A brief History of Gaoth Dobhair GAA club
The first records of Gaelic football being played in the parish of Gaoth
Dobhair dateback to 1918. Towards the end of the 19th century and up until
1915 Gaoth Dobhair had a strong soccer team and this was the main pastime. This
was mainly due to the strong Scottish connection due to seasonal migration and of
course the birth of Glasgow Celtic in 1888. With the outbreak of WW1 soccer ceased
to be played to any great degree. IT was in the late twenties 1927/28 that Gaelic
football re-emerged in Gaoth Dobhair. At that time there was no official club but
there were two teams in the parish.
East and west
One team consisted of players from the east of Derrybeg church towards
Cnoc Fola and the second team was from the area west of the church.
Matches were played every Sunday alternating between Machaire Gathláin and
An Rannaigh to the East. According to folklore these games were played with
few rules, in reality only those who had gone to teacher training colleges had
any knowledge of GAA rules. The appointed referee blew when he thought there was
an infringement, often without any real knowledge of the rules of the game!. Some
players togged out, others simply rolled up their trousers, even football boots were
scarce, may players playing with one boot only. These games attracted huge crowds,
at one such match in 1928 played at An Rannaigh an official gate of £12 was collected –
and that was gained by passing round a cap. Cuman Lúthchleas Gael Ghaoth Dobhair
was founded in 1931 but it was more by chance than by design. In November of that
year a drama group from Mullaghduff produced a play in the parish of Gaoth Dobhair.
The following night a group of people got together in Owenie Eoin Ruaidh’s
(Gillespies) shop. Amongst them were Owenie Chonaill (Mc Bride) and Owenie Eoin
Ruaidh (Gillespie). Owenie Chonaill put it to the group that he could gather up a
crowd in Gaoth Dobhair that would give a better drama performance than the Mullaghduff
group had given. William Coyle who was in the company agreed and the plans were
laid to establish a drama group. Another man present Charlie Owenie suggested that
if they were starting a drama group that they might as well start a Gaelic football
team too. Jim Size suggested that there was no time like the present and that was the
night that C.L.G Ghaoth Dobhair was formed.
Dan Maloney was named as Chairman, other members were Mickey the Cope
Gallagher, Dominic Johnnie, Joe Friel, Charlie Friel and Antoin Delap.
A deal was struck with Mairead Frank and it was agreed that her house be
used for Committee meetings from then on. A team was formed in the late 1931,
early 1932, but according to the players of that era even though they were playing
senior football they were really only a good junior team. The first County title to
come into the parish of Gaoth Dobhair was a Minor title in 1933. Incidentally,
their opponents on that day were Ballyshannon, Gaoth Dobhair winning 1-04 to 0-02.
The following year they retained the title, this time against Letterkenny winning 3-10 to
1-04. The following year Gaoth Dobhair made the big breakthrough winning their first
senior title, defeating Bun Dobhráin 1-08 / 0-03. Nearly half the minor team of ’33
and ’34 played senior in 1935. Amongst them were Danny Neddy (Gillespie),
Hughie Dunlop, John Chit, Owenie Phádaí pheadair, Paddy Coll, Jimmy Phádaí Bhig.
Three members of the first winning team are still with us (2003). Jimí Ó Baoill,
Machaire Chlochair, Nial Mac Aoidh, Min Doire and Fanaid and Con McLaughlin (who was
teaching in the parish at the time). At that time many of the players had to work
seasonally in Scotland but they were always eager for news of their team. Sometimes
they got to hear the results on Radio Éireann late on Sunday nights. Mostly they
had to wait for a full report on the progress of Gaoth Dobhair in the Derry people
when it arrived midweek.