War, emigration and recession - nothing can stop O’Brien’s GAC

O'Brien's GAC, Foreglen members Tony McCaul and Noel McFeely, say the club has 125 years of history to celebrate next year. (1910SJ2) Photo: Sheena Jackson
O'Brien's GAC, Foreglen members Tony McCaul and Noel McFeely, say the club has 125 years of history to celebrate next year. (1910SJ2) Photo: Sheena Jackson

They’ve survived wars, emigration and recessions and, despite them all, Foreglen GAC is still going strong.

The North Derry club celebrates 125 years in 2013, and members are keen to let people know just how much O’Brien’s has achieved since its inception in 1888.

Muldonagh O'Briens Cup Winners 1983.

Muldonagh O'Briens Cup Winners 1983.

Clubman, former chairman and player, Noel McFeeley is in charge of a special 125 year committee to co-ordinate celebrations, from 27th June-7 July.

The Club, which has enjoyed success at intermediate and junior championship level through the years, is planning a gathering of everyone, at home and abroad, who has ever played for the Club, has or had connections and ties to the club.

“We want everyone here, and we will have the President of the GAA here, and we’ll have two All Ireland finals,” said Mr. McFeely. chairperson of the 125 years committee. He explained they also want to recreate entertainment from the olden days, and have an evening where older players and club members share their stories of O’Briens GAC, which was once known as Muldonagh.

Club history

“Our year was formed the same year as Glasgow Celtic,” says Mr. McFeely. “We started as a hurling club and then football. We were named after a Cork TD, William O’Brien who was shot by the Black and Tans.”

Mr. McFeely says the Club’s oldest surviving member, Willie George O’Kane is 95 and will be at the forefront of the 125 year celebrations, “and another player Joe Campbell who played for the county.”

He says when the Club started, there were no fancy strips, no red cards or sponsors. Men played in steel toed boots or, for some, whatever they had on at the moment they were summoned to play.

Life back then when the Club first started, was hard, but it proved to be something in the lean times, that cost nothing and everyone could enjoy.

Up until the 1960s, when teams started to get organised, the players only met to play matches, and they were held in whatever field, belonging 
to the Brollys or Miller’s, that was empty.

“Times were hard, but they loved their football and hurling. I remember one story when Foreglen were playing Dungiven and they were beating Dungiven by that much in Mary Lizzie’s field, and she said to Willie George, ‘there’s not much point you standing there’ and she brought him out a chair and he sat in the chair for the rest of the match! True story! Maybe the tables would turn these days if the teams were playing, but I don’t think so!”

“Foreglen is the football club,” says Mr. McFeely. “Everyone is involved in the club in some way, and that’s always the way it’s been.

“Foreglen is very close knit, and when something happens the football club is on hand to help,” he said. “And no matter what, this Club will be going for a long time to come, because this Club is so strong.”

Starting now, the Club is in the process of contacting people, including young lads who’ve had to move away because of the recession.

Club PRO, Tony McCaul says: “I am really looking forward to it, especially listening to the stories from older members and players.

“This community numbers in the hundreds and not thousands. It’s a remarkable achievement by the people who have kept the club going,” said Mr. McCaul.

Anyone who has any old photographs of the Club, or memorabilia, should get in touch with Noel or Tony, or any Club committee member.