Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

Cavan hold more Ulster senior football titles than any other county in the province. Following a brief decline at the end of the nineteenth century, the GAA in Cavan was revived at the beginning of the twentieth century and it was not long before the county became a powerhouse of Gaelic football, winning a plethora of Ulster titles between the 1920s and 1940s. This was the heyday of the sport in Cavan; All-Ireland successes were achieved in 1933, 1935, 1947, 1948 and again in 1952. The standout victory among all these was arguably that of 1947, when Cavan defeated Kerry in a final played in the New York Polo Grounds. The sporting fortunes of the county ebbed in the second half of the twentieth century with only a single Provincial title – in 1997 – being added after 1969.  Nevertheless, the contribution of Cavan to the emergence and development of the GAA in Ulster is a singular one: it was here that the GAA first expanded into Ulster with the Ballyconnell Joe Biggars club – named after a Nationalist MP - being the first to affiliate to the Association in March 1886.


Click on the image above to see the full image.
Local club members working hard to level ditches for Cornafean's new grounds in 1961.
©George Cartwright


Click on the image above to see the full document.
Training tips given by Cavan County Secretary Hugie Smith to players at a training session in 1952.
©GAA Oral History Project

Tony Connelly

Tony Connelly, b. 1941
Tony discusses the history of Ballyconnell First Ulsters and the controversy surrounding the club's claim of being the first GAA club in Ulster.
© GAA Oral History Project

Cavan Gaels GAA

Members of Cavan Gaels GAA sing an old club song.
© GAA Oral History Project

'Daddy only went to watch the boys play. For some reason or another he just didn't think girls should be playing sport. But in the end, as things went along, I ended up winning more than the boys and he started coming around to the idea, when he started seeing the trophy cabinet with more girls' trophies than boys' trophies he said there must be something in this ladies' sport. And it was only then that he started taking an interest.'
- Rosie O'Reilly, b. 1969
© GAA Oral History Project

'The G.A.A. has changed in many ways. It now has to compete with a huge number of other sports. Not only were we not allowed to play 'foreign games' we could not even watch them. Thankfully the 'ban' as it was called is gone and the games have to compete on their own merits.'
- Jim McDonnell, 1935
© GAA Oral History Project

'Most communities are completely run by football, it's what you do at the weekend, and if you go out, it's what you talk about, and it's great when it can bring people together in that kind of a way.'
- Mark Farrelly, b. 1990
© GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Thomas Coyle b. 1941