A Fine Century
15 January 2006
Maghery club celebrate 100 years
Sunday, January 15, 2006
By Micheal Mcgeary, Sunday Life
A fine century
ARCHBISHOP Sean Brady is fast becoming a familiar and welcome visitor to Maghery.
In April 2003 he carried out the official opening and blessing of the new pitch, the Felix Hamill Park in memory of a man who had given close on 60 years service to the club both as player and treasurer.
His contribution cannot be overstated for here was a man who served for years on the County Board and who was renowned for his integrity and honesty and for whom no task was ever too great.
Also in attendance that same afternoon was GAA President Sean Kelly, on his first day in office, former GAA President Peter Quinn and Armagh County Chairman Joe Jordan.
Now the Archbishop returns to the southern shores of Lough Neagh where he will celebrate a special Mass in Our Lady Queen of Peace Church this morning (10.00am) so officially beginning Maghery Sean McDermott's Centenary Year.
Club Chairman John Robinson has extended a special invitation to all members, old and new alike.
It was in an area between the two Ferries, Bannfoot and Maghery that the first GAA club in North Armagh was founded in 1906. That distinction fell to St Malachy's who first saw the light of day in Milltown, but actually played most of their games in Colmcille.
Life though was a constant struggle both on and off the field for Malachy's and after 12 years their place was taken by a new side, Tom Clarke's. Later the Phelim Brady's were formed and undaunted by the prospect of the second World War the Geraldine's emerged as a new force.
Neither though enjoyed any lasting success and it was no surprise when both amalgamated at the beginning of the 1947 season to form the Shamrocks.
The new club didn't exactly set the world alight, but due to the foresight of the late Fr William McKnight and Aloysius Mackle coupled with some totally committed voluntary labour, St Mary's Park was opened in 1956 with Shamrocks clubman Noel Toye lining out for Armagh against Tyrone in a game that marked the official opening.
Two years later Shamrocks won the first of two Armagh Junior Championships, the second arriving in 1962, prompting hopes of better and more rewarding days ahead.
The much hoped for breakthrough came in 1970 when the club now known as Sean McDermott's, after a name change four years earlier, won the All County League for the first time.
They have repeated that success on three subsequent occasions and have also come up trumps at Minor and Under 21 level, but so far the much sought after McKillop Cup continues to elude them despite four final appearances.
More recently they won the Armagh IFC title before losing out in the Ulster final to Donegal champions St Michael's.
The Troubles impacted on most clubs and sadly Sean McDermott's were no exception, both Eamon Fox and Gary Convie losing their lives in a Belfast shooting over 10 years ago.
But the dawn of a new year brings with it a new sense of optimism and anticipation.
The continuing emergence of young players the calibre of Stefan Forker and James Lavery just serves to whet the appetite still further.
Kevin Rafferty had the distinction of lining out for Armagh against Dublin in the 1977 All Ireland football final and his son Kieran also led the county to Minor championship glory in the 90s.
Others like the late and lamented Frank Hanna and Jim Joe Fox also served the county senior team as did the Forker and McClure brothers, Gerard Fox, Sean Smith, later manager of Down, Bill and Peter Devlin, Eamon McCausland, Malachy Heaney and Martin Toye.
Trying to emulate those who have gone before is the task facing a new generation of Maghery footballers. It won't be easy, but it's a challenge they will relish.