Meath GAA’s 1st Chairman is from Donore
The contribution from the parish since the foundation of the GAA was probably greater in the early days as the very first chairman of the Meath GAA County Board was a Donore farmer, Patrick Fullam, a grandfather of our former club president of the same name, having been elected in January 1887.
Fullam was a renowned political figure in the 19th century. He was a devoted follower of Charles Stewart Parnell but in the split took sides against his former leader and defeated the Parnellite candidate James Dalton in an 1887 South Meath election.
However, a petition was lodged by the losing side and after a hearing lasting 13 days the election was declared void. Fullam suffered severe financial distress as a result of losing the case and in 1896 proceedings to evict him and his family were taken. The eviction was carried out but on the day, Fullam and his children were reinstated to their home thanks to the support of his friends. He was also involved in the Land League but retired from politics after the events of the 1890’s.
Rosnaree is the burial place of the High King Cormac MacAirt who was perhaps the greatest of the pre-historic monarchs of Ireland. Under him, Ireland became one unit, with Tara as his official residence. His death said to have occurred due to having swallowed a fish bone, was a national tragedy. It was decided by his followers to have him buried at Brugh na Boinne just across the Boyne from St. Mary’s club ground, where the Royal Pagan Burial Ground was. However, as Cormac had rejected Paganism and was said to have embraced Christianity it was his own wish to be buried at Rosnaree.
“Spread not the beds of Brugh for me
When restless death-bed’s use is done:
But bury me at Rossnaree
And face me to the rising sun.
For all the kings who lie in Brugh
Put trust in gods of wood and stone;
And ‘twas at Ross that first I knew One,
Unseen, who is God alone.
At morning, on the grassy marge Of Rossnaree,
the corpse was found,
And shepherds at their early charge
Entomb’d it in the peaceful ground”
Due to a freak tidal wave, his corpse was swept upstream from Brugh to Rosnaree where locals found and buried his remains.
The 60's to present
The early to mid-1960’s were lean times for both Donore GFC and Lougher GFC. Emigration had taken its toll and both clubs often had difficulty simply fielding teams. The idea of bringing the 2 clubs together was floated and although the this amalgamation had taken place before (many times), it was decided to give it another try.
On this occasion I was optimistic that it might work, as this time there was one key difference, this time the idea was being pushed by the players themselves. They had no hang-ups about previous differences or old grievances and were determined to come together and stick together come what may, for footballs’ sake.
So it was on a Sunday afternoon that a General meeting was held in the Old Donore School. At this meeting I was elected Chairman and Liam Flood was elected Secretary. As everyone knows the secretary does most of the work and Liam put in a huge effort over the following years.
St Mary’s GFC was now up and running and the goodwill of all was easy to detect. But a football Club will be judged by results and after some minor successes in the early years it was after 10 years that we had our most memorable success winning a Junior A Championship in 1979.
St Mary’s built on this success reaching Intermediate Finals in 1983 & 1985 only to lose out after a replay in 1985, so close to becoming a senior Club. These achievements gave the Club the community a great boost and huge credit must be given to all the players and back room teams.
However, and I’m sure all his team mates would agree, one player deserves a special mention. That player was Liam Smith whose skill, determination and commitment was key to our success at that time. That same commitment led Liam to a place on the Meath senior team, winning 2 All Ireland Senior Football medals in 1987 & 1988, Liam also won a much coveted Centenary Cup medal in 1984. Then only 5 years after Liam’s Al Ireland success’s both Niall Craven and Garrett Bell won 2 All Ireland Minor Football medals in 1992. Not all players will achieve this level of success or even win a championship, however participation itself is the real prize, the friendships, the sense of community and belonging, these in themselves represent success.
However, given the investment in coaching and facilities and seeing the sheer numbers of boys and girls currently playing for St Marys I have no doubt that further success is just around the corner.
We must also remember the coaches, mentors & officials who give up their time to carry out what is often a thankless job. Also the Men and Women who have organised events, raised funds, provided refreshments, washed jerseys, etc, etc. These people along with supporters are the backbone of any club. There have been many chairmen, secretaries and officials down through the years, they have worked tirelessly for our club and their efforts can be seen in magnificent new facilities.
They stand as an example of what can be achieved with enough energy and commitment. I congratulate all those who have in any way helped us reach this significant milestone and applaud your achievements. Here’s to another fifty years.
St Mary’s First Chairperson