by Todd Habiger
ROELAND PARK — Football has always been defined by its great rivalry games. In college ball, there is Alabama and Auburn, Michigan and Ohio State.
In the NFL, you have games like the Bears vs. Packers and Chiefs vs. Raiders. Most often these games are noted for each team’s intense hatred for one another.
The Father Bernard Donnelly Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Johnson County had something else in mind when it established the Hibernian Cup six years ago. The goal was to establish a friendly football rivalry between St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and St. James Academy, Lenexa. The game was played at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park since St. James does not yet have a home field.
“One of the reasons why we wanted this game is because these are Catholic schools in pretty much the same neighborhood. We wanted to get that rivalry going but we also want to reward both schools for their participation,” said Charles Lamont, past president of the Hibernians who was instrumental in establishing the Hibernian Cup game.
The Donnelly Division of the Hibernians in Johnson County is an Irish Catholic organization dedicated to friendship, unity and Christian charity, said Lamont. Established locally in 2002, the order has around 95 active members.
For participating, both teams get $1,000 from the Hibernians to go to their school’s general scholarship fund. The winner of the game also gets the Hibernian Cup, a crystal trophy dedicated to Lamont’s late wife Eileen, who died in May 2001.
This year, the game took on special meaning for Lamont, as Tommy Barnes, his great-nephew, is a freshman football player at St. James. This is the first time a relative of Lamont’s has been part of the game. Tommy was a sideline helper for the game.
Lamont admits to getting a little misty eyed when he heard Tommy was going to be part of the game.
“It’s cool to have a family member be involved, being on the sideline and have his team playing for the cup that was named after his aunt,” he said.
St. James head coach Tom Radke said that he loves the whole idea behind the Hibernian Cup.
“The cup is definitely something that we talk about with our guys throughout the week,” he said. “I have always loved the Big 10 rivalry jugs/cups/trophies. It adds to the fun and atmosphere of a rivalry game.”
This year’s Hibernian Cup game kicked off the season for St. James and St. Thomas Aquinas on Sept. 3. St. James, coming off its most successful season ever, winning the 2020 Kansas Class 4A state championship, had high hopes of bringing the cup home for the first time.
Instead, it was St. Thomas Aquinas who walked away with a 28-7 victory and possession of the Hibernian Cup for another year.
“It’s always good starting the season off with a win,” said Aquinas head coach Randy Dreiling. “Starting off the season against a quality team like St. James, the reigning Class 4A champs, was a big win for us. Keeping the Hibernian Cup at Aquinas further heightens the friendly rivalry between two schools with a common mission within the archdiocese.”
Dreiling went on to praise the Hibernians for their commitment to charity and Catholic education.
“I would like to thank the Ancient Order of Hibernians for their interest and participation in our annual game against St. James,” he said. “The Hibernians are faith-filled, Irish Catholic gentlemen looking to positively impact their community. To date, the Father Donnelly Division of the AOH has donated $6,000 to each school’s general scholarship fund. The Hibernians’ support of Catholic education in Johnson County is commendable.”
For more photos from the game, click here.