1983 Junior Champions – click to enlarge
Gaelic Games have been played on the East Coast for all of the Association’s 126 years. In that time, Naomh Colmcille and its predecessor clubs have been to the forefront of developments in Meath GAA, a very proud past.
2008 was an historic year for all associated with Naomh Colmcille. It saw the club celebrate the centenary, Golden and Silver anniversaries of its county championship success. The occasion was marked in fine style with a Gala Black Tie Dinner and Ball in the Bettystown Court Hotel.
1981 U16 Division 1 Champions – click to enlarge
So 1908 saw Bettystown GFC claimed the first silverware in the area’s history, winning the Meath Junior Championship at Navan. Further glory was to follow in 1958 when St Marys overcame Fordstown at Pairc Tailteann to win the Intermediate Championship. A young man at the time, club great, Eamon Faulkner recalls the great day and great team St Marys had. That was a team led by the famed Ken Lougheed, a Leinster Championship winner with Dublin in 1949 (the first Englishman to win a Leinster medal !!), a team that featured current club President Pat O’Neill, the Watters brothers, Tommy and Paddy and the great Liam Bennett to name but a few. Faulkner recalls how Paddy Watters, a mere slip of a lad at 16 shone on the day and how 20 years later in 1978, Paddy captained Duleek to Intermediate glory and was presented with the Irish Press Cup by his former team mate, Pat O’Neill, by then County Board Chairman
As the years went by, the area saw two clubs in action, the Stars of the Sea and Shallon. 1971 saw the formation of the Naomh Colmcille Mí Thoir Club with the amalgamation of these entities and thereafter began a period of growth that saw the club capture the imagination of the entire area. By 1971, O’Neill was making waves in the administration of association. He was to serve as Minor Board Chairman, overseeing the establishment of Cumann na mBunscoil and numerous Leinster and All-Ireland Minor title wins. He later served as County Board Chairman and in later years as Meath’s Central Council Delegate and member of the CCCC. However it was his drive and energy in the early 1970’s that saw him push the club to great heights. He recalls vividly the night that Oliver Kavanagh (”jackser”) and Brendan Beakey (”Brasso”) sought transfers to neighbours St Pats, a move that they probably felt would see them continue their progression with the Meath Senior Team, famously denying the transfers, O’Neill stood firm. Jackser went on to win an O’Byrne Cup medal (a serious leg injury finishing his county career), Brasso went on to claim an NFL title in 1977 in a squad featuring Mattie Kerrigan and Colm O’Rourke. Both served Naomh Colmcille with distinction over the years. Jackser is now in his 4th year as Club Chairman (his third stint in the hotseat) and doubles up as senior selector whilst Brasso served as senior manager for 4 years and we hope to see him back coaching in the near future.
However, O’Neill’s legacy may forever be the International Rules series. Travelling to Australia with the Meath Squad in 1967, he was one of the trailblazers noting the professionalism of the Aussies and noting the possibility for a hybrid game. 1982, under O’Neill’s guidance the club put forward the motion to the Meath Convention that the Association’s centenary year feature a “Compromise Rules” match with Australia. And so it came to pass and those famous “dust ups” in Pairc Uí Chaoimh and Croke Park left an impression on so many. For this scribe (a mere baby in 1984, travelling to the Athletic Grounds in Armagh to watch the AUssies play Ulster will be a memory he will forever treasure
The 1970’s saw a period of rapid growth. Under O’Neill and Paddy Brannigan, the U14 Thornton Cup was annexed for the first time in 1973. That team featured future stars like Colm Hilliard, Sam Madden and John Hethrington, father of ladies chairperson, Niamh. The win also spurred on the club and in 1974, the “Blues” qualified for the Junior Championship final. Whilst defeat was their lot, the team caught the imagination of the area and the club grew rapidly. By that time, a whole host of juvenile players started to come to the fore, names like O’Malley, Flynn, Carr and O’Neill became household names, that would ultimately kickstart a glorious decade in the 1980’s
The 1980’s caught off to a great start when in 1980, the club won the All-Ireland U15 Og Sport title. This was followed by an U16 county title in 1981 and then saw back to back Minor Championships annexed in 1982 and 1983. 1983 was the year that 5 members of the club took to the field against an Alan Larkin led Dublin team in the Leinster Championship. Whilst defeat was their lot, as a guest of the club in 2007 at our Legend’s evening Larkin vividly recalled the day he first saw Flynn and O’Malley in action and marked them out as ones to watch.
Maybe it was the big county minor group, maybe it was the back to back county titles but for whatever reason, the Junior Championship of 1983 started slowly. 12 years had passed and but for the 1974 adventure, we had not really threatened. However, former chairman and local businessman, Dermot Hilliard recalled something was different about the year. The 1982 MFC win had lifted everyone and made them believe, training moved indoors and concerted efforts were made. There was also the famous ambush of Ciaran Carr at United Park, where he was starring for Ray Treacy’s Drogheda United. Whatever was said (or done), Carr threw in his lot with the Cilles and progress was made.
After a slow start to the Championship, Bernard Flynn joined the Junior Panel for round 3 and proceeded to shoot the proverbial lights out, 3 wins on the bounce and the Seasiders were back into the quarter finals. By then the blues were on a roll and they were paired with Dunboyne for a famous semi-final at Pairc Tailteann. That semi-final will go down in the annals of Meath history as it was the curtain raiser to Sean Boylan’s first match in charge of Meath – better still, it was at home to Dublin in round 1 of the NFL, 3 weeks after the “Dirty Dozen” had won the All-Ireland title. The semi-final was not without controversy as Dunboyne fought to have it re-fixed given that a certain Mr Boylan was still togging out for the yellow and blacks.
O’Malley and Jackser will never forget that day, there was something like 20,000 in Pairc Tailteann from early on in a red hot atomsphere. Wearing sky blue on the day, the Seasiders were roared on by the Metropolitan supporters who outnumbered their Meath counterparts. Victory ensued and soon after Moynalty were overcome in the final finally delivering the covetted COunty Titles for Dermot Hilliard and Jackser on an emotional day for the club that had been a long time coming
Ask anyone who was there – 1984 hurt. That was the year we missed out on an Intermediate title and in doing so probably blew that squad’s chances of winning a Keegan Cup in later years. Progressing rapidly and with the 5 county minors of 1983 to the fore, the Seasiders made waves throughout the Intermediate Championship going straight to the county final. Favourties on the day, good form deserted them against neighbours Slane and successive promotions (something Wolfe Tones would do twenty years on in 2003 and 2004) were missed. Despite getting stronger each year and boasting multiple All Ireladn and Leisnter medals, the Intermediate Grade was, just as now, a proverbial gluepot and it was 1988 before the club found itelf back in the final. Managed now by Paddy Carr who would later go on to manage Ireland in the International Rules and win county titles in Meath, Louth, Monaghan and Dublin, progress was steady through the group faces and come November we faced down an up and coming Dunderry side who featured a young man by the name of Tommy Dowd. A replay ensued and in 1988, 30 years on from the great Ken Lougheed, current senior selector and a man who would go on to win u12, 14, 15, 16 and U21 titles, Colm Hilliard climbed high into the stands to lift the Cup into the grey Navan skies. By ’s then however, the squads best days were maybe behind them and whilst retaining senior status for well over a decade, a challenge on the Keegan Cup was never likely to be realistic. Matters were not helped by a worsening economic situation that saw so many of our young players seek employment overseas