For a small county, Roscommon has produced many great club football teams which have performed consistently well at provincial and All-Ireland level. Roscommon clubs have won a total of 14 provincial titles since the competition’s inception in 1966. In no particular order, here are five great teams from the Roscommon club scene in the past 50 years…
Castlerea St Kevin’s (1970s)
At the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s Castlerea had a marvellous team full of fantastic footballers. When you consider that Harry Keegan, John Kerrane, Jimmy Finnegan, Adrian O’Sullivan, Tom Heneghan and Mickey Freyne were all on that team, it’s a wonder that they did not win far more. They won one Connacht club title – in 1968 – and three county senior titles, in 1968 (captained by Tommy Curran), 1971 and 1973.
Roscommon Gaels (1970s)
Roscommon Gaels won three titles in the 1970s and two Connacht club titles (1974 and 1975). In 1976 they contested the All-Ireland club final when they were beaten by St. Vincent’s of Dublin. Mick McNeela, Mickey Menton, Mick McNamara, Hughie Griffin, Larry and John O’Gara and John McDermott were their main men. Their rivalry with Clann na nGael was an intense one as the 1970s were coming to a close.
Clann na nGael (1980s and early 1990s)
No club ever dominated Roscommon club football like Clann did in the period from 1981 to 1996. In that time they won an incredible 13 county titles. Only Kilmore in 1983, Strokestown in 1992, and Roscommon Gaels in 1994 interrupted their incredible run of success. They also won seven Connacht club titles, including six in a row, and they appeared in five All-Ireland finals, including four in a row, all of which they lost. Tony McManus, Mike Keegan, Eamon McManus Senior, Eamon McManus Junior, Jimmy McManus, Owen McManus, Joey Connaughton, Gerry Lennon, Paul McManus and so many more were household names in a team that was managed for most of its successful years by the late Donie Shine.
Roscommon Gaels (1994-2004)
Roscommon Gaels won five titles in a 10-year era (1994-2004) and Fergal O’Donnell was a major factor in all five wins. But there were other excellent performers in that team too like Brian McNeela, Michael Ryan, Clifford McDonald, Ciaran Heneghan, Ross Shannon, Liam McNeill and Michael McHale. They were beaten in two provincial finals, by Ballina and Crossmolina.
St Brigid’s (1997 to 2016)
The record of St. Brigid’s in Roscommon in recent years is almost as impressive as that of Clann na nGael in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Brigid’s have taken ten county titles in that period including three in a row (2005 to 2007) and five in a row (2010 to 2014). Of course they won four Connacht club titles too and in 2013 they defeated Ballymun Kickhams to land the first senior All-Ireland club title ever to come to Roscommon. Frankie Dolan was their inspirational leader but Senan Kilbride, Karol Mannion, Darragh Donnelly, Cathal McHugh, Peter Domican, the Sheehys, Garvan Dolan and Ian Kilbride were just a few of the players who made history for their club and the county.
Honorable mention (various)
There have been some notable victories over the years that put a stop to the periods of domination by the clubs mentioned already. They would include…
* Kilmore, captained by Jimmy Connellan, winning their only title in 1983.
* Strokestown winning the title for the first time in 59 years in 1992 and following that up with another title in 2002. Both teams were captained by Donal Hanley.
* Kilbride winning the championship for the first time in 86 years in the year 2000, powered by the Lohan brothers – Stephen, Eddie and Gerry – and by Seamus O’Neill.
* Castlerea St Kevin’s came with an outstanding team to take title wins in 2008 and 2009. Nigel Dineen was their inspiration as player and team mentor.
There have been many more great teams who have been so near and yet so far over the years. The likes of a St. Aidan’s team powered by the Grehan brothers, Padraig Pearses, who have yet to win a title, and Western Gaels, who have had a very strong team for the past decade but who have yet to make the breakthrough. Elphin and Michael Glavey’s in the 1980s and ‘90s were close to winning titles too. Will one of the fancied teams win the Fahey Cup in 2017 or can a team emerge from the field to cause a shock like Kilbride in 2000, and Kilmore in 1983? All will be revealed over the next few months!