History of the GAA in Letterkenny and St. Eunan's GAA Club

The Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A.) was founded in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, on 1st November 1884.  However, it was not until 20 years later that the G.A.A. really got established in Co. Donegal when, in 1905, the first County Board was formed. On St. Patrick's Day 1906 Donegal fielded its first County Senior Football team against Derry, being beaten by 0-18 to 0-2. In the same year the county captured its first major G.A.A. trophy by winning the Ulster Senior Hurling championship by beating Antrim 5-15 to 0- 1 at the Moss Road hurling field in the Ulster final. It was about a decade later that clubs really started to spring up all over the county in a big way and Letterkenny was one of the towns to take up the code. In 1917 two former Cavan men, Frank "Steve" Donohoe and Mickey McGovern, held a special meeting in McGovern's Public House, Lr. Main Street, to form a Gaelic football team. A club was formed and called the 'Fag A Bailes'. Other members of that 1917 team included two famous Letterkenny men, Fr. John McMonagle, Glencar, and Johnny McClean, who was the goalkeeper. Fr. McMonagle and Mickey McGovern were reputed to be two of the best midfielders in the province in that era. The first playing pitch where Gaelic football was played in Letterkenny was situated at the top of the Convent Road where Scoil Colmcille now stands. This club established the Gaelic code in East Donegal until the 'Black and Tan' war reduced their playing numbers to such an extent that they were forced to cease activities in the early 1920's. However, it was not long until the 'good old days', the real magical days of Gaelic football in Letterkenny emerged with the formation of two famous clubs, the Geraldines, formed in 1924, and Letterkenny Rovers. Many a story is told of their clashes, the local derbies, the personalities, but mostly because no matter how much pride and prestige was at stake, they were clean, sporting and happy affairs. The first officers of the Geraldines were: Chairman, Samuel Forsythe; secretary, Frank 'Steve' Donohoe and treasurer, Hugh McGlynn. Those were the days in the town when flags flew, banners were out, the A.O.H. band paraded, and rival loyal supporters looked on their 'stars' as the men of brilliance in Gaelic football when these two famous teams met. The celebrities of Letterkenny were the Gaelic footballers. Discipline was strict, no smoking or drinking before big matches and, above all, absence from training meant instant dismissal.  Training was hard, often 6 to 10 mile road runs after several hours of ball practice and a practice match.

The disgrace of defeat had to be avoided at all costs. An example of the times in the town around those days can be visualised in recalling that there were only two motorcars in the town, belonging to Hugh Crerand, Church Street, and Mrs Coyle, St. Eunan's Terrace. The Urban Council rent for houses was 1/6d and a dance once a month was the sole happening in this form of entertainment or recreation outside of Gaelic football matches.

In 1926 the Donegal county team reached the final of the Dr. McKenna for the first time by beating Tyrone 4-4 to 2-3 at the Christian Brothers Park, Omagh on 13th March in a semi-final replay.  Some of the Letterkenny players who helped Donegal to that memorable history-making day were P. ‘Coachie' Doherty, Dan Taylor, Bill Roarty, H. McGlynn and P. Boyle.