Erin's Own Lavey, GAC

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Football History
The beginning
The First Team
The Thirties
Fine Goalkeeping Tradition
First Trophy Disappointment
The Forties A Unique Double
A Super Seven Thrills Galore
There is many a slip
The Post War Years
A Double Double

The beginning

After the turbulent years in Ireland's history in the mid 1920's, a Mayoman called Liam O'Connor, who had been doing his share in the fight for Irish Freedom, came to County Derry - first to Glenullin where he played Gaelic football for the newly formed John Mitchel's club. He was soon to move to Cargin on the shores of Lough Neagh, but in 1926 he eventually settled in Lavey where he found employment with Mick McGlade in Knockloughrim. It was to this west of Ireland man that can be attributed the foundation of the first Gaelic football club in Lavey, indeed he was also instrumental in the formation of the first Derry County Board. In 1928 he immigrated to America from which he has long since returned to settle in a prosperous business of his own in Tullow, Co. Carlow.

Despite such a short mission Liam made a notable contribution to the promotion and development of the infant G.A.A. in Co. Derry. His efforts did not go unnoticed, for prior to his departure the County Board presented him with a gold medal in recognition of his services to the game - not only was Liam O'Connor a pioneer of the association, he was also a player of undoubted ability who had played for and captained the Derry team. Returning to the origins of the Erin's Own Club, the record books reveal that the team was originally known as Knockloughrim Erin's Own and did not assume the title of Lavey until after its reorganisation in 1933. O'Connor christened the club Erin's Own in memory of his home club in Co. Mayo, which bore the same title. It is not without significance that the famous Cargin Club in Co.Antrim, which Liam O'Connor had founded during his brief stay there, is similarly known as Erin's Own. The very first committee to serve the Knockloughrim Erin's Own club were: Chairman -Liam O'Connor, Secretary - Eddie Toner, Treasurer - Mick Crilly, Anthony McGurk and Joe O'Neill also assisted on that committee.

The First Team

The absence of early records relating to Gaelic football in the parish gives rise to considerable speculation as to the identity of Erin's Own's first opposition. However it is generally agreed that the first ever game was a challenge game against Cargin, which is not unlikely in view of the O'Connor connection. This game took place at the bottom of McNicholls field in Broagh, now owned by Robert Leach and more commonly referred to as the "Green Hill. The players stripped in Jimmy Dowds house at the "Road Head" - a notable ceili house and focal point in the district, the remains of which still exist. Knockloughrim lost that game, as they did their next game at Lissan. More is known about their next a home fixture, which took place in Hugh McGurk's field - also in Broagh, with Glenullin providing the opposition. The Knockloughrim team contained the following players - Dan McCrystal, Johnny Donaghy, Jimmy Grant, Frank Dillon, Jim Dillon, Jim Brennan, Mick McGlade, Liam O'Connor (Capt.)., Otherson, Dan Kane, Jimmy Kane, Frank Diamond, Henry Kelly, Jack McGlade, Hughie Young, Tommy Shaw, Hugh McGurk and Eddie Toner.

Once again the Erin's Own team tasted defeat, by 13 points to 4 points - in fact it is said that in their first year in South Derry football they never won a match. However, while they still had their tradition to earn, there was nothing untraditional about their colours - green jerseys with a gold hoop and a white collar - emulating the men from the kingdom of Kerry. Perhaps the performances of the Knockloughrim team in their first season did not do justice to those jerseys, but who cared? The game here was in its infancy and could only go from strength to strength. What was more important was the fact that a new team had been born another chapter in the history of Gaelic football in Derry was written.

The next two years were frustrating years for the want of an organised league - the shortage of recognised teams in the South Derry area did not permit a successful league. Newbridge compensated by playing in the South-West Antrim league, while for a time Ballinderry operated in Tyrone. On the face of it many of those early fixtures in Derry were little more than friendly games, although a combination of parish rivalry and local enthusiasm might occasionally have made the term 'friendly' seem rather out of place. By 1928 some of the Erin Own players such as Dan McCrystal, John McKenna and Frank Diamond had switched their allegiance to Newbridge in search of competitive football. Such players represented a huge loss to the Erin's Own team, but the departure of Liam O'Connor to America proved the ultimate blow to the club and signalled its collapse soon afterwards.

The loss of their founder member, whilst a sad occasion for everyone connected with the club, was temporarily forgotten when on the eve of his departure a farewell party was organised in his honour, in Josie Donnelly's pub in Gulladuff. All reports suggest that it was a night to remember, with people turning up from the length and breadth of the county to show their appreciation of a man whose contribution to the early game in South Derry had been enormous. The highlight of the occasion was the aforementioned presentation of a gold medal by the County Board, while the music, song and dance lasted into the early (or not so early) hours of the morning.

The Thirties

A Fresh Start:

The collapse of the Knockloughrim Erin's Own in 1928 had coincided with a general collapse in the game in South Derry, but by 1932 a Gaelic revival in the area was in evidence. The commonly referred to "hungry thirties" provided little encouragement towards the organisation or running of a team - most people were more concerned about earning a living than devoting time and attention to the business of a football club. On the other hand it could be said that such affairs provided a sense of comradeship and comfort amongst its members through difficult times. Regardless of the conditions, Mick Crilly decided in 1933 that the Erin's Own Club should be revived, and with the assistance of an enthusiastic committee he duly succeeded in this task. The committee members were: Chairman - Rev. Fr McNally, C.C. Lavey; Vice Chairman - Anthony McGurk; Secretary - James McGurk; Treasurer - Mick Crilly, Dan McCrystal; Johnny Dorrity, Joe O'Neill, Frank Diamond, John Convery (Rory), Robert Crilly, Dan Cushley, Mick Crilly who regrettably has long since passed on, was a popular and much respected personality within the parish who possessed great qualities of leadership. His sincerity towards the club was never better highlighted when on one occasion he sold two calves to cover club expenses. Not that such a gesture was unheard of during those lean years - Mick McGlade normally paid for the team's transport, while Paddy Henry, still very much to the fore, has been known on more than one occasion to lend the club substantial amounts of money in times of need. With such spirit in its ranks the future of Erin's Own, Lavey was assured. It was decided that the re-organised club should be known as Lavey Erin's Own, which was understandable when we consider that Knockloughrim was merely a small townland within the parish. There was also a change of playing field - John McGuckin's field in Gulladuff - (often referred to as "The Sportsfield") was the new venue for home fixtures. The very first game was indeed a home fixture with Desertmartin providing the Opposition. It was a memorable occasion with both teams parading to the field led by Paddy Bradley and Joe O'Neill on the bagpipes. The Lavey team, spotting those same .Kerry' jerseys of four years ago included the following players. Paddy Magill; Mickey Magill; Paddy Brennan; Dan Kane; Jimmy Kane; Joe Heaney; Dan Cushley (Capt.); Hugh F. McGurk; Tommy Hickson; John Glackin; Jim Convery (Rory); Hugh A McGurk; Paddy McGahey; John Convery.

Once again Erin's Own failed to make it a winning start, but they made amends in their next outing with an 11 points to 7 points victory against the Loup.

Fine Goalkeeping Tradition

During the thirties Erin's Own boasted a fine Goalkeeping tradition - the club was constantly responsible for supplying the County goalie for many years. Some oft he men who gave faithful service between the sticks to club and county were Joe Burke, Paddy McGahey and J. Devlin, but one custodian, Paddy Magill, deserves a special word of mention. Robert Crilly can still recall some of Magill's most inspired performances. Not least was a league game at Ballinascreen when Paddy was often exposed to the considerable might and power of the Screen attack. Point blank shots were driven at him from all angles but he refused to be beaten, and when in the closing stages the Screen were awarded a penalty Paddy again saved acrobatically to maintain a clean sheet. For some unknown reason the County selectors constantly overlooked Magill, but when the Ballinascreen members of the county team refused to play in protest, he was immediately installed. Paddy proceeded to turn in vintage performances for his county - Robert Crilly recalls a significant remark' made by a Down player after they had been decisively beaten by Derry - "Switch the goalkeepers", he said, "and we'll play you again."

First Trophy

Lavey had to wait until 1936 to collect their first trophy - the Dean McGlinchey Cup which was played that year on a single league basis. The Erin's Own team won the league outright, defeating all eight teams en route - Newbridge and Ballinderry. two of the top teams having previously been suspended. REV. M. BRADLEY P.P. presented the cup at a victory ceili in Lavey to the team captain Dan Costello. However, despite this success the County Championship, the most coveted prize in the local game had eluded Lavey in favour of more experienced contenders such as Ballinderry, Newbridge and Ballinascreen. Hugh A. McGurk swears to this day that Lavey were given a raw deal in the 1936 Championship, when, after scoring a narrow 8 points to 7 points victory over the Loup, the referee reversed the scores and awarded the match to the home team, who proceeded to win the championship for the only time in their history. Indeed so vehement were the protests of Hugh A., Mick Crilly and others towards the referee that day, that a number of officials and players, including some members of the club committee received a lengthy suspension. This untimely setback resulted in enforced replacements within the committee and Robert Crilly, Mick's brother, who was a dedicated worker behind the scenes, ascended to club chairman while Liam McGurk became one of the youngest club secretaries on record.

Disappointment

With each passing year the Erin's Own team was growing in confidence and stature and by 1937 they were proving more than a match for any team in the county. After a successful championship run they found themselves in their first County Final - confronted with the tradition and experience of Newbridge. Played in Dr. Higgins field in Magherafelt before a huge crowd, Lavey emerged victorious by 8 points to 7 points after a titanic struggle. The Erin's Own had made that eagerly awaited breakthrough - they had won the championship. Or had they? A glance at the record books reveal that Newbridge were the 1937 champions, and the inscription on the Championship trophy bears this out. The fact of the matter is that after a protest Newbridge were awarded the honours under the foreign games rule - allegedly a member of the Lavey team was spotted watching a soccer match. So the ecstasy of achieving a first championship success was turned into utter disappointment and disbelief.

Disappointed they may have been in 1937, but very determined to make amends the following year. This time the competition was operated on a different basis with north and south Derry playing their own separate championship and the winners proceeding to join the Derry City representatives in the quest for eventual honours. Lavey became South Derry champions having once again accounted for rivals Newbridge in the final. Their opponents in what was the County semi-final were north Derry champions - Limavady. The latter team, powered by the legendary Harry Owens, who had captained Derry many times as well as being chosen for Ulster, were the North Derry champions. Whilst Limavady had served notice by accounting for a strong Glenullin side in the Northern final, they proved no match for a more experienced Erin's Own outfit who proceeded to a County Final meeting with Pearses at Dungiven. Once again a prominent and famous name cropped up among the opposition ranks - that of Sean Dolan. Despite their valiant efforts the city team were no match for the strong Lavey combination and finished on the wrong end of a 1 3 points to 3 points scoreline. For the Erin's Owns it was ample consolation for the disappointment of the previous year. They had eventually achieved that coveted championship success and no one could deny it to them. The players on that historic making team were: Joey Burke, Johnny McKenna, Fr. Tony McGurk, John Glackin, John Convery (Rory), Harry McNamee, John Francis O'Neill, John L. Fay, Jimmy McGurk, Eamon Diamond, Matt Convery, Hugh F McGurk, Joe O'Neill, Dr. H. McGurk, Hugh A. McGurk.

1939 witnessed a decline in the fortunes of the Erin's Own team for various reasons - the chief one being that subsequent to the formation of neighbouring clubs such as Bellaghy Greenlough and Lisnamuck about this Period, the players from these areas returned to play for their own newly formed teams. This involved such key players as Joey Burke, Harry McNamee. Matt Convery, Johnny (Peter) McKenna, John Glackin, John Francis O'Neill and Hugh McGoldrick.

Whilst being a setback to the Lavey team, it was generally appreciated that this was a positive development towards the growth of the game in the area. Dr. McGurk, another stalwart in the championship winning team went off to teach in St. Columb's college and was no longer available. The loss of so many players had a devastating effect upon the team and one, which would surely take years to overcome. That Lavey should complete a championship double within five years represents a remarkable recovery and a fitting tribute to the foresight and planning of one of the most prominent figures in the history of the club - John L. Fay, who was to play a leading role in the fortunes of both Lavey and Derry football in the years ahead.

The Forties

Master Fay realised that the only way to compensate for the heavy drain of players was to breed fresh blood within the parish, so he set about achieving this goal by organising a parish league. The parish league consisted of five teams namely Gulladuff, Ballymapeake;, Drumard, Rocktown and Broagh. With the established players being evenly distributed among all five teams. Perhaps some of the football was not of the highest calibre during the early stages but there was certainly no shortage of thrills. Indeed the matches aroused a tremendous amount of interest and enthusiasm for the game throughout the parish. Each team acquired a field and erected goalposts and on the evening of a game hundreds of eager spectators flocked to support their favourites. Master Fay decided not to play himself but instead to referee all of the matches which, considering the intense local rivalry was a wise move. He still vividly recalls one hilarious incident during a Broagh v Gulladuff encounter in Hugh McCann's field, when a blistering shot skimmed the bar and sparked off some considerable argument as to whether the ball had actually passed above or beneath the bar. Having silenced the contradictory protests Master Fay then questioned the umpire, Hugh McCann, as to whether he should award a goal or a point - to which Hugh, fully realising the consequences of his decision, replied in typical non committal fashion:- "Well Master, it was a goal, for 1 distinctly saw the ball go over the bar."

The parish leagues continued for two or three years by which time they had accomplished the purpose of their invention. A new band of players capable of staking a place on the senior team, had been unearthed - names such as Paddy Devlin, Paddy Dougan, Danny Shaw, Barney Dougan, Patsy Duffy, the Hurleys and most notable of all Jack Convery who was later to rise to county and inter-provincial fame.

A Unique Double:

Master Fay had an acute tactical sense and clever football brain, as was later demonstrated in 1947 when he guided the Derry team to a National League success - their only ever national title. By 1943 that same football brain had moulded the Erin's Own team into a strong forceful unit, once again capable of mastering any team in the county - which is exactly what they did that year including old rivals Newbridge in the South Derry final - albeit by a slender margin. The game was hard fought and very exciting despite the remarkable absence of scores - only three were recorded over the hour. Constant heavy rain had left the Magherafelt pitch dotted with pools of water, through which the players dashed and played with seemingly gay abandon. Lavey registered the only score of the first half with a goal from Joe Hurley, but the Bridge replied after the interval with two pointed frees by John Murphy. Both goals had some narrow escapes, but no further scores resulted before referee James Malone (Loup) blew the final whistle to end perhaps the lowest scoring final on record. Faughanvale were the surprise North Derry Champions, but in the county final at Magherafelt they had no answer to the strong Erin's Own side who recorded a 3-7 to 0-3 victory.

Important games can often be won or lost depending upon whether the best team has been chosen for the day. This fact places a great deal of responsibility upon the shoulders of the team mentors - if you win all is well, but defeat often evokes the opposite reaction with much of the criticism being directed towards team selection. A rather humorous story surrounds the selection of that '43 team for the South Derry final against Newbridge. The mentors, being far from unanimous as to whether the final place on the team should be filled by Joe Hurley, Johnny O'Neill or Jim Shaw eventually decided to write the three names on a slip of paper - put them into a hat and draw out the one who would commence the game. Mick Crilly, who personally felt that Joe Hurley was the man for the job, performed the required paperwork. Joe Hurley's name was selected and he proved a worthy choice by scoring the all important goal after soloing the length of the field - reputedly one of the most memorable goals seen at the County Grounds. Amid the after match celebrations one of Mick Crilly's co-selectors remarked on the good fortune which fate had permitted in choosing the correct slip of paper. "Mind you," said Mick, "If either of the other two had been picked out, Joe Hurley's name would have been on them as well." Humorous indeed in hindsight, and proof of the earlier remark - all's well that ends well. No doubt Mick was instantly forgiven for his indiscretion and who's to argue that he didn't deserve the happy outcome of sheer impudence. One thing seems certain - the game would be of terrific loss without such memories.

It has always been a fact that when you are champions everyone is 'gunning' for you, and this was indeed the reaction which the Erin's Own team experienced in the 1944 Championship. However, they defied their opposition and progressed to a South Derry semi-final meeting with Newbridge. In two of the best semi-finals seen at the County Grounds for a long time, Lavey defeated Newbridge once again by 1-4 to 1-3, while Magherafelt accounted for Greenlough in a classic match by 3-6 to 3-3. The '44 final brought together some of the legendary names in the game - Anthony Joe McGurk, John L. Fay, and Jack Convery for Lavey while the Rossa's could boast of Francie Niblock, Paddy McFlynn (former president of the G.A.A.) and the famous Sticky Maguire. at the interval Magherafelt led by 0-3 to 0-2, but mid-way through the second half a Colm McGurk goal gave the Erin's Own a lead which they were in no mood to surrender. Fr. Brian Rogers (Ballinascreen) who was then playing for Lavey increased the lead with a magnificent point from a 60 yard free, and Lavey eventually emerged winners by 1-6 to 1-4.

In the County semi-final Lavey defeated Dungiven to qualify for their second successive championship decider. This time Mitchel's from Derry City provided the opposition, while the venue of Celtic Park in Derry provided the Lavey officials with a headache regarding the transport of the team. The war restriction of a ten mile limit on car which existed at that time meant' that an alternative source of transport would have to be found. Finally an arrangement was devised whereby they would travel by car to Ballymena and make the remainder of the journey to Derry by train. The cold wet conditions on that wintry Sunday did little to dampen the spirits of the large Lavey contingent, which made the hazardous journey and the team did them proud by retaining their title in fine style with a I -5 to O-O victory. The Lavey team that day was Eddie McGurk, Joe Hurley. Jack Convery, Dan Boyle, Brian Rogers. John Fay. Jim Shaw, Anthony Boyle, Jim Carmichael, Liam McGurk, Eamon Diamond, Anthony Joe McGurk, Pat Holloway, Colm McGurk. An interesting footnote was that the admission fee to that final was 1/ - and 6d for boys.

A Super Seven:

Seven a side had become a popular game during the forties particular at Sports meetings throughout the country. About the 1944-45 period Erin's Own produced a seven who had developed the game to a fine art, and proved well nigh unbeatable to all comers. The seven were usually chosen from the following players: Eddie McGurk, Neil Hurley, Paddy Duggan, John Fay, Eamon Diamond, Jim Carmichael, Anthony Joe McGurk.

Thrills Galore:

Lavey won the South Derry title again in 1947 when they recorded yet another narrow victory over Sean O'Leary's, Newbridge in a very exciting final - winning by 1-2 to 0-4. It was a thrill-packed game in which two fine sides themselves to a standstill. Liam McGurk gave the Erin's Own a great start with a goal but the 'Bridge retaliated with a point from W Garvin before forcing a penalty which was taken by John Murphy and well saved by Eddie McGurk. The score stood at 1-0 to 0-1 at the interval. On the resumption John Murphy and Liam McGurk exchanged points. Barney Murphy had a further point for the favourites to narrow the gap to the minimum. Despite strong pressure from the Bridge each team scored a further point and the Erin's Own emerged as narrow winners. Their team on that occasion lined out as follows: Eddie McGurk, Henry McPeake, Neil Hurley, Johnny O'Neill, Jim Shaw, Jack Convery, Jim Carmichael, Colm McGurk, Liam McGurk, Paddy Devlin, Patsy Duffy, John L. Fay, Dan Boyle, Mick Hurley and Tommy Doherty.

There is many a slip

Lavey were now hot favourites to annex their fourth county title. However, despite receiving a bye into the County Final against Dungiven their good fortune deserted them at the final hurdle. Jack Convery was injured in a quarry accident just prior to the final while Colm McGurk was exam-tied in Dublin. This double blow seemed to have a disheartening effect upon the Erin's Own team and Dungiven won the final by 3-4 to 2-3 to take the title out of South Derry for the first time in its history.

The Post War Years

The post war years brought changes especially in the means of travelling to matches. Private cars were becoming a little more plentiful and with petrol rationing no more, teams were able to travel to sports and especially carnivals, which became a craze in the early 50's. Around 1949 the Lavey Club started thinking about building a hall, and about 1950 a hall committee was formed as follows: Chairman - John Dillon , Secretary - H. F. McGurk, Treasurer Paddy Henry, John Joe Hughes, M. P. O'Neill, Neil McCloy, Henry H. McPeake, Charlie Carmichael, Andy Halferty, Hugh A. McGurk, John Young J.J. Shaw and Joe Boyle

Procuring a suitable site. Convenient to the pitch, was of course their first priority. A plot of ground just outside the village belonging to Master McGurk was being negotiated about when out of the blue the Ministry of Home Affairs put on the market a portion of ground beside the old police barrack.

This site really tickled their fancy and nothing, they decided, was going to prevent them from procuring it.

Nothing did - each obstacle, each setback, and there were many of both, was overcome and finally the deal was clinched. Financing the purchase of the site and the materials for building was now the big issue, but with the same tenacity of purpose they tackled and beat this one as well. Here we must pay tribute to a man who although not even living in the county, played a vital role in arranging finance to get the project going. That man was Frank Diamond, then in business across the Bann in Portglenone, Frank wore Lavey and Derry jerseys with distinction in the 1930's and now in the 50's had another talent to offer to his old club and native parish.

Building materials were scarce. Roofing of any description was almost impossible to get. But again the committee wouldn't be beaten. An asbestos roofed building was picked out of many that were for sale at the now disused aerodrome at Creagh, Toomebridge. The dismantling of this building and transporting of the asbestos to Gulladuff (by tractor and trailer) was the "teeth cutting" exercise for the band of voluntary workers who stayed with it' until the hall was built. The gravel to make the blocks was carted by tractors and trailers from Hugh Bradley's field on the banks of the Moyola River at Tobermore. The thousands of blocks needed were all made singly by hand operated machine, mainly in the evenings and on Saturdays.

The building of the hall was completed by late Autumn 1953 and a date set for the official opening. On the 8th December 1953 the dream became a reality. A large gathering of Gaels from all over the county and from Antrim and Tyrone as well came to Gulladuff that afternoon to help the people of Lavey celebrate an auspicious occasion.

Official Opening of the Hall - December 1953

Back Row: L. to R. Master McLaughlin, (Derry County Chairman), Fr Henry Kane C.C., Paddy McNamee (President of the Gaelic League), Mrs Charlies O'Neill (Councillor), Fr. McGlone P.P. Lavey, Master J.J. Conway (South Derry Chariman), Fr. Carragher (C.C. Magherafelt)

Success - How the heroes of Lavey Club brought fame to Gulladuff

- The Sunday Express (May 22nd, 1955)
New Derry G.A.A. Hall Might Have Been A Barracks

"It was a proud day for me when I saw that new hall opened over there." said Anthony McGurk, that grand old man of Gulladuff, as I stood chatting to him at his own door and looking across at Lavey's Erin's Own new hall.

"Mind you I never thought I'd see the day when we would have a hall on that site, as it was to be a police barracks, but as you see it's the best hall in the county and for that matter in the country, and nearly all of it done by voluntary labour."

Yes, Eighty-two-years-old Anthony looked very pleased. For in his time he had seen many changes in South Derry.

He remembered when they used to play caman, and when hurling was first started by Master Bonnar, a Donegal man, back in 1906. But it was the coming of the G.A.A. and its organisation that set things going in the area.

Up to 1926 this part of Derry was without a G.A.A. club and the credit of forming the first goes to Liam O'Connor, a Mayo man who was working across the county border in Cargin and played for the local Erin's Own side.

Started first club

He moved into Lavey and started the first club being its first chairman, and also helped to found the Derry County Board in that year and became its chairman.

The first secretary of the Lavey club was the Master J.P. McGurk, still hale and hearty at eighty and a brother of Anthony's who was also Lavey's delegate at the Derry Board meetings.

For a few years progress in this area went on - but Lavey disbanded in 1928 - not be reformed to 1933 - and since it has never looked back.

Through its span of twenty-two years, the club has had it ups and downs and its big moments, but everything was taken in its stride. Lavey commenced as a senior club, it still remains senior and can boast of being county champions for 1954 and leading side in the county.

The eyes of Hugh A. McGurk, who has done a lot for the Lavey club, sparkled as he rattled off some of the names of that 33 side. He was a member himself along with men like Paddy Magill, Jack Glackin, Frank Diamond, H. Kelly, D. O'Kane, Dan Costelloe, Dan McCrystal, Paddy McGahey, John (Rory) Convery and Jim Convery.

But they had to wait until 1938 to win the first county championship - when players were drawn from Glen, Swatragh, Slaughneil and Greenlough - yet the next season the club was left with only four players of that victorious side, as in this year, their stars went to found teams in Glen, Bellaghy and Greenlough.

They came back

But the men of Lavey were not downhearted - they could come back - and did. A Parish League was formed of four teams in 1939, and in a few years Lavey had again a strong side - good enough to collect county championship in 1943 and 1944.

Playing for the side during these years was Tyrone schoolmaster JOHN FAY - the present chairman of the club and vice-chairman of the Derry County Board.

Down the years the club supplied its quota of stars to the county- and the first Derry side to win the McKenna Cup, Lagan Cup and Junior championship was captained by Lavey's Tony McGurk.

From the club came Derry's first inter-provincial star, Jack Convery, who represented his province on two occasions, while others who were honoured by the county were Joe Hurley, Neil Hurley, and nearer the present time, Colm Mulholland, the two Tommy Dohertys, M. O'Neill and Murty Higgins.

Perhaps one of Lavey's most famous men was Dr. Hugh McGurk, now a curate in Killyclogher in Tyrone, and for 20 years a professor in St. Columb's College, Derry.

Hurling, too

But it was not all football in Lavey - there was hurling too, and when no other clubs had a side, the Lavey men kept a team going and took part in challenge and tournament games - and won the county championsip in 1944 and 1945.

Today the club runs senior, junior and minor teams a hurling side and both a schools hurling a football one. Not bad for a little village with a population of 250 people.

But Gulladuff, leads to all parts of South Derry: and so like the roads that pass through it the club members wanted to lead not only on the playing field but also in other aspects of National life.

There was the language and dances to be catered for - but these purposes a hall was required.

Certainly they had the use of the local A.O.H. hall for their functions - and were ever grateful - but what was required was a hall of their own, and with idea in mind a hall committee was formed in 1949.

A piece of ground was the first essential - and that the very spot to suit was offered for sale by tender - it had been intended to build new barracks but instead of building a new one the existing one was closed down. The club bought the ground - and to pay for it each member had to hand out £8-10-0

Best or nothing

It was first agreed to buy a hut and erect it - this was done - but proved unsuitable and was sold. So plans were drawn up for a substantial - the best or nothing.

Already functions and collections had commenced for the building fund; the committee was fortunate to procure the necessary material at a war demolition sale. Next voluntary labour was brought into play - a block machine and mixer hired, and blocks were turned out at the rate of 300 a day until 10,000 were made.

By now the flame of enthusiasm had kindled - and there was no want of workers, everyone lent a hand - and those who could not. A spade or a shovel offered their advice, but the latter were very few, for everyone was now too keen to see the hall erected.

Forty farmers came with their tractors and each drew tow loads of gravel from Frank Bradley's sand pit five miles away- on the banks of the Moyola.

Bricklayers and carpenters for which the parish was famous, soon put up the shell, each man giving two or three days of their time free - along with coming at nights- until the roof was reached - then this was sot our to tender.

Funds were low

But by this time the money had run low and to keep things moving it had to be borrowed from the bank. Nothing could now stop this 13-man committee - to a man they went personal bail for it.

Some might say that 13 is an unlucky number - but not me, like John Dillon (chairman), H.F. McGurk (secretary), Patrick Henry (treasurer), John Young, P. O'Neill, A. Halferty, C. Carmichael, H.H. McPeake, J.J. Shaw, J.J. Hughes, N. McCloy, Joe Boyle, and Hugh McGurk.

Whether it was bricks, hours or pounds, shillings and pence the hall had to be completed, it was and opened in 8th December 1953 by Paddy McNamee, trustee of the Central Council.

Up to that moment the hall had cost ver £3000 yet its worth a lot more. Its not all paid for yet but no one worries - it will and to the last penny. These men of Lavey have determination, they have collected the money so far and they will get the rest.

Yes these men who helped to erect this magnificent building deserve the greatest credit - they have all the amenities now they need. If they do nothing more they should be satisfied - but not them, their next project is their own playing field, and do you think they won't get it. You bet they will - Good luck Lavey - Goodbye Gulladuff we'll hearing more of about you.

Patrick McNamee the nationally known and revered Gael President of the Gaelic League and G.A.A. trustee performed the official opening and delivered an unforgettable address. This distinguished Ulsterman was conscious of and loud in his praise of the significant advance spearheaded by Erin's Own Lavey and indeed other progressive clubs within the County. The success and single-mindedness of the hall committee seemed to leave its mark on the senior team because the following year 1954 saw the Senior Championship Cup and League Cup on the Lavey sideboard. The Dean McGlinchey Cup just eluded them as they were beaten in the final by Newbridge to thwart a "triple crown" success. The line out of the 1954 team was as follows - James McCloy, Johnny O'Neill, Joe Hurley, James McPeake, Marty Higgins; Tommy Doherty and John Doherty. Brian Mulholland and T J. Doherty, Seamus Young. Colm Mulholland and Mick O'Neill, Dan McMullan. Jim Shaw and Colm McGurk.

Championship and League Winners 1954
Back Row: L. to R. Mickey Diamond, John L Fay, Seamus Young, Pat McCloy, Henry H. McPeake, Tommy J. Doherty, Joe Hurley, Jim Shaw, Brian Mulholland, Jack Convery

Centre Row: Dan McMullan, Murty Higgins, Tommy Doherty, Colm Mulholland, John Doherty, Johnny O'Neill, James McPeake.

Front Row: Mick O'Neill, James McCloy - Absent Colm McGurk.

The panel of players at the disposal of the team manager was so strong at that time that Lavey were able to loan six players from the senior squad to Pearses Kilrea who were having difficulty fielding a team. This gesture had the desired effect of keeping this staunch club in business over a difficult period and it's not without significance that the Pearses club are officially opening their fine new pitch this year as well. Before leaving behind the immediate post war years it, would be well to reflect on the location of the pitches and the years the club played outside Gulladuff. The late forties heralded this unsettled period as after leaving at the end of' 49 the Master's field where John Fay's house now stands. The pitch for 1950 was in a field belonging to Mickey Duggan, Drumard, half mile from Gulladuff on the Bellaghy road. 1951 saw a more dramatic change of venue when the Club moved four miles from Gulladuff to John Downey's field in Ballymapeake. The pitch was back again in Drumard in 1952 in a field belonging to the late Barney Dillon - 200 yards down the road from Mickey Duggans. In 1953 they were another 200 yards down the road, to a former pitch during the war years, belonging to Harry Diamond. Back to Gulladuff in 1954 apparently to remain there, or so it appears, back to the Masters 'big' field that most of the old hands both inside and outside the parish associate with Lavey football and hurling. For the record this field lies behind the new pavilion

Opening of Pitch in Ballymacpeake (Lavey v Glenravel) in 1951

Back Row: L. to R. Fr. McGlynn, Tommy Doherty, Henry H. McPeake, Thomas J. Doherty, Colm Mulholland, Mickey Hurley, John Regan, Johnny Doherty, Jim Walsh.

Front Row: L. to R. Brian Mulholland, John Doherty, James McPeake, Hugh A. McGurk, Seamus Young, Jim Carmichael, Paddy Joe Henry.

Returning to the second half of the fifties there is nothing much to record at least not with regard to the winning of major titles. Derry's participation in the All Ireland Final in 1958 was undoubtedly a time of considerable excitement -especially as Lavey had Tommy Doherty and Colm Mulholland on the team and Seamus Young on the subs panel.

By the beginning of the 1960's the winning teams of 1954 were beginning to get past their best and the scarcity of young players stepping in ton fill their competent shoes, the inevitable happened. In 1966 bottom of the senior league. Naturally hearts sank realised that for the first time in the clubs history they be relegated to Division 11. What happened over the next two years is recorded in the annals of the G.A.A. in Derry. An almost completely new young team immediate promotion in 1967, and won the senior league in 1968 - a truly remarkable achievement - by any standards. Morale all round was boosted and the officials of the club were carving their own niche. The provision of pitch worthy of the game in the country and the parish was at the forefront of their minds. 8 acres of land on which the new pitch now stands was bought from James Diamond, Bellaghy, then residing in Leeds, Brian Mulholland (club chairman) with Tommy Doherty at his side clinched the deal on the phone to Leeds.

By the time all the legal formalities were attended to, plans drawn and approved, tenders invited and eventually one accepted, three years had passed. For these three years 1968-69 and '70 the land was let in conacre to local farmers. May 1971 saw the contractor for the development, P. Campbell and Sons, Ardboe move in. Good weather meant no hold-ups and the job was completed and the pitch sown down to grass before the end of October A job well done and everybody happy. The entire project cost the club around £ I 7,000. No games were allowed on the new pitch during 1972 and it wasn't until well into 1973 that the first match was played on it.

As well as winning the Senior League in 1968 Lavey also qualified for the semi-final of the Senior Championship against champions Newbridge. A large crowd at the County Grounds witnessed a titanic struggle between the experienced Greenshirts and the young Lavey lions, but it was experience which won in the end on a 1-12 to 3-3 scoreline. The Lavey line-out that day was G, McErlean, Des Higgins, J. McCoy, H. Scullion. J. Grant. F Lagan, M, McFaul, B. Convery, M. Laverty, J. Brennan. W, O'Neill, A. McGurk. H, Shivers, J. Convery, C. Mulholland.

Division II Winners 1967

Back Row: L. to R. Neil Hurley, Wiile O'Neill, James McCloy, Harry Shivers, John Joe McGrath, Mickey Lagan, Francie Lagan, John Grant, Vincent O'Neill, John Brennan, Brian Mulholland, Pat McCloy

Front Row: L. to R. Mick O'Neill, Martin Sweeney, G. McErlean, C Lagan, Des Higgins, Malachy McFaul, Tommy Doherty, Harry Scullion.

After failing to make any impression in the championship the following year the club decided to seek the services of Tommy Gribben (Bellaghy) to manage the team in 1970. However 1969 did see one title coming to Lavey - their Schoolboy's provided hope for the future by lifting the Derry Schoolboy Championship. In a very exciting final, which preceded the senior final, the Lavey youngsters pipped a much bigger Doire Colmcille side by 2-4 to 0-9. The Lavey team in the final was G. Convery, D. McCloy, P. Chivers, P. Magill, G. Dougan, C. McCloskey, J. McGurk. S. O'Neill, L, McFaul, D. McCloy, S. Hutchinson, T. Hutchinson, E. O'Neill, T Magill and S, Carmichael.

Tommy Gribben embarked upon a strenuous pre-season training programme in 1970 to ensure that the team was in good shape and to help build up team spirit. The chief priority was to win the Championship and they seemed to be on right lines when in the quarterfinal they outclassed a strong Magherafelt team by 2-7 to 0-3. There was a familiar ring about the semi-final opposition - Newbridge once again at the County Grounds. In a game reminiscent of two years previously the Bridge withstood a spirited Lavey challenge to win by two points 0- I 3 to 2-5 and proceed to win the title outright against Bellaghy.

It seemed that this young Erin's Own team which had promised so much was never going to make the breakthrough.

However Tommy Gribben wasn't too disheartened - rather more determined to make amends the following year Tommy's determination spread to the team and they were back in the semi-final 1971 to do battle against Magherafelt. The game played at Ballinascreen, was a tight down struggle throughout with never more than a couple of points separating the teams, In a nail-biting finish Dan McCloy scored the winning point from a difficult free to put the Erin's Own back in the final for the first time since 1954.

1971 Team which lost the Championship Final against Bellaghy

Back Row: L. to R. G. Duggan, M. Laverty, M. Lagan, J McCloy, J. Grant, N. Hurley, H. Scullion, H. Shivers, P. Shivers, E. Laverty, L. McFaul.

Front Row: L. to R. A. O'Brien, V. O'Neill, J. Convery, D. McCloy, B. Convery, G. McErlean, F. Lagan, J. Brennan, A. McGurk, M. Sweeney, J. McGurk.

In the final Lavey faced parish neighbours Bellaghy whom they had already beaten twice in the league that year.

However it was a case of third time lucky for the Tones who turned on a scintillating final performance to romp home by 2-12 to 0-5 and provide another day of frustration for the Erin's Own team and followers alike. The Lavey team in the final was as follows: Gerry McErlean, Frank Lagan, James McCloy, Vincent O'Neill, James Convery, Anthony McGurk, Nial Hurley, Eugene Laverty and Martin Laverty, John Grant, Brendan Convery, Mickey Lagan, Dan McCloy, Paddy Chivers, John Brennan.

1973 witnessed a loss to the club, which could never be replaced with the tragic and untimely death of James McCloy in a farm accident. One of the best full-backs in the county; his high field and lengthy clearances were a revelation.

Minor Success:

The next few years were indifferent ones for the senior team and once again it was the younger members of the club who stole the limelight when they became County Minor Champions in 1975. It took two dramatic encounters to dispose of Ballinascreen in the semi-final before Lavey faced a strong Kilrea team in the County Final at Newbridge.

Aided by a stiff breeze in point lead when defensive slackness was punished by a goal and a point to level the scores on the stroke of half time. To the Lavey supporters all seemed lost, but when mid-fielder Peter McCloy struck early into the second half with two goals, the game took on a different light. Try as they might the Kilrea forwards could make little impression upon the Lavey rearguard which held firm to record a well deserved, if somewhat surprising victory. The members of that title winning side were:- K. O'Kane, A. Scullion, M. Hurley, J. Convery, D. Young, M. McGarvey, P. Boyle, P. McCloy, O. McCloy, J. Boyle, H. M. McGurk, S. McCrystal, G. Walsh, P Convery, J. McErlean, V . Dougan, M. McCann, M. McGill and P. J. Hughes.

There was little to suggest, apart from that minor success of '75, that 1977 should become perhaps the most triumphant year in the history of the Erin's Own club. Managers Sean Dorrity and Harry Shivers were well aware that they had a good panel of players at their disposal, and the team got off to a cracking start to the season with an emphatic 2-12 to 0-06 league victory over Bellaghy. However, before the Championship came around the team had displayed signs of inconsistency on one or two occasions. A comfortable 3-8 to 1 -6 success over Glack set them firmly on the Championship trail. Banagher provided much stiffer Opposition to a slightly depleted Lavey team in the next round but the Erin's Own came through by I -7 to 0-8. Old rivals Bellaghy were the next hurdle at Magherafelt. After an uninspiring first performance during which Lavey missed a penalty and then conceded a goal within the space of a minute, they trailed at the interval by four points. However a couple of switches heralded a second half recovery which was climaxed by a Dan McCloy goal and Lavey finished well on top as the final score of 1-11 to 1-5 suggests.

Lavey 1977 League and Championship Winners

Back Row: L. to R. - J. Grant, M. Laverty, G. Convery, P. Chivers, P Convery, K. O'Kane, A. McGurk, E Laverty, J. Bonner, J. Brennan, H. McGurk, J. Shaw, G. Walsh.

Front Row: L. to R. J. Convery, H Scullion, J Boyle, N Hurley (Captain), D. McCloy, S. McCrystal, M. McGarvey, Joe Convery, S. Carmichael, D. Young, Dermot McCloy, J. McGurk.

Ballinderry who had been showing extremely good form in their championship run, were the final opponents and favourites to win the title. Indeed that was how it looked in the first half as the Shamrock's dominated for long periods.

However, Lavey made rather better use of their chances and the interval saw the scores tied at 0-4 each.

But the best of Lavey was yet to come - (Master Fay who was assisting. maintained that they were the best second half team in the business). Gradually the Lavey defences with Anthony McGurk starring at centre half got to grips with the Shamrocks attack, as Lavey moved into a slender one point lead. Then with ten minutes remaining, Paddy Chivers sent the ball across the Shamrock's goal and Joe Boyle appeared from nowhere to punch a great goal. Lavey now ha<l the bit between their teeth and were in no mood to surrender a title which had eluded them for so long. At the final whistle there was still four points separating the teams I -8 to 0-7 and Erin's Own had bridged a 23 year gap by winning the championship. That victorious Lavey team lined out as follows: Pat Convery, Joe Convery, Nial Hurley, Harry Scullion, Gerard Convery, Anthony McGurk, James Convery, Eugene and Martin Laverty, Dan McCloy. Martin McGarvey and Joe Bonner, Sean McCrystal, Paddy Chivers and Joe Boyle.

Lavey's introduction to the Ulster Club Championship was a one-sided affair with a facile 5-20 to I -9 victory over Glasgow. However they made their exit in the next round to Carrickmore after a hard-fought and exciting game at Magherafelt. A simple goal in the first half proved the difference between the teams at the finish - final score Lavey 0-11 Carrickmore 1-11.

Despite this setback the league title was very much a prime target for the Erin's Own team. And they achieved the other half of an unique double with another win over Ballinderry in the semi-final and an incredible last gasp victory over Ballerin in the 'match of the season. at Ballinascreen. Lavey displayed all the fighting qualities, which had helped win the Championship, by recovering from a five point deficit in the final ten minutes. Once again they lived up to their reputation of being a great second half team with goals from Joe Boyle and Paddy Chivers to snatch victory by 2-5 to I-7.

A Double Double

So the double was completed but alas that is only half the story, for another double reserves under player-manager Jimmy Shaw had already lifted the reserve league title and were going flat out to emulate the seniors by winning their championship as well. They duly succeeded with victories over Bellaghy in the semi- final and Glack in the final. The reserve panel consisted of Kevin O'Kane. Anthony Scullion, Mickey Hurley, Paddy Boyle, John Brennan, Dermot McCloy, Gerard McCloy, Paddy Dillon, Hugh 0'Kelly, Gerard Walsh, Jim McErlean, Jimmy Shaw, Damian Young, Vincent Dougan. Seamus Carmichael, Liam Scullion, Des Higgins, Joe McGurk, Seamus McGurk and Gabriel Shivers.

The Erin's Own club had achieved a unique junior and senior double in the same year. Fr McLaughlin C.C. who incidentally was also an official member of the senior management, but who preferred to keep out of the limelight, christened it 'the double double', All in all it was a thrill packed year and one of which everyone concerned are justly proud

It was obviously going to be difficult to maintain such standards in 1978, but at least the teams went half way, ~ both juniors and seniors retaining their respective league titles. They say that success breeds success, and our U14 footballers proved the point by unexpectedly winning South Derry Championship.

With another season under way the footballers of Lavey, having sampled the sweet taste of success, will no doubt be doing their utmost to bring further glory to the club in the years ahead. Whilst the spotlight is generally on the playing side, one must not forget the band of backroom workers whose unselfish commitment and support are responsible for the continued existence of the club. Through the efforts of these people and their predecessors, Erin's Own officially opened in the summer of 1979, not only a fine football pitch, but also an extensive new pavilion to accompany it. The latter project, which has been every club member dream since 1973 when the pitch was completed, has finally become a reality.

Built at a cost in the region of £65,000 by McGarvey Brothers, (Gulladuff), the building provides changing rooms, showers, a spacious function room as well a kitchen and various stores - modem facilities for a modem club. Hopefully the youth in the yeas ahead will show that they are worthy of all the endeavour and worry involved in providing such fitting head-quarters for Erin's Own Lavey.

It is my final intention to mention briefly a few of the long-standing committee members who have served the club with distinction over the years. Erin's Own were fortunate to be able to avail of the service of another O'Connor - Pat, during the war and post war yeas. Pat, who is now residing in Co, Down, was a former club chairman and secretary, as well as being a member of the County Board. Mick Crilly performed these same roles during the late twenties and thirties. Master Fay who came into the parish about 1937 was an outstanding servant to the game in general. He held various offices for club and county for over twenty yeas after his arrival. Hugh A, McGurk is a name which has been synonymous with the Erin's Own club for several years, He acted as Chairman of the South Derry Board between 1953..61, and was the Derry delegate to the Central Council about the 1959-61 period, Paddy Henry was an efficient club treasurer during the thirties and forties, Charlie Carmichael held this same office throughout the 5O's, while the funds were entrusted with John McPeake from 1960-70. Brian Mulholland was the club's longest serving chairman - approximately 15 years between 1954 and 1971 which represents a notable contribution indeed, while Pat McCloy has acted between secretary and treasurer for almost as many years.

hese are just some of the dedicated gaels who have served Erin's Own through many difficult years to its present stance. Let's hope that such dedication will not vanish with the coming of new facilities, but will lead the club to greater things both in the athletic fields and the more important facets of Gaelic Culture.