junior All-Ireland Club title in 2004 and followed that a year later in 2005 by winning the All-Ireland Intermediate Club title.

The local hurling team has won four County Championships, the last in 1974, and in more recent times their minor teams have had great success, winning the minor county championship in 1999 and again in 2008.

There is another great sportsman who can be traced back to Abbydorney. The heavyweight boxer John L Sullivan's father Mike Sullivan emigrated from Abbeydorney after the Famine. Mike's wife, (John's mother) the former Catherine Kelly from Athlone, County Roscommon (now Westmeath), met and married him in Boston on 6 November 1856.

Also the father of Irish actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor who plays Nidge on Love/Hate is from Abbeydorney.


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Every time I think about Abbeydorney I remember my old friend Shamus. He is a good few years older than me and likes his pint; we had many a pint together when I was passing through to Ballybunion in the Abbey Inn.

One such occasion he told me about the conversation he had with his lovely wife the night before.

They had been sitting together watching television. During one of 'those' commercials, he asked her, "Whatever happened to our sexual relations?" After a long thoughtful silence (and during the next commercial), the wife replied, "You know, I don't know. I don't even think we got a Christmas card from them this year."

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