Brian Hoare NT of Knockcroghery, Co Roscommon a teacher in Allenview National School organised the first Drumkeeran Gaelic Football Team in the modern era. Before coming to Drumkeeran he played club football in Dublin and he also wore the Roscommon senior jersey on a number of occasions.
Drumkeeran took part in the North Leitrim League when teams played for the ‘London Cup’. The clubs first game on Sunday, 2nd April 1933 was played in Buchannan’s Field which lies between the Dowra Road and the Old Road. A strong wind blew throughout the game. Drumkeeran led at half-time by two goals to nil. The first goal was scored by Brian Hoare and the second by Henry McDonagh after taking a pass from Barney Owens. Ballinaglera however stepped up the pace in the second half and ran out winners in the end on the score 4-2 to 2-1. Best for Ballinaglera were Paddy Wynne, Creamer and Flynn.
The Club flourished throughout the 30’s. At the end of the decade a four game sequence against Ballinamore ended in defeat for Drumkeeran on home ground. A goal for Drumkeeran in the final encounter was not acknowledged by the Umpire and this proved the turning point of the game. Hundreds of local supporters were bitterly disappointed. Among the Drumkeeran men who played throughout those years were John Clinton at full back, John McKenna at centre-half back, Vincent O’Donnell at midfield, Frank Mc Grail at centre-half forward, John Walsh in goal, Hubie McParland at left half back, Felix McPartland at right half forward and Charlie Higgins at right corner forward.
Among the players who played football before the club was formally set up were Michael V Blest, Barney Owens, Chappie O’Donnell, Johnny O’Neill, Godfrey O’Donnell, Miley Gilroy, Hughie Rourke and Michael William Higgins.
Pat Christy, Larry Christy, Myles Christy, Petie Gilroy, Shane Corristine, Johnny Mc Loughlin, Hughie McMorrow, Tommy Gilhooley, Eddie McPartland, Tommy Guihan and Mike Higgins continued the tradition initiated by Brian Hoare in 1993.
A striking feature of the teams during these years was the number of the McPartlands who played for the club. These were drawn from different families. Four McPartland brothers donned the jersey during the first two decades – Hubie, Felie, John and Pat. It’s interesting to note that the McPartland names is still very much part of Drumkeeran teams.
Many of the 30’s men were forced to line out without proper football boots. Gradually as funds were collected the club was able to acquire boots. Incidentally dances and suppers were the principal means money. The dances were held on the old Barrack loft, in Crow’s Hall or in Kelly’s Hall. Food for the suppers which took place during the dance was usually provided by the mothers of the players. Each player usually brought a can of fresh milk as well. Dance and supper combined cost 1s-3p. Funds were also raised by organising a sports day which could yield up to £20. A match was usually played in conjunction with the sports day and a dance finished off the day’s activities.
Incidentally the first jerseys worn by the 30’s players were blue and yellow.
After the building of the Alley in Drumkeeran in 1929 Handball flourished in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s when it lapsed for a time to be revived again in the late 60’s. The 30’s produced fine players like John Paddy Beirne, John Clinton, John James Mc Padden, Gerry McPadden, Tom Christy and the gifted Arthur Gorman. Several marvellous tournaments were held throughout them years. Later Drumkeeran produced several fine handballers including Tommy Cassidy, Anthony O’Rourke, Sean Duignan, Gerard Devitt (R.I.P) and Tom Fallon.
Throughout the 30’s dedicated officials ensured the smooth running of games and fundraising activities. Patrick Forde, Jack Walsh, Seamus Duignan, Tom Beirne, Paddy Kelly, Sonny Crown and Jim Gallagher, by their own behind-the-scene organisation, facilitated the transition of Drumkeeran football from the early years into the 50’s and 60’s. In the 1940’s Cork man Jack Walsh NT was very much involved with the club. The development of football in Drumkeeran in the 50’s was heavily influenced by Fr Seamus Duffy a native of Kilmainham Wood, Co. Meath who was appointed curate in Inishmagrath in 1953. His time in Drumkeerin was marked by three notable events: the organisation of underage competitions, the organisation of a new playing field and the streamlining of the organisation of games through the North Leitrim GAA Board. Fr Duffy was instrumental in acquiring a field about a quarter of a mile from the village on the Manorhamilton side where all games, up to the purchase of the present pitch, were played. It was here that senior players like the O’Connor brothers from the Black Road – Michael, Eddie and Andy showed their skill. Perhaps the most outstanding player of the 50’s was Seamus Fallon who played on the Leitrim team defeated by Dublin in the 1956 All-Ireland Minor final. Another great player was Joe Leydon who went on to star on the Leitrim County Senior Team and for Connacht Railway Cup Teams. Others who kept the flag flying were Tommy Gilhooley, Paddy Forde, Anthony O’Rourke, Jack McGee, James Doherty, Liam Bouchier, Paddy Joe McGovern, Tom Fallon, John James Fallon, John McLoughlin, Michael McHugh, Jim Hazlette, Gerry Rourke, Michael McNulty and Paddy McGowan.
Two North Leitrim Championships were won by Under 14 teams under the leadership of Fr Duffy. Many of these players went on to win County League and Championship finals in the 60’s. One very talented player, Mickey Davitt, afterwards played centre-half forward for the Cavan Minors. Others who achieved great success later were Joe Leyden who played for Connacht, Charlie Flynn, Gerry Rynn, Martin Devitt and Joe Davitt. The Fr Duffy era was marked by a significant advance in Drumkeeran’s football fortunes but on the other hand it was a time of appalling emigration when whole families sold out and left the country. The clear out undoubtedly included some of the most promising players in the area. Before Fr Duffy left in 1961 efforts were made to hold the club together and this found expression in the formation of a minor team.
Anthony O’Rourke was selfless in his promotion of this particular team. Anthony, together with Tony Forde, strove to keep together the juveniles of the previous decade though they were badly hampered by the unavailability on occasions of players in college. Amalgamating with Drumshanbo and with the assistance of Ned McGowan they achieved a number of successes including one notable victory over Dromahair led by Pat Mullen and the McMahons. This minor team bridged the gap between the 50’s and the O’Grady era of the early 60’s.
The club was revived in 1963 on the arrival of a Cavan man Eamonn O’Grady who was the driving force of the club for many years. In 1964 Drumkeeran were defeated by Annaduff in the County Junior Championship Final on a score line of 1-9 to 1-3. Two years later however, in 1966, the Junior Title was claimed by defeating Mohill on a score line of 2-9 to 2-3. The Junior League was won in 1967 when Fenagh did not play the final and in 1969 the club reached the semi-finals of the County Senior Championship losing out to Melvin Gaels. In 1969 Drumkeeran had a very successful year at underage level winning both the U16 Football and Hurling Championship’s. This was followed with success at Minor level winning the Minor Football League in 1970 and 1971. The Junior League was won again in 1971.
Curiously enough the club lapsed in 1973 despite having won the above mentioned Minor League titles in 1970 and 1971 and the Junior League in 1971. The club was re-organised in October 1973 with Chairman Charlie Flynn, Secretary Andy Redican and Treasurer Tony Forde. Drumkeeran contested the 1974 County Junior Championship Final but were defeated by Aughawillan on a score line of 2-10 to 0-7. In 1975 the team made up for the disappointment of the previous year by winning the Junior League and Championship double (defeating Eslin by 0-15 to 0-6 in the Championship Final). In 1975 Shamrock Gaels a minor amalgamation featuring players from Dromahair, Drumkeeran and Drumshanbo won the County Minor Championship Title. The club continued to progress for the remainder of the 70’s and into the 80’s.
In 1977 a Senior Scór Ballad Group featuring Sean Rynn, Tina Clancy, Siobhan McKenna, Josie Clancy and Mary Gilhooly won the County Title.
1981 brought further success winning the Junior League. However, the Minors were unfortunate to lose both the Minor League and Championship finals.
In 1983 the club completed the purchase of new club grounds. The purchase made from four local landowners was negotiated by Clare native Michael Hanley who was club Chairman at that time.
Drumkeeran won the County Junior League and Championship double in 1985 and enjoyed a very successful 1980’s at underage level. In 1984 the U16’s lost the County final following a replay, however, in 1987 and 1988 the U12 County Rural Championship was won with victories over Aughavas and Annaduff respectively. In 1989 the three in a row was denied by defeat to Aughavas in the final. The club were unlucky not to add further to this success, contesting three U12 Division 1 League Final’s in a row from 1987 to 1989 – Sean O’Heslin’s in 1987 and St Mary’s in 1988 and 1989 were the conquerors of Drumkeeran. In 1989 the U14 Rural Championship Final was contested, however, Aughavas proved victorious on this occasion.
The 1980’s were very notable for some important off the field activities as well. In 1985 the Ard Rí fundraising campaign was a highlight. The duel between Sean Flynn (who won the contest) and Eamonn O’Grady brought officers and supporters to many social events including London, Dublin and Sligo. £13,000 punts was raised that year for the club between the Ard Rí and the village festival. In October 1986 Drumkeeran and Dromahair, in a novel idea, played an U14 challenge game in Croke Park. In 1988 clubman Andy Redican won the Leitrim Clubman of the Year award.
The 1990’s opened with continued success at underage level. The U14 Rural Championship was won in 1990 and 1991 and the U16 League Division 1 Title was won. In 1992 at adult level the club were unlucky to lose both the Intermediate League and Championship finals to Melvin Gaels, however, were promoted to Senior Division One. The U16 Rural Championship and the Minor B Championship was won in 1993 and 1994 and the Minor Rural League in 1995.
Pairc Naomh Bríd (St Brigid’s Park) was officially opened in May 1993 with Derry and Leitrim providing a highly entertaining Senior Challenge.
The Dolan Cup was won for the first time in 1997 and league medals claimed at U12 and U16 level’s during the years. At adult level after reaching the Intermediate semi-final in 1999 and the final in 2000 unfortunately St Mary’s was the victors on this occasion.
The 2000’s have proved another successful decade at underage level. The club have flourished at Juvenile Level and all details are on the Honours list. The 2000’s have also been an important decade for the club in ladies and girls football. Drumkeeran entered teams in adult ladies football in the early 2000’s. In 2006 the club entered a team in the U12 community games and the success achieved by the girls was remarkable as they claimed Leitrim and Connacht titles and proceeded on to represent Connacht in the Mosney games. Following on, this team were entered at U12 and U14 in the Leitrim girls competitions. In 2007 the U12 girls were championship winners and in 2008 the U14 girls won the championship. 2008 has also seen the U14 boys claim the club’s second ever U14 15-a-side league title.
At adult level the 2000’s have proved a mixed bag. The club has played at Senior and Intermediate levels in championship throughout the years. The club reached the Senior B Championship final in 2004, however, lost out to Glencar/Manorhamilton in the final. In 2005 our second team were very proud to capture the League Division 3 crown with a 4-07 to 2-12 victory over Gortletteragh in the final. In 2007 the League Division 3 crown was gained with victory over neighbours Dromahair in the final.
The period 1990 to 2008 has also been marked by The Handball Club being reformed with the construction of a new court at Pairc Naomh Bríd. Since then handball is flourishing with a very high number of players taking up the sport and success being achieved at Connacht A and B at underage levels.
The club lotto was setup and since its inception has been a very important fundraiser for the club. The club facilities have been constantly improving. In 2008 a pitch widening and lengthening process was undertaken. A training pitch has also been developed