History

1. Beginnings
St. John’s G.A.C. was founded in 1929 by three men (Joe Corscadden, Nicky Power and Pat Hayes) outside the Rock Bar on the Upper Falls Road in Belfast, after the opening service in the new St. John The Evangelist Church.

fullerton

A Brief History of St John’s G.A.C Belfast  Co Antrim.

Founded in 1929 outside the Rock Bar on the upper Falls Road after the opening service in the new St John The Evangelist Church where Fr Fullerton who was to be the first President of the club  had given a sermon that probably inspired the   founders of the club ; Pat Hayes John Corscadden and Nicky Power to take action.  After affiliating to the G.A.A. the club played the first game against Craobh Dal Ruadh in  Mc Carthy Park which was renamed Mc Rory Park and is now O’ Donnell Park.

Money was scarce and the club could not afford a rig so one was borrowed from the long extinct O’ Rahilly’s club situated then on Springfield Avenue. Football boots were purchased second hand from a local pawn shop for one shilling and sixpence. The first club rooms were over a piggery/stable in Broadway Terrace at the back of Brighton Street .

The first Chairman was Tom Mc Larnon and the first secretary was Sammy (stasher) Slane. Treasurer Ned Mc Larnon,

The First Championships

The first trophies brought to the club was in 1932 when the club lifted the Junior Football and Junior Hurling Championships. These early victories qualified the club for the Senior Football League and the Intermediate Hurling League in the following year.

Early Clubrooms

After a few years the club rooms moved to the Willowbank Huts which were originally built to house a British Cavalary Unit at the end of the previous century.  From there the club rented clubrooms in the Rotunda Ballroom situated in King Street.

The first Camogie Team

In 1932 the club fielded its first Camogie team the Camogie disbanded in the late 1930’s.

The First Senior Championship Success

In 1933 the hurlers captured the Intermediate Hurling Championship and this was followed in 1934 by the first Senior Hurling Championship when the team was captained by Joe( Hack) Gallagher  the father of the Gallagher brothers who would later prove to be great servants of the club in the 1950’s,1960’s and 1970’s. . It’s also interesting  to note that at that time Joe was 46 years old.

Rapid Growth

The club was soon fielding senior football and hurling teams, alongside junior football and intermediate hurling teams. At underage, minor football and hurling teams.  With the ladies fielding in camogie competitions. On the cultural front the club was running successful language classes and Celidhes. A Celidh band was formed which played at a variety of events  and for many years.

Funds Misappropriated

In 1936 club funds went missing and the club fell heavily into debt , this lead to a number of the original members leaving for other clubs. The members could not afford the rent for the Rotunda and had to find other premises to hold meetings. Future meetings were held in the home of Bob Foley in Beechmount.

The ‘Big Five’ To the Rescue     

Five men stepped forward to save the club; Bob Foley, Paddy Barnes, Jim O Reilly, Ted Lavery and Andy Mc Callin(Sen.), Only two teams survived the disaster these were the Intermediate football and hurling teams.

Andy Mc Callin often referred to Mr St.John’s also supplied a great family of footballers and hurlers to St John’s in Joe. Andy , John, Gerard and Brendan and all contributed enormously to the club.

Early Championship success

1938 saw a return to success with both the Junior football and hurling titles returning to St John’s.

In 1939 the club capture the Junior Football League Title and in 1940 swept back into the senior ranks to win the senior football league. The senior football league was won again in 1942 and 1943 proving that the club  had regained a strong and sustainable base.

Elite Band

In 1946 and again in 1951 Antrim played in the All Ireland Football semi-finals when then they were defeated on both occasions St John’s supplied four players to the team; Joe Mc Callin, Billy Feeney, Tom Best, and Bobby Cunningham.

The club is represented in the  four different codes of Gaelic Games.

Gaelic Football, Hurling, Camogie, Ladies Football

The first Senior Football Championship.

The Senior Football Championships were won in 1945 and again in 1949 and this success was repeated in 1951and 1957.

Senior Hurling Championship

St John’s won the Senior Hurling Championship on seven occasions in 1934,1951, 1961, 1962,1965 and 1969, the last occasion was in 1973 when the Ulster Hurling Championship was also captured . Playing in the All Ireland Club Championship  semi-final against Blackrock of Cork who fielded a number of Cork and Munster stars in their team. The club was defeated but went down fighting. This was followed by the minor hurlers winning the County final by beating Ballycastle.

In 2010 the Ulster Intermediate Hurling Championship was won.

Senior Football Championship

From1959 until 1965 the senior footballers of St John’s held the Football Championship Title for seven years in a row. On two occasions the club captured all four senior titles on offer winning both Championship and  League in both codes in the same year.  The club won the double (hurling and football championships) in the same year on five occasions. Those were the years when every player in the club could sing the club song,’ Whack fol the Diddle’ from beginning to end and the club buses to the games rocked to the sound. With a younger element appearing in the team the Senior Football Championship was held in Corrigan in : 1969,1970, 1972, 1975 ,1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1981 1984, 1986, 1988 ,1998. A total of 24 Football Championships.

All Ireland Sevens

The senior footballers won the All Ireland Sevens Competition at Kilmacud Crokes in 1977 and 1979.

Corrigan Park

Corrigan Park is named after John Corrigan, a dedicated Secretary to the County Board when Antrim won Ulster Titles from 1909 to 1913.

In 1955 St John’s took over the running of Corrigan Park and immediately planned for its renovation.

(1) Club volunteers built the wall around Corrigan Park.

(2) The pitch was redeveloped by Joe Pat Prunty ( A Prunty Pitch) and opened in 1974 by the then  President of the Association Dr. Donal Keenan.

(3) New Club Rooms were built .

(4) The stand was redeveloped and water and electricity installed  followed by showers  toilets and a

tea room.

(5) A totally new club house was built .

(6) A Sports Hall was added on to the existing club rooms.(Opened by the G.A.A. President Seamus Mc Donagh)

(7)Recently a new 3G pitch was installed in the Sports Hall.

(8) The condemned old stand was demolished.

This is only a brief list of the continuous work that goes on under the guidance of club committees.

To help with fund raising the ‘Top Four Competition was introduced in the early sixties and was an immediate success bringing great crowds to watch the top clubs from the various counties fight it out for the top prize.

From the success of this competition was born the  Official Ulster Club Championship .

The Ulster and All Ireland Club Championship.

Built on the success of the Top Four Competition St John’s organised the first Ulster Club Championship which was sponsored by Arthur Guinness and Company . St John’s were Ulster Club Champions in 1964,1965,and in 1977  The club appeared in the Ulster Final on nine  occasions. The Ulster Club Hurling Championship was won in 1973. The success of the competition was recognised by the Ulster Council after a motion to Ulster Convention sponsored by the club and brought forward by Andy Mc Callin (Sen.) to make the competition official, was successful.. St John’s had already worked on widening the competition into an All Ireland Club Championship and the competition eventually became the All Ireland Club Championship and was widened further to include hurling. In 1965 Dunmore Mc Hales from Galway came to Corrigan Park to play in the first Inter Provincial Club Championship game.

Antrim’s First All Ireland Final

The first All Ireland Championship in any Grade was won by the Antrim U21 team in 1969, managed by St John’s Tommy Hall a number of players from St John’s played in this historic victory ; Andy Mc Callin, Gerry Mc Cann, Martin Mc Granaghan, Din Joe Mc Grogan, Brian Rainey, ( Terry Dunlop and Ray Mc Ilroy later joined St John’s and also played on the team).

St John’s  Antrim and Ulster All Star

In 1971 Andy Mc Callin was selected at right full-forward on the all Stars side one of only two Ulster players chosen by the selectors he is the only Antrim player to be recognised as an All Star footballer.

Centenary Cup(1984)

The Centenary Football Championship was a one off competition to commemorate the founding of the Association and in 1984 the senior footballers added this to their success in the Senior Football Championship. Another remarkable achievement in that year was the award of the Antrim and Ulster Club of the Year piped in the All Ireland Competition by St Finbarr’s of Cork. The All Ireland 100 meter sprint held in Croke Park was won by Kevin Gough representing Antrim. Paddy Buggey the President of the G.A.A. attended our Centenary Dinner. To round off this remarkable year the juvenile U-12 footballers of Ballymurphy won the U12 Football Championship while Commedagh won the U-12 Hurling League and Championship not to be outdone the U16 footballers won both the U16 Football and Hurling Championships.

The Centenary year was a memorable year in the  history of the club.

A Travelling Club

Always looking to break new ground St John’s have every Easter travelled to venues and played challenge games all over Ireland .The club also travelled to Glasgow to play St Brendan’s of Glasgow  and in 1992 the club broke into International travel with a trip to Canada which was enjoyed by all. International travel had entered  into the bloodstream and a few years later a trip to  New York was organised to play games in America, the tour was a tremendous success. The fund raising went on during  the previous year lead by Chairman Tommy Hall and Mickey Gallagher as Chairman of the ‘America’ Committee.

The club is represented in the  four different codes of Gaelic Games.

Gaelic Football, Hurling, Camogie, Ladies Football

U21 Hurling and Football Championship ( a glorious few years)

2012 a great year for the St John’s U21 football team when they captured the U21 Antrim Football Championship. The U21’s the following year (2013),won their way through to the U21 Championship Finals in both codes this time winning the Hurling Championship Title. The football final was never played.    In 2014 they succeeded in winning the U21 Football Championship.

The Juveniles

Commedagh                                                                

In 1964 the Belfast District Leagues were formed and with support from St John’s Commedagh was founded .

The first All Ireland Juvenile Trophy was won in Semple Stadium in County Tipperary by Commedagh captained by Kevin Mc Ferran and under the management of Tommy Kelly ,Gerry Mc Fall and Andy Mc Callin(Sen.) . The Juvenile League Championship was won on five occasions up to 1971.  In 1974 Commedagh defeated Patrickswell (Limerick)  at Ennis Road Stadium Limerick  and received the trophy from the President of the Association Dr Donal Keenan.

Ballymurphy

In 1979 Ballymurphy became associated and supported by St John’s with Bro Crummey and John Grego and Gerry Begley giving great guidance to the team. In 1979 the U14 hurling championship was won and in 1980 the U12 hurling league.

St John’s Juveniles.

In 1980 Board na NOg decided to cease the running of the district leagues and the  club took over the running of Commedagh and Ballymurphy, they became St John’s A and St John’s B. Since then St John’s juveniles have won a host of competitions.

Minor Hurling and Football

In 1981 the minor hurlers brought the County Championship trophy back to Corrigan.

In recent times the minor footballers won three County Championships in a row in 2011,2012, 2013.

St John’s  minor hurlers won two Ulster Titles in 2011and 2012

U16 Hurling championship

The U16 hurlers of St John’s won the County Championship in 2014

Not to be outdone the U14 were Feile All Ireland  Champions in 2006 and runners up in 2007.

The title was recaptured in 2008.

This is the juveniles of St John’s creating their very own history.

Many  more titles have been won at underage level and  the levels below senior too numerous to include in this brief history.

The club is represented in the  four different codes of Gaelic Games.

Gaelic Football, Hurling, Camogie, Ladies Football.

La dies Brief

Camogie

The ladies got back into action in 1991 and  reformed the Camogie Section.

The concentration on developing players at the underage level proved successful  in 2006 when the U16 team captured the  County Championship Title. In 2007 they just fell short but ended the season as runners up.

The work with the underage again proved effective when in 2012 the U14 Title was again back in Corrigan.

In 2013 the St John’s Camogie team won the Antrim and Ulster Intermediate Championship and

the U16 camo gs captured the County Championship.

2014 and the U14  Feile Title was brought to Corrigan and the Div 2 League Title was secured.

 

 

 

Ladies Football

Ladies football was introduced in 2012 and in 2013 they won the County Junior Title.

In 1914 the team was defeated in the Intermediate Championship final by a Creggan team that was playing in the senior league.

This year the ladies  competed in the U16 league. In 2015 the ladies will be competing in U12,and  U14,and will field a senior team.

Referees

The current referees for the club are Colum  Mc Knight and Aidan Kelly both playing an active role in Referee matters within the County and widely recognised for their talent in handling difficult games.  Other County and Club Referees  were Andy Mc Callin , Tommy Hall, Gerry Mc Crory, Charlie Gavin, Seamus O Hare, Gearoid Robinson and  John Gough.

Seamus O Hare and Gearoid Robinson, Collie McKnight Jim Donnelly and  Aidan  Kelly refereed County Championship Finals – Aidan refereeing the senior final in 2014.

John Gough the club and inter-county referee for many years. He refereed the All Ireland Senior Football Final in 1983 and the U21 All Ireland Final two years later . He also refereed the  Ulster Final, the National League Final and the Sigerson Cup final. He was linesman at a number of All Ireland Football and Hurling Finals .

A great way to make a contribution to the club and the G.A.A  and set individual sporting targets and challenges is to  take up the whistle and Referee for the club.

The club and the G.A.A needs Referees ,you are never too  young to start!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St John’s Club Chairmen.

 

Tom Mc Larnon

Bob Foley

Andy Mc Callin

Frank Mc Cann

Tommy Hall

Patsy Donnelly

Eamon Grieve

Mickey Gallagher

Tony Mc Nulty

Jackie Kelly

Gerry Mc Cann