Humble Beginnings

by an Chead Runai

We were sitting on the bridge below McEleney's Shop one Sunday after the Holy Hour, when Hughie Frances mentioned it for the first time. "I think we should have a G.A.A. Club in Urris", he said. That was the beginning of the school holidays in 1969 and CarnTech had won a first year tournament the previous year, with almost an entire Urris side under the management of Denis McElligott. The idea hit sharp with both hope and fear. "We could never field a junior team all on our own", I countered, but Hughie was not to be beaten. He mentioned the Kellys, the Dohertys (Davys) and the Friels playing for Burt and Inch along with all who were playing Gaelic football at school. "We could enter a junior team in Inishowen and have a good summer of football playing Burt and all the rest." My only knowledge of Burt at the time was that McDonald's farm was reputed to be the best in Europe and for all I knew, the same could hold for their football team.

Carn Tech opened in September with an air of excitement. We were now permitted to study for the Leaving Cert there for the first time. With so many new subjects and new ideas and the optimism of youth in the 'Sixties' in evidence, the idea of a new G.A.A. Club caught fire.

We called the meeting to form a Club in the third week of September. This meeting took place in Danny Friel's barn among the bales of straw. After a lengthy discussion, we formed a committee. As far as I remember, the committee included the following:
Denis Callaghan (President) Hugh F. Doherty (Chairman) John Friel (Vice Chairman) Charley Logue (Secretary) Pat Carr (Vice Secretary) Paddy O'Donnell (Team Captain) Neil Kearney (Vice Treasurer).

As we could not agree on a treasurer, John Friel said he would ask his Uncle James to act as treasurer as he currently held that position in the local St. Vincent de Paul Society.

When we approached James Friel later in the week, he was very reluctant. While he agreed he was treasurer of St. Vincent de Paul, he admitted he was the "most ignorant man among distinguished clergymen, school masters and business people." He also said he was "too old a man" and that "football should be left to the young fellows". But John persuaded him on account of the fact that the rest of the Club were too young to deal with money. On hindsight, that was one of the most important decisions we made.

At our next meeting we had to decide a name for the Club and the Club colours. Paddy O'Donnell said that there were only two sets of jerseys in Carn shops, blue and red. As Down were the successful Ulster team of that decade (Sixties), we settled on Red and Black, the Down colours. Some people thought the name of the Club should be called Clonmany to maintain continuity with former teams. Pat Carr spoke up and said it should be called Urris because most of the team members were from the Urris end of the parish and would thus achieve more loyalty. The committee agreed with this proposal.

It was also agreed to hold a raffle to raise funds for the Club. Lines were to be sold at 1 shilling (5p), 10 shillings for a card of 13. The raffle was to take place in Diver's Hall.

Dennis Callaghan informed us that there was a minor Inishowen League about to start and we should enter a team in that competition. The next Sunday we lined out against the Marines from Moville in Leenan. To the best of my knowledge this was the team that lined out against the All Blacks:-

1. Charley Logue, 2. Danny Kelly, 3. Pat Carr, 4. James Doherty, 5. Dan Noel Friel, 6. Paddy O'Donnell, 7. Brian Kelly, 8. John Friel, 9. Michael Friel, 10. Joe Kearney, 11. Hugh Francis Doherty, 12. Neil Kearney, 13. Pat Cassidy, 14. J. J. McGonagle, 15. Charley Doherty

We defeated Moville that day and on the following Sunday, Malin and Culdaff. Those results brought us face to face with Buncrana in the Inishowen Final. Although we were narrowly defeated in that game, it was a great boost to our confidence.

There are two very interesting facts concerning that Minor Team:

1. Apart from our President and Treasurer, it contained all the committee and

2. When Urris won the junior championship in 1979 and again in 1989, it contained four of that original team: Danny Kelly, Paddy O'Donnell, John Friel and Neil Kearney.

After that we formed a junior team and various other underage teams which were verv successful.

As the year closed towards winter, it became too cold to hold a meeting in the barn so James Friel invited us all into the kitchen and Rita supplied the committee with tea and scone bread. All went well until the spring. As James was also a merchant for artificial manure, all his late Friday night customers found themselves in the middle of a G.A.A. meeting. I remember one such meeting when we were discussing fund raising in the Spring of 1970. As nobody had an original idea, John Devlin suggested that we should all gather winkles. This idea received a negative response so we had to come up with another one. Neil McLaughlin (Con Eddie) said that John himself had got a big log in from the tide at Casan and we should split it and sell the logs for wiring poles. Packie Duffy, who had just come in for manure, said he had an idea. He could get an old second- hand television from Derry for 10 which could be raffled. There was a great demand for television at that stage and it would make a fortune. Conal Doogan said the Club should sow seed onions and enlist the help of Clonmany Onion Growers Association. Some man said he had his back broke all last year grubbing and weeding onions with a "wee black donkey."

As the discussion was inconclusive, Charley Logue said that we should wait until we were in debt and then we would have to raise money. When the next meeting was called and the Club were in the red, Logue did not turn up. James Friel accused the Committee for doing too much "joulting about."

Now that we were an established Club, we were invited to other G.A.A. functions. The first one of these was Moville's G.A.A. Dinner Dance. The snag was that the tickets would cost a fiver -more that we could afford. John approached his uncle, the treasurer, and James was more than reluctant, but finally agreed.

John Friel, Pat Carr, Willy Friel (Ruddy),John Joe Doherty(taxi man) set off to the dinner dance, only to discover that it was a formal occasion and each person had a partner. During the meal there was slight embarrassment, but afterwards the boys quickly remedied the situation. They "tapped up" the waitresses and successfully blended into the background.

All this was part of the teething process but we matured with the years. With a string of County successes behind us and now with our new Club House opened, we have truly come of age. I hope that with a more professional approach to the game we do not lose the great spirit of fun and dedication that we had in those earlier years.

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