20 year-old St James Gaels looks towards the future

Additional reporting by Brian McGrath 

An Caisleán and Guinness GAA clubs might not mean much to a lot of people but the existence of these two clubs is the reason for St James Gaels GAA celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Economic crises in the past, prompting many young players to emigrate, had a knock-on effect on GAA clubs as they found themselves having to join forces to bolster their number of players. It was this lack of younger players that forced both An Caisleán and Guinness GAA clubs to consider the idea of a merger 20 years ago.

“Both of these clubs had been in existence for many years but were struggling due to the increasing age profile within their respective base areas. Rather than allow two clubs to go out of existence both sets of club officers agreed, following negotiation, to pool resources with a view to forming one strong unit in an effort to keep Gaelic games alive in Walkinstown and surrounding areas,” said Eoin Darcy, who, as well as being the current academy manager at St James Gaels, helped found the club back in July ‘94.

Darcy went on to explain how the idea of the merger came about. “The idea was formulated following a conversation between work colleagues, Martin Coen and Gerry Clancy, who brought it to their respective committees and it went from there.”

The club has grown exponentially since its formation with Darcy hoping that the side from Crumlin will continue to expand and prosper, “We now field eleven teams, plus a thriving Academy for younger children. We have established a ladies section and continue to grow. There have been bad years also but the club has grown substantially from our beginnings.”

Looking ahead to the future, Darcy added, “medium term, we want to get back to Intermediate football status,  to improve our player retention rates in the fourteen to eighteen year old age bracket, to improve playing numbers across all of our teams and to increase our coaching presence in local schools.”

As such a comparatively young club St. James Gael faces certain challenges. For example, the huge role family tradition plays in the GAA is well known, and the sense of pride that comes with representing the same club as one’s father, grandfather, brothers, cousins and uncles.

Despite the quick rise of the club, it has had to face some difficulties when it comes to competing with the more deep-rooted sides in the area and beyond. “Family tradition of playing with the club is not yet established.  There are only two families who have reached three generations of players. Other clubs in the area have been based here much longer,” said Darcy.

Over the years, many people contributed to the formation and subsequent expansion of St. James Gaels, but Darcy was reluctant to single out any one person. “A large number of volunteers give their time freely every week. It is impossible to pick just one,” he said.

When asked about the club’s most successful year to date, Darcy was quick to point out that the club has experienced much success with a variety of different teams. “Different teams have had successful years at different times. In the early years of the club we contested St. Vincent de Paul and Floodlit Cup finals in Senior football, Sheridan Cup in Junior football and the Juvenile Hanrahan Cup. There has been a steady stream of trophies ever since including three Ladies Championship wins, a Junior B Championship, Stacey Cup, O’Brien Cup and under sixteens Shields and Minor Cups.’’

So, as St. James Gaels celebrates its 20th year in existence, we here at The Liberty would like to take the chance to wish them all the best for the future. Looking towards the club’s future Darcy said, “We will always provide a warm welcome to new players of any age.’’

St. James Gaels is already fostering its next generation through a new initiative which is attempting to introduce young people to Gaelic football.

It is aimed at girls and boys between the ages of four and eight and is free of charge. It will commence on May 10 and run until June 28 at Iveagh Grounds, Crumlin Road.

The chairmen of St. James Gaels Kevin Dunne summed up the occasion by saying, “We’re trying to increase the awareness about the club and its facilities.” And with this Dunne’s hopes the young participants will be around to celebrate the next milestone in the story of St. James Gaels.

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