Football – Post War Years
The post war years brought changes especially in the means of travelling to matches. Private cars were becoming a little more plentiful and with petrol rationing no more, teams were able to travel to sports and especially carnivals, which became a craze in the early 50’s. Around 1949 the Lavey Club started thinking about building a hall, and about 1950 a hall committee was formed as follows: Chairman – John Dillon , Secretary – H. F. McGurk, Treasurer Paddy Henry, John Joe Hughes, M. P. O’Neill, Neil McCloy, Henry H. McPeake, Charlie Carmichael, Andy Halferty, Hugh A. McGurk, John Young J.J. Shaw and Joe Boyle
Procuring a suitable site. Convenient to the pitch, was of course their first priority. A plot of ground just outside the village belonging to Master McGurk was being negotiated about when out of the blue the Ministry of Home Affairs put on the market a portion of ground beside the old police barrack. This site really tickled their fancy and nothing, they decided, was going to prevent them from procuring it.
Nothing did – each obstacle, each setback, and there were many of both, was overcome and finally the deal was clinched. Financing the purchase of the site and the materials for building was now the big issue, but with the same tenacity of purpose they tackled and beat this one as well. Here we must pay tribute to a man who although not even living in the county, played a vital role in arranging finance to get the project going. That man was Frank Diamond, then in business across the Bann in Portglenone, Frank wore Lavey and Derry jerseys with distinction in the 1930’s and now in the 50’s had another talent to offer to his old club and native parish.
Building materials were scarce. Roofing of any description was almost impossible to get. But again the committee wouldn’t be beaten. An asbestos roofed building was picked out of many that were for sale at the now disused aerodrome at Creagh, Toomebridge. The dismantling of this building and transporting of the asbestos to Gulladuff (by tractor and trailer) was the “teeth cutting” exercise for the band of voluntary workers who stayed with it’ until the hall was built. The gravel to make the blocks was carted by tractors and trailers from Hugh Bradley’s field on the banks of the Moyola River at Tobermore. The thousands of blocks needed were all made singly by hand operated machine, mainly in the evenings and on Saturdays.
The building of the hall was completed by late Autumn 1953 and a date set for the official opening. On the 8th December 1953 the dream became a reality. A large gathering of Gaels from all over the county and from Antrim and Tyrone as well came to Gulladuff that afternoon to help the people of Lavey celebrate an auspicious occasion.
Official Opening of the Hall – December 1953
Back Row: L. to R. Master McLaughlin, (Derry County Chairman), Fr Henry Kane C.C., Paddy McNamee (President of the Gaelic League), Mrs Charlies O’Neill (Councillor), Fr. McGlone P.P. Lavey, Master J.J. Conway (South Derry Chariman), Fr. Carragher (C.C. Magherafelt)
The Sunday Express (May 22nd, 1955)
“It was a proud day for me when I saw that new hall opened over there.” said Anthony McGurk, that grand old man of Gulladuff, as I stood chatting to him at his own door and looking across at Lavey’s Erin’s Own new hall.
“It was a proud day for me when I saw that new hall opened over there.” said Anthony McGurk, that grand old man of Gulladuff, as I stood chatting to him at his own door and looking across at Lavey’s Erin’s Own new hall.
Yes, Eighty-two-years-old Anthony looked very pleased. For in his time he had seen many changes in South Derry. He remembered when they used to play caman, and when hurling was first started by Master Bonnar, a Donegal man, back in 1906. But it was the coming of the G.A.A. and its organisation that set things going in the area. Up to 1926 this part of Derry was without a G.A.A. club and the credit of forming the first goes to Liam O’Connor, a Mayo man who was working across the county border in Cargin and played for the local Erin’s Own side. He moved into Lavey and started the first club being its first chairman, and also helped to found the Derry County Board in that year and became its chairman. The first secretary of the Lavey club was the Master J.P. McGurk, still hale and hearty at eighty and a brother of Anthony’s who was also Lavey’s delegate at the Derry Board meetings. For a few years progress in this area went on – but Lavey disbanded in 1928 – not be reformed to 1933 – and since it has never looked back. Through its span of twenty-two years, the club has had it ups and downs and its big moments, but everything was taken in its stride. Lavey commenced as a senior club, it still remains senior and can boast of being county champions for 1954 and leading side in the county. The eyes of Hugh A. McGurk, who has done a lot for the Lavey club, sparkled as he rattled off some of the names of that 33 side. He was a member himself along with men like Paddy Magill, Jack Glackin, Frank Diamond, H. Kelly, D. O’Kane, Dan Costelloe, Dan McCrystal, Paddy McGahey, John (Rory) Convery and Jim Convery. But they had to wait until 1938 to win the first county championship – when players were drawn from Glen, Swatragh, Slaughneil and Greenlough – yet the next season the club was left with only four players of that victorious side, as in this year, their stars went to found teams in Glen, Bellaghy and Greenlough.
But the men of Lavey were not downhearted – they could come back – and did. A Parish League was formed of four teams in 1939, and in a few years Lavey had again a strong side – good enough to collect county championship in 1943 and 1944. Playing for the side during these years was Tyrone schoolmaster JOHN FAY – the present chairman of the club and vice-chairman of the Derry County Board. Down the years the club supplied its quota of stars to the county- and the first Derry side to win the McKenna Cup, Lagan Cup and Junior championship was captained by Lavey’s Tony McGurk. From the club came Derry’s first inter-provincial star, Jack Convery, who represented his province on two occasions, while others who were honoured by the county were Joe Hurley, Neil Hurley, and nearer the present time, Colm Mulholland, the two Tommy Dohertys, M. O’Neill and Murty Higgins. Perhaps one of Lavey’s most famous men was Dr. Hugh McGurk, now a curate in Killyclogher in Tyrone, and for 20 years a professor in St. Columb’s College, Derry.
But it was not all football in Lavey – there was hurling too, and when no other clubs had a side, the Lavey men kept a team going and took part in challenge and tournament games – and won the county championsip in 1944 and 1945. Today the club runs senior, junior and minor teams a hurling side and both a schools hurling a football one. Not bad for a little village with a population of 250 people. But Gulladuff, leads to all parts of South Derry: and so like the roads that pass through it the club members wanted to lead not only on the playing field but also in other aspects of National life. There was the language and dances to be catered for – but these purposes a hall was required. Certainly they had the use of the local A.O.H. hall for their functions – and were ever grateful – but what was required was a hall of their own, and with idea in mind a hall committee was formed in 1949. A piece of ground was the first essential – and that the very spot to suit was offered for sale by tender – it had been intended to build new barracks but instead of building a new one the existing one was closed down. The club bought the ground – and to pay for it each member had to hand out £8-10-0
Best or nothing
It was first agreed to buy a hut and erect it – this was done – but proved unsuitable and was sold. So plans were drawn up for a substantial – the best or nothing. Already functions and collections had commenced for the building fund; the committee was fortunate to procure the necessary material at a war demolition sale. Next voluntary labour was brought into play – a block machine and mixer hired, and blocks were turned out at the rate of 300 a day until 10,000 were made. By now the flame of enthusiasm had kindled – and there was no want of workers, everyone lent a hand – and those who could not. A spade or a shovel offered their advice, but the latter were very few, for everyone was now too keen to see the hall erected. Forty farmers came with their tractors and each drew tow loads of gravel from Frank Bradley’s sand pit five miles away- on the banks of the Moyola. Bricklayers and carpenters for which the parish was famous, soon put up the shell, each man giving two or three days of their time free – along with coming at nights- until the roof was reached – then this was sot our to tender.
Funds were low
But by this time the money had run low and to keep things moving it had to be borrowed from the bank. Nothing could now stop this 13-man committee – to a man they went personal bail for it. Some might say that 13 is an unlucky number – but not me, like John Dillon (chairman), H.F. McGurk (secretary), Patrick Henry (treasurer), John Young, P. O’Neill, A. Halferty, C. Carmichael, H.H. McPeake, J.J. Shaw, J.J. Hughes, N. McCloy, Joe Boyle, and Hugh McGurk. Whether it was bricks, hours or pounds, shillings and pence the hall had to be completed, it was and opened in 8th December 1953 by Paddy McNamee, trustee of the Central Council. Up to that moment the hall had cost ver £3000 yet its worth a lot more. Its not all paid for yet but no one worries – it will and to the last penny. These men of Lavey have determination, they have collected the money so far and they will get the rest. Yes these men who helped to erect this magnificent building deserve the greatest credit – they have all the amenities now they need. If they do nothing more they should be satisfied – but not them, their next project is their own playing field, and do you think they won’t get it. You bet they will – Good luck Lavey – Goodbye Gulladuff we’ll hearing more of about you.
Patrick McNamee the nationally known and revered Gael President of the Gaelic League and G.A.A. trustee performed the official opening and delivered an unforgettable address. This distinguished Ulsterman was conscious of and loud in his praise of the significant advance spearheaded by Erin’s Own Lavey and indeed other progressive clubs within the County. The success and single-mindedness of the hall committee seemed to leave its mark on the senior team because the following year 1954 saw the Senior Championship Cup and League Cup on the Lavey sideboard. The Dean McGlinchey Cup just eluded them as they were beaten in the final by Newbridge to thwart a “triple crown” success. The line out of the 1954 team was as follows – James McCloy, Johnny O’Neill, Joe Hurley, James McPeake, Marty Higgins; Tommy Doherty and John Doherty. Brian Mulholland and T J. Doherty, Seamus Young. Colm Mulholland and Mick O’Neill, Dan McMullan. Jim Shaw and Colm McGurk.
Championship and League Winners 1954
Back Row: L. to R. Mickey Diamond, John L Fay, Seamus Young, Pat McCloy, Henry H. McPeake, Tommy J. Doherty, Joe Hurley, Jim Shaw, Brian Mulholland, Jack Convery
Centre Row: Dan McMullan, Murty Higgins, Tommy Doherty, Colm Mulholland, John Doherty, Johnny O’Neill, James McPeake.
Front Row: Mick O’Neill, James McCloy – Absent Colm McGurk.
The panel of players at the disposal of the team manager was so strong at that time that Lavey were able to loan six players from the senior squad to Pearses Kilrea who were having difficulty fielding a team. This gesture had the desired effect of keeping this staunch club in business over a difficult period and it’s not without significance that the Pearses club are officially opening their fine new pitch this year as well. Before leaving behind the immediate post war years it, would be well to reflect on the location of the pitches and the years the club played outside Gulladuff. The late forties heralded this unsettled period as after leaving at the end of’ 49 the Master’s field where John Fay’s house now stands. The pitch for 1950 was in a field belonging to Mickey Duggan, Drumard, half mile from Gulladuff on the Bellaghy road. 1951 saw a more dramatic change of venue when the Club moved four miles from Gulladuff to John Downey’s field in Ballymapeake. The pitch was back again in Drumard in 1952 in a field belonging to the late Barney Dillon – 200 yards down the road from Mickey Duggans. In 1953 they were another 200 yards down the road, to a former pitch during the war years, belonging to Harry Diamond. Back to Gulladuff in 1954 apparently to remain there, or so it appears, back to the Masters ‘big’ field that most of the old hands both inside and outside the parish associate with Lavey football and hurling. For the record this field lies behind the new pavilion.
Opening of Pitch in Ballymacpeake (Lavey v Glenravel) in 1951
Back Row: L. to R. Fr. McGlynn, Tommy Doherty, Henry H. McPeake, Thomas J. Doherty, Colm Mulholland, Mickey Hurley, John Regan, Johnny Doherty, Jim Walsh.
Front Row: L. to R. Brian Mulholland, John Doherty, James McPeake, Hugh A. McGurk, Seamus Young, Jim Carmichael, Paddy Joe Henry.
Returning to the second half of the fifties there is nothing much to record at least not with regard to the winning of major titles. Derry’s participation in the All Ireland Final in 1958 was undoubtedly a time of considerable excitement -especially as Lavey had Tommy Doherty and Colm Mulholland on the team and Seamus Young on the subs panel.
By the beginning of the 1960’s the winning teams of 1954 were beginning to get past their best and the scarcity of young players stepping in ton fill their competent shoes, the inevitable happened. In 1966 bottom of the senior league. Naturally hearts sank realised that for the first time in the clubs history they be relegated to Division 11. What happened over the next two years is recorded in the annals of the G.A.A. in Derry. An almost completely new young team immediate promotion in 1967, and won the senior league in 1968 – a truly remarkable achievement – by any standards. Morale all round was boosted and the officials of the club were carving their own niche. The provision of pitch worthy of the game in the country and the parish was at the forefront of their minds. 8 acres of land on which the new pitch now stands was bought from James Diamond, Bellaghy, then residing in Leeds, Brian Mulholland (club chairman) with Tommy Doherty at his side clinched the deal on the phone to Leeds. By the time all the legal formalities were attended to, plans drawn and approved, tenders invited and eventually one accepted, three years had passed. For these three years 1968-69 and ’70 the land was let in conacre to local farmers. May 1971 saw the contractor for the development, P. Campbell and Sons, Ardboe move in. Good weather meant no hold-ups and the job was completed and the pitch sown down to grass before the end of October A job well done and everybody happy. The entire project cost the club around £ I 7,000. No games were allowed on the new pitch during 1972 and it wasn’t until well into 1973 that the first match was played on it.
As well as winning the Senior League in 1968 Lavey also qualified for the semi-final of the Senior Championship against champions Newbridge. A large crowd at the County Grounds witnessed a titanic struggle between the experienced Greenshirts and the young Lavey lions, but it was experience which won in the end on a 1-12 to 3-3 scoreline. The Lavey line-out that day was G, McErlean, Des Higgins, J. McCoy, H. Scullion. J. Grant. F Lagan, M, McFaul, B. Convery, M. Laverty, J. Brennan. W, O’Neill, A. McGurk. H, Shivers, J. Convery, C. Mulholland.
Division II Winners 1967
Back Row: L. to R. Neil Hurley, Wiile O’Neill, James McCloy, Harry Shivers, John Joe McGrath, Mickey Lagan, Francie Lagan, John Grant, Vincent O’Neill, John Brennan, Brian Mulholland, Pat McCloy
Front Row: L. to R. Mick O’Neill, Martin Sweeney, G. McErlean, C Lagan, Des Higgins, Malachy McFaul, Tommy Doherty, Harry Scullion.
After failing to make any impression in the championship the following year the club decided to seek the services of Tommy Gribben (Bellaghy) to manage the team in 1970. However 1969 did see one title coming to Lavey – their Schoolboy’s provided hope for the future by lifting the Derry Schoolboy Championship. In a very exciting final, which preceded the senior final, the Lavey youngsters pipped a much bigger Doire Colmcille side by 2-4 to 0-9. The Lavey team in the final was G. Convery, D. McCloy, P. Chivers, P. Magill, G. Dougan, C. McCloskey, J. McGurk. S. O’Neill, L, McFaul, D. McCloy, S. Hutchinson, T. Hutchinson, E. O’Neill, T Magill and S, Carmichael.
Tommy Gribben embarked upon a strenuous pre-season training programme in 1970 to ensure that the team was in good shape and to help build up team spirit. The chief priority was to win the Championship and they seemed to be on right lines when in the quarterfinal they outclassed a strong Magherafelt team by 2-7 to 0-3. There was a familiar ring about the semi-final opposition – Newbridge once again at the County Grounds. In a game reminiscent of two years previously the Bridge withstood a spirited Lavey challenge to win by two points 0- I 3 to 2-5 and proceed to win the title outright against Bellaghy. It seemed that this young Erin’s Own team which had promised so much was never going to make the breakthrough.
However Tommy Gribben wasn’t too disheartened – rather more determined to make amendsthe following year Tommy’s determination spread to the team and they were back in the semi-final 1971 to do battle against Magherafelt. The game played at Ballinascreen, was a tight down struggle throughout with never more than a couple of points separating the teams, In a nail-biting finish Dan McCloy scored the winning point from a difficult free to put the Erin’s Own back in the final for the first time since 1954.
1971 Team which lost the Championship Final against Bellaghy
Back Row: L. to R. G. Duggan, M. Laverty, M. Lagan, J McCloy, J. Grant, N. Hurley, H. Scullion, H. Shivers, P. Shivers, E. Laverty, L. McFaul.
Front Row: L. to R. A. O’Brien, V. O’Neill, J. Convery, D. McCloy, B. Convery, G. McErlean, F. Lagan, J. Brennan, A. McGurk, M. Sweeney, J. McGurk.
In the final Lavey faced parish neighbours Bellaghy whom they had already beaten twice in the league that year. However it was a case of third time lucky for the Tones who turned on a scintillating final performance to romp home by 2-12 to 0-5 and provide another day of frustration for the Erin’s Own team and followers alike. The Lavey team in the final was as follows: Gerry McErlean, Frank Lagan, James McCloy, Vincent O’Neill, James Convery, Anthony McGurk, Nial Hurley, Eugene Laverty and Martin Laverty, John Grant, Brendan Convery, Mickey Lagan, Dan McCloy, Paddy Chivers, John Brennan. 1973 witnessed a loss to the club, which could never be replaced with the tragic and untimely death of James McCloy in a farm accident. One of the best full-backs in the county; his high field and lengthy clearances were a revelation.
The next few years were indifferent ones for the senior team and once again it was the younger members of the club who stole the limelight when they became County Minor Champions in 1975. It took two dramatic encounters to dispose of Ballinascreen in the semi-final before Lavey faced a strong Kilrea team in the County Final at Newbridge. Aided by a stiff breeze in point lead when defensive slackness was punished by a goal and a point to level the scores on the stroke of half time. To the Lavey supporters all seemed lost, but when mid-fielder Peter McCloy struck early into the second half with two goals, the game took on a different light. Try as they might the Kilrea forwards could make little impression upon the Lavey rearguard which held firm to record a well deserved, if somewhat surprising victory. The members of that title winning side were:- K. O’Kane, A. Scullion, M. Hurley, J. Convery, D. Young, M. McGarvey, P. Boyle, P. McCloy, O. McCloy, J. Boyle, H. M. McGurk, S. McCrystal, G. Walsh, P Convery, J. McErlean, V . Dougan, M. McCann, M. McGill and P. J. Hughes.
There was little to suggest, apart from that minor success of ’75, that 1977 should become perhaps the most triumphant year in the history of the Erin’s Own club. Managers Sean Dorrity and Harry Shivers were well aware that they had a good panel of players at their disposal, and the team got off to a cracking start to the season with an emphatic 2-12 to 0-06 league victory over Bellaghy. However, before the Championship came around the team had displayed signs of inconsistency on one or two occasions. A comfortable 3-8 to 1 -6 success over Glack set them firmly on the Championship trail. Banagher provided much stiffer Opposition to a slightly depleted Lavey team in the next round but the Erin’s Own came through by I -7 to 0-8. Old rivals Bellaghy were the next hurdle at Magherafelt. After an uninspiring first performance during which Lavey missed a penalty and then conceded a goal within the space of a minute, they trailed at the interval by four points. However a couple of switches heralded a second half recovery which was climaxed by a Dan McCloy goal and Lavey finished well on top as the final score of 1-11 to 1-5 suggests.
Lavey 1977 League and Championship Winners
Back Row: L. to R. – J. Grant, M. Laverty, G. Convery, P. Chivers, P Convery, K. O’Kane, A. McGurk, E Laverty, J. Bonner, J. Brennan, H. McGurk, J. Shaw, G. Walsh.
Front Row: L. to R. J. Convery, H Scullion, J Boyle, N Hurley (Captain), D. McCloy, S. McCrystal, M. McGarvey, Joe Convery, S. Carmichael, D. Young, Dermot McCloy, J. McGurk.k.
Ballinderry who had been showing extremely good form in their championship run, were the final opponents and favourites to win the title. Indeed that was how it looked in the first half as the Shamrock’s dominated for long periods.
However, Lavey made rather better use of their chances and the interval saw the scores tied at 0-4 each.
But the best of Lavey was yet to come – (Master Fay who was assisting. maintained that they were the best second half team in the business). Gradually the Lavey defences with Anthony McGurk starring at centre half got to grips with the Shamrocks attack, as Lavey moved into a slender one point lead. Then with ten minutes remaining, Paddy Chivers sent the ball across the Shamrock’s goal and Joe Boyle appeared from nowhere to punch a great goal. Lavey now had the bit between their teeth and were in no mood to surrender a title which had eluded them for so long. At the final whistle there was still four points separating the teams I -8 to 0-7 and Erin’s Own had bridged a 23 year gap by winning the championship. That victorious Lavey team lined out as follows: Pat Convery, Joe Convery, Nial Hurley, Harry Scullion, Gerard Convery, Anthony McGurk, James Convery, Eugene and Martin Laverty, Dan McCloy. Martin McGarvey and Joe Bonner, Sean McCrystal, Paddy Chivers and Joe Boyle.Lavey’s introduction to the Ulster Club Championship was a one-sided affair with a facile 5-20 to I -9 victory over Glasgow. However they made their exit in the next round to Carrickmore after a hard-fought and exciting game at Magherafelt. A simple goal in the first half proved the difference between the teams at the finish final score Lavey 0-11 Carrickmore 1-11.
Despite this setback the league title was very much a prime target for the Erin’s Own team. And they achieved the other half of an unique double with another win over Ballinderry in the semi-final and an incredible last gasp victory over Ballerin in the ‘match of the season. at Ballinascreen. Lavey displayed all the fighting qualities, which had helped win the Championship, by recovering from a five point deficit in the final ten minutes. Once again they lived up to their reputation of being a great second half team with goals from Joe Boyle and Paddy Chivers to snatch victory by 2-5 to I-7.
A Double Double
So the double was completed but alas that is only half the story, for another double reserves under player-manager Jimmy Shaw had already lifted the reserve league title and were going flat out to emulate the seniors by winning their championship as well. They duly succeeded with victories over Bellaghy in the semi- final and Glack in the final. The reserve panel consisted of Kevin O’Kane. Anthony Scullion, Mickey Hurley, Paddy Boyle, John Brennan, Dermot McCloy, Gerard McCloy, Paddy Dillon, Hugh 0’Kelly, Gerard Walsh, Jim McErlean, Jimmy Shaw, Damian Young, Vincent Dougan. Seamus Carmichael, Liam Scullion, Des Higgins, Joe McGurk, Seamus McGurk and Gabriel Shivers.
The Erin’s Own club had achieved a unique junior and senior double in the same year. Fr McLaughlin C.C. who incidentally was also an official member of the senior management, but who preferred to keep out of the limelight, christened it ‘the double double’, All in all it was a thrill packed year and one of which everyone concerned are justly proud It was obviously going to be difficult to maintain such standards in 1978, but at least the teams went half way, ~ both juniors and seniors retaining their respective league titles. They say that success breeds success, and our U14 footballers proved the point by unexpectedly winning South Derry Championship.
With another season under way the footballers of Lavey, having sampled the sweet taste of success, will no doubt be doing their utmost to bring further glory to the club in the years ahead. Whilst the spotlight is generally on the playing side, one must not forget the band of backroom workers whose unselfish commitment and support are responsible for the continued existence of the club. Through the efforts of these people and their predecessors, Erin’s Own officially opened in the summer of 1979, not only a fine football pitch, but also an extensive new pavilion to accompany it. The latter project, which has been every club member dream since 1973 when the pitch was completed, has finally become a reality. Built at a cost in the region of £65,000 by McGarvey Brothers, (Gulladuff), the building provides changing rooms, showers, a spacious function room as well a kitchen and various stores – modem facilities for a modem club. Hopefully the youth in the yeas ahead will show that they are worthy of all the endeavour and worry involved in providing such fitting head-quarters for Erin’s Own Lavey.
It is my final intention to mention briefly a few of the long-standing committee members who have served the club with distinction over the years. Erin’s Own were fortunate to be able to avail of the service of another O’Connor – Pat, during the war and post war yeas. Pat, who is now residing in Co, Down, was a former club chairman and secretary, as well as being a member of the County Board. Mick Crilly performed these same roles during the late twenties and thirties. Master Fay who came into the parish about 1937 was an outstanding servant to the game in general. He held various offices for club and county for over twenty yeas after his arrival. HughA, McGurk is a name which has been synonymous with the Erin’s Own club for several years, He acted as Chairman of the South Derry Board between 1953..61, and was the Derry delegate to the Central Council about the 1959-61 period, Paddy Henry was an efficient club treasurer during the thirties and forties, Charlie Carmichael held this same office throughout the 5O’s, while the funds were entrusted with John McPeake from 1960-70. Brian Mulholland was the club’s longest serving chairman – approximately 15 years between 1954 and 1971 which represents a notable contribution indeed, while Pat McCloy has acted between secretary and treasurer for almost as many years.
These are just some of the dedicated gaels who have served Erin’s Own through many difficult years to its present stance. Let’s hope that such dedication will not vanish with the coming of new facilities, but will lead the club to greater things both in the athletic fields and the more important facets of Gaelic Culture.