Killinkere CLG 1929-2019
After the GAA was founded in 1884 football teams popped up in all kinds of places but few were representative of the parish. It was more a case of young men in an area of the parish coming together, finding a ball and getting the use of a field to play a game in. Killinkere had as many as four such teams at various times, with the more established one known as the Killinkere Defenders.
In the years around this time one of the greatest GAA players of all time, Jim Smith, was captaining Cavan in the 1928 All-Ireland final in which they lost out to Kildare. However he would captain them to glory against Galway in 1933 and was again on the winning team in 1935. Sadly, due to the fact there was no team in Killinkere in the 1920s - coupled with his work as a Garda, which took him away from the parish - he never got to play championship football for Killinkere.
Jim's brother Phelim was one of the founding members of Killinkere Gaelic Football Club, when they held their first meeting in Killinkere AOH hall on the 20th October 1929. At that meeting, James Comey was elected chairman and Andrew Clarke, local man and newly appointed principal of Killinkere National School, was elected secretary. John Galligan was elected treasurer, a post he held for many years. This was at a time when all parishioners held the local master in high esteem and in this case it worked to his advantage. Andrew Clarke was fanatical about his football and all things Irish. Therefore he was well placed to attract what was required to set the correct structures in place. Funds were established by founding members going door to door for contributions to buy jerseys and a football.
Andrew Clarke was key in the development and coaching of players from minor age upwards. Within a couple of years the team was winning District Leagues and developing a solid underage structure. The minors won the championship in 1936, and in 1937 the county committee invited our club to go senior. During the next four years Killinkere won the senior league in 1938 and was sadly beaten in two senior championship finals by small margins (1pt and 4pts) by a towering Cornafean team in 1939 and 1940. In The Anglo Celt reports of these finals, the 1939 final was regarded as “The best final for years, with keen tackling and close marking the order but little roughness.” The 1940 final was described in the Celt as “As brilliant an exhibition of football for half an hour as was ever witnessed.”
Jim Smith coached the Killinkere team on that day and what a pity he wasn’t togged out to play. Killinkere remained senior for the first part of the 1940s but kept coming up against the best two teams of the time, Cornafean and Mullahoran. The senior championship title eluded them. When one looks back on the first 15 years of the club it really was magical times, winning minor championships, a senior league and narrow defeats in two senior championship finals by probably the best senior team ever to play football in Cavan.
A key member of the Killinkere team at that time was Joe Stafford. Joe was a star of the Cavan team for many years winning All-Irelands in 1947 (in the Polo Grounds) and in 1948. Both he and Jim Smith were two of the biggest GAA stars in Ireland at the time and they were born just two miles apart. Terry Sheridan was also a member of the Polo Grounds team but unfortunately emigrated to the US subsequently. Along with the inimitable John Sheridan’s involvement in 1952, a Killinkere man featured in every Cavan team to win an All-Ireland final.
The team went back to junior from 1946 to 1950. In 1951, with a shortage of players no team took the field but in 1952, with an influx of players, the team was affiliated back to senior level and got to a championship semi-final against Bailieborough in 1953. In 1954 the team went back to junior and through excellent organisation and development the team went on to gain its first ever major championship success by beating a fancied Virginia Blues team easily in the final, with Mickey Sheridan scoring 11 of the team’s 12 points in a winning margin of 3-12 to 0-03.
Again we went back to senior but having lost perhaps three quarters of the team for work or other reasons the team struggled over the next few years. The club needed direction and luckily a man named Brendan Ryan took over as principal of Killinkere National School in 1952 and within two or three years he was giving the direction we so badly needed. Killinkere were back in junior and with new talent such as Gerry Smith, Jimmy Stafford, John Kerr and Sean Donovan. Soon the club were back with a dominant junior team. We won junior league titles in 1961 and 1963. However we should have won some championship titles in that same period but sadly got beaten in three successive finals in 1963, 1964 and 1965. One of the young players emerging at that time, Jimmy Stafford (nephew of Joe), was one of the stars of the Cavan team in the early 1960s, winning Ulster medals in 1962 and 1964.
The junior team was slipping back somewhat in the mid-60s, however a new crop of talent was emerging with success at underage, winning the 1967 under-14 rural league and finishing runners up in 1968. This was a very special group of players but sadly as many as half of them were lost to the club for various reasons. However four or five of this team were key members of the junior team that reached the championship final in 1971 and won it out in 1972. The team struggled somewhat at intermediate level for a number of years but with new talent coming through we reached the championship final in 1979 and went on to win our only intermediate title in 1982.
When we beat Castlerahan in the final, it was a very special time for the team and our supporters. However it may not have been possible but for the drive and commitment of one man, our manager and club chairman, the late Edward Sheridan. Edward's commitment to everything that was good for the club and community was total. He was a wonderful man and his early passing was a tremendous blow to his family, friends, club and wider community.
Camogie was developed in the club throughout the early 1980s. From humble beginnings the team went from strength to strength and went on to lift a hotly contested senior championship in the mid-1980s. Again Edward was very involved in this wonderful achievement.
After gaining promotion to senior level through our championship win in 82, the men’s team jumped between senior, intermediate and junior before settling at intermediate level in the early 2000s. At underage level we continued to excel, winning countless titles over the decades but despite the talent coming through, another adult championship final appearance was a long time coming. In 2016, the team performed superbly to reach the intermediate final, drawing with Arva in an all-time classic. After losing the replay by a point and suffering relegation to junior level the following year, we bounced back to reach the junior final again in 2018. Unfortunately it was not meant to be once more, losing out to Drumlane in another replay but finally, in 2019, we reached the Promised Land, beating Shannon Gaels in great second half comeback.
With multiple final appearances and victories at underage level in recent years, a new generation of players are making the breakthrough onto an already talented senior panel. Our return to intermediate level could not have come at a better time and hopefully through continued hard work and dedication we can go one step further in the near future.
Killinkere CLG emerged into a country that was locked in poverty through the 30s, 40s and 50s, with little education and a lack of employment leading to mass emigration. Most clubs had little means of developing proper playing and changing facilities. Our club, like many others, played games wherever a pitch was available, whether it be on Hannon’s, Stafford’s or Phil o'the Bridge's field. Comey's Field became our ‘Croke Park' and a small rental fee may have been paid for it.
In the early 60s the club approached John o'the Bridge to see if he would sell them a field to develop as a proper club pitch. The deal was concluded and was paid for through the running of concerts in the AOH hall, running silver circles and a novel 7 A-side tournament. The pitch was opened in 1964 but after the initial excitement died down it soon it became clear that it had many limitations. The pitch flooded easily, there was very limited parking facilities and the chances of getting planning permission for a clubroom and changing facilities were unlikely.
However, with emerging football talent and new creative thinkers involved in the club, some ideas started to be discussed. At a club meeting in the late 1960s a man who had recently settled in the parish suggested that the club organise a tournament for the men’s senior championship winners from the neighbouring counties. This would not have worked 10 years previously but the time was now right. Out of this grew the famous “Killinkere Gold Watch Tournament”. It drew the top teams from Ulster, Leinster and Connaught. It was the forerunner to the All-Ireland club championship and it raised some welcome funds for the club.
In 1973, the Church if Ireland made a decision to amalgamate the local parishes and so it put the local rectory and grounds in Killinkere up for sale. The club made the bold decision to bid for it. With funds from the gold watch tournament, along with a Croke Park loan and aided by the local National Irish bank in Virginia, the purchase was made for €18,000. To quote the late Edward Sheridan from a stormy AGM in 1976/77 when questions were being asked about the madness of the club buying the rectory: “ Look lads we bought the rectory for the community and we'll develop it for the club and the community, so get up off your arses and let’s do it".
In the years following the purchase the wider club membership were tasked with raising funds again and after much debate from a few creative thinkers, The Jamboree was born in 1977. The Jamboree was the one area where the community had full involvement in its organisation and execution. Some of the Jamboree’s best committee members wouldn't have known whether a ball was round or square. The 1980s were crazy years with everything imaginable happening at our club. The first project was the development of our primary playing pitch and it was officially opened on 7th August 1983. The development of the Leisure Centre and bar facility was a daunting task, given its enormous cost. Meetings went on into the small hours with plenty of arguments and debate among a core group of executives, determined to see their vision come to life. With the centre less than half built the members present were informed at a meeting in 1984 that it would take a minimum of €100,000 to complete the job. A member drafted a novel draw on the back of an envelope and after much debate the club took a brave decision to run with it. Within six weeks from that meeting the club were €100,000 richer. Of course with that success it was easy to get carried away and further development continued. The leisure centre was officially opened by Taniste John Wilson in 1988.
The restoration of the old Rectory between 1998 and 2002 was another huge achievement. Through the setting up of Killinkere Development Association it was possible to draw down the much needed funding to complete the project and develop the facility into something we are very proud of today. With the great efforts of a core group the rectory continues to contribute nicely to the greater good of the club.
Between the Leisure Centre, the Rectory and our playing pitches, the scenes around our club today are nothing short of majestic. There is no more glorious sight than to arrive to the grounds on a busy summer’s evening and see swarms of children enjoying our Games, the running track full, and the drama unfolding in an underage match on the main pitch as the seniors arrive to training. All the while, our grounds are decorated by the ghosts of those have gone before us, of which there are far too many to mention. Their hard work and influence is in every block and blade of grass. Their contribution and the continued work of those who are still involved in our club today is what makes our community special. Then, now and tomorrow.