History of the GAA in Liverpool

The History of the GAA in Liverpool

----------- Selected information taken from Tommy Walsh's 'Being Irish in Liverpool'-----------

The first match recorded in Liverpool was in 1901, where Liverpool Young Ireland’s defeated Manchester Martyrs. According to Tommy Walsh there were 300 in attendance including the Special Branch, who were no doubt keeping a watchful eye. By 1906, both hurling and camogie were played in Liverpool and were played in the Aintree area, where the famous racecourse is located now. Later, the Young Irelands changed their name to Eire Og and then to St.Patricks by 1940.

Today, if you had the finest of Liverpool up against the finest of Kilkenny on a hurling field; there would be only one outcome. In 1912 however, the two teams met in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final. The Cats won by 4-03 to 1-03, the game was played in Liverpool however unfortunately the exact location was not recorded and no one in the county board was about in that time to clarify things!

By 1924 a new GAA ground was used at Dingle Brook Farm in West Derby. Two years later, the Provincial Council was formed and the only two affiliated boards were London and Liverpool GAA. The two boards fielded teams annually, in both hurling and football, to play each other for the P.J. O’Connor and Sam Maguire cups respectively. The hurling matches were normally won by Liverpool, while the football games were typically won by the London team.

By 1926, the Liverpool County Board (formed before the Lancashire County Board), secured a pitch at Thingwall Road in Broadgreen. They were warned that if there were any fighting during games then they would lose the pitch! The following year the teams who were playing around Liverpool were as follows:

• Granuaile (Southport)
• Eire Og (today’s John Mitchels)
• Exiles
• Gaels
• Thomas Ashes
• Earlstown
• Terence McSwineys
• Kathleen ni Houlihans (camogie, they represented the Gaelic League and St.Brigid’s, Manchester)

By 1927, the Secretary’s report stated that there were five hurling, two football and two camogie clubs affiliated. Eleven years later, the teams in Lancashire were:

• Eire Og (hurling and football)
• Sean O’Donovans (hurling and football)
• Patrick Pearses (football)
• Kevin Barry’s (football)

During World War 2, the GAA in Lancashire had its ups and downs, one of the pluses was a new club being formed in Wigan.

Between 1948 and 1950, John Mitchels GAC was formed, however according to Tommy Walsh, ‘they didn’t succeed in attracting the young Irish men into their ranks’. They dissolved into the St.Patrick’s Club, St.Patrick’s hurling and John Mitchel’s Gaelic football. Peter Delaney was one of the founders of the John Mitchels club and he became secretary of the larger club. By 1953, games were played at Yew Tree Field, Preston were playing gaelic games and Lancashire got to the All-Ireland Junior Final, losing to Cork. Two years later, gaelic games were being played at Thingwall Hall (St.Edward’s Orphanage) and after that at Sefton Rugby Club, West Derby.

There were many great players to grace the John Mitchels team over the years, however none more so than the great James McCartan snr and his brother Dan, as well as a smattering of Derry county players. The reason for this was during the gaelic exhibition games at Wembley, John Mitchels took part in the festivities against London Shamrocks as a feeder for the bigger inter-county games. Of course making the long trip south resulted in not bring a full 15, so the aforementioned players togged out for the Liverpool team.

By the 1970s and 80s the economic situation was improving in Ireland, therefore the influx of Irish playing gaelic games in Britain was declining. By 1978bthere were 40 underage games played at Newsham Park. A very strong group of families were active. Sadly, the 1980s saw hurling die in Liverpool as well as the underage. On the plus side however, 1982 saw comprehensive fixtures being first first produced, thanks to Peter Gallagher.

John Mitchels adult team soon began to find it hard to field but thanks to Barry Morris, who also played with the club, reformed the club and affiliated it to the Lancashire County Board. The club of course, reached Croke Park to play in the All-Ireland Junior Final in 2009.

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