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Gaelic Athletic Association - Oral History Project


gaa oral history project

Although a GAA county board was not established in Tyrone until 1904, there is some evidence to suggest an earlier presence for Gaelic games in the county. Records indicate that a club existed in Cookstown in 1890 while camán, a game similar to hurling, is known to have been played in Tyrone during the nineteenth century. Despite the presence of a county board – which was linked to the language and national revival movement – the GAA did not develop any significant momentum in Tyrone and for the following two decades the Association had a low profile in the county. It was only during the 1930s and 1940s that the GAA began to make significant progress in the county, with Tyrone claiming two minor All-Irelands in the 1940s. These underage successes paved the way for the county’s first Ulster senior title in 1956. As in other counties north of the border, the outbreak of the Troubles had a detrimental impact on the playing of Gaelic games in Tyrone.  Although an All-Ireland final was reached in 1986, it was not until the turn of the millennium – and the relative social normality that came with the Peace Process – that Tyrone fulfilled its full potential. Building on a series of successful underage teams, the county established itself as major force in Gaelic football during the early 2000s, winning five Ulster and three All-Ireland titles.


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Lord Ashbourne, for whom the Ashbourne Cup is named, leads a Gaelic League parade to O'Neill Park in 1935.
©GAA Oral History Project


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A ticket for a 'duck derby' fundraising event for Aghyaran G.A.C. in 1987. First prize was £100.
©GAA Oral History Project

Joe Martin
Jimmy Treacy

Joe Martin, b. 1939

Joe recalls his father's attempt to delay his brother Michael joining Columbans in Dalgan so he could to play a county final in 1958.
©GAA Oral History Project

Jimmy Treacy, b. 1940

Jimmy discusses the impact that the Hunger Strikes had on the GAA in Tyrone during the Troubles.
©GAA Oral History Project

'As a youngster it was always great going to the Championship games especially to Clones for the Ulster final. Tyrone in the early 1990s were quite prolific at lifting the Anglo-Celt cup but unfortunately that’s where our season usually ground to a halt! It was quite frustrating as a Tyrone supporter and I will never forget the All-Ireland final v Dublin of 1995. However, things have changed considerably since then and Tyrone have won three All-Ireland titles in eight years. Tyrone are now considered the finest footballing county in the country. This in itself makes going to matches exciting as there is a real belief and expectancy about the county.'
Niall McCrory, b. 1979
©GAA Oral History Project

'1957, Tyrone v Louth: On the day of the game our house was full of family and neighbours to listen to the match. I was standing at the door as there was no room to sit down. We had got out fist dry battery wireless from an uncle from Belfast. During the match Micheal O'Hehir was describing how Jackie Taggart had beaten his man and sent in a dangerous cross, when a neighbour woman jumped up and shouted: "Jesus! Where’s Jones?". In doing so she sent the wireless crashing to the floor.'
- Seán King, b. 1946
©GAA Oral History Project

'In those days playing gear was rather primitive. Togs were not available as they were not stocked locally and most young people could not have afforded them, had they been available. Instead necessity became the mother of invention! A four-stone flour bag washed and bleached, to remove the writing, provided very suitable material for making a pair of togs. All was needed then was someone skilled with a needle and a bit of dress-making talent and elastic from Sammy King's drapery shop and 'hey presto' you were kitted out with togs like the best around. No O'Neill's classy designs in those days! ... The club would only have one football which was a precious commodity then – it was kept in Francey McCann's bicycle shop on the main street. The Association was built by unselfish individuals who were most generous with their time and money.'
- Tony McKenna, b. 1937
©GAA Oral History Project

Click here to read a sample of a full length questionnaire: Pauline McSorley, b. 1983