Text is taken from ‘Caherlistrane G.A.A. and 150 Years of Parish Life’ by Michael J. Hughes.

THE G.A.A. was founded in 1884, and Caherlistrane joined four years later. Since then Gaelic Football has been the top sport in the parish. Before joining, local footballers had been taking part in inter—parish competitions, and by 1888 Caherlistrane already had a strong team.

The earliest recorded account of our parish taking part in a football match comes from 1887, when the local team went to a tournament in Corrandulla. Each team that day marched onto the pitch behind a banner carried by its captain, and Caherlistrane walked out behind their captain John McHugh, who carried a banner reading “God save Ireland”. There were four parish teams taking part that day, and Caherlistrane were drawn against the home team, Annaghdown. The report on the game says that after one hour there was no score and “the ball was taken up”.

Before going on to Caherlistrane’s next outing on the field, let us see what happened at their first recorded club meeting.

“A large meeting of the football club took place on Sunday 18th March(1888) to choose club officers. The following were elected: President: William Burke (Hon. Sec. Irish National League); Vice-President: DJ Corcoran (Hon. Tr. I.N.L.); Hon. Treasurer: James Hession; Hon. Secretary: John McHugh; Committee: I . Kyne, J. Burke, M. Hessian, J. Mulroe, M. Corcoran, P. Glynn, T. McHugh, M. Burke, M. Walsh, Martin Burke, E. Comer and T. Kyne. Afterwards a practice match was started and lasted about one hour”.

It became usual in those early days to end football committee meetings with a practice match, the meetings being held in daytime – probably after last Mass on a Sunday.

Now back to the football field: this time in Tuam at the end of May 1888.

It seems that Tuam had come to Caherlistrane some time before this, and Caherlistrane were now giving them a return match. The game lasted two hours and was a hard contest “in which every member of each team worked as if victory depended on him alone”. The result was a draw. There were hundreds of Tuam people at the game, and they must have been impressed, for we are told that as the Caherlistrane team were leaving town that evening they were loudly cheered. The members seemed to have been pleased with the club’s performance in 1888. At a meeting in October of that year we find that all officials were re-elected “as their services and attention to their duty in the past was approved by all”. The members present said that they hoped to end that season as they had in past ones, undefeated and friendly with all the surrounding clubs. In January(yes, January( 1889 we find find Caherlistrane and Tuam playing each other again – this time in Caherlistrane. The Tuam Herald reporter hired a “teetotal jarvey” to take him by horse and car to the match. First, though , there was a call to Mortimer Queally’s pub. Entering Mr. Qually’s, we had a couple of nips from Mortimer’s best, just to take the harm out of the weather, and then strolled down to the field. Early in the game the ball passed to Mulroe, who made a determined charge with it for the Tuam goal. However, Mooney (the Tuam goalie) was too fast for him and Just saved. Matters now became very exciting, the spectators being wholly unable to restrain their great enthusiasm, and cheer upon cheer of encouragement rang out again and again. If the home side lacked the speed of the Tuamites, they more than counterbalanced this disadvantage in strength, and the manner in which one of those hardy fellows swooped down on a poor Tuamite, lifted him in the air and left him to pull himself together on the grass, was a sight worth going a long way to see. It must, however, be said that no unfair jostling was resorted to. Best for Caherlistrane were McHugh (Capt.), Hession, Mulroe, Burke and Kyne. After the match the reporter went back to Queally’ where “our teetotal jarvey for boozed”. Not to worry; the visitors for a rousing send-off as they left for Tuam. In the reporter’s words: “We left for home amid the admiring plaudits of the country folk.”

At the end of that year a meeting was called about changing the name of the club. We have the secretary’s report: “On last Sunday (29 Dec. 1889) a crowded meeting of Caherlistrane G.A.A was held, the president, Mr. Patrick Glynn presiding. The minutes of the last meeting being read and signed, the vice-president, Mr. J. Kyne, rose and addressed the meeting in an able manner, and wanted them to change the name of the club, and to call it ‘St. Patrick’s’ instead of ‘O’Byrnes,’ having for his argument that the great saint build a church in the parish; that it is since called the parish of Donaghpatrick, which is its proper name and not Caherlistrane. The vice-captain, Mr. J. Mulroe, and others opposed him, and some vicious remarks passed between them. The chairman ordered a division, and the result was: 36 for ‘St. Patrick’s’ and 28 for the old name. After a practice match, which lasted one hour, all dispersed, wishing each other and all Gaels a Happy New Year.”

When the early rounds of the 1890 Co. Galway Football Championship has been played, four teams remained. Those teams were paired as follows in the county semi-finals: Caherlistrane v Dunmore and Ballinasloe v Mountbellew. Caherlistrane and Dunmore met near Tuam and after a hard game, Caherlistrane won by one point to nil. Mountbellew came through in the other game and all was set for the final. Following is the official notice of the match given by the county secretary of the time: “The County Football Final is fixed for Tuam on April 13th. The competing teams should at least wear the jersey-and-cap athletic costumes. The teams of the adjoining clubs ought to attend and play some matches to increase the day’s sport. But the games shall be commenced before two ‘ o’clock pm. The ‘Tuam Stars’ club will provide the ground and mark it out”. Caherlistrane went on to win and here is the official report: “The County Football Championship The final ties in the above event were played off at Tuam on last Sunday, between the teams of the Mountbellew and Caherlistrane clubs. The Caherlistrane team are returned as the winners by one goal to nil. They are, therefore, the champion football team of Galway for the present season, and are now qualified to compete in the inter—county ‘ championship matches”.

The following Sunday Caherlistrane had a big celebration meeting at which every Gael in the parish attending and all outstanding subscriptions were freely handed in, and those who could claim the privilege of being members seemed pleased that they were such”. The club president, Patrick Glynn then congratulated the team for pushing themselves so far to become County Champions. Before the meeting ended, there were calls for the captain, John McHugh, to say a few words. The captain rose amidst cheers and spoke: “Brothers, I cannot express how happy I feel to have the opportunity of congratulating you on the greatest victory you have won since we first started a branch of the G.A.A in the parish. You know I was always proud to be your captain, but I feel prouder now than ever to see that you have won for me the title of captain of the County Football Champions.”

There was a further meeting in  November at which the captain announced that he had received the silver medals for Winning the county championship. The meeting was also told that the county secretary had written to say that the Central Council of the G.A.A. had awarded to Caherlistrane the championship of Connacht. The Central Council also told them to be in Dublin on the following Sunday to contest the All-Ireland Championshop with the Leinster champions. Caherlistrane, however, were unable to travel at such short notice.

Following in the Caherlistrane team of 1890 – Galway and Connacht Champions: James Hessian, Richard Staunton, Michael Walsh, John Higgins, John Murphy, T . Walsh, Ned Comer, Tom Coyne, J . Roche, P. Hughes, T. Moran, Martin Greaney, M. Curran, John McHugh (Capt), John Mulroe (Vice-capt.), P. Farrington, P. McHugh, Martin Burke, John Burke, James Burke and Michael Burke. Reserves: John Kyne, P. Monaghan and J. Mulryan.  (There were twenty—one on a team then.) Caherlistrane’s status as champions was acknowledged the following year, when five Caherlistrane men were chosen to play for Galway in a game against Kerry.

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