St. Mary’s GAC




Short History

Gaelic Games have been played in the parish for a century.  The local Dungannon News, now Tyrone Courier, carried a report of a Gaelic football match between Reaskmore and Moy in Moy on May 2nd 1907.  Indeed local oral history suggests that the game of “commons”,  or cammanacht, an old version of hurling, was played in the area on a regular although not very organized basis, prior to the turn of the twentieth century and continued being played during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

It was in 1938 that the first GAA club was formed in the parish  -  St. Mary’s Tullyallen.  The club continued until 1942 when war restrictions on petrol and rationing combined with emigration led to its demise.  Prevalent in organizing the club at that time were Mick Stewart of Reaskmore, Master Leo Sheridan and Jim Gribben of Tullyallen, Paddy Regan, Killymoyle and Johnny O’Connor of Tullyallen.  Johnny was the father of a very promising player, Patrick Pearse or P.P. as he was known. P.P. played for Tyrone minors in 1940 and 1941 and, due to the death of Fr Peter Campbell’s father, played midfield as a late replacement on the Tyrone Senior team in the Ulster Final of 1941 against Cavan.

Despite the club’s short lived existence it left an important legacy and some, like the late Joe Packie McBride, who played for Tullyallen, were instrumental in the emergence of St. Mary’s GAC Killeeshil in 1956.  Indeed, Joe Packie was the club’s first chairman and the club took its colours, Green and White hoops, from the Tullyallen colours.  The club was affiliated with the then East Tyrone Board and began taking part in competitions in 1957.  A field was rented from Leo Hughes in Ackinduff beside where Leo Holland now lives and became home for the club for the next few years.  In what was to become a tragic theme in the clubs history one of its most promising players, Brendan Gillen, was killed during a lightning storm.

Hopes were high that the club would progress to possible senior status as it reached the semi-final of the East Tyrone Junior Championship in 1958.  Unfortunately the forwards left their shooting boots at home and their squander-mania cost them dearly against a very useful Galbally team who went on to win the County Championship that year.  The team development was hampered by the twin evils of lack of local employment and emigration.

By the early 1960’s some of the more senior players who were available at the formation had retired and playing resources were stretched to the limit.  Fleeting attempts were made to develop youth teams to provide a more steady flow of talent.  Things improved in that respect when a juvenile team was formed in 1966 which showed some promise.  By 1970 they had reached the county minor final where they succumbed to the might of Omagh St Enda’s.  However, from that team Dominic Daly and Kieran Hagan went on to represent the county at minor, U-21 and senior level in the 1970’s.

In the same period, late 1960’s and early 1970’s the club had moved out of junior ranks into the East Tyrone Intermediate League.  With the success of both the senior and minor teams coupled with the purchase and development of a new playing field, the future never looked better.  These hopes were short lived however and by 1972 the successful minor team had all but disappeared due again to lack of local opportunity and emigration.  Several players were lost to the four corners of the earth which meant that the hope and optimism of 1970 and 1971 were replaced by gloom and despondency.

Renewed efforts by new committees in 1973 and 1974 and the emergence of some new players gave rise to new hope.  A number of impressive results were achieved  -  none more so that the victories over several intermediate sides in the Feis Shield competition of 1974, culminating in a win over Kildress at Coalisland in the final.  The club had won its first trophy at adult level since its formation 18 years before.

By 1976 Killeeshil were again chasing trophies but were beaten by the narrowest of margins in the County Junior Final against Dregish.  Further frustration was endured as promotion via the league on two occasions to intermediate status was frustrated by ill-considered local county bye-laws.

However, perseverance paid off and in 1980 promotion was gained by victory over Castlederg in an A.C.L. Division 3 playoff.   Killeeshil were back in the intermediate grade.  Due to the emergence of some talented new players the success of the early 1980’s was consolidated and in 1986 the club won its first championship title by beating neighbours, Donaghmore in a replayed final.  In 1987 for the 31st year of its existence, the club truly came of age by playing senior football for the first time in the All County League Division 1.

The club remained in senior football for four years until 1990, their demotion, no doubt due in some part, to the untimely death of Dominic Daly in a tragic road accident in February of that year.  This blow, added to the loss of a number of players due to injury, ensured a return to intermediate football.  Despite signs of recovery the slide continued downwards and the club were relegated to junior football in 1994.  The recovery started with the arrival of Noel McGinn as team manager in 1995 and a year later they returned to intermediate football as winners of the All County League Division 3.  In the same year they captured the Reserve Championship and twelve months later Killeeshil were unlucky to loose the 1997 Intermediate Championship final to neighbours Eglish, having defeated Kildress, Strabane and Moy on their way to the final. 

Tragedy struck the club again when the club lost its inspirational full back and Club Secretary, Paul Hughes, as a result of a tragic car accident.  Another panellist, Sean McBride, also died as a result of a sporting accident earlier in the year. 

The club remained in intermediate football until 2004 when they finished second in Division 2 of the All County League to gain promotion to Division 1B.  This was some compensation after again being beaten in the final of the Intermediate championship by neighbours Aghaloo in 2002. The club gained promotion in 2006 to Division 1A by finishing second in Division 1B.Unfortunately, the senior team were relegated in 2007 and have remained in intermediate football in 2008 and 2009. 

The late 1990’s and the early years of this decade was a period of remarkable success for the club at youth level.  The highlight of which was the club winning its first ever Grade 1 Minor Championship in 2002.  In that period two County under 15 Óg Sport titles, Paul McGirr cup (Ulster under U-17) as well as a number of grade 2 minor and U-14 titles were also won.

The game has suffered recently on a national basis from the emergence of ladies football.  However there was a significant sporting interest in camogie in the mid 1960’s when the club fielded a team for a number of years until its demise in 1970.  Like their footballing counterparts at the time emigration and the loss of key organisers meant that the club could not continue in existence.

Ladies Football
Ladies football commenced in 1999 in the club and the decision to integrate it fully into the club has been vindicated.  The club now promotes underage football for both boys and girls from U-10 level right through to senior level.  The early years of this decade has seen a number of successes at youth level, the highlights being the club winning the U-14 Feile competition in both 2005 and 2006.  On each occasion they had the honour of representing the County at the All Ireland Feile competitions.  The investment by the club at youth level augurs well for the future and will hopefully bear fruit at senior level within the next few years. 

Success on the playing field in the past ten years has also been matched at a cultural level by the clubs participation in both the adult Scór and Scór Na Nóg competitions.  In 1997 the clubs junior Instrumental Musicians reached the Ulster Final of Scór Na Nóg and the Ballad Group went one better by winning the Ulster Championship in 1999.  They were also unlucky runners-up in the All Ireland Final.  However, an All Ireland title was secured at Adult Level by Laura McGurk in the Solo Singing Competition.  In 2005 the Ballad Group again captured an Ulster title in Scór Na Nóg and, as in 1999, were unlucky to finish runners-up to the All Ireland winners.

After over 50 years of endeavour titles have been won by the Club at County, Provincial and All Ireland Level in the wide range of activities of the Gaelic Athletic Association.  However it was in 2003 and 2004 that the Club reached national prominence when Kevin Hughes added his Man of the Match award to his Celtic Cross when Tyrone won their first senior All Ireland football title.  One year later Marc Cunningham had the honour of captaining Tyrone when they won their seventh All Ireland Minor football title.  The club founders in 1956 would only have dreamt of seeing the Sam Maguire and Tom Markham trophies coming to the club but thankfully many of them lived to witness these historic events - the final vindication of their foresight and commitment to St. Mary’s GFC Killeeshil.

Our club facilities coupled with the Community Centre are a credit to the voluntary effort of club members, parishioners and the various committees over the last 50 years.  We now host a number of important games and Scór events on a regular basis.  In 2006, the club completed the development of a second playing field and the Community Centre committee have completed the tarmac paving of the driveway into the club.