This year, Shamrock Gaels GAA Club celebrated 40 years in existence. The East Sligo club was formed in 1972, following the amalgamation of the former Sooey and Knockalassa clubs.
Both Sooey and Knockalassa had a long and proud tradition within the GAA in County Sligo, a tradition that stretched back to the very foundations of the Association. Over these years, Sooey contested six senior county finals, winning the Senior Championship in 1949 and 1959. Knockalassa played in five finals, winning the title in 1915 and 1933
The seeds of the eventual amalgamation were sown when a Sooey/Knockalassa combination, called St. Joseph's, contested the 1966 Under 16 and Minor county finals. The U16 team lost to Múire Naófa, but the Minors won the county championship, beating Drumcliffe in the final. The two clubs joined forces again in 1969 to contest the Senior Championship, but lost in the first round against a Gurteen/Bunninadden combination.
By the beginning of the 1970's however, both clubs had fallen on lean times and members of both clubs began to realise the absurdity of two Junior clubs, based in the same parish, struggling to put out teams from a relatively small pool of players. Therefore, in March 1972, the Shamrock Gaels club was formed.
The name 'Shamrock Gaels' was suggested by the late Paddy Gannon, who had played for a team called Shamrocks whilst he was living in London. The name was especially appropriate given the fact that the Club was formed on St Patricks Day.
The new club got off to a flying start, winning the Minor title in 1972 and again in 1973.
At Senior level, Shamrock Gaels played their first game against Tulsk in a challenge match played in Tulsk. Their first competitive win at Senior level came with a win against Craobh Rua in the League in June, 1972.
In 1975, Sligo's first Connacht title in 47 years was an especially proud day for Shamrock Gaels, with Gaels clubman, Frank Henry, lining out at left-half forward on the victorious team.
From the very outset, Shamrock Gaels adopted a progressive youth policy and this was reflected in them contesting eight Under 14 County Finals between 1973 and 1984, winning four titles. The nucleus of these panels would go on to win three successive Under 21 titles in 1987, 1988 and 1989.
In 1990, the Club formed a Bord na nÓg, which would go on to transform under-age activities within the club.
The culmination of all of these years of effort, both on and off the playing fields, was the winning of the Senior County Championship in 1990, when Shamrock Gaels beat Curry 2-7 to 0-7 in the Final. It was a proud moment for the club when Gaels captain John Quinn lifted the Owen B Hunt Cup for the very first time. It was a particularly poignant day for the founding members of the Club, who at the time were still active members - these included the founding Chairman, Paddy Joe Quigley, Mick Kelly, Leo Kearns, Dominic Quinn, Paddy Gethins, Jim Gilmartin and Tommy Mc Dermott. The Club went on to build upon this success when they annexed the title again in 1992, when Noel Willis captained his side to a 2-11 to 0-8 win over St Patrick's in the final.
The next major development in the Club was the official opening of Shamrock Gaels Park on Sunday 3rd June 1998. The opening of Shamrock Gaels Park was the realisation of a long cherished ambition to have their own grounds and was the result of many long years of hard work at fundraising through the late 1980's and early 1990's - the most memorable event was soloing a football from Croke Park to Riverstown in 1988.
Today the Club continues to thrive at all levels, with over 400 members from U6 to Senior level and a stong team of volunteers helping with coaching and club activities. The Club fields teams at all grades in Mens and Ladies Football. In recent times the Gaels have enjoyed considerable success at Minor and U20 levl. With the nucleus of these winning teams forming the current Senior team, no doubt the Gaels will enjoy further Senior success in the not to distant future.
As part of their 40th anniversary celebrations, the Club honoured the surviving members of the founding committee. The original committe was; Patron: Very Rev. M Canon Brennan, P.P., President: Rev. M Owens, C.C., Chairman: Paddy Joe Quigley, Vice Chairmen: Mick Kelly and Brett Bartley, Secretary: Leo Kearns, Assistant Secretary: Liam Dennedy, Joint Treasurers: Dominic Quinn and Paddy Gethins, Delegate to Divisional Board: Gerry Conboy,
Delegates to County Board: Paddy Joe Quigley and Gerry Conboy, Selection Committee: Chairman, Secretary, Padraig Lang, Paddy Gannon and Gerry Conboy, Committee: Gerry Conboy, Paddy Gannon, Jim Gilmartin, Tommy Feeney, Tom Flanagan, Padraig Lang, Tommy Fowley, Johnny Lyons, Tommy Kelly, Tommy Noone, Tommy Mc Dermott, Tom Joe Hamilton, Seamus Kerrigan, Seamus Mc Cormack and Peter Torsney.
The past Chairmen of the club were also honoured - Paddy Joe Quigley (1972-1975), Gerry Keaney RIP (1976-1987), Seamus Cawley (19881998), Andrew Hannon (1999-2006).
The club also launched a Club Hall of Fame. The first receipient was Sligo great - Frank White, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Club's recent Dinner Dance. Frank is a native of Castlebaldwin and considered by many to be one of Sligo's finest ever Gaelic footballers.
In 1941, when he was only a Minor, Frank played on the Knockalassa Senior team that contested the county final, and in the same year, Frank made his debut for Sligo, when he played at full-forward in the Connaught Minor Championship against Roscommon.
He made his Connaught Senior Championship debut in Boyle in 1943 against Leitrim and in the same year played in the League and Championship Finals with Knockalassa and played in the 1944 League Final the following year with Knockalassa.
Frank joined An Garda Siochana in December 1943 and his first posting was to the Rosses in Donegal, where he met and married Kathleen Duggan, a native of Dungloe.
Frank and Kathleen had seven children. Dungloe subsequently became Frank's club and he soon came to the attention of the county team, going on to play with the Donegal Senior team in 1944, 1945, and 1946, in which year he was appointed Donegal Senior captain.
At this stage, Frank answered the tug on the heartstrings and the call of his native county and lined out for Sligo in the 1947 Connaught Championship, a year in which they reached the Connaught Final, only to be beaten by Roscommon. In 1948, Frank played at midfield on the Sligo team that played Kerry in a memorable National Football League quarter-final played in the Showgrounds.
In a distinguished 10 year career with Sligo, Frank played in two subsequent Connaught Finals in 1954 and 1956 and in his three Connaught Final appearances he played in three different positions, midfield, full-back and full-forward.
During this period Frank also had the honour of captaining Sligo at the official opening of Markievicz Park in 1955, when Sligo played Mayo.
He was also a regular on the Connaught panel between 1948 and 1955 and in 1951 won a coveted Railway Cup medal. He also had the unique distinction of playing for another province, Ulster, in his inter-provincial career.
In his final year of football, he returned to play with Donegal in the 1957 Ulster championship, in which year he also helped his beloved Dungloe club to a Senior Football Championship and in 2003 he was honoured by the Dungloe club by being selected on their Hall of Fame team.
Truly it can be said that Frank White is one of Sligo's greatest footballing sons and the Club are immensely pleased to have inducted him as the very first member of the Shamrock Gaels' Hall of Fame.