Kilmeena GAA Club: Launch of 125 years Celebrations.
On Last Saturday night, Kilmeena GAA Club launched the celebration of its 125 years in existence. In a packed Clew Bay Hotel supporters, young and old, were treated to a memorable night and the sense of pride in the Club was palpable, as they rejoiced in this proud achievement. There was much anticipation as Club Chairman Willie Keaveney welcomed those in attendance and thanked them for attending.
Running in the background was a slideshow of photographs which held rapt attention well into the night. Players and spectators, loved ones some of which are no longer with us, presented an image of the past and present. Perhaps the older photos were of special interest. Hair was definitely long then, and gear did not always match. Crossbars were not always straight, and goalposts struggled to maintain a relationship with the perpendicular!
The first item was the presentation of a cheque, the proceeds of the Annual Challenge Game run over the Christmas period, by John O’Grady to Michael Browne, recovering from injuries received in a construction accident in England. John along with Ciaran Hastings who organised the event thanked all players and those who supported this worthy cause.
Next the Chairman unveiled the 125 Celebrations Logo, and the consensus was that it complimented brilliantly the theme of the 125 Commemoration. A framed copy was on display and also a specially commissioned Banner as ghaeilge incorporating the Logo. The winner of a competition between the three National Schools was Jaimee Geraghty from St. Brendans N.S. Well done Jaimee for your magnificent effort! Special thanks to the hundred plus children who took part in the Competition. All entries will be on display later on in the year.
The Organising Committee decided that a brief history of the Club would be given by some older members, and it is true to say that this was the highlight of the night, and the four people chosen were given a rousing, respectful and genuine reception. We were treated to entertaining and enlightening talks as each speaker from the different eras outlined their involvement in the Club. These notes are but a brief sample of what was said.
The Chairman first gave a brief outline of the Club up to 1950. Paddy O’Grady was next up dealing with the period 1951 to 1963. Paddy, in his own inimitable style, described playing his first game for the Club in 1951 when he modestly declared that he “tried to imitate those who could play” but this did not take from his enjoyment of the game. He emigrated to London and on his return in 1956 he became Club Secretary. He related in detail games played, team lists, interspersed with fascinating anecdotes. Fundraising was by way of staging Plays and running dances. He remembered an occasion when an acute shortage of transport was solved when 13 players were bundled into a car to play a match in Islandeady. He paid tribute to colleagues both men and women who served the Club over these years.
Willie Quinn, who was a stalwart worker at every level in the Club, covered the period when the Club was reformed in 1963 up to 1986. He started off by paying a tribute to all those who were called to their eternal reward, some at an early stage in life. He outlined the Club’s first major success when they captured the Cusack Cup in 1968 and further success in the 70’s. A highlight was the Tour to the U. S. in 1970, a huge undertaking for a small rural Club. He paid warm tribute to the late Mickey Cavanagh who was chief instigator of the trip. His description of the planning, fundraising efforts for inside and outside the Parish, was an insight into the resourcefulness and resolve of all involved. He referred to the foresight of those who acquired the Community Pitch in 1938 and the depth of gratitude that we owe to the landowners who gave land at different stages free of charge. Thanks to their generosity we now have excellent playing facilities. This was a theme referred to by all four speakers. Willie acknowledged the contributions of the Fahy Community to the Club over the years. Emigration, another constant theme down the years, challenged the Club, but he noted that the efforts by “blow-ins” went some way to offset this loss of vital lifeblood of the Club.
Austin Gibbons brought us up to date to the mid 90’s. Picking up on the reference of the Community Field he entertained us with a description of wonderful Sports Days held there. Horse riding, tug of war and “catch the greasy pig”, were some of the events. Animal welfare was obviously not an issue back then! Austin emigrated to England in 1968 and was introduced to the game there by John Moran, a great Parnells man. Of course, John is an outstanding Club member over six generations. On returning in 1987 he was unexpectedly elected Chairman. He outlined the highlights of that period, which included County Titles at Under- age and Senior level and the launching of the Centenary History was a great boost in 1989. Austin paid a special tribute to all those players and supporters who worked during the lean times so that this success could be achieved later on. He was glad to note the great loyalty that there is to the Club, and made a passionate appeal to the younger generation to become involved as it will give them a sense of place and identity.
Tom Ryan referred to the period up to 2006 when he was Chairman and had those present in stitches was his personal and quirky take on events. During this time, a new Stand and Club House extension was completed. The launch day in 2001 was a proud day for the Club, but not without incident, as he outlined the lengths that were necessary to secure a covering curtain for the plaque at short notice, much to our amusement and maybe some embarrassment to one lady present! Tom too listed the successes, chief among them reaching the All Ireland Junior Final and narrowly losing this game where David Feehan scored 1-9. In his role as Umpire, he had a unique opportunity to observe the vagaries of the Club’s goalkeepers, in which they carried out their duties and sought, legally or otherwise, to influence the game. He has great pride in the Club, and with the support of the young generation the Club will continue to prosper.
The affection with which the four speakers were afforded and an appreciation shown that something special was being relived here was experienced by all present. An unforgettable chapter, in a night of celebrations, in the life of the Club!
The Chairperson then paid tribute to two other Chairmen, Kevin Barrett and Mickey Carney, for their major contributions in leading the Club to its present position.
Next followed the presentation of the Annual Awards. Damian Loftus, Junior Team Manager, highly complimented the present panel for their attitude and application and appealed for more support for the team. He then made the following awards:
The Player of the Year went to Alan Ryan for demonstrating a template of what a player should be, showing leadership on and off the field. His brother Neilly accepted the award on his behalf.
The Young Player of the Year went to Darragh Keaveney for his outstanding talents displayed for Club and County.
The Most Improved Player was chosen as Niall Feehan, a young player of great potential.
A Special Award for special sacrifices, involving travelling long distances to make games, went to Sean Duffy.
The Chairman then thanked Damian for his approach to managing the team, he has given them a fresh impetus and the future augers well for this panel of players.
The Club over the last 125 years has prided itself in being rooted in the local community, and it was entirely fitting that the Community Award went to the Kilmeena Folk Choir for their enrichment of church services. Tracy Duffy and Davina Carney received the award on behalf of the group.
One of the most popular and well deserved tributes was the presentation of the Clubman of the Year Award to Martin McIntyre for his generous work with photography and the Club Website. Martin makes himself readily available for every Club function and his expertise in an invaluable asset to the Club. Rory Smyth, on behalf of Mid-West Furniture, presented the award which he proudly announced was made in Cavan.
The Chairman then thanked Mid-West Furniture and all Club sponsors for their financial contributions which greatly helps the Club to balance the books and keeps the Treasurer happy! He also congratulated the Ladies Club, and in particular Trish Hogan, on how quickly they have established themselves and are now catering for the young ladies of the Club. The 125 Committee for their work in organising the night. The present Officers of the Club in their different roles. Willie Quinn for providing priceless memorabilia. Marie, Darren and Staff of the Clew Bay for facilities and refreshments. All who attended and contributed to a memorable night in the Club’s Long History. We now look forward to the next event on Sunday 4th May when the older generation will be honoured.
Report by Walter Cox
125 Celebration Logo:
Winning Design by Jaimee Geraghty, St. Brendan's N.S. Myna
Paddy O'Grady outlines his earliest experiences as Club Chairman, as they struggled to survive throughout the 50's and early 60's.
Still in the early stages of development during the 60's, 70's and early 80's, Willie Quinn summarizes the efforts made by so many in capturing the Cusack Cup in 1968 and the subsequent Tour to the USA in 1970 organised by the late Mickey Cavanagh. He also remembered those who have since passed to their eternal rewards.
Austin Gibbons gives a brief résumé of the successes and progress enjoyed by the club during his term of Office as Chairman of the club.
Tom Ryan regales the audience with his tales and observations during his tenure of 12 years standing as Club Chairman.
Neil Ryan accepts the "Player of the Year" Award on behalf of his brother Alan from Damian Loftus Junior Team Manager.
Darragh Keaveney accepting his "Young Player of the Year" Award from his Team manager Damian Loftus.
Damian Loftus presents Niall Feehan with his "Most Improved Player" Award
Sean Duffy receives his "Special Award" from Damian.
Davina Carney and Tracy O'Donnell receiving the "Community Award" on behalf of the Kilmeena Folk Choir, for their enrichment of church services.
Rory Smyth, on behalf of Mid West Furniture, presents the "Clubman of the Year" Award to a stunned and speechless, Martin McIntyre.