Seán Mac Diarmaida an Mhachaire
1900 – 1920
It was in the area between the Ferries in the summer of 1906 that the first Gaelic Football Club in North Armagh was founded. At a meeting of a few enthusiasts held in Milltown and presided over by the late Tommy Connolly (Ulster Champion Sprinter) the St. Malachy’s Club became an accomplished fact. The late F. O’Donnell, Columbcille gave a playing field, and it was in this field, situated in Columbcille, that all practice and most of the other games took place.
It is not to be wondered at that successes on the field were few and far between. At the outset only a few members had some experience of any kind of football, and only one had any experience or knowledge of Gaelic football. That one was the late Dan Forker of Maghery; what he knew he imparted to his colleagues, and after a year or so results began to show. It was a great day in Columbcille when St. Malachy’s defeated an Ardboe team by one point to register their first victory. The team on that occasion was:- Sean Connolly, Jimmy Tennyson, Barney Mackle, James Robinson, Barney Fox, Paddy Hennon, Charlie Mackle, Dan Forker, Mick Campbell, Francis Tennyson, Tom Connolly, B. McGilly, Mick Fox, John Burns, Joe Mor O’Neill, Charley Mor O’Neill, Harry Forker.
The most important game of those early days, and one which created a tremendous interest and attracted the largest crowd of spectators so far seen at a Gaelic game in the locality was an encounter between a St. Malachy’s selection and the Belfast Sarsfields, then a very useful team which in the following season won, under the captaincy of John Coburn, the Antrim Senior Football Championship. The St. Malachy’s team consisted of nine local players and eight from other clubs as follows:- Sean Connolly, Jimmy Tennyson, Charley Mor O’Neill (Derrytresk), Barney Fox, James Robinson, Mick Campbell, Dan Forker, B. McGilly, Tom Connolly, Paddy Hennon, Peter Toner (Fianna) , Fracey Toner (Fianna), John Burke (Derrytresk), Joe Mor O’Neill (Derrytresk), Mick Fox (Moy), J. McGee (Coalisland) and J. Toner (Fianna). . The game still lingers in the memory of those who witnessed it.
In the years that followed football was being played consistently, and experiencing the usual ups and downs. About 1918 a club known as the Tom Clarke’s had taken the place of the old St. Malachy’s. The Clarke’s did one noteworthy act – they made an earnest and successful attempt to frustrate the last effort of the law in this part of Ireland to suppress Gaelic games. On one Sunday a match was played at the Kesh End, in which all the Gaels of the locality took part, notwithstanding the repeated attempts by the depleted forces of the Crown to enforce the proclamation.
1920 – 1930
The season 1926-27 saw football advance to a degree undreamed of previously. At this time there were a number of youths who as exponents of the art of playing Gaelic football were above the average. The famous Phelim Brady Club was formed, and proceeded to make football history with the assistance of a few fine players from Tyrone. The South Antrim League was just then catering for the Lurgan District, and into this League the new combination found its way. There were some very good teams taking part, most notable of which, perhaps, being St. Malachy’s College, Belfast, and competition was keen. The final was fought out between Brady’s and the College, and resulted, after a great game, in the cup and medals being brought to Maghery. The victorious team was as follows:- John Fox, James Fox, Joe H. Campbell (Coalisland), Francis P. Campbell, Joe Quinn, Paddy Callaghan, John Skelton, Joe Fox, Eddie Laverty, Frank O’ Doherty, Dan Thompson, John Robinson, Joe O’ Neill, John Joe Campbell, J. Cushnan, John Laverty, Johnnie O’Donnell, Paddy Hennon.
1930 – 1950
The next phase of successful action began in 1930, when the Young Brady’s took the field. Most of the 1927 team had retired, and their places were taken by a number of youthful players, later to show that they had nothing to learn from their predecessors. From 1930 to 1933 the Armagh Junior Championship and the McOscar Cup were won, and a number of players were selected to play on the county team. The successful team was as follows:- R. Gunstone, John McClure, John J. Forker, James Fox, George Forker, Eddie Convie, John Mackle, Willie Tennyson, Donald Hanlon, Joe Campbell, Cahir (Jack) O’Doherty, Alf McClure, Paddy Tennyson, Danny Robinson, John Hagan, Frank O’Doherty. The county players in the team were:-John Joe Forker, George Forker, John Mackle, Cahir O’Doherty, (Antrim and Derry), Alf McClure, Frank O’Doherty.
In 1945 an interesting reunion of the 1927 Cup players took place in Maghery. It took the form of a football game between the Old Brady’s and the Geraldines on the Maghery pitch, followed by a social evening in the Maghery Hotel. A very large crowd patronised the event, many of whom were old followers of the conquering Brady’s, who came to see their favourites in action once again. The game resulted in a win for the Old Brady’s, who gave an object lesson on the art of catching and kicking a ball. The players taking part in this re-union were:- John Fox, J. H. Campbell, John Skelton, John Joe Campbell, Eddie Laverty, Frank O’Doherty, John Robinson, Johnnie O’Donnell, Paddy Hennon, Francis O’Donnell, M. Campbell, James Fox.
Neither the Brady’s nor Geraldines did much of note in any competition, and the inevitable happened at the beginning of the 1947 season – both teams amalgamated to form the Shamrock Club, based in Milltown. Much was expected of this new Shamrock team, as it contained a number of very promising players, and it was hoped that the deeds of former teams of the locality would be emulated. The officials of the new Shamrock Club were:-Chairman: Daniel Fox, Secretary: B. McGilly, Treasurer: Brendan Mackle, Committee: James Bothwell and John McKenna.
1950 – 1970
The Fifties saw the Shamrocks struggle for honours, although a few tournaments were won along the way. The biggest achievement that occurred in this era was away from the field of play. In 1955 Maghery, under the guidance of Fr. William McKnight and Mr Aloysius Mackle purchased a new football field, from Tommy Mackle, proprietor of Maghery Hotel. In March 1956 development work got underway, with most of the hard graft carried out voluntarily by club members and locals.
In 1958, Maghery Shamrocks won the first of two Junior Championships, the other being won in 1962. Later that decade, they encountered the mighty Crossmaglen, whose line-out read like a who’s who of county footballers. The name of the club was changed again in 1966 to become the “Sean MacDermott’s”. In the same year they joined the newly formed All-county league.
1970 – 1990
In 1970 Maghery won the Armagh All County League for the first time. In 1976 Maghery Sean MacDermott’s reached its first ever Senior Championship final where they were opposed by Lurgan Clan na Gael. In blistering heat and in front of a large crowd at the Athletic Grounds Armagh, Maghery found themselves trailing by a single point at half time. A series of bad wides in the second half proved costly to Maghery as they lost out on a score of to Clan na Gael 1-8 Maghery 0-07. The Maghery team in the 1976 final was M. Heaney, E. Fox, P. Devlin, B. McGeary, A. Devlin, B. Devlin, K. Fox, N. Mackle, D. Fox, F. Hanna, K. Rafferty, D. Fox, C. Rafferty, D. Fox, D. Forker. Subs: S. Lavery for A. Devlin
It was seven years before the club was back in the senior final, and were again frustrated, Crossmaglen Rangers taking the 1983 championship title on a score of 2-9 to 1-6. Maghery won the 1974 Armagh minor championship, beating Harps 1-04 to 0-03. The minor team won the Armagh championship again in 1978 beating St. Pauls of Lurgan after a replay. The successful members of the 1978 minor were: Damian Robinson, Brian Nugent, David Nugent, Mark Laverty, Alphonsus Tennyson, Sean McIvor, Declan Fox, Oliver Fox, Gerard Dynes, Michael McKernan, Patrick Nugent, Joseph Peden, Adrian McKernan, Aidan Robinson, Martin Tennyson, Joe Forker (Capt),Stephen McConville, Jim Casey, Damian “Dixie” Robinson
In 1988 the Maghery Sean MacDermott’s minor team won the county minor championship easily beating Pearse Og 4-05 to 0-03 in the final. The minors made it all the way to the 1988 Ulster Minor Championship final, where they eventually lost out after a replay to Enniskillen. The minor team were also Armagh league champions in the same year.
1990 – PRESENT
A rejuvenated Maghery returned to the Armagh Senior Football Championship county final in 1991 when again lady luck failed to shine on us, being beaten by Armagh Harps by the narrowest of margins, 0-11 to 1-07. Down, but certainly not out, in 1993 Maghery were once again in the Armagh county final when Lurgan Clan na Gael, in a repeat of the 1976 final, were deserved winners on a score line of 2-15 to 1-06. Also in 1993 Maghery won its fourth Armagh All County League title.
A local paper had this to say of the new-look Maghery club “The Loughshore Club has in a period of just sixteen months, and without any form of grant, put in place a playing surface and surrounding amenities which can only be described as a credit to their members and their committee.”
The official opening and blessing of the new Maghery pitch – renamed Felix Hamill Park – took place on 13 April 2003. Most Reverend Sean Brady Archbishop of Armagh blessed the new facilities and in attendance for the opening were; GAA President Sean Kelly (in his first day in office), Ulster Council Chairman John O’Reilly, former GAA President Peter Quinn and Joe Jordan from Armagh County Board.
A newspaper match report sums up the Ulster Intermediate Final: “Playing in their first ever provincial final, Maghery lost out to St. Michael’s of Donegal in the final of the Bank of Scotland Ulster Intermediate Championship on a scoreline of St. Michaels 1-11 Maghery 0-08. Maghery were left to regret a series of bad misses in the opening 15 minutes when three goal chances were not taken and several attempted points didn’t come off. A physically more commanding St Michael’s team eventually began to impose themselves and with their Donegal county players, All-star Christy Toye, Colm McFadden and Brian McLoughlin, coming to the fore they took control of the game. St Michael’s lead 0-06 to 0-02 at the break and extended their lead soon after the resumption with a quick goal that all but ended any hopes of a Maghery fight back. Maghery battled on however and although they failed to clinch the Ulster Intermediate title, this Maghery team can rightly be proud of how much was achieved this season by a very young and enthusiastic team. Final score St. Michael’s (Donegal) 1-11 Maghery 0-08”
Also in 2004 the Maghery senior team continued their winning ways when they marched to promotion back to division 1 of the Armagh All County league. Maghery defeated Whitecross at Felix Hamill Park on Sunday October 17th in final round of the league on a scoreline of Maghery 1-12 Whitecross 0-08. Kevin Brady, Vice-chairman of Armagh County Board, presented the ACL Division 2 cup to Maghery captain Eamon Toye after the game.