Roots and Progress
Clonmany parish, situated on the north western extremity of Inis Eoghain peninsula, is the home of the Urris G.A.A. Club. Urris, a former Gaeltacht area, was the first part of Inis Eoghain in which Gaelic football was played.
The birth of the G.A.A. in the area can be attributed to the arrival of the Irish army at Leenan. A major figure in the introduction of the games to the area is Dennis Callaghan, a native of Killybegs. He came as a teacher to Clonmany National School in the 1930s and represented Donegal at senior and junior levels. He promoted juvenile teams along with playing for the Clonmany senior team during the 1940s. During this time Clonmany won the Inis Eoghain Championship.
The presence of the Irish Army with their top class junior team, Dun Lionain, spurred on the locals and a series of hard fought matches between Dun Lionain and Clonmany, which were played at Straid, are part of local folklore. With the reduction of Army forces at Leenan, the game went into decline. Dennis Callaghan came into his own at this stage and performed trojan work in promoting the game at school level. He turned out many fine minor teams and created a tradition in the area which was to help the present club enormously.
The recent revival can be traced to another teacher, Dennis McElligot from Kerry, who worked in the Vocational School in Carndonagh. Due to his efforts, Carndonagh Vocational School became a force to be reckoned with in Vocational football in Donegal. His most notable achievement was the winning of the County Vocational Championship for three consecutive years. Some of the players involved represented the County in underage teams. The most important fact about that team however, was that thirteen of the side came from Urris. Such a depth of talent was a natural basis for the formation of a Club in the area.
And so it came to pass that the Club was founded in Danny Friel's barn in September, 1969. The Club was called Urris and its first president was none other than Dennis Callaghan. Home games were played on a pitch rented from Michael Kearney at Leenan. As early as 1971, the Club reached the semi-final of the County Junior Championship. With the introduction of the All-County League in 1971, Urris became known throughout the length and breadth of the County and visited such exotic locations as Gaoth Dobhair, Gleann Colmcille and Cill Chartha.
Unfortunately, the fuel crisis of 1973 curtailed the travels and for a number of years efforts were concentrated on the promotion of under age teams. This policy bore fruit and in 1978, Urris won the Inis Eoghan Senior Championship. It was in the following year that the Club really matured. 1979 proved to be a truly glorious year for Urris, with a clean sweep of the County Junior competitions - Championship, Shield and League. This notable treble was achieved under the guidance of selectors Colm Toland (trainer), Paddy O'Donnell (captain) and John Friel. The celebrations were many but the biggest was for the winning of the County Championship against Gaoth Dobhair. Urris was the first Club in the history of Dun na nGall to win this elusive treble -a tremendous achievement for a Club so isolated from the rest of the County. The occasion was marked by the presence of Mr. Padraig Mac Floinn, Uachtaran Cumann Luthchleas Gael at the Club's annual dinner dance.
The good times didn't end here however, and in 1980 Urris captured the County Intermediate League and Shield. 1982 proved another milestone in the history of Urris with the capturing of the County Intermediate Championship when Red Hughs, Killygordon were defeated in the Final. In 1984, the club won the County Intermediate Shield for the second time.
Emigration took its toll in the mid eighties and as with so many clubs in Dun na nGall, Urris suffered heavily with the loss of many skilful players. In 1988, the Inis Eoghain Championship was revived in a league format and the following year the club became champions of Inis Eoghain, defeating good friends and neighbours, Bun Crannaighe in the Final. This gave the team the impetus it required to capture the County Junior 'A' Championship, defeating Cill Chartha, the All Ireland Gaeltacht Champions, in the Final.
The present year got off to a great start with the winning of the Inis Eoghain League Championship for the second year in a row, the opponents in the Final once again Bun Crannaighe. The team are presently engaged in the County Intermediate Championship.
With the opening of its new pitch and premises, Urris G.A.A. Club has truly come of age. The location of the pitch at Straid, Clonmany provides a genuine link with the pioneers of Gaelic games in Inis Eoghain. Since the inception of the Club in 1969 all aspects of Cumann Luthchleas Gael have been nurtured in the area, particularly in the National Schools. There is still huge scope for expansion and Urris G.A.A. Club will not sit back now but will continue to improve its level of activity and will strive to cater for all ages in the promotion of Gaelic pastimes. Many targets remain, not least the winning of the County Senior Championship. The final chapter in the history of Urris G.A.A. Club is, hopefully, a long way off.