My first memory of the GAA was being brought to underage training and matches by my late father. We trained in St Coman’s Park or sometimes in the CBS field. We changed into our football gear inside the wall or under the ditch. We spent hours and hours every week playing and going to matches. It was a fantastic time.
We had an U-12 street league that captured the imagination of the whole town at the time. There were hundreds of people at those games and the excitement was palpable. Winning one of those games was akin to winning the Sam Maguire Cup. It’s wehre our passion for Gaelic Football was nurtured.
My father, Seamus senior, was also a team mentor so we travelled around the county to various club games and learned about the rivalries with the other clubs. Then on Sunday’s we would be off to see Roscommon playing. Put simply, the GAA was our life growing up in Roscommon town.
As Roscommon Gaels prepare to compete in Sunday’s county senior final, I wonder what my father would have made out of the modern day GAA. He was chairman of the Roscommon Gaels club when he passed away at ridiculously young age of 45. He had so much more to give. All I know for certain is that he would be a very proud man to see the club that he helped to get on the road so vibrant and competing at the top level today.
Indeed it wasn’t all plain sailing over the years, as a former secretary, PRO, team manager etc myself, there were times when we struggled to keep the GAA show on the road in the county town. It was only for the massive work of a few people that kept the club afloat at one stage. But people like Jimmy Menton kept the flag flying against the odds. There were others too, but I have never came across anyone with the passion that Jimmy had for his beloved Gaels club. Now there are plenty of people prepared to help out with the club and it is great to see.
Name checking people who have been integral parts of the Gaels club over the years is always a dangerous thing to do but there are many people with whom I worked alongside when I was involved who kept the club going when there was little or no interest in it and a lot of those people are still around and they will be delighted that The Gaels are back challenging for the Fahey Cup.
Looking back, The Gaels were a fantastic team in the 1970’s, and an All Ireland final appearance in 1976 was the highlight. To lose that match to a St Vincent’s team who were one of the strongest ever seen at club level was certainly no disgrace.
But as the 70’s came to a close Clann na nGael came with a team that were to go on and dominate Roscommon football for 15 years. But at the start of that era Roscommon Gels could always cause a shock.Our rivalry with Clann was intense to say the least. I especially remember great wins in 1978 and 1980 against the odds (both against Clann). I wasn’t much of a footballer myself but both my brothers Frank and Declan featured prominently over the years winning medals at all levels with the club, and indeed Declan helps out with The Gaels senior team today.
It is incredible to report that The Gaels did not appear in a county senior final between 1980 and 1992 (when we were beaten by Strokestown after a replay) and it took until 1994 to win the title again. But after that we had some wonderful players (including today’s senior manager Liam McNeill) who went on to win five titles in a decade. Indeed that Gaels team were unluckly not to win a Connacht club title. But The Gaels fell back again, and this Sunday the club are back in a final after a 13 year wait. It’s a long time, too long really.
But it is a different Gaels club now. There are plenty of people helping out in the back round with underage teams at all levels. New facilities are being developed at Lisnamult and there are great people running the show. It is a far cry from the days when there would be three or four of us at meetings trying to keep things going.
As The Gaels players take the field on Sunday I will be thinking about all the people who have worked so hard for the club over many years and who have slipped into the shadows but who are very proud Gaels men and women. This county final day is just as much for them as for anyone else. Then there are all those who were great Gaels people and who have passed away in recent years, most of whom have been laid to rest in St Coman’s cemetery. Just across the boundary wall at Dr Hyde Park, my father will do his utmost to see the purple and gold over the line on Sunday. If Brigid’s win, then the Gaels will wish them the best of luck. May the best horse jump the ditch.
(Article written for The Roscommon People)