Donnelly and Cooper


Come all you true-born Irishmen wherever ye be
I pray you give attention; and listen unto me
It’s of as true a story as ever you did hear
About Donnelly and Cooper that fought at Kildare

‘Twas on the 3rd of June, my boys, the challenge was sent o’er
From Britannia to old Grainne to raise her sons once more
To renew their satisfaction, and their credit to recall
So they were in distraction since bold Donnelly conquered all

When Grainne read the challenge, she received it with a smile
You had better haste into Kildare, my well-beloved child
It’s there you will reign victorious as you have always done before
And your deeds will shine most glorious all around Hibernia’s shore

The challenge was accepted and those noble lads did prepare
To meet with Captain Kelly on the Curragh of Kildare
The Englishmen bet ten to one that day against our Dan
But such odds as these would never dismay the blood of Irishman

When these two bully champions, they stripped in the ring
They faced each other manfully and to work they did begin
From six till nine, they sparred on, till Dan, he knocked him down
Well done my child, Grainne smiled, this is ten thousand pounds

The second round that Cooper fought, he knocked down Donnelly
But Dan had steel likewise true game, and rose most manfully
Right active then was Cooper and knocked Donnelly down once more
The English, they all cried out, the battle you may give o’er

The cheering of those English peers did make the vallys sound
Whilst their English champion kept prancing on the ground
Full ten to one, they freely bet, on the ground whereon they stand
That their brave hero would soon defeat this failing Irishman

Long life to Miss Kelly, she recorded on the plain
She boldly stepped up to the ring, saying Dan, what do you mean ?
Saying Dan my boy, what do you mean, Hibernia’s son, says she
My whole estate, I’ve bet on you, brave Dan Donnelly

When Donnelly received the fall after the second round
He spoke unto Miss Kelly as he lay on the ground
Saying do not fear for I’m not beat, although I got two falls
I’ll let them know before I go, I’ll make them pay for all

I’m not afraid, brave Donnelly, Miss Kelly she did say
For I have bet my coach and four that you will gain the day
You are a true born Irishman, the gentry well do know
And on the plains of sweet Kildare this day, their valour show

Donnelly rose up again, and meeting with great might
For to surprise the nobles all he continued for to fight
Cooper stood on his own defence, exertion proved in vain
He then received a temple blow which reeled him on the plain

Ye sons of proud Britannia, your boasting now give o’er
Since by our hero Donnelly, your hero is no more
In eleven rounds he got nine knocks down, besides broke his jawbone
Shake hands, says she, brave Donnelly, the battle is your own

Kildare 1

Songs of Kildare


This ballad about the boxing contest between Dublin boxer, Dan Donnelly and his English opponent George Cooper on 13 December 1815 at the Curragh of Kildare. In honour of his victory, the location of the bout was renamed Donnelly’s Hollow. A commemorative monument was later erected on the site.

Donnelly died in 1820. He had an exceptionally long arm which was preserved after his body was taken by grave robbers. I saw it myself in The Hideout Pub in Kilcullen (near to Donnelly’s Hollow). The arm has travelled extensively throughout America on exhibition and has since returned to be exhibited in the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh and the GAA museum at Croke Park.

Clip – Tom Donovan



Song Themes

Sporting occasions