Naomh Pól, An Lorgain
In 1971, two neighbours in the newly built district of Taghnevan, Clem McCavigan and Michael Fitzsimmons discussed at length the possibility of forming a G.A.A club to facilitate the people of the area. Each man was Aghagallon-born and each had played for Aghagallon Mitchells. It is extremely difficult that Lurgan born men could ever had taken seriously the establishment of a new local club. Taghnevan lay just a few hundred yards from St Francis Street, Edward Street and Shankill Street, in Lurgan, the heartland of Clan Na Gael, not just thinking and successful G.A.A. club, but a quite revered institution as well. Cock-of-the-north in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s county championship and league winners many times over, Clan na Gael generated an allegiance among people which epitomised the great loyalty so much sought after by all voluntary associations and organisations. And along comes two men, modest and committed footballers in their own right, family men who saw the need for the young to have sporting facilities on their doorstep, concerned citizens who realised that, as yet, the new housing development of Taghnevan had no real social focus, and their solution was – let’s plan for a new football club. To Clem McCavigan and Michael Fitszimmons, two men from the rural area of south-west Antrim, Clan na Gael was a great club with exemplary tradition but it was somewhat remote. The peripheral but important telling factor was that the families who had come to Taghnevan’s new housing development were from districts throughout Lurgan, and from many surrounding rural areas. A new club would provide the much needed focus; hard work and commitment would generate the loyalty. The idea had been conceived. What body or vehicle could bring it through its gestation period ?
In 1965, the first families moved into three-bedroom houses in the Taghnevan estate. Problems arose as a result of stringent smokleless zone stipulations and a Taghnevan Tenants Association was formed. This grouping was to provide much tangible and moral support for the fledging club in its infancy. Among those who worked hard for both the tenants Association and the infant club were; Maurice Magee, chairman; Phillip Mallon, treasurer; Danny Barr, secretary; Laurence Dempsey; Vincent Riley; Vincent McGibbon; Jim Lappin; Desmond Smyth.
The Tenants Association members met on a very regular basis in each others houses, with each committee member taking responsibility for a particular aspect of tenants concerns. Drumlin Drive and Monbrief Walk, the first built section, were the streets closely associated with members and meetings.
The first meeting of the new St paul’s club took place in Clem McCavigan’s house, in mid April, 1971. Whatever the ultimate vision of each person present was of the future of Gaelic football in Taghnevan Estate, the first step was to seek registration from the county board’s books and to enter an U – 14 team in the Sunday morning summer league; the view of one member present at that initial meeting was that the exercise was a ‘summer league venture, nothing more’. It is likely, however, that more long term aims and views sat quietly alongside, awaiting developments. The first set of jerseys, yellow in colour, were purchased at 4s.6d (22.5p) per jersey for 20 players; money was donated by the Taghnevan Tenants Association to defray the initial expenses but a small group of interested men bagan the task of raising funds for the club viz. Eugene Horisk, the late Henry Smith and the late Frank McConville, Denis Seeley, Jim Coleman and Leo Seeley.
The fruits of their fund raising where crystallised in the cheque for £82.00 paid to Messrs. McGlade & Co. for the club’s brand new rig; the cheque, the first of many to be written, was dated Febuary 23rd, 1972 and bore the signatures of Phillip Mallon and Vincent McGibbon. The St Paul’s colours of green, white and orange were adopted as a result of Offaly’s image of a cultured and masterful team who had won the All-Ireland Senior Championship in style the previous year. The mainstay of the clubs early financial drive was the weekly draw, affectionately known as the ‘hamper’, which offered three prizes, £5, £2 and £2, for a 10p weekly contribution. How else could a fledging club without pitch or clubrooms survive? The hamper draw lasted for years through the commitment and zeal of the McCavigan, Seeley, Fitzsimmons, McConville and Mallon families.
In 1971, in the U-14 North Armagh League, the club played under the name Taghnevan. Under manager, Clem McCavigan, and with Sean Coleman as captain, Taghnevan was a successful team winning the league in their very first year of participation. In 1972, the committee capitalised on one most important contributory factor to the clubs expansion, namely, Taghnevan as a housing estate was growing and growing, and becoming a very pleasant place to dwell and put down roots. Young families were moving into the district and as a result teams were entered into both the U-14 and U-16 leagues and, for the first time, the name St Paul’s was used as the clubs official name. This indeed was symmetry, St Peter’s G.F.C. at one end of Lurgan town, St Paul’s G.F.C at the other, with Clan na Gael and Clann Eireann well established and highly respected in between. It is now acknowledged that St Paul’s, tracing its origins to U-14 and U-16 football in both league and championship, were the dominant force in under age football in County Armagh for almost a decade in the 1970’s. Young player’s of that era, Jim McCrorry, Denis Seeley and Michael McDonald, progressed quickly to representing the county at the highest levels, displaying skill, commitment and great services as they did so. Michael McDonald may have summarised succinctly the nebulous factor which generated the under-age enthusiasm and zeal which prevailed in St Paul’s G.F.C. throughout the 1970’s and beyond:- ‘I sensed a tremendous loyalty all around me when I was a young player: I had great pride in pulling on a St Paul’s jersey’.
On Wednesday the 8th January, 1975, Clem McCavigan and Sean Seeley attended a county Armagh Football League meeting to press the claim of St Paul’s G.F.C. for admission to the county’s senior league. The application, which was accepted, was proposed by Arthur Campbell of Eire Og and Seamus McConville of Clann Eireann. St Paul’s were now a Division three team. The first game was an away match against St Michael’s, Newtownhamilton: Bill McCorry was manager, and Colin Farnon was captain, and St Paul’s recorded a victory, 2-7 to 0-3. That occurred in late Febuary 1975. By mid-April, the football pundits were becoming aware that a new football force had arisen in North Armagh. Tony McGee, writing in the Sunday news of 13th April 1975, reflected thus:- ‘St Paul’s emerged a few years ago as a force at juvenile level. They won U-16 honours and last season reached the minor county championship final, but lost to Killeavey. This year they made their debut in Division Three of the all-county football league and to date are unbeaten. But how come there’s room for a new club in a town that already supports Clan na Gael, Clann Eireann and St Peter’s – three of the strongest units in the Association within County Armagh.