When our founding fathers, Messr’s Monaghan, ,Glynn, Maguire, Hanlon and company sat down in that fateful year of 1893, and its reliably recounted that that they didn’t even have a seat to sit on, to discuss proposals for our first affiliation. I am sure, that in their wildest dreams they could not have imagined how their fledgling club would evolve and grow. Many of the early meetings took place in one or other of the above mentioned houses and I am reliably informed that on occasions the turf shed had to be resorted to.
In those early years and unlike today, the focus of the club was simple but very challenging. There were a number of key items to be done i.e. raise enough funds to pay for affiliation and a set of jerseys, secure a venue to play the games and generate interest in the locality to muster a team and not least a name for the new club. The latter must have caused great consternation, debate and disagreement given the colourful names the club have had over the last 118 years: Woodown Rackers, The Downs Pigeons, The Downs Clan Lír and the Downs St Ciaran’s. Simple tasks one might say by today’s standards but daunting for the fledgling committee. Immense credit must go to those who were part of our foundation and to those who kept the club going through the harshest of economic times and periods of great civil unrest (The Great War, War of Independence, Civil War, Second World War and the Economic War). The current generation will have little comprehension of the enormous divisions that emerged in our country as a result of the civil war and it is testament to the officers of the club that they managed to steer our club through those troubled times.
The club continued to survive and indeed flourish in the early years and won its first Junior championship in 1907. The Downs won their first Senior Championship in 1918 defeating Athlone in the final. We then had a long wait to our next Senior Championship win. Rejoining senior ranks following a junior championship win in 1964, we then won six Senior Championships from 1968 to 1980 including three in a row in ‘68, ‘69 and ‘70. A remarkable feat when you consider that the club had no field of its own and were dependent on the generosity of our farming neighbours ( Crowley’s, Walsh’s Corroon’s, Murtagh’s, Carley’s, Leavy’s and Moran’s) for playing fields and these were very much of a temporary nature, often used for just one game at a time, goal posts would have to be erected the morning of the game and taken down again that evening. It was not until 1982 that the club purchased its own ground (Faulkner’s field) and it’s hard to comprehend how the club survived for eighty nine years without owning its own premises. 1982 marked the commencement of our development programme and the club has made major strides on improving its facilities and what you see today is the culmination of a lot of hard work and judicious planning by successive committees down through the years. Of course this work could not have been done without the dedicated support of our members, supporters and friends.
The rest of the ‘80’s and ‘90’s proved a barren period as far as senior championship success was concerned and the nearest we came was a final appearance in 1986. However we continued to bring silverware to the club during these years winning the league on six occasions, the Senior B Championship came our way six times ( two 3 in a rows) and 3 Feis cups had Na Dúnta inscribed on them. The dawn of the twenty first century saw Na Dúnta return to winning ways in the Senior Championship with title success in 2003 and 2005 and also adding league titles in the same years.
It gives this writer immense satisfaction and a great sense of pride to belong to a club that knows its sense of place in its community and to work alongside people who have boundless energy and are selflessly dedicated to The Downs GAA club. Long may that pride and energy continue.