Introduction – Clonakilty G.A.A. History
The first hint we get that some Gaels in Clonakilty were seriously thinking of introducing the G.A.A. to the town comes in January, 1887. On Sunday, January 31, Dunmanway G.A.A. club (the only affiliated club in West Cork at that time) held its weekly meeting and the chairman J. McCarthy announced that, “There was a sign that some other towns were stirring themselves, as shown by the fact that three Clonakilty gentlemen had that day attended their football practice, with a view of starting a branch in their own town. “Well, the three gentlemen were either highly disillusioned by what they saw, or got lost on the way home, because nothing whatsoever came of the visit.
Local tradition has always held that it was John Sisk, the Cork building contractor, who introduced football to the town when he came with his workmen to build the Catholic church in the 1870’s. Stories are told of matches between the local men and Sisk’s workmen. Research shows that belief to be partly true. It was indeed John Sisk who introduced Gaelic football to the town but at the much later date of 1887. The type of football played in the ’70s was a rough and ready type of soccer which bore little relation to Gaelic football. When Sisk left town in the early ’80s this football was quickly forgotten about.
John Sisk was back working in Clonakilty in 1887 and by this time he had become a convert to Gaelic football under the new G.A.A. rules.
First reference to G.A.A. in Clonakilty:
Sisk immediately set about organising this game among the locals. In the “County Eagle” of December 3rd, 1887, the following item appears, “CLONAKILTY GAELIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION – On Sunday a large number of the members of the above association, comprising some of the best athletes in the district, assembled for the first time for practice, in a field of Mr. Deasy’s, kindly given for the purpose, and played several games of football in excellent form. The sport was witnessed by a large number of spectators, among whom were veterans. The association promises to be a great success in this town and district. It is expected that there is not a spirited, plucky young fellow but will join.”
This is the very first reference that research unearthed concerning the G.A.A. in Clonakilty. There can be little doubt from examining it closely that the association was just new to the town.
Date of formation of club?
A special convention of the Cork County Board was held on 27th December in the Mechanics Hall, Grattan Street, Cork, with over 50 of the 78 affiliated clubs present. Only clubs affiliated before 1st November were allowed to send delegates to the convention. The “Examiner” of the following day carried a full list of the clubs present and there in their midst was “CLONAKILTY – (EUGENE DAVIS BRANCH) – JOHN W. BARRY AND GEOFFREY WYCHERLEY”. So the Clonakilty Club had been affiliated to the County Board before 1st November.
With the first practice session being held on 27th November and the club being affiliated before 1st November we can fairly confidently say that the original meeting to set up the club was held in the month of October. Unfortunately no report could be found anywhere of that first meeting.
John Sisk’s Influence:
The ‘Cork Examiner’ of December 14 (Wednesday), 1887, includes the following article, “CLONAKILTY GAELIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION – The members of the above association had their weekly practice on Sunday in a field of Mr. Holland’s, Cloheen, kindly given for the purpose. There was a numerous attendance, over sixty five strapping fellows, who played several games in excellent form. Every day members are being enrolled. It promises to be one of the most flourishing branches in the South of Ireland, Mr. John Sisk contractor, Cork, had kindly given gratis the poles and other fittings required for the game. He is also most active and energetic in promoting and forwarding this manly sport, which is so well calculated to develop the sinews and muscles of the young men. Several of the owners of fields have offered the use of their fields for the practices and matches. Arrangements are being made for a match with Skibbereen, to be played in Clonakilty during the holidays.
Extract from Clonakilty G.A.A. 1887 – 1987 Publication by Tom Lyons