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Clann Na nGael Celebrate Anniversaries Of Past Minor Successes

Friday 20.07.2018
Team Talk Mag


At the recent Clann Na nGael summer festival, with belt sizes bigger and hairlines diminishing the club honoured two of their minor teams of yesteryear, (i) the 1988 Grade Two Double Winners and (ii) the 1993 Grade Two Championship winning team.

The much quoted English proverb ‘from little acorns do mighty oaks grow’ springs to mind when reflecting on the importance and impact these teams would have on the future of the clubas no less then 15 players from both teams would backbone the infamous back to back ‘Double-Double’ team of 1998. (The Double-Double being Junior League & Championship winners, 1997 & Intermediate League & Championship winners, 1998). This catapulted the team from Junior to Senior football in successive years, no small feat for a modest parish in the foothills of the Sperrins, in North Tyrone. We would like to thank those who made it back for the reunion with players travelling coming from Counties Derry, Antrim and Down, with special mention to Sean Harvey who made it all the way from Perth (Australia) and the one and only Ultan Blee, making it back from Toronto to enjoy the celebrations.

The minor success was a true reward for the real heroes of this story, i.e. the coaches and mentors who finally bore some fruit after toiling through many barren spells the parish had endured in youth football. At this stage we would like to say a special thanks to all the coaches of the parish over the years but in particular those who mentored these teams through to silverware, namely; Pat Blee, Brian Kerlin, John Harvey, Seamus Kearney, Ambrose Houston and Danny Devine.

Central to the success of the 93 team was a young, modest football fanatic called Brian Dooher, who I’m sure for many, the night he won his minor championship medal in Drumquin, the thought of Brian going on to lift the Sam Maguire not once but twice was far from everybody’s mind – except maybe one person!! the very same focused and determined Master Dooher.

From the 88 team, Cathal Blee would go on to win an All-Ireland U-21 title under the tutelage of fellow clubman, Danny Ball. Add to the mix, the bourgeoning and unique talent of a certain Stephan O’Neill, well maybe no wonder the club would make it all the way to senior football, finishing as high as joint third in their first year in Division 1A!! Indeed, the club would play Senior Championship for nine seasons until a League restructure saw them back in Intermediate ranks in 2008.

1988 Grade 2 Minor League and Championship Winners– ‘THE INVINCIBLES.

The Championship was played off first and a final berth was cemented via wins over Eskra, Loughmacrory (4-12 to 1-2) and Trillick (1-8 to 1-2). An intriguing final was in store to be played in Greencastle, a North Tyrone derby versus a physically imposing Gortin side backboned by the midfield pairing of Peter O’Neill and Colm McGarvey. In the early stages it was nip and tuck but with some fine second half scores and majors by Terry McAleer, Jude O’Neill and Ciaran Devine victory was assured. (n.b. both minor teams at the time played under the parish name of Donagheady)

Final Score: Donagheady 3-6 – Gortin 0-6: Scorers; Terry McAleer 1-0, Jude O’Neill 1-0, Ciaran Devine 1-0; Niall Conway 0-3; Adrian Devine (Ballycarry), Brian Devine and Cathal Blee 0-1.

The League campaign had been sandwiched by the Championship so, after accounting for Trillick again (including Jody Gormley), on a scoreline of 3-8 to 0-4, it was Loughmacrory who stood in the way of further silverware. The final was played in Drumquin on a Saturday afternoon in October and having beaten ‘The Lough’ in the quarter-final of the Championship, confidence was high and not without reason as the lads ran out comfortable winners at the final whistle.

Final Score: Donagheady 2-6 Loughmacrory 0-2: Scorers; Jude O’Neill 1-1, Brian Devine 1-0, Niall Conway 0-2, Terry McAleer 0-1 and Adrian Devine 0-1. THE INVINCIBLES had done it – going through the season undefeated!!

The team had a young Rory O’Neill in goals, with a physical central defensive spine via Drew Doherty, Paul Devine and Donal Conway; Cathal Blee and Niall Conway provided an athletic midfield; with Jude O’Neil and Terry McAleer both master predators in front of goal, swapping the no.11 and 14 berths to great effect. Others from the team who would go on to serve the club with great distinction in senior football were; Cathal O’Neill, Conor McAleer and Malachy Sheerin.  

1993 Grade 2 Championship Winners

After Ardboe had proved victorious in the League semi-final, it was a determined group of players that approached the 93Championship, with Newtownstewart first up in Round 1. ‘Newtown’ were soon dispatched as were neighbours Owen Roes and then a decent Moortown side in the semi-final. This left Aghaloo standing in the way of much coveted silverware and with the likes of the O’Neill brothers and future county minors, Sean Douglas and Stephen Donnelly to the fore for Aghaloo, they too had plenty of firepower to contend with.  

The game was a close affair right until the end, with the locals missing some goal chances that could have banished the supporters nerves sooner than the final whistle eventually did. Mid-way through the second half the slender half-time lead was finally cemented, when none other than Brian Dooher crashed the ball to the net. With a Conall Devine point to follow soon after, Donagheady finally pulled away from a dogged Aghaloo outfit to lift the trophy.

Final Score: Donagheady 1-11 Aghaloo 0-10: Scorers; Brian Dooher 1-7, Noel McDermott 0-2, Conall & Eunan Devine, 0-1.

The 93 team had a youthful Adrian Ball in goals (Adrian would go on to play senior football with Tyrone), with the tough-teak Doorat brothers, Joe and Dermot Devine at No.3 and 6 respectively. The lively Conall Devine would partner Brian in midfield, with the stylish Eunan Devine and high fielding Joe Donaghey taking up the central attacking positions. Again, like the 88 team there would be quite a few others that would go on to compete regularly in senior ranks, namely; Gary Devine, Peter Devine, Noel McDermott, Mark Dooher, Ultan Blee and Adrian Devine (Altishane).

The aforementioned DoubleDouble was captured in 1998 after a titanic tussle against a strong Moy side in the Championship and a memorable League play-off victory, over local rivals Strabane Sigersons, played in Dromore. The team was managed by Eunan Conway, now manager of his adopted club in Belfast, St Brigid’s. The connection is quite apt here, as we can take something from the St Brigid’s club motto ‘Mol an Oige’ – loosely translated this means ‘cherish the youth and they will prosper’ – a fitting club motto. In line with this, all of us in involved in both minor teams remain appreciative of the efforts of our previous mentors and long may such commitment continue in our quest to return to Intermediate status.

Just two years ago, the club won the Grade Two U-14 Double, so hopefully the building blockshave been laid again. They say history has a habit of repeating itself, well…let’s hope so – the challenge is on!!  



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