A brief account of our background.
The earliest known reference to the foundation of a club in the parish of Cloone was May 1889, some 5 years after the founding of the GAA. A letter in the local paper of the time “The Leitrim Advertiser” read as follows:
The Cloone O’Connell’s
Sir, – knowing the interest you take in the advertisement of the G.A.A. , I expect that you will allow me through the medium of your valuable journal to make it known that the Cloone boys, though apparently slow in coming forward have now fallen into line with the other stalwart Gaels of Leitrim under the name of the “Cloone O’Connells” and intend at no distant date to test their prowess in a friendly encounter with some of the neighboring clubs and try to obtain the proud position held by their forefathers in the art of football-kicking and other manly exercises. There is no doubt that we will be placed at a great disadvantage for though we must admit that every district has suffered form the emigration of some of its best and most promising young men, still no one acquainted with this parish will deny, it has suffered more of late years (through causes which need not be further characterized) than any of the surrounding parishes; but not withstanding this great drawback, those at home are determined to help on the good work of reviving our ancient national games and pastimes.
On Sunday we had our first meeting, and though the evening was unfavorable, nearly all members attended. When play was started some little difficulty was experienced in keeping within the rules, but all seemed anxious to become thoroughly acquainted with them, and knowing that ‘improvement is gained by practice’ we expect after a few days exercise to have a pretty fair knowledge of our business.
In next issue, with your kind permission, I will give the names of our officers, those at present transacting business being merely volunteers, who did not like, when athletic sport seems to be the order of the day, to see Cloone in the background. P. Healy. Cloone,
1st May, 1889.
The club played their first match in Ballinamore on Whit Monday 1889 at a football tournament organised by the Ballinamore William O’Briens. The tournament was played before 2,000 people when “the fair sex graced the meeting by their presence in large numbers”. Cloone
took on Lower Drumreilly Grattans with this “spiritedly contested” match being level at one point each at half time. After the teams changed side at the interval Cloone went on to win their first match in their first fixture by 0-3 to 0-1. In their next match that same day Cloone O’Connells played Feanagh Sons of St. Callian. Cloone lost by 1-06 to 0-00. However the club were complimented for their participation given they were only a few weeks in existence. The first elected secretary of the club was a Mr. J. Maguire.
Football in Leitrim went through a lean period from the early to mid 1890’s up until the early years of the 1900’s. Records exist to show that Cloone fielded again in 1904 when they faced Mohill at a match in Gortletteragh. Although losing by three points to Nil at half time a resurgent Cloone took the lead near the end of the game with the Mohill team leaving the field and the referee Mr. H Reynolds awarded the
game to Cloone.
In 1906 Cloone took part in the Upper Drumreilly Tournament and the report makes for interesting reading. The game was set and the gathered attendance showed evidence of “sobriety, self respect and Gaelic enthusiasm”. Given that this was a time long before Prunty Pitches or Astro Turf the teams were lucky to be able to avail of a field known as “O’Hara’s Rock”. The owner Mr. Patrick O’Hara had removed his hay crop the previous day at great inconvenience and this sufficient venue was described as having spectator capacity of 20,000! Cloone played Fenagh on this day in a game which included “a little roughness” . The report unfortunately confuses the result saying Fenagh scored a winning point yet the referee awarded the game to Cloone on a score of 0-3 to 0-1.
Parish leagues were played in many fields around the parish and also in 1906 the ‘Cloone O’Connells’ GAA club became affiliated to the Co. Board. In the 1906/07 season, Cloone got its first representation on the county team. John Harte, Charlie Heslin, Michael Mc Cabe and two other men whose surnames were Moran and Duignan represented Leitrim in the early days.
1911 brought the first notable victory with the first of many Senior Championships against Ballinamore in the final. Only one score separated the teams at the finish, that scored by Jimmy Keegan, the Glebe Cloone. This would have been in the days of 21 a side football and the Cloone team was noted for the several sets of brothers on the team.
Around this time there were two teams operating in the parish, the other one being Corduff. The two amalgamated in or around 1925/26 only to have another team formed in the parish called Riverstown. In 1931/32 the two teams amalgamated and formed what proved to be one of the most successful team in the history of club football in Co. Leitrim, winning 9 championships in 17 years. 1934 was the first championship for the amalgamated sides and the captain in that year was Hubie Doherty.
Further Championships followed in 1946, 1947, 1948, 1950 and 1951 while Cloone’s last victory was in 1980 giving the club a total of eleven titles, one of the highest in the County. Check out our full Roll of Honour here.
The original ground was a field of John Harte’s. Then what became a more regular ground, ‘The Grange’ was used. This was a fine flat field kindly given by its owners for generations. In the days before developed grounds were used this was one of the finest fields used in the county for football. A sturdy ash tree in the corner was the changing room! This was used up to 1980 when the new pitch was opened by the President of the GAA at the time Padraig O Flionn, with the Artane Boys Band in attendance.
Many Cloone players have represented Leitrim at all grades in mens and ladies competitions. Former player Leo McAlinden RIP was selected on the Leitrim Millennium team. Cloone have also had members hold office at county, provincial and national level in the GAA including Hubie Doherty who was County Registrar for 25 years, Michael Reynolds who also served as Registrar and in more recent times Gerry McGovern has held the position of Uachtaráin of Connaught Council and Leitrim GAA Chairman; Enda Tiernan has served on Connacht Council and GAA Ard Comhairle and John Gormley former President of the GAA in Britain and member of Ard Comhairle representing Britain.
The history of Cloone G.A.A. club is a proud and honourable one. Since their first Championship victory in 1911, Cloone teams, at various levels, have achieved commendable success, and generations of Cloone players have learned the virtues of discipline, courage, determination and sportsmanship. The football club has been the hub of social life in the parish providing lively entertainment for players, supporters and officials. It has been a unifying force in the community contributing enormously to the development of a sense of identity and a unity of purpose.