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Mullabrack football club was formed in 1903 by local school teacher, James Cotter. Master Cotter, a native of Cork moved to Markethill with his wife Alice to take up the position of headteacher at the local Catholic school.
In 1906, James Cotter was elected as chairman of the Armagh County Board. At the first County Board meeting under his tenure on 3rd March, a letter was read by Father Montague (CC Loughgilly Parish) offering a silver cup for a league competition in the county. This offer had originated from a William McKillop from Glasgow who was the Nationalist member of Parliament for South Armagh. The offer was accepted on the proposal of James Cotter and Owen Fagan. James Cotter, Fr. Montague and Peter McKnight (Keady Dwyers) were appointed the trustees. In 1906, the McKillop Cup as it became known, could be won by a team achieving three outright leagues wins in a row or by winning four games in all. This regulation was eventually changed in 1931 and the McKillop Cup was transferred to the county senior football championship, as it still is to this present day.
James Cotter also acted as a referee in those days and was in the middle for the 17th June 1906 first round meeting between Keady Michael Dwyers and Whitecross. Later that year he was given the task of refereeing the county senior football championship final in Whitecross on 16th September between Crossmaglen Red Hands and Camlough Shane O’Neills. The match was won by Crossmaglen with a finishing scoreline of 1-4 to 0-6, and was the first of many titles to be won by them, and to be displayed in the shop window of James Short, a tradition which prevails today.
In 1907, James Cotter was re-elected as county chairman and was also appointed as an Ulster council delegate. He was eventually replaced as county chairman in 1909 by Pat Fardley from Crossmaglen.
James Cotter remained a native of Markethill until his death on 13th August 1947. He is interned at Mullabrack chapel beside his beloved wife, who was also a local schoolteacher.
In 1903, Mullabrack was known as the Shamrocks. They retained this name until the mid 1930’s. Little is known of the team in the early years but during the 1930’s, they played their matches at various locations around the parish. Mallon’s meadow was one such place, as was the Cunningham field at the Poke Mill in Drumachee. Games at this time were also played in Ballindarragh just outside the village of Markethill in a field which belonged to a Mr Rice, who at that time resided in America. The team colours of this era were green, with a green shamrock on the shoulder. Some of the team players in 1930 were Francie Brown, Thomas and Michael Callaghan, the three Toner brothers from Lissummon, Jim McSherry from Poyntspass, Paddy Convery, Joseph and Patrick Lennon and John Lennon from Clady.
In 1933, the local club had nine county players amongst the panel. These included S Toner; Eddie Loy; Paddy Convery, Jim McSherry, Mickey McCone and John Lennon. Other family names who played in the 1930’s included McParland, McClure, Daly, McGeown, Mallon, Boylan and Cunningham.
he Shamrocks team were not active again until the 1950’s when they became known as Uí Donnabhain Rossa CLG Mullach Breac, when they registered a team under this name to play in the 1953 season. Three of the names from the 1930’s reappeared in this year, namely Tommy Cunnigham, Bob McClure and Eddie O’Hanlon.
In the early 1950’s when there was no football team in the parish, a group of men and young lads revived the idea of starting a team locally. This venture was lead by a young man, Jim Boylan (RIP). It was decided a meeting should be held in the local Parochial hall after Sunday Mass to seek the support from the more serious men in the Parish. After much debate, it soon became clear that support was forthcoming for such a venture. It was then decided to form a committee.
However, as the date to register a team had passed in 1952, it was decided to go for it in 1953. In the meantime, the committee agreed to ballot the other clubs in the surrounding parishes for friendly matches any week or Sunday night. As it transpired, the club played two games every week for the duration of the summer. This was ideal preparation for the team to begin its campaign in 1953. The committee that was formed in 1952 was as follows:
Chairman: Paddy Hanratty; Secretary: James O’Neill; Treasurer: Tommy Toner: Committee Members: Master Frank Mallon; Jim Boylan; Jim Gildea; Tommy Cunningham; Francie Boylan; Ardle O’Hanlon; Barney Og Mulligan; John McGrath and Bob McClure.
The next task facing the committee was to acquire a field for playing home matches and, on which to train. A field was rented in Ballindarragh from the late Tom Kelly. This field along with two others acquired at a later date were to become known as O’Donovan Rossa Park on the outskirts of Markethill.
O’Donnavan Rossa Team in the 1950’s
Back Row (L-R): Sean Boylan, Kevin McNamee, Francie Livingstone, Eddie O’Hanlon, Brendan O’Hanlon, Leo Feighan, Bobby McClure
Front Row (L-R): Liam Boylan, Seamus Mallon, Jim Boylan, Colm McNamee, Jimmy Feighan, Jackie O’Rourke
lso in that panel were Columba Loughran of Clady, Tomas Rocks, Tony Davis of Tandragee, Jim Loughlin and Raymond McSherry of Poyntspass, Sean Burn of Lissummon; Nicholas Daly and Mick Lynch of Kerry.
In May 1952, in preparation for the upcoming season, a team from Mullabrack travelled by bicycle to Clare crossroads to play a Tandragee selection. At the venue, there were no crossbars in view, so a rope was hastily strung between the posts for the purpose of getting the game underway. There were also no nets. The return match was played in July 1952 in Thomas Cunningham’s seven acre field.
Action Shot of Jimmy Feighan playing in the 1950’s
The team colours changed in the 1950’s to black and white and the first official challenge match was with Ballymacnab Round towers. At this time Junior and League football was thirteen a side and the panel was as follows:
Nattie McClure; James McCone; Eddie O’Hanlon; Jimmy Feighan; Jim Boylan; Sean Boylan; Liam Boylan; Seamus Mallon; Ray Boyce;
Bob McClure; Joe McKeown; Tommy Cunnigham; Francie Livingstone; Kevin McNamee, Jim Gildea; Jim Murphy and Leo Feighan. The match was refereed by Rev Fr John Joe Devlin CC Ballymacnab and it was he who bought the first footballs for the team in Dundalk.
As interest in the team grew stronger, other names started to come into the panel of players: Brendan O’Hanlon; Jim Daly; Colm McNamee; Sean Cassidy; Fr Pat Cassidy; Johnny McConnell, Gerry Lavery. Vincent Savage and Richie McCann who hailed from Clady played with Mullabrack because of the absence of a team in Clady at that time.
In the 1950’s the tradition of having committee members involved with the county continued with Tommy Cunningham being chosen as a county selector for the 1953 Armagh Senior Team. There were also two players chosen for the county minor panel in this era – Liam Boylan in 1954 and Sean Cassidy in 1959.
as the 1960’s progressed, the team found it very difficult to field because of various defections due to work and so, football ceased within the club for a number of years. This changed when a young priest called Fr McGuckin was appointed curate in Mullabrack. He was the main instigator in kick starting Mullabrack club again. O’Donovan Rossa reformed in 1968 and continued until 1973. The committee for the first Annual General Meeting in January 1969 was President: Kevin McNamee; Chairman: John McGrath; Secretary: Raymond Pickering; Treasurer: Fr McGuckin and Selectors: Brendan O’Hanlon; Bob McClure and Nattie McGeown. The team captain in that year was Nattie McGeown.
The Acquisition of a Playing Field
It was around this time, that it was decided to acquire some ground on which to build a modern day full size pitch. At the AGM in 1970, a grounds committee was formed as follows: Fr McGuckin; James McCone (RIP); James Gildea; Tommy Toner (RIP); Tommy Cunningham; Jim Livingstone Snr and Sean Conlon.
At a special meeting on Saturday 11 April 1970, it was decided to purchase eleven acres, which included the existing pitch, from the late Tom Kelly at a price of £1,400 which was partly funded with a GAA grant of £400.
When construction was started, the club again folded because of a lack of a pitch. In 1972, Fr McGuckin was transferred from our parish to Donaghmore. However, the remaining members of the grounds committee were determined to carry on and see the new venture through. These men organised fundraising events such as, the running of ten-week draws, twice a year for a period covering seven years. The ladies of the parish organised guest teas to boost fund raising. It must also be remembered that many other parishioners worked tirelessly as ticket sellers for the ten-week draws.
The final construction of the new field was completed by 1978 and the club reformed.
The Fruitful Years – 1980’s
The 1980’s were to prove quite fruitful for the club with promotions, tournament wins and the Junior championship for the first and only time in 1983.
Back Row: Natty McGeown, John Macken, Barney McGeown, Jimmy Murphy, Brendan Carlin, Eugene McCone, Jim Boyle, Harry McGeown.
Front Row: Kevin Gollogy, Paul Gildea, Kevin McNamee, Francie Carlise, Patsy McGeown, Seamus Brown, Martin Boyce, Colm Boyce
In 1980, the club finished second to Ballymacnab in the old division 3B and were duly promoted to Division 3 proper. In this year Peter McGeown was on the 1977 Ulster Minor panel, which reached the Ulster final, and he transferred from Clady.
1981 was a quiet year in both league and championship and it was in this year that Aidan McVeigh took over the managerial reigns. The club remained in division 3 in 1982 and the only bright light on the horizon was the winning of the Whitecross tournament. This was also the year that Joseph Callagan took on the mantle of our official club referee.
In 1983, the club had its finest hour when we won the Junior championship.
lthough the 1980’s have been the glory years for the Mullabrack club, due in no small measure to a close knit local footballing talent, the 1990’s have, by contrast, seen the club in constant decline.
With falling numbers actually playing gaelic football in the Markethill area, it was difficult to keep the club going. However, due to the tremendous efforts of the various football committees over the last decade, the gaelic football tradition in Mullabrack is still proudly displayed. In 1994, a decision was taken to invest in the clubs facilities and this year saw a change in personnel on the trustees panel. Magnificent servants to the club James McCone (RIP), Tommy Toner (RIP), Tommy Cunningham and Jim Gildea resigned as trustees. These positions were filled by three new trustees – Eddie Rice, Aidan McVeigh and Malachy Boylan (RIP) who was replaced in 1995 after his sudden death, by his brother Jarlath Boylan.
New Club Rooms
The 1990’s saw the building of the first permanent changing rooms and club house, as our previous temporary facilities had been badly vandalised in 1994. The contract for the clubhouse was undertaken by J Toal in the spring of 1997, the year also that former 1980’s star Kevin Gallogly became club referee, a position he still maintains to the present day.
The New Clubrooms Constructed in 1997
Towards the end of the 1990’s, the club received a much needed and welcome influx of players from in and around Clare and Ballyargan. This enabled managers Sean (Dingle) Daly and John Henry to maintain a squad of players, which was further helped by new players from Armagh City. The club were then able to win league and championship games although at irregular intervals.
The 1998 Championship Team
Back Row: Eddie Rice, John Henry, Eddie O’Hanlon, Dominic Crossan, Colm McCooey, Conor Grey, Kieran O’Hanlon, Declan Mallon, Eamon Boylan, Conor Campbell, John Crossan, Peter Gildea, Stephen Sands, Paul Sands, Aiden Reilly
Front Row: Gareth Loye, James Lavery, Eamon Rice, Stephen Baxter, Pearse mcGuigan, Shea Campbell, John Conlon, Liam Boyle, Gary Maye
During 2001 further development work take place on the Ballindarragh pitch when it was drained and shored, with the major part of the cost being borne by a local dedicated supporter of Mullabrack. Lighting was erected for training purposes by a number of the players, Stephen and Phelim Sands, James Lavery and Martin McCooey. 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of the clubs involvement with Gaelic football and saw the return of the club to the original colours of black and white.
The 2004 Championship Team
Although Mullabrack are celebrating 100 years in Gaelic football, the road along has not been easy at times. On behalf of the people of the parish of Mullabrack we would like to thank every player, committee member, supporter and anyone else who has contributed to the running and keeping alive of the football club in this area over the course of the last century. May we hope and pray that the great tradition of Gaelic football in this area will still be alive after the next 100 years.