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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

The story of the GAA in Derry is twofold: the city and the county. The failure to establish itself with the same level of organisation as in other counties meant that the expansion of the GAA in Derry was slow with periods during the early twentieth century where the playing of both football and hurling was, at best, sporadic. The mid- twentieth century saw the expansion and development of the GAA in rural parts of Derry but it also bore witness to the near collapse of the Association in the city, where soccer provided stiff competition. Significant advances were made in the city following the opening of Celtic Park GAA grounds in 1943, but many of the new clubs that sprung up soon disappeared. It is only in recent times that the GAA has made progress in the city. As in many counties, the intertwining of the GAA and politics was clearly visible within the nationalist movement in from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to the more recent Troubles, which erupted in the 1970s. The ongoing strength of the GAA in rural areas was manifest in the All-Ireland club success of Lavey in 1991. And this club success soon translated onto the inter-county stage when in 1993, amid scenes of great jubilation, Derry won their first All-Ireland football title.


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A high ball is contested during a match in Ballinascreen.
©GAA Oral History Project


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A membership card from Owen Roe GFC from c.1950s
©GAA Oral History Project

Foncey O'Kane
Maura McCloy

Foncey O'Kane, b. 1942

Foncey discusses the history of O'Brien's Foreglen GAA Club and how there is evidence of Gaelic games being played in the area before the formation of the GAA.
©GAA Oral History Project

Maura McCloy, b. 1960

Maura from Ballinascreen recalls her earliest memories of the GAA and how people used to gather around the radio to listen to the All-Ireland.
©GAA Oral History Project

'I used to travel across town to play hurling on a Saturday morning... I even remember the price of the bus; my father used to give me a pound on a Saturday morning, which was a fortune then, and 50p for the bus over and 50p for the bus back... In 1981 walking across Craigavon Bridge in Derry with a sportsbag and a hurl looked a bit strange. It was certainly a bit strange to the British Army checkpoint on the bridge at the time.'
- Paul Simpson, b. 1968
©GAA Oral History Project

'I left home at 5.30 on a Saturday evening on my bicycle and went to Magherfelt which is five miles away with my football boots tied on the bar… I took the bus to Derry and then transferred from the bus to a train to Letterkenny. I stayed the night in Letterkenny. I got a cup of tea after the match and raced to get the train… That was my experience of my first senior match.'
- Roddy Gribbin, b. 1924
©GAA Oral History Project

'We travelled by car to matches, one day 11 players travelled in the one car. The driver became distracted with the noise in the car and looked behind him and ended up in the ditch. Luckily no one was injured and we went on to win the match.'
- Frank Walls, b. 1960
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Patrick Heron, b.1934