ON THIS DAY: 13th August 1933: DONEGAL’S ULSTER SUCCESS IN GLENCAR
83 years ago today, Letterkenny played host to the Junior Ulster Football Final between Donegal and Derry, with Donegal winning on a scoreline of 3-7 to 1-3. However, what may be surprising to some is that this game did not take place at O’Donnell Park, the home of St. Eunan’s GAA Club, but rather at their former pitch in Glencar.
Several GAA clubs had existed in the town before the current St. Eunan’s and Letterkenny Gaels clubs. On the 18th September 1905, a Gaelic club was established in Letterkenny for the first time called “Lámh Dearg”, with Bishop O’Donnell as patron. Over the years, clubs in the town came and went, with names such as “Tirconaill”, “The O’Donnells” and “Faugh A Ballagh” and by the early 1920s, two new clubs were established, the “Geraldines” and “Letterkenny Rovers”. Both of these clubs shared a pitch at Ballymacool, known locally as the Burn Field. The Geraldines won the Dr. McGinley Cup (League) without defeat in 1926, and the following year Letterkenny Rovers won the County Championship. However, due to emigration, only four months after securing the championship, this club broke up. What remained amalgamated with the Geraldines to form a new club, “St. Eunan’s”, in 1927, playing their games at John Crumlish’s field in Ballymacool. This club was in existence for only a short time though, playing 15 matches, and ceased to be in June 1928.
Two years later, on the 19th February 1930, a meeting was held consisting of ‘representatives of An Garda, Tirconaill Mental Hospital and former members of the GAA in the town’ with the view to reform the old St. Eunan’s club using the grounds of the Asylum Hospital (where the Town Park is today). A year later, the club secured the hiring of a playing field in Glencar from Margaret Kelly of Bominy and after renovations, this field became known as ‘Gaelic Park, Glencar’ and was chosen to host the Ulster Junior Football Final on Sunday 13th August 1933 between Donegal and Derry. Having overcome Cavan and Armagh on the way to the final, the match report from the Derry People informs us:
“The final of the Ulster junior football championship was decided before a large attendance at the Gaelic Park, Letterkenny, on Sunday, when Donegal heavily defeated Derry. The weather was very favourable and a match of great interest, played at a fast pace was witnessed…Donegal played as a team. They were confident at every stage, and gave a great exhibition of dashing football and team tactics…On the whole team not a player was disappointing. This is certainly the best team that has represented Donegal for years.”
The Donegal team on that momentous day was: McEnhill, J. Lawn, J.P. McGinley, Brown, E. Brady, Gallinagh, T. Diver, P. Clancy, McGee, T. Gallagher, J. O’Donnell, Maxwell, Campbell, O. McFadden and K. Sweeney.
This strong Donegal team went onto to defeat Cork in the All Ireland Junior semi final on September 2nd 1933 in Croke Park, but sadly lost out to Mayo on a scoreline of 2-15 to 2-2 in the All Ireland Junior Final on October 8th 1933.
Despite the success of hosting the Ulster final, the St. Eunan’s club soon wanted a permanent residence and four years later they bought a 7-acre field in Sallaghgraine for £300, calling it “O’Donnell Park”, after Bishop O’Donnell. At the official opening of ‘the county’s premier Gaelic stadium’ on 2nd May 1937, Antrim hurlers defeated Donegal by 5-5 to 2-2 and Armagh defeated the Donegal footballers 2-5 to 1-7.
Today, “Gaelic Park Glencar” is a housing estate, approximately where Dr. McGinley Park is today but sadly the precise location for the site of Donegal’s Ulster success in Letterkenny is now lost in time.