Review of the Decade 2009 – 2019
CLG Gaeil Leitir Ceanainn
(by Jim McGlynn – Club Secretary)
I had hoped that by the time I started penning this reflection on the last ten years of our Club that we would be topping off our promotion back to Division 3 with victories in our first Junior A Football Championship Final and our third attempt to win the Junior B title however, it was not to be. Never the less, our Club has much to celebrate in terms of its continued development both on and off the field as I will outline below.
We started the year 2010 by progressing our plans with LRFC to develop Clubhouse facilities to complement our new Pitch, Páirc na nGael which hosted our first competitive action in 2008. The Building Contract commenced in September 2010. With the continued growth in our playing members, we had to implement a weekly schedule to manage activity on our main pitch and training field and plans were also put in place to lease an adjoining field which was converted to a car park to accommodate the welcome increased traffic.
On the field of play, our Under 14 Hurlers won the first Hurling County title for our Club.
The publication of our first Club website in 2009 afforded us another outlet to promote our Club at all levels and was well received and accessed by members.
Pride of place in 2011 had to go to our Under 21 Footballers who landed the County Under 21B title, a proud day for all involved. The seeds were also sowed with the introduction of Camogie and Ladies Football which widened our Club membership base. Several of our Minor and Under 21 players made their debuts for our Senior and Reserve teams and started to build their experience playing at adult level. Our Club was happy to lead out on the County Board’s promotion of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP) within Clubs and a Club Children’s Strategy, including a Child Protection Policy, was introduced and widely promoted.
2012 seen work on our new Clubhouse progressing well within available funding however, some work remained to be done to render the building fully functional and club members weren’t found wanting in volunteering their various skills to assist with the remaining works as funding permitted. Discussions commenced with LRFC on a formal agreement between both clubs on the structured use of both the clubhouse and playing facilities having regard to each Club’s playing seasons. On the playing fields, our teams continued to compete well and build their experiences for future challenges in their continued development. Pride of place in 2012 went to our County Senior footballers who reached the summit for the second time in our county’s history by winning the Sam Maguire Cup and our members were to the fore in supporting them all along this historic journey. Their achievement was remarkable and was a source of great encouragement to all, especially our Under 21 footballers who competed in the A competition for the first time that year and provided the toughest opposition to eventual winners, Naomh Conaill losing out by a single point at the Q/F stage.
There was a great sense of excitement at the start of our 2013 playing season as the doors to our brand new clubhouse, including six dressing rooms, were opened to our members. A formal agreement was concluded with LRFC for the operation of all facilities which generally worked well and increased the cooperative approach between both clubs.
On the playing front, we continued to make strides at all levels and increased our winnings ratio over the course of the year which resulted in county titles in both Camogie and Hurling. The now standard mouth guard was first introduced in January 2013 for all minor grades and has proven to be a welcome safety feature in our games. This was extended to adult games in 2014. While our senior footballers continued to improve, pride of place went to our senior reserve footballers who reached the Junior B Championship Final, a first adult county final for our club, only to lose out to Naomh Ultan in the Final. The continued progress of our underage players resulted in several being selected to play at county minor and adult levels.
In 2013, the role of Club ASAP Officer was enhanced nationally for all clubs to the position of Club Health and Wellbeing Officer, supported by a County Health & Wellbeing Committee which offered many additional supports to Clubs for their members.
In late 2013, a formal recruitment process was put in place and resulted in the appointment of our senior, reserves, under 21 and minor team managements which included identified foundations and structures to properly support the demands and expectations necessary to progress the club at these levels. Success on the playing field followed quickly with our seniors winning Division 4 of the all-county League and gaining promotion to Division 3 in 2014 for the first time in our history, a very proud achievement for all involved.
Mindful of the need to have similar strong organisation and structures in place at underage levels, we reviewed the existing Bord na nÓg structure and engaged with the wider membership to draw up a revised structure incorporating four sub-committees for underage football, hurling Camogie and ladies football which were approved in late 2014 and have since been successfully implemented.
While every effort was made over the years to take part in the annual Scór competitions, things really started to take off in this important area of promotion of the Irish language and culture following the appointment of a Fo-Choiste Gaeilge agus Cultúir led by Bairbre Cahill at our 2015 AGM. Ably assisted and supported by parents, we started to witness and be entertained by the considerable talent that existed within our youth and adult membership.
Our members competed and entertained at county finals and grew in confidence from the experience with the potential to succeed at county and provincial levels.
Such was the commitment and determination of our members to see our new club room operational; several members put their hands in their pockets and donated interest free loans to fund the remaining works to render our club room operational. The commissioning of this facility in 2015 also afforded us opportunities to embark on new fundraising initiatives including, for the first time, the staging and hosting of comedy plays with the entire cast drawn initially from our youth and adult members supported by a production team. With the support of LRFC, we were able to display our traditional home baking skills and offer this traditional hospitality in their adjoining club room which was well received by our audiences. This first step into the area of amateur dramatics was very well received by our members and the wider community and this recipe for light-hearted entertainment has delivered repeated success to the present day. It has also demonstrated the meitheal approach long advocated within our club. 2015 also seen our underage football and camogie sub-committees draft visionary five year development plans which were approved and set out clear objectives, actions and outcomes for the future development of both codes from nursery right through underage. On the playing front, our seniors retained their status in Division 3 and were disappointed not to progress again in the championships. We finished the year when we were afforded the opportunity to host County Convention in December 2015.
Our PRO, Mark McFadden continued to lead our on the promotion of all our club activities on social media including Facebook and Twitter which became an integral part of our members’ daily diet!
In April 2016, our main sponsors, Enda and Clare Nicholls gave our team, led by Charlie Cannon, the opportunity to take on the running of the weekly Bingo on Monday nights in Arena 7 and this has proven to be successful thanks to the dedicated cohort of club members, assisted by TY students, and the weekly and loyal support of our many bingo players in the wider community. 2016 seen our proposal to confine the Junior B Championship to the Reserve Teams of Junior Clubs and the introduction of a Senior C Championship for the third teams of senior clubs approved by County Committee.
Our senior footballers retained their status in League Division 3 and reached the semi-final of the Junior Championship only to lose by a single point to eventual winners, Downings.
Or reserves reached their second county final only to come up short on the day.
Our U-21s were the standard bearers in 2016 when a very young team, which included a good blend of minors, defied all the odds to reach the county final where they lost out gallantly to a stronger Killybegs team. Sheila Sweeney assumed a key responsibility as Club Children’s Officer in 2016 and was to the fore in promoting compliance with the GAA Child Protection and Safeguarding and adherence to the Code of Behaviour. Sheila led out on a GAA audit of this whole area in 2017 which focussed on compliance with Garda Vetting, Child Protection awareness and coaching qualifications. In this regard, the role of Coaching has always been to the fore and our Coaching Officer, Sean McBrearty has actively promoted and worked hard to build the base of qualified coaches at all levels, sufficient to cater for our growing underage numbers.
In 2017, the number of players from nursery up to U-16 registered and active exceeded 300 for the first time with a 60/40 split between boys and girls. The entire club rallied to support a proposal from Brian Sweeney and we hosted a very successful U-10 tournament in August which has become an annual fixture on our calendar and has a waiting list of other clubs wishing to take part! Our young hurlers won an U-12 county title and our U-13s took part in and won a North West tournament which included teams from Derry. Our U-14s reached their first A Hurling final only to come up short on the day. 2017 was a challenging year for our senior footballers with an extraordinary number of player injuries and the long-term absence of key players impacted on what was a very competitive Division 3 League resulting in relegation. The team finished top of their group in the Junior A Championship however, the loss of several key players again presented to great a challenge and we lost out to eventual winners, Naomh Colmcille who went on to achieve glory in Ulster. Growing concerns were emerging at the number of failures of other clubs to field in the reserves league which didn’t aid our chances in the championship where we bowed out at the semi-final stage. Our Players continued to get recognition at county level including Shay Doherty who played a forward role with the County Minors in 2017 and, unfortunately, came up short in the Ulster Minor Championship. Shane Graham was a member of the County U-21 Football squad and Diarmuid Cahill was a member of the 2017 Buncrana Cup squad. Cathair Doherty and Brian Diver also played for the County Minor Hurlers in 2017. Special mention goes to Brian Diver who won an Ulster Colleges All Star Award in 2017.We finished the year on a high when our all female ballad group won our first Scór county title.
In 2018, our U-14 Hurlers qualified for Féile na nGael and acquitted themselves very well.
A combination of several long-term injuries and mixed form meant that our senior footballers didn’t gain promotion back to Division 3. We also came up short again in the Junior Championship and lost the semi-final to Red Hugh’s who went on to win County and Ulster titles. Our reserves competed in a much reduced league with very little competitive football. In order to address the absence of regular reserve team football, we successfully campaigned at the annual County Regulations meeting to change the reserve league structure for 2019 to include the reserve teams of all Division 3 and four clubs together with the third teams of Division 1 and 2 clubs which would see a dramatic improvement in competitive games and a significant reduction in failures to field.
The fruits of our Fo-choiste Gaeilge agus Cultúir bore more fruit in 2018 with our club represented in six different categories of Scór na nÓg producing outright winners in Ceilí Dancing and Recitation.
The ongoing efforts of our Ladies Football sub-committee started to also bear fruit in 2018 when we fielded teams at U-13/14/16 and the year was highlighted by the selection of Clodagh O’Connor to play for the county U-14s where she was joined by Andrea Cutliffe.
Camogie continued to field in all age groups from U-8 to U-18 with several club members also being selected for the various county squads. Many of our players represented Woodland NS who won the 2018 large school competition, a great achievement against stiff opposition.
Attention switched in January 2019 to our adult entries in Scór Sinsir where we entered in four different categories and reached the county finals in two namely, recitation and drama with outright victory in the now famous drama piece masterminded by Brian Sweeney and his talented team who performed the Léiriú Stáitse entitled Packie McNamee, originally written by Fergus Cleary and adapted for the stage by Brian. The piece was described as
“a very clever piece with bags of humour and entertainment value!” so much so that our talented players went on to win the Ulster title and finished runners-up in the All Ireland Finals held in Castlebar in April 2019, a very proud day for our club.
As already mentioned, our senior football team management led by Sean McBrearty and John McDermott steered the team back to Division 3 losing only one game in the process and finally got past the semi-final hurdle in the Junior A Championship only to come up short against favourites, Buncrana. The experience will definitely stand to this talented group of players and we can look forward with optimism to finally achieving this county title. Our seniors were joined on the day by our reserves in the Junior B final which they agonisingly lost by the narrowest of margins to Urris. This group of players definitely benefitted from the increase in competitive games and hopefully the revised reserve league format will continue in 2020.
The sustained efforts of all ensured that we ended the decade with almost double the number of youth and adult members and plans are being put in place to further develop our facilities for players and supporters alike.
Fundraising and finance have always been a major challenge as our profile grew over the years and we were lucky to have the benefit of the expertise of John McDermott in the position of Treasurer to guide our club through this period and coordinate this vital area, not to mention all his other roles within our club.
During the ten years, our Club was fortunate to have the benefit of experienced Gaels as Cathaoirleach including James Frain, Dan Harnett, Charlie Cannon and Michael O’Connor.
The past ten years has also seen the sad passing of a few members who will be remembered for their commitment and dedication during their time with us.
We have certainly finished the decade in a much improved place with real confidence and optimism as to what the future will bring and we look forward to continuing to promote Gaelic games and culture for the benefit of all our members and the wider community.