HISTORIC PHOTOGRAPH The original Annagh Rovers football team from 1889, who were the first registered football team from the parish of Aghamore as it was at the time. The photo and caption are taken from an extract of Jackie Coyne’s publication on the history of the GAA in Aghamore.
IN 2013 Jackie Coyne attended a meeting of the Aghamore GAA Club and mooted the idea of an in-depth research into the history of the club. Four years later, Jackie – along with his committee – are ready to launch their findings in a 450 page hardback book, which documents the cultural and social activities of the GAA in the parish of Aghamore over the past 128 years.
The first registered team in the parish of Aghamore (as it was then) were the Annagh Rovers in 1889. Fast forward 128 years later, and the minor amalgamation of Ballyhaunis and Aghamore are now using the same name in their quest for honours. We caught up with Jackie Coyne before the Annagh Rovers’ first competitive match against Ballina Stephenites recently, and the retired school teacher gave us a full rundown on how the Annagh Rovers name has come full circle. He also gave us a briefing on his plans to launch his book – ‘The History of the GAA in Aghamore’ - over the coming weeks.
Adrian Hession: How did you end up with this job of documenting and presenting this book on the history of the GAA in Aghamore?
Jackie Coyne: I was at a meeting of Aghamore GAA club one night and the history of the club came up. In my wisdom or otherwise, I said I would like to do something about it. Pat Sweeney from Knock was chairman back then, and obviously he was delighted that something was going to be done. I started collecting bits and pieces from then and it mushroomed from that.
AH: Your research dragged up the name Annagh Rovers. It must have something to do with the name of this minor team?
JC: It’s fascinating to think that here we are in Ballina, and very shortly we will be watching the Annagh Rovers playing, because if we go right back to 1889, the first club registered in the parish of Aghamore was known as Annagh Rovers. At the time there was a townland in the southern part of Aghamore called Annagh. Most of the players came from that townland, plus a few from the neighbouring townlands of Carrowneaden and Coolnaha and Mountain. There was one player from the Ballyhaunis side of the river at the time – Peter Waldron from Cave – but the rest were all from Aghamore as it was back then. That team was well known and highly regarded at the time. That team continued until 1901, and for one reason or another it disbanded. This evening we have a team – an amalgamation of Aghamore and Ballyhaunis at minor level – and the team-sheet will show Annagh Rovers, which is interesting after almost 128 years. On top of that, you would have a family connection going right back to that period. In particular, Jason Meehan who would be related to the Muldoons, who were prominent members of that original team. And also the Hunts as well – Marty Hunt who is a team mentor and his son Conor is playing – who would be related to the Grogans, who would have played on the original Annagh Rovers side.
AH: Can you explain how the name ‘Annagh’ is more synonymous with the Ballyhaunis parish now, even though it was part of the parish of Aghamore back then?
JC: From the research that local historian Joe Byrne has done, there was an Annagh Church in Drimbane, which is on the southern side of Ballyhaunis parish – and that led to the naming of the parish of Ballyhaunis as Annagh. It wasn’t the same Annagh from where the original Annagh Rovers hailed from. When the parish boundaries were redrawn, the Annagh townland on the Aghamore side of the river went into the parish of Annagh.
AH: You have been four years getting the Aghamore GAA Club history together and you have the book launch coming out on May 19?
JC: Yes, we start with Mass in Aghamore Church at 7pm on Friday, May 19 to remember all of our friends who have passed on. After that we go onto the Park Hotel in Kiltimagh for the launch, and I’m delighted to announce that Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh will be our special guest on the night. It will be great to have him with us on the night. We are looking forward to that and hope there will be a big crowd present, as it is a big occasion for the club.
AH: You are hoping to get as many people who were involved with Aghamore GAA back together on that special night of the launch?
JC: We certainly have some people still with us who played in the early 1950s and hopefully they will all be there. The sixties as well was a breakthrough era for the club, winning a county juvenile title in 1962, and that team then went on to win minor titles in 1965 and 1966. Most of those lads were on the junior team who won county honours in 1969. The following year – 1970 – they won the intermediate title, beating Knockmore in the final. Amazingly, they got to a senior final in the following year again in 1971, but lost that decider to Claremorris. We contested senior finals again in 1974 and 1975 but went under to Garrymore, but as Shamrocks – which involved Kilmovee as well – the club won the senior title in 1977. It was a fitting reward for all the people who had been involved over the years. We would love to see as many of these formers players and officers of the club back on our launch night, and we are hoping to have a very good night’s entertainment lined up.
AH: The book itself is a 450-page publication. How do you about tackling a task of capturing the history of a GAA in a parish which spans over a century?
JC: I’ve been lucky in that I have a group of good people working with me. Christy Freyne and Joe Byrne have done a lot of research on the early years right up to 1940. It’s extremely interesting, as at that time there were many challenges facing the GAA, not least the political unrest and the economical situation, so it was amazing that the GAA managed to succeed at all. It was part of the Gaelic revival, and it was in a way expressing our own identity as a nation after being subdued for so many generations. Joe Byrne has a library of recordings from down through the years and extracts from them will be in the book from people who were involved from way back at the beginning, and it’s wonderful to read what they have to say about the times. In a way it’s also a social history of the parish and not just a history of the GAA.
AH: Can you tell us about the history of pitches and grounds used around the parish for games down through the years?
JC: There is great mention from old reports of Glavey’s Field, which would be directly across the road from the old school in Aghamore. Heneghan’s Field in Bruff was used, and Neary’s Field close by. I remember myself being at matches in Neary’s Field. I often pass there now on the N17 and wonder how in God’s name they were played. But they were played and the games there were very competitive. In the 1970s the current grounds were acquired in the village of Aghamore and work started on that development. That pitch was officially opened in 1989 by Peter Quinn, who was President-elect of the GAA at the time.
AH: Going back to the minor game between Ballina Stephenites and Annagh Rovers … you’ve been involved in the GAA for a long time. Did you ever think you would see the day that two neighbouring clubs who would have been deemed as rivals by many, are now coming together to form a minor team to try and achieve something together?
JC: I think it’s great that both clubs have come together, because the players from both clubs are going to benefit greatly by being involved at this Division 1 level. Please God, they will go back to their own clubs in the coming years better players because of the experience. There has been a great rivalry between Aghamore and Ballyhaunis over the years, but I think a time comes when you have to put those things aside for the good of the players and the game, and I think this is a great idea.