The year 1921 saw the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Glenties. However the playing of a hurling match between Kilraine and Brackey (Ardara) in the summer of 1905 was perhaps the first time Gaelic games as we now know them were played in the parish of Inniskeel. This match was arranged by Alex McDyer, Kilraine and Charles McGill, Brackey.
It took place in a field called Tommy Boyle’s Holm, near Derries crossroads. Prior to 1921, Association Football as it was then, now Soccer, was organised in the area by the Glenties United Soccer Club. With the formation of the GAA Club in the parish in 1921 the Soccer Club disbanded in July of that year and its members threw their lot in with the Gaelic Club. History was made on Sunday 24th July 1921 with the playing of the first Gaelic football match on Dan Early’s field at the Curragh, Mullinard on the Ardara road. Teams from the town and Kilraine took part with victory going to the town side.
Bit by bit the club became more and more organised during its first year. It was decided towards the end of 1921 that Peter Gallagher the owner of a field on the Church road not far from where we are today be approached with a view to renting the ground for matches. This venue was used on special occasions and was last used in 1939 when the property was sold to the late Joe McLoone.
It was at this venue that Glenties played Bundoran in the semi-final of the 1921 Senior Championship in front of a very large attendance and emerged victorious by 1-7 to 1-5. The team went on to play Castlefin in the final at Ballybofey only to be beaten by three points. This was some achievement by the team in its first year. With the loss of this venue the Club leased a field from Peter O’Donnell at Stranaglough for a short period. The annual rent was £8.
In 1925 the Club was on the move again, this time back to the Church Road. A field was rented from Mr. Sproule adjacent to where we are today. This venue became known as Hollymount Park and was used extensively up to 1939 when the tenancy was terminated.
Our next home was again at Stranaglough, this time at Brennan’s Holm, rented from James Brennan whose family would become leading lights in the Club. This would not be the only time the club moved to this location.
This move coincided with the proposed development in Glenties of a sports field to cater for everyone. In 1940 it was decided to purchase land from B. McDevitt & Co. situated between the Church Road and the Tullyard Road for this purpose. Some four acres were purchased at the location now occupied by the Irish Oak factory owned by Michael Duddy. The property was held in trust for the people of Glenties.
The GAA Club moved to this venue in 1943 and remained there until 1968. The first match played on the sports field took place on 29th June 1943 with the Defence Forces taking on the S-W Donegal L.D.F.
The Club was so involved with this very suitable location that an effort was made by the club in 1952 to purchase the property outright but conditions attached to the sale meant it was not an attractive acquisition. The matter was not pursued and instead the club went about realising its ambition of owning its own grounds. In the meantime the sports field was used by the club up to 1968 when it was sold by the Board of Works as an industrial site.
During its years at the Sports field the club purchased land from the McDevitts at Stranakevlin in 1957. This land could be assessed from the Station Road and the Main Street by the laneway at what is now Colm Melly’s property beside the Bridge. However the land was deemed to be not economical for development as a football ground and the club sold it to James Kee (Butcher). As the Club had no debt on the property when it was sold, the acquisition of other property with the proceeds of the sale was most attractive and it was now made the priority.
A momentous step was made in 1963 when Francie Houston purchased land from Paddy Gallagher (The Mines) at Carrickbrack on behalf of the club. As Danny Boyle wrote in his book, “On the fields of Inniskeel”, this location had a strong sentimental value for the club owing to its use in the early years.
Francie Houston and the late Barney Campbell were appointed Trustees and the first Park Committee was formed consisting of the following.
Chairman: John McSwiggan, Ardconnell
Secretary: Thomas Brennan, Main Street
Treasurers: Charlie Cannon, Main Street, Danny Boyle, The Station
In 1969 playing activities ceased at the sports field and once more it was back to Stranaglough with Phil Brennan accommodating the Club with the use of Brennan’s Holm again.
This venue was used while development continued at Carrickbrack and in 1971 the playing surface was ready for use. The Club had a permanent home at last. In 1972 after matches were played at Carrickbrack it was decided to name the property after Davy Brennan who served his native club and county both as a player and official. During the early years of Gaelic games being played in the parish other pitches were used. Matches were played at Tullyhoniver, Kilraine. Both football and carnogie were played on a field along the river at Strasallagh. In the 1950’s local matches were played at Shallogans adjacent to where the wood factory is today. Parish League Matches were also played at Con McNelis’ (Clarkes) Holm, Kilraine in the late 50’s.
The administration of a Club needs a venue for meetings and in its formative years meetings took place in Phelans. A warehouse belonging to Hugh McDevitt that is now part of the Highlands Hotel was used by the club for a long period for many different purposes. However this premises had to be vacated in 1926 because it was to be used as an educational establishment. It was to become known as the “Tech” and it served the Parish and indeed the county well over its years of use.
The Market Hall became the focal point for Club activities, serving as a meeting hall, dressing rooms and used for social events to name but a few.
The first Officer board of the Glenties G.A.A. Football Club was installed at a meeting in the market Hall on the 29th August 1921.
The members of that board were as follows
Chairman: Denis Phelan
Treasurer: Thomas O’Donohue
Secretary: Patrick Maguire
A committee made up of the following was also set up:
Patrick Kennedy (Jnr)
Joseph c. Gallagher,
John Gallagher N.T.
Article compiled by Daniel McGeehan based on extracts from “On the Fields of Inniskeel” written by Danny Boyle.