With the nineteen seventies we move into a decade that through enthusiasm, dedication and hard work, was to bring Caherlistrane  to a forefront position in the G.A.A. The new spirit and determinaton was there at the Annual General Meeting in 1970, when it was decided to tackle the twenty year old problem of the undeveloped pitch. A special committee, known as the Field Committee, was set up to deal with this. Their scheme was to be a bold and ambitious one, calling for much input of time and effort, and we shall
return to appreciate what they did later. But involvement with building and pitch development was not to interfere with the playing of football. Quite the contrary, as the new enterprising spirit moved players to greater effort.

The under-21 team made most progress in the early 70s, when they reached the North Board Final, only to be beaten by Mountbellew, who were county champions at the time. Nor were the juniors far behind. They reached the North Board Final in ’72, and were unlucky to lose by just two points to Ballygar (1-8 to 0-9). The junior team came fighting back in ’73 With three great wins in the championship. There was a win oyer Glenamaddy (2-17 to 0-7) with “Caherlistrane’s hero of the hour, J.J. Higgins, who scored seven points in all”. Next came victory over Menlough (1-10 to 0-8) at Athenry, where the great asset that the winners possessed was the workmanship and combination of the three Judge brothers”. Then we beat Ballygar, whose forwards were “held back time and time by a stonewall defence.”

In the 1973 Junior League our team had a runaway victory (4-13 to 0-3) at Tuam Stadium, where “Corofin were never in the game, and totally lacked the drive and determination of their opponents, who fought for every ball, leaving the opposition completely helpless for long periods”. Caltra, though, beat Caherlistrane in the League Final that year, as they were to do again in ’74. But we were back yet again for the North Board Final in 1975, this time against Monivea, “who fought bravely all through, but Caherlistrane were out to make up for the previous years defeats, and took the League title in fine style with six points to spare”. That year, also, the under-21 team reversed an earlier result when “their experience and stamina” were evident in a win over Mountbellew.

Things were now looking bright, and to add a professional touch, Father Martin Newell and Michael McHugh (both ex-Caherlistrane players) travelled regularly from Claremorris to train the team. For all that effort, 1976 brought its reward. We went all the way to the County Final. And to add to the excitement, we were playing Headford.

There was a huge build-up to this match (played in Corofin), and perhaps never before or since was there such a following for either team. People never seen at a match before helped to pack the sidelines, and the tension mounted as the starting time drew near.

Hearts fell, though, in the first quarter, as the opposition ran up four points
without reply, and Caherlistrane supporters tried to come to terms with the possibility of a Headford victory. But the Caherlistrane players were having none of that, and after their first score, “a well-taken point”, a fierce do-or-die determination gripped the team. A measure of that determination is the fact that the backs held Headford scoreless for the rest of the match, while Caherlistrane went on to score a total of seven points (six of them from M. Judge).

“Every man in the Caherlistrane defence played as if the issue depended on him alone, but all responded to the leadership of Mick Judge, who was the dominant figure in a tough, uncompromising game. If this hard fought final lacked the stamp of class, it never fell short of courage and honest endeavour, with Caherlistrane’s determination the deciding factor”.

Following is that victorious team, the 1976 (Division 2) County Champions: Paddy Lee, Malachy Naughton, Paddy Cradock, Joe Cradock, Sean Moran, Michael J . Judge, Tom Conlisk, Peter Lee, Vinnie Judge, Paschal Murphy, Tom Cradock, Eamonn Monaghan, Ger Naughton, Paddy Mulroe, Larry Bane and M. Greally.

1977 was the year when all the time and effort expended over the previous seven years brought its reward, with the opening of the New Pitch and Community Centre. At the G.A.A. Annual General Meeting, held in the Parochial Hall (the old school) for the last time, in January of that year, the Field Commitee for the coming twelve months was elected. Vincent Judge was chosen as Chairman, in recognition of the great work he had done in the whole building and development scheme, and indeed all of the members elected that night were people who has put in much voluntary effort. The other members were: Secretary: Paddy Mc Hugh; Treasurer: Christy Roche; Committee: Padraic Lee, Oliver Curley, Sean Moran, J.J Higgins, Bunny Mangan, John Joe O’Neill, Patrick O’ Neill and Paddy Flanagan.

The pitch, dressing rooms and other facilities, were all ready on time for the official opening on Sunday 24 July. The Official Programme of that day gives an outline of the history of the project:

“At the Annual General Meeting in 1970 it was decided that something definite should be done about providing a proper pitch and facilities. The idea grew from here, plans were drawn up, and a special committee, known as the Field Committee, was formed. It has been a long road since, with many setbacks like the storm damage (1974), when the steel structure and part of the boundary wall were levelled to the ground. Having overcome these setbacks, everyone battled on to bring the development to its present stage. There is still a lot of work to be finished, like the community centre, a dugout press facility, covered accommodation for spectators and a handball alley”.

There was also a message on the programme from Padraic Lee, Chairman of Caherlistrane G.A.A. that year, and one of the driving forces in the development. He thanked the many club members for their dedicated effort (most of the building work was done by voluntary labour), the people of the parish, and outside, who gave subscriptions, materials and use of machinery, and all those who supported dances, sales of work and other fundraising activities.

The blessing of the new pitch (Pairc Naomh Padraig) was performed by Father Malachy King P.P., and it was then officially opened by Norman Farragher, Chairman of Galway County Board G.A.A., who said he felt honoured to come to Caherlistrane, a parish with such a long tradition in the G.A.A.

The Community Centre was opened the following December, and its many facilities brought a new dimension to the lives of Caherlistrane people. Now they could take part in such varied pursuits as indoor games, craft classes, dancing lessons, lectures and social gatherings of all kinds, from old folks’ parties to victory celebrations.

Talking of celebrations, the team had something to celebrate in June 1977 when, back in the senior ranks, they overcame U.C.G. in Tuam. On that day Caherlistrane “tackled hard enough to keep the faster College side from gaining any real advantage,” and “Michael Judge was the man of the match, and it was he who not only held the defence together, but played great attacking football from the centre-half berth”.

Our next match in the Championship was against Corofin, and the Tuam Herald report on the  game is worth quoting: “If Corofin win the county football championship they are unlikely to have a harder match then they had at Tuam Stadium on Sunday evening when it took all their reserve of craft to overcome the spirited challenge of Caherlistrane. This was a game to raise the hearts of followers, for it abounded in fair but fiery exchanges, laced with spectacular high fielding and long kicking from two teams so evenly matched that there was never more then a couple of points between them. Caherlistrane lacked nothing in spirit or ability, and certainly the future looks bright for this team, who have made such a big impact.”

Corofin won by just two points (0-12 to 0-10) that day, and then went on to become county champions.

Caherlistrane supporters saw another good performance from their seniors the following year (1978) when they took on Father Griffin’s in the New Pitch, and the home team were leading when “Father Griffin’s came back for the equalizer almost on the stroke of time.”

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