Eoghan Carlin has a unique perspective on the Waterside’s lone GAA club.
Formed in January 2001, following a meeting in Eddie Nash’s house in Eskahaeen View, Gobnascale, Na Piarsaigh Doire Trasna have since battled against all the odds both on and off the pitch.
Captained and marshalled by Carlin, and managed by Paul Simpson, the club won the Derry Junior Football Championship title only 10 years after their formation.
That Celtic Park final win over Drum, having lost the previous year to Ardmore, has been the highlight to date for a club who are now beginning to come into their own.
Contesting three Junior finals between 2010 and 2013, the current senior team has been built around successful minor teams from 2002, 2003 and 2006 according to Carlin – all of which won North Derry Championship honours.
League title victories in 2006, 2011 and 2013 currently see the club play their football at Intermediate level.
“This will be our fifth year competing at Intermediate,” says Carlin. “We see that as a great achievement given some of the difficulties we have encountered.”
Continued progression is something Carlin and his club mates are keen to see continue and develop as they enter a new generational cycle:
“We have over thirty kids, boys and girls, at each of the underage sessions (U6, U8, U10) which build on our primary school winter programme,” said Carlin, who is also Derry’s Games Promotion Officer for the area.
With schools involved including Chapel Road PS, St Columba’s PS, Good Shepard PS and Sacred Heart PS, Trench Road, the current generation of young Pearses have been buoyed by the experience of playing in Féile Peil na nÓg according to the club’s public relations officer, Dermot McElholm.
“The Féile was a brilliant thing for the club. It created a real buzz in the community and the children thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
“We hosted Scotstown in 2009 and then Enniskillen Gaels in 2013. Both were memorable weekends,” he recalls.
Gaelic culture has also been revived within the club with young musicians Eabha Cassidy, Dearbhaile O’Donnell, Roise O’Donnell and Daire O’Donnell the club’s representatives in the Derry Scór na nÓg competition in November of last year.
With the grassroots of the club vibrant, the pressing issue has been, at times, providing grass for the children (and adults) to play on.
McElholm explains some the difficulties encountered: “We’ve been renting pitches off Derry City Council for years at Lisnagelvin.”
“That has its own difficulties, particularly around the time of year when the Foyle Cup is on. We’d be forced to play all our games away from home due to unavailability of pitches.
“Thankfully though, we’re taking steps to resolve that problem.”
The steps McElholm refers to are the club’s involvement in the ‘Top of the Hill/Corrody Park’ regeneration project – a council led regeneration plan for the local area.
Once completed, the club should enjoy a more permanent base as part of a multi-sporting and community complex which will include an enlarged community building, play parks and areas, improved parkland, new pitch provision, multi-use Games Areas and social housing.
“Our club chairman Mark O’Doherty has been heavily involved in the effort and has done tremendous work on the club’s behalf,” acknowledges McElholm.
“We expect to cut the first sod on the new pitch in 6-7 months’ time once the survey work is completed.
Work should then get underway to develop it towards the end of the year.
Phase two will then see new changing rooms built down the line.”
It’s a remarkable story of success for the club when placed in the historical origins of the GAA in Derry.
It is believed that a club, St Patrick’s Waterside, was in existence even before the formal formation of the GAA in Derry in 1888.
It is also reported that St. Patrick’s Waterside had their own club rooms at that time and sent 53 of their players and officials out to Claudy for a challenge game on 18th September 1888 - the day that the present Claudy club was formed.
Indeed, that same day, St Patrick’s had enough players to take on Emeralds at Corrody in both hurling and football challenge games.
It’s astonishing to think that with the roll out of the new club plans, we have come full circle after 127 years.