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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

Evidence exists that suggests an early form of hurling, known as camán, was played in Donegal from as early as the fifteenth century. With the establishment of the GAA in 1884, many counties discarded their local games in favour of those governed by GAA rules. In Donegal, however, camán continued to be played into the early twentieth century. The failure of the GAA to establish itself in its early years in Donegal was due to a number of factors outside of the association’s control. As was the case in most counties along the western seaboard, poverty and emigration were rife. These conditions, coupled with the popularity of soccer in the county, added to the slow development of the GAA in Donegal. The early twentieth century brought an improvement; the number of clubs grew and the county reached the All-Ireland football final in 1933, losing to Mayo. Although emigration returned in the 1950s, the 1960s saw a strengthening of football in Donegal and, in 1972, they celebrated their first Ulster senior football title. The county’s first All-Ireland title came in 1992. In 2011 and 2012, Donegal succeeded in winning back-to-back Ulster senior football titles. Four under-21 Shield titles since 1999 also underline the progress being made in hurling.


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The view of Tawny Bay from the Kilcar GAA club pitch.
©Fred Reilly


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An extract from MacCumhaill Park's purchase fund in 1947.
©GAA Oral History Project

Noreen Doherty
Naul McCole

Noreen Doherty, b. 1957

Noreen discusses being the first female county secretary and the reaction at her first county board meeting.
©GAA Oral History Project

Naul McCole, b. 1939

Naul describes the great rivalry between Dungloe and Gaoth Dohbair and recalls the famous 'four matches' between the clubs in the championship during the 1950s.
©GAA Oral History Project

'Then it [emigration] happened again in the sixties. I know whenever I was playing in Birmingham, we had about two dozen fellas from Carn… all local lads and it was the same in every parish then, they were just going away.'
- Paddy McClure, b. 1942
©GAA Oral History Project

'We walked to local matches and paid a shilling for admission. The county matches were five shillings to attend and we would travel by car, as many people as could fit. We always wore our Sunday best going to matches.'
- Gerald Timoney, b. 1934
©GAA Oral History Project

'We travelled all over Ireland supporting Donegal and I especially remember the run up to the 1992 All-Ireland and the subsequent celebrations. I remember brining tea and sandwiches to matches and usually getting to eat on the way home… If any of our clubs or county won any major honours I remember doing a parade down the main street in Letterkenny in cars with the horns beeping.'
- Sally Anne Boyle, b. 1981
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to view a sample of a full length questionnaire: Sean Dunnion, b. 1968