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Newtownstewart & Dregish Merge to form Naomh Eoghan

Tuesday 05.11.2019
Team Talk Mag

By Aodhan Harkin

Contrary to the reports and rumours, Dregish Pearse Óg G.A.A. club has not disbanded rather it has merged with Newtownstewart to form a new club named Naomh Eoghan.

I was delighted to be asked along to get a briefing on the recent merger last Monday night and I was very impressed at the manner in which it actually came about, and the direction forward that is envisaged for the club.

I met with prominent members of Newtownstewart and Dregish clubs whom I have known for many years who are passionate Gaels attempting to do the best for their local communities. There has been talk for over a decade of the Dregish club disbanding but to their great credit they have remained steadfast. The discussions between the two clubs have been ongoing for almost two years and whenever I listened to the members explain the rationale for this merger it all made a great deal of sense.

The present day Newtownstewart club has been in existence since 1945 but the club can trace its roots away back to around 1907 whilst the Dregish club was founded in 1968 but can show periods of activity dating back to the 1930s. The Newtownstewart club has won the Junior Championship in 1951, 1995, 2009 and most recently in 2018.

Dregish have been to the top in Tyrone football away back in 1985 after they finished runners up in the Division 2 League and won Junior Championship titles in 1970, 1976, 1983 and 2001.

The decision by Newtownstewart and Dregish to merge is nothing new in Tyrone G.A.A. circles. We have seen such changes occur back in the late 1990s when Dunamanagh and Aughabrack came together and formed Clann na nGael. Something similar also happened in 1990 when Ballygawley St Ciaráns were merged into what is nowadays known as Errigal Ciarán.

The merger is all about keeping the G.A.A. alive and vibrant in the adjacent historic parishes of Ardstraw East (Newtownstewart) and Ardstraw West (Dregish) of which Eoghan is the patron Saint. That is where the name of the newly amalgamated club is derived from as the saint has strong bonds in both parishes.

It’s envisaged that both club grounds at Páirc Naomh Eoghain (Newtownstewart) and Fr McCrory Park (Dregish) will be fully utilised and become shared facilities as the Naomh Eoghan club intend to promote Gaelic games and activities across the board at male and female levels.

There are many reasons for the demise of G.A.A. clubs and in particular in rural communities where the closure and merger of Primary Schools has a major bearing on the sustainability of a club. This factor undoubtedly played a key role in this decision as reduced family sizes have resulted in fewer school age children.

The establishment of Naomh Eoghan is a brave and courageous step forward by the Gaels of Newtownstewart and Dregish. It is to be welcomed and supported as they look forward at the longterm sustainability of Gaelic games in this proud part of North Tyrone.

I have no doubt that other clubs in a similar position are looking on with interest so don’t be in the least bit surprised if you hear of other such mergers down the line.

Tyrone G.A.A. Management Committee recently gave the proposal the green light and this was endorsed by the County Committee delegates at their monthly meeting held on Tuesday night past.

The coming weeks will see many more meetings occur with an Annual General Meeting currently being planned as are other important matters in respect of club colours, crests and no doubt countless other matters.

I wish Naomh Eoghan every success in the years ahead, they have shown great vision to reach this point and are to be commended for their bravery and foresight Ádh mór.

By Aodhán Harkin


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