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Formed in 1943, the first meeting was held in the Old School where a committee was elected consisting of Chairman Bob Howard, Secretary Seamus Toner, Treasurer Jimmy Mackle, Committee: Eddie McArdle, John Finn (Tirgarve), Joe Hughes, Patrick O’Hagan, (Red) Peter Donnelly, John Cregan and John Neary.
The field was rented from the late Paddy Donnelly of Grange Street, for a princely sum of £10 per year. Funds where raised by a dance in the Grange A.O.H. Hall and a collection around the district came to £25. A team was entered into North Armagh League which consisted of the following teams: Ballyhegan, Annaghmore, Clonmore, Maghery, Collegeland and Blackwatertown. During the first couple of years wins were few and far between. The first change came with the forming of the Mid Armagh league which Grange won in 1947 and 1948 and runners up in 1949. The meetings where held in Paddy Donnelly’s and in Creggan of Moore’s Island. Some rare old battles went on between the teams especially with Madden and Navan Street. These games would draw very large crowds to Paddy’s Hill.
The clashes with Madden were always very hard fought matches. Highlights of these matches where clashes between Tom Donnelly and Joe Duffy, Frank Finn and Art O’Hagan, Harry Rafferty and Austin O’Hagan, James McCrilly and Frank (Whity) Fegan. During a match in 1947 the game got out of hand and a few players were sent off. This resulted in both teams being suspended for six months at a mid division meeting. Both teams were later reinstated at a County Board meeting. Grange went on to win the league and celebrated with a dance in the City Hall. This dance is still part of folklore around the Grange. Unfortunately, the club fell to the wayside in the 1950’s.
Around 1961 after a lapse of a number of years the club was re-organised under the guidance of Harry McGrail and Harry Smyth (Mullaghmore) and although in their few years of existence they hardly won a game. They were nevertheless, enjoyable years for men like Kevin, Peter and James Donnelly, Sean and Damien Mackle, Harry and TJ Smyth, Eamonn Connolly, Eamonn, Sean and Seamus Mallon, Vincent Webb, Hugh and Peter Toal, Eugene, Harry and George Mone and Joe Grew. They tried hard, but alas, they fell by the wayside. A few years later around the end of 1965 it was realised that to have a successful club it was a matter of going back to the drawing board and starting from scratch. The juveniles were started up again with Harry McGrail taking the reigns assisted by Paddy O’Hagan. So the seed was set for what has grown and blossomed. The juveniles progressed steadily winning the Mid Division League and by the end of 60’s were ready for senior football.
When the senior team reformed in 1970 exciting times lay ahead. After a few narrow defeats at important stages of competitions in the first two years, Grange became hungrier for success. In 1972, captained by Mickey McKeever the Grange won for the first time in their history, the County Junior Championship as well as winning the 4th Division league title under the guidance of Joe Hughes. The 1972 Championship started against Culloville, which was a very sharp game with Grange just making it home. Then we were paired against Dromintee. Played in Crossmaglen this game was drawn. The replay was fixed for Armagh and with a more determined attitude we ran out easy winners. The semi final opponents would be Clady. The Grange found great form that day and ran Clady off their feet. However the match ended on a sour note when Adrian Mallon was sent off for alleged fighting. This meant Adrian would miss the final against Ballymacnab. The club decided to appeal to the Ulster Council and to everyone’s surprise had the ban lifted. The Final was played in Armagh on 7th August. Ballymacnab had already lost two previous finals and were all out to win this one. The Grange went out full of determination bearing in mind that the ‘Nab’ had
beaten them in the semi final the year before. The Grange where superb on the day lifting the McKelley Cup and to round things off where named Club of the Year.
The following year they went out of the championship early but gained promotion and but for the loss of a number of players through immigration the Grange could well have moved into the top tier of Armagh football.
The loss of these players meant the Grange slipped back to the 3rd Division, where they spent a few lean years although always fighting for promotion finishing 3rd or 4th each year. Then a new spirit emerged in the club with the return of a number of players, and the new playing field in progress, helped build confidence.
With a mixture of youth and experience the Grange won the Junior Championship again in 1979 when
Eamonn Mallon was manager. On that occasion the team was led by Joe Murphy, one of nine players who where part of the winning 1972 squad. The first round of the championship started of with the defeat of Newtownhamilton in Keady. The Semi final encounter brought forward the challenge of Mullaghbrack, played in Whitecross, which they duly won. This victory meant the Grange would now contest the Junior final for the second time in the Seventies, this time against Killeavy on 29th July in the Athletic Grounds, Armagh. In a close fought battle, the Grange emerged victorous with a score-line of Grange 0-09 Killeavy 0-06. Indeed the feat of the 1979 team is all the more exceptional that although they lost their first league match that year away to Ballymacnab, they would go on to win every other match for the rest of the year and claim the 3rd Division
league title to complete their second double.
To conclude their 1979 programme a party of players and members travelled to Dingle, Co. Kerry, where they were guests of Lispole Club playing two games. The first against a West Kerry U 21 selection in which they lost narrowly, but reversed the verdict in the other game against Lispole. The highlight of the trip was the meeting and mixing with Kerry County team after their parade through Dingle with the Sam Maguire cup.
The Seventies were a great time for tournaments. Run off over a week some of the tournaments meant
playing a league match on a Sunday afternoon, tournament match on a Sunday night, further matches on each night during the week with the final the following Sunday. No such thing as burn out then!! Seen as a
great fund-raiser crowds flocked to these tournaments through-out the Seventies with the Grange winning their fair share and hosting some great competitions. This decade also saw the success of the most famous underage team in our history with the emergence of the mighty ‘Tom’s Toddlers’ in 1974. This group of Under
14’s lead by Woolly Tam Donnelly would overcome the might of the town and the rest of mid Armagh to win the inaugural U14 championship and finish runners up in the league.
Following promotion out of the 3rd Division in 1979 the Grange would spend the most of the 1980’s in Division Two. It was really a decade for the Intermediate Championship, with the Senior team featuring in three Intermediate finals. In 1984, the Centenary Year of the GAA, the Grange contested the final to a very strong St Paul’s Team registering only a point. Indeed in the Centenary Cup the Grange failed to register a single score. Although in the athletics GAA Centenary race the Grange won the team event with Leo Murphy finishing second overall.
These heavy defeats built a stronger determination to succeed in the future. Although narrowly missing out to Killeavy after a replay in 1986, the following year the Grange led by John McKeever were determined to lift the Atty Hearty Cup, managed by T. Gribben and S. McKenna. The championship started with a convincing win over Eire Og, before a tough challenge against Forkhill in the next round. Forkhill scored more times than the Grange, but the Grange bagged three late goals to progress to the Final where Middletown awaited.
Middletown where out played by a strong skilful performance from the Grange men.
The 1987 team was arguably the best team in the Grange history with a mixture of youth and experience; indeed we had three county minors and two county seniors that year on the Senior squad. Unfortunately the years after where not as successful with very few of the talented Minor Team of 1987 coming through to the Senior ranks and with some players emigrating survival was the name of the game. In 1988 the survival in Division Two was only secured in a Play off against Eire Og. While the battle was finally lost in 1989 when we failed to win a single game.
That same year with youth numbers dwindling it was decided to amalgamate our underage teams initially with Collegeland and An Port Mor, then the following year with Tullysaran and An Port Mor to form St Enda’s. In its first year the new team reached the county final only to be beaten by a strong Mullaghbawn team.
The early nineties was one on the most successful periods in our history, starting in 1990 when the Grange bounced back straight away and won the 3rd Division league title with Anthony McArdle and Pat Hughes at the helm. The following year under the instruction of Pete Keegan, the Seniors came close to reaching the top tier of Armagh club football only to fall short after losing a play off after two replays to near rivals Collegeland. 1992 saw the Grange go further in the Senior championship than any other team in the clubs history when they defeated Dromintee in Ballymacnab, only to lose to St. Peters in the next round. The following year, 1993, the good run of previous seasons continued when a second Intermediate title was won with Martin Donnelly lifting the Atty Hearty Cup. On route to the final the Grange had narrowly disposed of Wolfe Tones in the first round before beating Clady by double scores in the next round. The Semi final showed a wonderful
display of football with a victory over Eire Og. Finally on the 29th August came the defeat of Keady in a closely fought final with the Grange holding their opponents scoreless in the second half to run out with a narrow three point victory. During the 1990’s the League structures where changed several times moving from four Division to three to five before reverting back to four divisions. In the late 1990’s the Grange found themselves in the 3rd Division. In 1998 the Seniors once again lifted another 3rd Division League title under the guidance of Peter Rafferty. At underage level the decade began brightly when in 1990 managed by James O’Hagan and although only having three players in the squad, the St. Enda’s Under 16 team again reached the county final this time coming out victorious against Tir na nOg. Over the next few years St Enda’s would reach numerous underage County quarter and semi finals but just failed to make the final. However due to
the lack of players coming through to the Senior ranks from underage it was decided to focus on the youth and a programme was set up under the tutelage of Peter Rafferty and James O’Hagan.
In the early 2000’s the writing was on the wall as the Seniors survived several relegation battles before finally being relegated to the 4th Division in 2004 for the first time since 1972. It was also at this time that the decision was taken to return to the Junior Championship. This almost paid immediate dividends when in 2005 the Grange went on a run in the Championship for the first time since 1993. Hopes where high, but unfortunately the opposition in the Semi-final just proved too tough. For after two replays Clonmore came out victorious, going on to win the Junior Championship and contest an Ulster Final. Promotion was narrowly missed in 2005 and 2006, before gaining back their 3rd Division Status in 2007. The year 2008, would prove to be an eventful year, while fighting a relegation battle, the Seniors reached the Junior Final beating Belleek,
Derrynoose and Tullysaran along the way only to lose out to Middletown. Although relegated back down to the 4th Division. This experience no doubt stood to them in their push for promotion and championship glory in 2010.
The Grange U-18 team ended the 2010 season by winning the All County Division Two Shield Final in a dramatic game with Ballymacnab played in Clann Eireann Park, Lurgan. This prize was truly worthy of this team who showed great skill, flair and determination throughout the year. Lead by team Captain Ryan Kieran and managed by senior team player Conor McElmeel along with Martin Mallon the team contested Division Two North Armagh Minor League. The Intermediate Championship began with the team beating Wolfe Tone’s, Lurgan. However with defeat to St John’s meant the semi final of the All County shield against Carrickcruppin awaited the Grange lads. This was a fast, open and frenetic game with a powerful midfield allowing the rampant Grange forwards quality possession for an emphatic win. The final was played on a heavy, weather sodden pitch in October. Grange started hesitantly and immediately should have been punished heavily only for Ballymacnab to hit the post, crossbar and come up against in form Grange goalkeeper Mark McArdle who produced several fantastic saves. Having withheld the onslaught Grange went ahead three points to one after 12 minutes only to have David O’Hagan harshly sent off. Now playing a man down it was going to be a struggle to hold out for 50 minutes. Showing great strength of character and determination and using possession intelligently Grange were still two points up at the end and collected the Grange’s first U18 trophy in many years.
2010 was an eventful year for our Men’s Senior team, starting promisingly and, having set goals for league promotion and a decent run in the championship, everybody had knuckled down to the tough pre-season work under Colm Toal, Tommy Gribben Junior and Tommy Gribben Senior. A couple of stand out games early in the season which really set them on their way were actually both league defeats against Dorsey Emmet’s and Crossmaglen II. A mainly young Grange team learnt a lot of lessons in those matches and when it came to the first round championship game, again against Crossmaglen II, all felt they were now ready for the challenge and were good enough to compete with anyone in this grade. That first round game was probably one of the best performances of the year and through the next two rounds and semi-final they were playing with confidence and putting in some fine performances. The league campaign was also ticking along nicely and, again, was coming through some tough tests with flying colours. The championship final however was to
be the toughest proposition to date against a high flying Tullysaran team who had already gained promotion to Division 2 and were earning justified praise from all corners for their fast skilful style of football. In the build up to that game the management team pulled a masterstroke by pitting the team against Armagh Harps in a full blooded challenge game where they were well able to hold their own at Division 2 pace football. This was the final confidence builder needed to meet the Tullysaran challenge head on. Championship Finals don’t come around that often for smaller clubs like ourselves and, bearing in mind that the Grange had let
themselves down with a poor performance in the Junior Final of 2008, the whole playing squad, management and backroom were determined that on this occasion there would be nothing left behind us on the field of play. Thankfully, the performance that day helped Conor Scully bring the Sean Quinn Cup back to the
Grange, and to really top the season off, sealed promotion on the following Sunday with another fine win away to Dorsey Emmet’s. As a result of the championship win the Grange Men’s Senior Team had the honour of representing Armagh in the Ulster Club Junior Championship and this was another little piece of history for the club, Although losing out at the semi-final stage in Casement Park after defeating the Antrim champions in the first round and everyone really enjoyed the experience of playing Ulster football.
St Colmcille’s Ladies GAC formed in 1989 and the girls quickly and enthusiastically learnt the rules under the instruction and guidance of coaches Kieran Cullen and Colm MacGabhann. Even though there was no official league structure in Armagh at this stage, friendly matches where organised against other teams within the county and further a field. Teams such as Tullysaran, Maghery, Keady and from Co. Tyrone, Una Celts.
When the All County league was formed in 1991, competition got a little more serious Kieran ‘Budgie’ Cullen had the honour of becoming the first Chairperson of the Armagh Ladies County Board. However, it was not until five years later that we won our first trophy, as 1996 All County Division 2 winners. The same year saw the first experience of championship football reaching the Junior Final, where they where defeated by Clann Eireann. At this stage it was decided to amalgamate with our local neighbours Tullysaran at underage to form St. Enda’s. They proved to be a talented group of players and although losing a number of county finals, many of these players progressed into the Senior ranks. The club’s first County representatives where Patricia McArdle and Paula Keegan. Paula has been the mainstay in the Ladies football from the very beginning and but for her sterling work ladies football would have fallen by the wayside many years ago. In 2001, under the guidance of Peter Rafferty and Conor McElmeel, the Ladies greatest achievement to date was achieved with the lifting of the Ladies County Junior Championship after three
titanic matches against Ballyhegan. They would go on to be the first Grange representatives in the Ulster Club championships. The year was also rounded of with the winning of the Second Division title. Many of these players still play today.
In recent times we have had players represented a several levels in Ladies County football, With Dervla Toal-Mallon representing the seniors for a number of years and this year Siobhan Mackle playing County Minor football and her younger sister Louise County Juvenile Football. Siobhan Mackle has capped her impressive year with a College All Star Award in it’s inaugural year. The Ladies also won the inaugural Marie McGurk Sevens Tournament hosted by Tullysaran in 2010.