Our history is full of famous fields which were won or lost, from Clontarf to Kinsale and including our own Ballinamuck. The history of the G.A.A. for over one hundred and thirty years has been enacted on many obscure fields like Prunty’s, Sheridan’s, Mallon’s and Monaduff. A sense of place is still in all our bones whether we know it or not, even in these changing times. We may like to think of ourselves as citizens of the world, but our roots are still in the little fields and obscure corners of Ireland. Every local football field has its own legends and stories of great deeds and valour, all done “for the honour of the parish” all of which passed into the folk memory and with time is sadly almost gone. So in this very brief look at the history of the G.A.A. in the parish of Drumlish we have to depend mostly on a few bare facts and figures. We know we cannot by any means do justice to the generations who down the years have given of their time and efforts to this historic club. On looking back we salute their memory – all of them from the famous to the forgotten and hope that they are with us in spirit as we continue to build on the foundations they laid. They are all there on the long road that has brought us to Monaduff.
It appears that in or around September 1889 a member of the Gortletteragh Campaigners G.A.A. club had the audacity to refer to Drumlish Robert Emmets as “the Drumlish mob”. A reply to this emanated from a meeting of the Drumlish club — Mr. Francis Sheridan presiding — stating categorically, “we are not a mob” and going on to cast doubt on the official status of some of the members of the Gortletteragh club. This was shortly before the official affiliation of Drumlish Robert Emmets.
A feature of those early years was the holding of tournaments. These comprised not just football games but were apparently great social occasions as well with food and drink, singing of ballads and music. In March 1890, Drumlish Robert Emmets took part in a tournament at Newtownforbes, and as they arrived it was said that they presented “a splendid specimen of Gaelic fibre”. However in the ensuing encounter with Longford Davitts they were defeated in what was described as a good stand-up struggle. The Emmets were successful in another tournament about the same time, winning by one point against Clonguish Gallowglasses, when never was such fine play seen in the locality.
On December the 8th 1889, a tournament was held in Drumlish and Killoe Erin’s Pride were said to be at a disadvantage compared to their opponents Clonguish Gallowglasses because they had to walk six miles to the venue, while the latter team arrived on sidecars. The report of the match says that it was far from being played in anything like a scientific manner. It was deemed wise to discontinue play at half-time as it became obvious that the referee, though well-disposed, was unable to establish anything like good order. However the occasion ended on a better note, as Mr. Sheridan (the referee) then invited both teams to his house where they were sumptuously entertained. Before leaving they were requested by Mr. Sheridan to go home orderly and united, and to show by their absence from the public houses that they were adequately entertained by their Gaelic friends of Drumlish. This they did and thus ended the Drumlish tournament, as it began, in peace and good fellowship. In these early years, the G.A.A. was closely allied to the national struggle for the land, and this is borne out by a motion passed at a meeting of Drumlish Robert Emmets in January, 1890, stating that any person not a member of the National League (Land League) would not be admitted as a member of the club in future. Fr. McCabe – the curate in Ballinamuck – wrote a letter, in October 1890, to the Longford Council of the G.A.A. in which he stated that the young men around Ballinamuck were anxious to establish a branch of the G.A.A. in that side of the parish of Drumlish; that the clergy had sanctioned the project on the understanding that the officials of the new club be parishioners and belong to a family possessing a card of membership of the National League. The President – Mr. Farrell – said he thought they should be affiliated and as there was no objection from Mr. Sheridan of Drumlish, the club was then affiliated under the name of “Ballinamuck 98’s”. The newly-affiliated team took part in the Drumlish tournament which was held on Sunday October 12th, in John Sheridan’s field. This particular tournament had been looked forward to eagerly in both Longford and Leitrim. People came in droves from early morning and a large concourse was assembled long before the time for the first game. The patriotic parish priest, Father Tom Conefrey with Fr. McCabe and Fr. Matt Conefrey were present. The appearance of the fledgling team from Ballinamuck was described thus: “The gallant band of the “98’s” by their prowess and manliness brought back to the memory the gallant deeds of bye-gone days. They had glorious traditions to incite them to victory:- the stand of their fathers on the hill-side for freedom’s cause and then the fight of the present day”. “The team shows that they have been well instructed in the game by their very efficient officers – Lennon and Reilly. The memories of their historic past have instilled into the youthful 98’s a spirit of no surender against any opponent”. The match between the “98’s” and Gortlettra Michael Dwyers was described as the best contested of the day. Notable players for the “98’s” were:- Dan Murtagh, Michael Lennon, J. A. Griffn, Peter Hogan, Jas. Kerrigan, J. Larkin, Michael McCarthy, F. Reilly and P. Gray. The referee in his report, said that, owing to increasing darkness, full time was called at five minutes to six with the score: one goal for the “98’s”, one point for Gortletteragh.
The Victorious Years
The historic year of 1919, marking the first Dáil, brought the first Football County Championship to Drumlish with the victory of the Ballinamuck 98’s in the Junior League-Championship. They followed this up the following year with a first Senior county championship for the parish. The Longford Leader believed that “Longford has never before in the long history of football produced a team even nearly as good” and that the best performers for the 98’s on the day were “Reilly, McKenna, Dolan and Gill”. Unfortunately for the great Ballinamuck team, the War of Independence and subsequent Civil War all but finished serious competition in Longford with no senior championship completed until 1927 when incredibly, Drumlish emerged victorious against Ballinamuck in the final and also retained the title the following year. On their first appearance after that victory they wêre described as “a teạm to be reckoned with in any competition and practically all youths”.
Meanwhile two Ballinamuck stalwarts Jimmy McWade and Mick O’Toole made their presence felt on the County Junior team of 1924.
The Senior Championship title came to Drumlish in 1932 and again in 1937 – the year of Longford’s All-Ireland Junior Championship success. In that same year there were three players from Drumlish on the Longford Senior team contesting the Division II Final of the National League against Donegal. They were:- Paddy Loughrey, Tom Murphy and Joe McNally, and all three showed the hard-working approach and the fighting spirit for which Drumlish was noted. The 1937 County final was described as a splendid exhibition of good clean football all the way. In the Drumlish victory over Kilashee on the score of 3-6 to 1-4, Paddy Loughrey and Tom Murphy shone in defence, Jim Hannify and Joe McNally were an effective midfield, and the forwards, while adequate, did not avail of numerous chances they were given. The following year Drumlish became the first ever winners of the Leader Cup and in 1939 the club made history by reaching both the Junior and Senior County Championship Finals. They were awarded the County Senior Championship title for that year as a result of an appeal to the Leinster Council.
The club retained the Senior title in 1940 defeating Granard St. Mary’s on the score 4-10 to 0-4. The years 1943 and 1945 brought two more Senior titles and the additional honour in 1945 of Jim Hannify chosen as centre-half back on the Leinster Railway Cup team. In their meeting with Ulster he marked Alf Murray of Armagh, and demonstrated his unique one-handed catch. The immediate post-war years seem to have been lean ones for the club, but under the new name of Young Ireland’s they were back to take the Senior Championship again in 1951 with a young team captained by the evergreen Jim Hannify who collected his twenty fifth medal. They defeated Mullinalaghta on the score of 4-3 to 1-8 and great credit was due not alone to the players, who improved with each outing, but also to the mentors:- Fr. Seán Manning who came to the parish in 1948, Tom Murphy, Mick Quinn and Charlie Kiernan. This success was repeated in 1953 when they defeated Colmcille in the replayed County Final in which the team showed determination, winning by 2-6 to 1-7 with veteran Jim Hannify scoring 1-4. Later that year they won the Leader Cup also. Two years later in 1955, in what would be the last Senior Championship title for 41 years came to Drumlish, with the easy defeat of Ardagh by 2-7 to 0-3. In that same year, Fr. Seán Manning was transferred to Annaduff and a great influence on Gaelic football in the parish was sadly gone. However the legacy of his achievement with the under-age teams, e.g. 1952 School’s Championship winners, remained on and produced some fine Senior teams who failed narrowly to achieve success against strong Longford Slashers teams and later on the rising stars of Clonguish and Granard. Fr. Seán believed fully in the importance of healthy recreation in the physical and mental development of youth and he will always have a special place in the hearts of those who knew him, especially the Young Ireland’s schoolboy teams of the early fifties.
The sixties brought some successes at under-age level, but there seemed to be a gradual decline at Senior Level until 1970 when the club went from Junior to Intermediate status. The 1960s saw Longford come to the fore nationally, with a National League title in 1966 and Leinster title in 1968. Jimmy Hannify was one of the stars during this golden period and, like his father, made many appearances for Leinster in the Railway Cup. It was in 1969 that the club was renamed Fr. Manning Gaels, after the late great Fr. Seán. Similar to many other rural parishes, emigration had taken its toll. However the club returned to the winning trail again within a few years, winning the Intermediate Championship in 1973 (amalgamated with Mullinalaghta) and by ourselves in 1974. The 1980’s will be remembered in the club as the decade that could have been. In 1984, Monaduff was officially opened and became the new home of football in the parish after moving away from McKeon’s Field. However, despite winning two U21 championships in 1981 and 1983 and back to back Leader Cups in 1986 and 1987 the ultimate prize of the Seán Connolly Cup eluded the Gaels. The Leader Cup final for 1986 was played in March when the Gaels defeated Longford Slashers 0-7 to 0-5. The Leader Cup was retained in August, against the same opposition on a scoreline of 2-9 to 0-10. The Gaels came closest in 1986 when they were defeated by a solitary point against Ardagh after a replayed semi-final. It was not a lack of talent or effort on the club’s behalf that was responsible for this however. The loss of so many top quality players to emigration meant that it was always going to be a struggle to win that first senior championship since 1955.
The Glory Years
The 1990’s finally saw Fr. Manning Gaels re-emerge as a serious force in the county and the foundations for this success was laid in the winning of the U21 Championship in 1993 and 1995. The club’s first ever Division 1 title came in 1995 and this was won for a record 5 years in a row and again in 2001. 1996, however, was the year which will never be forgotten in Drumlish and Ballinamuck. The 41 year famine came to an end in September when Fr. Manning’s had a comfortable victory over Ardagh St. Patrick’s. Paraic Brady won the man of the match award and the Longford Leader headline was “Ardagh Tidy but Drumlish Clean Up”. The Gaels went down in their first foray into Leinster Club championship action to Round Towers of Kildare.
Back to back titles were completed in 1997 when the Gaels defeated Longford Slashers in the final. This year was notable as for the only time in the club’s history the senior treble was won – Championship, League and Leader Cup. The Gaels got one step further in the Leinster Championship that Winter, first easily accounting for Stradbally (who had won the Laois title the previous day) before succumbing to Louth’s Stabannon Parnells after extra time after a replay, in the dark and in controversial circumstances.
1998 was the year Fr. Manning Gaels became only the fourth club to complete the 3 in a row. The Gaels defeated Abbeylara by a solitary point, thanks to a magnificent last minute long range effort from Man of the Match Padraic Davis. The Gaels now had eyes on Leinster and after they defeated Rhode in a replay they came up against the star-studded Kildare outfit Clane with numerous players who had featured for Kildare in their 1998 All Ireland Championship campaign. In what was one of the finest performances ever from a Longford team, the Gaels defied all the odds to win the match and set up a semi-final encounter with multiple Leinster winning Carlow champions Éire Óg. This game will never be forgotten but for all the wrong reasons. After staging a terrific comeback, the Gaels ended up on the losing side by just one point. However, this was shrouded in controversy. Early on in the match Carlow player Leo Turley was awarded a point which appeared to be wide, and crucially in the dying moments of the match Padraic Davis appeared to have struck the equaliser when the referee awarded a point but then ruled against himself on the word of the umpire. This was heart breaking for a team who had worked for over 3 years to get that far. The result of the match was appealed to Leinster Council, but unfortunately failed.
It was time to look forward to 1999 and try and emulate the Clonguish team of the 1960s in doing the 4 in a row. Disaster first struck the team off the field in an event which truly put sport into perspective. In February, star player Jimmy Tully was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. Jimmy was only 24 years old and is still sorely missed by all. The Gaels received a bye to the quarter final and were in great form, having won the prestigious Denn Tournament in Cavan. They were drawn against neighbours Dromard (who they had already defeated in the league). In what was a highly entertaining encounter, the talented, hungry Dromard side emerged victorious. The finish was also not short of controversy as with only a few minutes remaining Padraic Davis crashed a shot off the underside of the crossbar which appeared to have crossed the line and bounced back out. However, neither the umpire nor the referee gave the goal, and the 4 in a row was not to be. Dromard, then deservedly went on to win the championship for the 2nd time in their history. There was some consolation for the Gaels as they claimed a 10th Leader Cup title and their 5th Division 1 title in a row.
The new millennium saw a change to the championship format. A backdoor was introduced for first round losers, and this cruelly would end up being the Gaels downfall, who could so dearly have done with that format the year previously. Having accounted for Colmcille, Clonguish and Granard, the Gaels set up a meeting with Abbeylara, who were appearing in their 3rd final in a row. On a day where nothing went right for the Gaels, a Niall Sheridan inspired Abbeylara won their first ever senior championship on a scoreline of 2-6 to 0-4. In a disappointing conclusion to the year, the Gaels also relinquished their league and Leader Cup crowns. This signalled the end of the management team of Pat Corrigan, Jimmy Hannify and Thomas Gill who were in charge of the club’s most successful ever period and to whom the club is eternally grateful.
Sligo native Anthony Brennan took the reins in 2001 and he helped bring the Longford title back to the parish for the 16th time. After the bitter disappointments of the previous two years, it was a fantastic display of resilience from the Gaels to win back the Connolly Cup, defeating Granard in the final 1-9 to 0-6. We were defeated in the first round of the Leinster Championship by the narrowest of margins by Portarlington; 1-9 to 1-8.The Gaels also won back the Division 1 title that year, by defeating Dromard 1-13 to 2-8. The Gaels lost two more senior county finals in 2004 to Clonguish and in 2005 to Dromard, the latter being particularly disappointing as we had been in a position of prominence for the majority of the match. There was some consolation in 2005, however, when the Junior team, captained by John Breslin, won the “A” championship. They defeated Rathcline in the final 1-10 to 1-7.
In 2008, the refurbished Monaduff was officially opened by Uachtaráin CLG Nicholas Brennan. The impressive new facilities included 2 new dressing rooms and showers, a new “Prunty Pitch” with flood lights, a gym, a sauna and new car park. The facilities at the park are up there with the best in the country and great credit must go to the Development Committee who made it all happen and the dedicated FÁS team who continue the excellent upkeep of the grounds.
Off the field, the club has made a great name for itself through the running of the “Marquee in Drumlish” Festival. Thousands have came to Drumlish since the club decided to revive the now annual festival in 2009 and many top acts from all over Ireland have played here.
The senior club would have to wait until 2013 for the next significant trophy, when the U21s brought much needed silverware back to Monaduff. Captained by Dylan Quinn, the Gaels defeated Killoe in the “A” final having lost the previous two finals to Killoe and also in 2010 to Abbeylara. This victory has been retrospectively tinged with great sadness as in May 2014, key player Brian Collum passed away. The club, again, was in mourning and football, again, put into perspective. Brian was an exceptionally talented player all the way up through underage, u21 and senior and had represented Longford at minor and U21 level. He was also an All-Ireland Scór na nÓg champion for dancing.
2015 saw the club relegated to Division 2 of the league. However, in 2016 the club bounced right back by winning Division 2 and also the Patsy Reilly Cup. The club returned to senior championship status after winning the Intermediate championship in 2019, defeating Ballymahon in the final
The above is just a brief synopsis of the history of our GAA club and is not intended to be exhaustive. The club would like to thank everyone who plays, coaches, officiates, supports us and helps us out in any way. Without such support the club would never have been able to create the history detailed above nor would we be able to create it in the future. Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.