The St.Colums G.A.A club celebrates its 40th anniversary on December 8th next week. The Story of the St.Colums club is the story of both achievement and dissapointment. There have been great moments of a community celebating together but also those where it has mourned together. Above all it is the story of a proud community endeavouring to enrich the lives of all within its catchement area. This occasion provides the club the luxury of reflecting on past glories and past heroes as well as providing the oppurtunity to refocus on its goals and aspirations for the years ahead and provide the structures to develop the young talent and future heroes of the club. A time for retrospect and prospect.
The seven men who gathered in Hayes Hotel,Thurles in November 1884 are important to us all in a national context but those who gathered in Coomhola National School this week forty years ago under the guidance and influence of Reverend Father McCarthy were no less inflential to those living in the Kealkil,Borlin and Mealagh valley communities.Their legacy endures. We shall forever be indebted to Matta Sullivan, Benny Keogh, Jimmy Crowley, Mort Cronin and 'Father Mac'. We also need to remember those such as Eddie Bracken, Barry Murphy, Jackie Murphy,and Teddy O Brien, John Murphy as well as Patty McCarthy, Donal Creedon and Vincent O Sullivan and many more who helped the club at this time. Long servants Noel and Joe O Sullivan as well as our present chairman and vice chairman Neilly O Leary and Johnny O Sullivan have given dedicated service over many years. They provided the driving force that led to the clubs foundation. Without them the club would certainly not have got off the ground in the early seventies.
The story of those early years is a remarkable story of fundraising. Every possible fundraising venture was undertaken with gusto. Stories of fundraising efforts ranging from beauty queen and baby contests, to bottle top stands and ballroom dances give a flavour of the 'muintearas' or community commitment of the time.
The present playing pitch was purchased in 1972 and development work started immediately. The hall and dressing rooms were built in 1975. The clubs early years were also notable for sucess at under 21 level in both football and hurling. Hurling titles were won in1974,1975 and 1979 while football tiles were won in 1972,1974 and 1975. A look at those teams reveals names of those who became stalwarts of the club. Teddy O Mahony, Tommy Hanrahan, Val Lynch, and Sean O Shea featured in those teams and subsequently became stalwarts within the club featuring in the clubs junior sucesses in the eighties and early nineties. They contiued their involvement in a coaching capacity once their playing days were over. The late Matt O Sullivan figured in all those winning teams and continued playing and kept involvement until his untimely death in 2006.
In the 1980s emigration nibbled away at the parishs potential with many great players departing. Junior Hurling titles were won in 1982 and in the centenary year of 1984 while the football title was annexed 25 years ago in 1985. Club personalities from those teams include Joe Sharkey, Crohúr O sulllivan, Paddy Scully, Connie Connor, Pat Cronin, Tim Sullivan and Neil O Flynn. In 1987 the playing pitches were extended and drained while the hall and dressing rooms were refurbished. Progress continued into the nineties. The dressing rooms were extended while parking facilities were provided.
In the early nineties a very talented group of players emerged winning many underage titles including an u-21 title in 1995. Many of these players provided the backbone to a junior team which won the clubs first county junior title in 1997. Players from those underage teams of the time included Martin Cronin, brothers Timmy and Mike O Sullivan, Wesley O Connor, Brothers Mike and Gene McCarthy, Gerard O Sullivan, Mike Connell and Patrick Murphy. This influk of young talent provided the missing ingredient when added to the experience of long servants such as John O Connor, Colm and Noel Cronin, Mike Murnane and William Hourihane. This team will be forever associated with its captain - the late Donal Murphy.
This team matured into a very sucessful Junior 1 team during the noughties and were very unlucky not to win at least one west Cork football Title. In the early years of the decade they lost narrowly on occasions to illen Rovers and Carbery Rangers. Both those teams emerged into very sucessful senior teams which puts St.Colums performances of the time in to perspective. They lost two finals in 2001 and 2006 but never failed to get to the quarter finals at least every year. Very few clubs could boast this consistency in a very competitive division. It is akin to the story of the Waterford hurlers in the same decade. The club did achieve hurling sucess winning the 2003 Junior 2 hurling title defeating Lisgoold in a famous day at Páirc uí Chaoimh.Recent years have seen the club develop its underage Ladies football and camogie structures and the club is going from strength to strength in this regard. The club is presently fielding up to thirty teams. The club has only recently celebrated one of its own bringing the Sam Maguire cup to the area, a remarkable honour for a club of its size . Alan O Connors achievements will inspire the youth of the club for the years ahead.
In 2008 the St.Colums facility was purchased by the G.A.A club from the community hall trustees at the time. The £65,000 purchase fund was achieved by £200 per annum direct debit donations by club members. The club needed a title to the property to raise grants and prepare for the fundraising iniative begun in the summer of 2008.It is envisioned that this shall be expanded in 2011 into a 200 member club draw to raise finance for the continued running and upkeep of the clubs facilities. A development commitee was established early in 2008 for this purpose. This group led by Danny Murnane consisted of Danny Murphy, Joe Keane, Tony Coppinger, Sonya Taylor, Susan Manning, Maura Flynn, Mark O Sullivan, John O Leary and Pat Barry. Eight group leaders were then appointed to co-ordinate the selling activities within the West Cork area. These were Mary Burke, Carmel Harrington, Marian Kearney, Seamus O Mahony, Eddie O Sullivan, Finbarr O Sullivan, Pat O Mahony and Mike Murnane.Over 200 volunteers sold tickets for the club but Patsy and Donal O Sullivan deserve special mention for their selfless devotion to the cause.Incredibly the club sold over 25,000 tickets over a six month period raising 388,000 and 360.000 euro after prizes for development purposes. The club will always be indebted to the good people of West Cork and South Kerry who supported the club in its new departure.
Much development work has been undertaken in 2010. In early spring 21 acres of land adjacent to the main Pearsons Bridge to Kealkil was purchased from a local farmer. Completion of the plans were carried out by Danny Murnane and Diarmaid McCarthy and associates and the club is presently in the process of receiving planning for same. The plans can be viewed by all at Cronins Supermarket in Ballylickey or Burkes Gala shop in Kealkil. The St.Colums development will occur on a phased basis. The purchase fund will initially enable the club to develop three playing pitches ( two full size pitches of 145m x 90m and one smaller pitch of 130m by 80m ) on site. A running track of 2.5 metre width will run outside these pitches and will be invaluable to those undertaking athletic pursuits. Indeed a smaller juvenile pitch with an athletics area including a long jump area will rest beside these pitches. Plans for an all weather pitch of 35m by 20m and a tennis court are also included in the plans and will exist at the right hand entrance to the site. Car Parking will inevitablty be important if St.Colums wishes to attract high profile championship games and provisions exist for two seperate car parks with over 200 car spaces. Plans for a public playground and river walkway are incorporated at the left hand side of the entrance . The Community Hall will not be the immediate priority and will largely be dependent on grant money to be received in the future.
The club is well aware that this will not all be achieved overnight but it is important to remember that 'diadh ar ndiadh a thógtar na caisléain'. The constuction of our particular castle is achievable
and with your help the club can look forward to further progress in the coming forty years. This project when completed will provide a community facility for young and old. Future club members will hopefully remember what we achieved in 2010 and beyond with the same regard that we remember the achievements of Father McCarthy and his all those years ago. St .Colums G.A.A - dhá scór blian ag fás.