Errigal Truagh, or more commonly Truagh, is in the most northerly tip of Co. Monaghan jutting deeply into South Tyrone at Aughnacloy on the intersection of the N.2 with the Ulster Blackwater and the Enniskillen/Armagh Route . Slieve Beagh is to the west, with drumlin hills stretching down to the Blackwater River , which forms our border with Co Tyrone and Northern Ireland for some 12 miles. Errigal Truagh can be divided into 3 main districts, Clara, Carrickroe, and Ballyoision. While it was not until the year 1958 that Truagh formed its first official affiliated parish team, the great Gaelic tradition goes as far back as the 1880’s. I have learned from some of our older Gaelic traditionalists on how a team from Carrickroe and Clara ends of the parish traveled by foot to play very near neighbors Tyrone during the late 1890’s and early 1900’s. These men were, by all accounts, very ardent Gaels and it was by their enthusiasm under difficult but obviously enjoyable conditions that the GAA was set in motion in the Parish of Errigal Truagh.
Around the year 1908 we have the first official record of a team in the parish. Namely a team from Bragan called Bragan Erin’s Hope. While this team was well organized and well presented and took part in the GAA affairs at the time, they are not recorded as having captured any major honours. They seemed to have disbanded a short time later. The reason for this disbandment has been attributed to the social, economic and political conditions that prevailed in Ireland at the time.
What happened in the following years seems to have been that players from the parish of Truagh went to play with more organised clubs of the neighbouring areas. The reason for this is hard to pinpoint. A number of reasons for this have been brought to my attention but the lack of a central meeting place, its geographical position, emigration to neighboring countries in the search of work and better lives and the involvement of many of Truagh’s young men in the fight for national Independence. Around the year 1920 Ballyoision and Mullan mills area seemed to be trying hard to get the game going in their locality. I have obtained a photograph of a Ballyoision team who at the time, like their counterparts from the other ends of the parish of a few years earlier took part in many an unofficial but rousing engagement between nearby clubs in both Monaghan and Tyrone. For the likes of these challenge games our parish team would enlist additional help from other footballers from neighbouring clubs. As there was no official county board at the time there were no rules to say that this couldn’t be done at the time.
Around the early 1920s the young men around Mullan mills formed one of the first hurling clubs in the north of county Monaghan . This was an affiliated club and played under the name of St Mellans but due to the lack of local competition, interest in the game waned and the club finally disbanded after about three years, the name St Mellan or the Irish version Naomh Muadán came from Errigal Truagh’s local patron saint. Truaghs current club grounds is St Mellans Park and the local Church of Ireland Church in Mullinderg is named St, Muadáns .
Football in the parish around the late twenties and early thirties seemed to fragment into several small clubs. It is important to remember that Errigal Truagh is only a small parish of approx 475 houses This is small in comparison to other parishes in Monaghan. But in spite of this fact a team was formed at Moybridge, a team was formed in Clara, a team was formed in Carrickroe, with the Ballyoisin players throwing in their lot with Emyvale GAA. Another little team to have its tales of glory in those years were a team called the Boglane Rovers, who participated in several challenge matches with the help of a few neighbouring club players but never really got off the ground.
In 1928 the Emyvale team which won the Fr. Maguire cup for the first time, was assisted by quite a number of players from the Truagh area. The reasons for this being the enthusiasm of Master Paddy Smyth, a Schoolteacher in Ballyoision Knockconan National school and who was also then the second Chairman of the Emyvale GAA club. Another reason being the extremely close proximity of Emyvale village to the Truagh footballers, Also a village which gave great social contact with all the young men of the area, a custom still very much alive today.
Clara in the late 1920’s and the early 1930’s had a fairly good team to their credit, a team that many said was destined for major honors, but Irelands political misfortunes also found their way into the Clara team and an unavoidable political split put paid to the sporting aspirations of a fine team. In 1933 the parishes first amalgamated team was produced. This was the St. Mellans Minor team which featured under eighteens from all corners of the parish, and this was the first time the parish was represented officially. The St. Mellans minor team went on to win the 1933 minor Championship but the officials of the Monaghan County Board decided that some of the St. Mellans players had affiliations with clubs as far away as Dungannon in Co. Tyrone, and also their defeated counterparts, Aghabog, were not above board either as they featured players as far away as Monaghan and Threemilehouse. The result being that the competition was left Null and Void thus rendering the parishes first trophy still as a distant dream.
While the Clara team in those years had been capturing the limelight, the Carrickroe men were putting their effort together. Their endeavors were well rewarded when they affiliated to Monaghan County Board with a fine young junior football team. This was In the late 1930’s and it was indeed a very inspiring and great time for Ulster and Monaghan football what with Cavan bringing 2 All-Ireland championships to the province and Michael O’Hehirs first famous broadcast in 1938 of Monaghan Vs. Galway. Great names of those years were then the idols of the young men of the parish of Truagh. Carrickroe responded to the great enthusiasm that was sweeping the area at the timeand the following team proved a matchfor the best up until about 1945. Peter Treanor, Patrick Mc Meel, Peter Mc Carron, James Harvey, James Treanor, James Mc Kenna, P Mc Crudden, Peter Sherry, Mick Mc Carron, tom O Kelly, Fr. George Mc Carron, Fr. Benny Smyth, John Moen, Johnny Treanor, Owen Smyth, Charlie Mc Kenna, and Jimmy Mc Kenna. During this time the Carrickroe team represented the Parish in 2 Dr. Ward cup finals (Junior Championship)
As my research has shown usually when a team disbanded some other team in close proximity became newly invigorated and surged on a new lease of life. This was to be the legacy of Carrickroe when Clara came again and our near neighbours Emyvale recorded their historic 1945 double win. Such was the enthusiasm and spirit in Clara that they were able to field a strong panel of 25 players. Of the 25 man panel, 18 were local Truagh men, 1 man was from Augher Co. Tyrone, 2 men were from Caledon Co. Tyrone, 1 Man form Clones Co. Monaghan and 3 men were residents of Tydavnet. This team held together for almost seven years but as we mentioned earlier, as always in those days a new team starting up weakened the existing one. This was the case with Clara when our close neighbours in South Tyrone, Aughnacloy affiliated their own club Aghaloo GFC.
In the early 1950’s each of Truagh’s three districts had an identity of their own. From an entirely social aspect of it, the rural dance Hall being the one and only meeting point for its youth. St. Enda’s Parochial Hall was built, this was to remain one of County Monaghans, and indeed a much wider areas leading Dance hall as well as an Dance Hall at Mullan Mills Boot Factory.
While Mullan Mills boot factory gave employment to workers from a wide area, the bulk of its employees came from in and around the local districts. The social spirits, plus the great love for the GAA were so strong in these districts at the time that each one of them had their own affiliated team. By 1953 Clara had once again called it a day thus leaving Carrickroe and Mullan Mill teams of the one parish playing in the same competitions. Of the two Mullan Mills were most successful, I recently got in touch with a neighbour of mine, Peter Mc Quaid, who was a worker in Mc Creedy’s Mill in Emyvale as a Flax farmer/producer, Peter was also a member of the Mullan Mills football team between in the years 1932 and 1940. Although his playing days were more or less over at this time, Peter had a fond interest in the Mullan Mills team and reflected on different challenge games in whish he both participated and played in, one such example of this was a challenge game which he played in or around 1938 against Emyvale. Peter went on to to describe the local derby as one of the fiercest most competitive games he had ever been involved in, even though it was a challenge game he recalled men “Giving everything for the team, and making sure Emyvale didn’t get a sniff of it” Peter’s all round knowledge of GAA in the parish is second to none. Of Carrickroe and Peter’s Mullan Mills, The ‘ Mills were the more successful team. During the 1955 league campaign they played eleven consecutive games without defeat. They also reached the semi final of the Dr. Ward Cup only to be defeated by near neighbours Emyvale once again, who went on to be defeated by Threemilehouse in the final.
This seemed to have been the peak achievement for, like their colleagues in Carrickroe, they were beginning to feel the effects of the national emigration tide that was sweeping Ireland at the time, So once again like Carrickroe, they both went out of existence about the same time. Therefore this rendered the parish of Truagh without an affiliated club for the first time since the formation of Bragon Erin’s Hope in 1908. In the years 1956 and 1957 there was a huge vacuum as far as the GAA was concerned in Truagh parish. Then came an historic night in the Winter of 1958 in St. Patrick’s Hall, Clara, When the Truagh Gaels club was founded by a young curate called Fr. Tom Breen from Tempo in Co. Fermanagh. He was working in Clara at the time with football his second religion. He was the Prime mover in forming a parish team known as Truagh Gaels. The inaugural meeting was held on November 16th 1958 . The following officers were elected; Chairman-Fr. Tom Breen, Vice Chairman- Peter Mc Kenna (RIP), Secretary- Liam Costello, Treasurer-Sean Finn. Mullan and Carrickroe players quickly transferred to the new club and Truagh Gaels entered at junior level. The first colours of the club were blue and white and their first game was against Scotstown GFC. The Panel at the time (Late 1953 into 1954) in no particular order was as follows: John Treanor, Jimmy Treanor, Michael Sherlock, Benny Connolly, Pat Corrigan, Seamus Kerr, Peter Sherry, Malachy Treanor, Sean Columb, Mick Deery, Sean Finn, Jackie Kerr, John Corrigan, Barney Treanor, Peadar Mc Geough, Mick Kelly, Vincent Mc Sorley, Eugene Sherlock, Packie Deery, Paddy Brady, Tommy Mc Kernan, Seosamh Fields, Seamus Treanor, Michael O Hanlon, Eugene Todd.