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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project

Fermanagh

gaa oral history project

Early forms of Gaelic games existed in Fermanagh before the GAA established itself in the county in 1887. Although ‘camán’, an early form of hurling, was played, it was football which took hold in Fermanagh; by 1888 there were fifteen active clubs around the county. A decline in participation in Gaelic games during the difficult 1912-1923 period was followed by an equally impressive growth during the mid-1920s. Emigration and economic hardship during the 1940s saw a collapse of the club structure in the county; by 1950 there were only four clubs in the senior football league.  And yet the decade that followed saw a rebirth of the GAA in the county and in 1959 Fermanagh celebrated an All-Ireland junior football victory. Despite the onset of the Troubles in the 1970s, coupled with the continued problem of emigration, club football in Fermanagh remained relatively strong. Although a first Ulster title has so far proved elusive, Fermanagh’s most successful run in the All-Ireland senior football championship to date came in 2004 when (using the back-door system to their advantage) they overturned the might of Armagh in the quarter-final before losing narrowly to Mayo in a semi-final replay.

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Ulster Council representatives carry a Fermanagh banner during a GAA centenary parade in Enniskillen in August, 1984.
©Fermanagh Museum

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An article from the Fermanagh Herald in 1968 showcasing the county's top club footballers.
©James McCaffrey

Malachy Mahon
Fermanagh

Malachy Mahon, b. 1930

Malachy talks about the excitement and the prepartations that took place in advance of Irvinestown's appearance in the Fermanagh Junior Championship Final in 1940.
©GAA Oral History Project

Rita Traynor, b. 1933

Rita recalls playing for the Fermanagh hurling team in a friendly county match because the team was short for numbers.
© GAA Oral History Project

'My grandfather was a founder member and player with Roslea Shamrocks in 1888... Living on a farm was seven days a week, but Sunday afternoon was always reserved for football matches... As transport was in short supply we would be packed about ten in a car. A bus would usually be hired for finals. I usually cycled to Ulster finals in Clones.'
- Bernard McCaffrey, b. 1951
© GAA Oral History Project

'Clubs didn't have very much money, so buying a set of jerseys was a big expense... we changed to maroon because the simple reason being that there was four or five of the leading members of the club at the time were enamoured with the great Galway team that won the three in a row and Galway wore maroon. So it was decided that 'well if it's good enough for Galway it's good enough for Tempo'.'
- Damien Campbell, b. 1946
© GAA Oral History Project

'That's the way the GAA is: it steps from generation to generation, it keeps everybody happy, and everybody has a topic of conversation from one end of the week to the other. We read the local paper here to see what happens and we look forward to it... we look forward to the weekends of the GAA. That's what being a member of the GAA, and what the GAA is to me.'
- Pat Chapman, b. 1941
© GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Frank Mulligan b. 1932