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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project

Antrim

gaa oral history project

Located in the north east corner of Ireland, Antrim is regarded as a stronghold of Ulster hurling. Gaelic games and, in particular, early forms of hurling were played in the county throughout the nineteenth century. The game, as designed by the GAA, eventually took hold in Antrim at the turn of the twentieth century following frequent visits by Michael Cusack to Belfast coupled with the establishment of the annual Feis na nGleann. A tradition in the game established, Antrim would develop into a powerhouse of Ulster hurling throughout the twentieth century. Football, by contrast, endured a more chequered experience. Despite a period of progress in the 1940s, the onset of the Troubles in the 1970s had a devastating effect on football in the county, precipitating its decline. Even so, Antrim teams have been recognised for their contribution to the game and the St John’s club of west Belfast was central to the establishment of the All-Ireland Club Championship. Their near neighbours, St. Gall’s, are the most recent Antrim team to win the All-Ireland Club Football Championship, doing so in 2010, while fellow Antrim club Loughgiel Shamrocks won their second All-Ireland Club hurling title in 2012.

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A league play off match between University of Ulster and Queen's University Belfast in 1988.
©Cumann Camógaíochta na nGael

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An invitaion by McQuillan G.A.C. to a victoy celebration in 1953. The price of admission for ladies was cake.
©McQuillan G.A.C.

Gerry Barry
Gilly McIlhatton

Gerry Barry, b. 1940

Gerry discusses the origins of Casement Park and the reasons for its construction.                                                                      © GAA Oral History Project


Gilly McIlhatton, b. 1931

Gilly describes how all GAA clubs in Belfast are located on the Falls Road.
© GAA Oral History Project

'Believe it or believe it not, I got a Protestant fellah out to play for Agohill. Me and him ran up the hill on the bikes from Agohill – I was born and reared in the village – football boots over the handlebars of the bike, the green and white jerseys stuck inside the coat. My mother kept the two jerseys. He couldn't take a green and white jersey down to the house; his father was an Orangeman. And he was a good player. I had an eye for a good footballer then, even at school. He was a great footballer. His father got to hear about it and stopped him playing and that fellah went on to be a Northern Ireland schoolboy international.'
- John McGuigan, b. 1941
© GAA Oral History Project

'The first time I ever played pulled a shirt on for Brackenstown was in Davitt Park and I played outside left; Leo Mallen played outside right. We didn't even have football boots. We were dressed out in the kit and football socks but we had nothing only whatever we wore in those days and it probably wasn't shoes, it was boots. I don't think I ever touched the ball that night but it was great to run out on Davitt Park, which was our Croke Park of the day.'
- Willie Grogan, b. 1939
© GAA Oral History Project

'I remember when I was 14 playing a hurling match on the Glen Road in west Belfast, it was 1976, the height of the Troubles. Frank Stagg had died on hunger strike in jail in England, there was serious trouble on the streets of nationalist parts of Belfast. A gun battle broke out nearby where we were playing and bullets were literally whizzing past our heads. Both teams had to hit the deck and crawl off commando style, using our hurls like rifles! We thought it was great craic, think the match was declared a draw! But for the GAA in west Belfast, many more young lads could have been drawn into the conflict. Challenging times indeed and a huge debt of gratitude is due to all who gave their time.'
- Paul Collins, b. 1962
© GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnarie: Marion McFetridge b. 1939