Erin's Own GAC

In 1923, a young priest with a passion for sport and hailing from Tyrella near Ballykinlar in Co Down moved to instigate a GAA club at An Carraigín following the surge of interest in the Games. This came as part of the Gaelic Revival period within The Feevagh (An Fíobha), but also for protection of our Irish culture and community during a turbulent period of Ireland's history. He was a Curate residing on Cargin Hill at the Sacred Heart Chapel called Fr Dan Magennis. Given the extreme political pressures applied to the Toome (Tuaim) area at the time, he recognised the power of sport in bringing people together as a collective and formed the new club as an outlet for community, socialising, drama, Irish music, language, literature, culture and sport, all within familiar settings, similar ideologies and kinship.

A place for people to safely express their Irish identity, culture and beliefs, while protecting and growing the powerful community bonds in Cargin and Duneane Parish. A key group within this was the Cargin Robert Emmet Flute Band, known locally as 'The Emmet Band' and around which the sports teams were based upon. The new club was not just a sporting organisation, it was a Comhaltas movement of the family, club and parish with a football team giving it expression. It belonged to the people, representative of them, their heritage and their identity.

Key members of the original Clann Na hÉireann committee included Arthur Devlin, Mick Mallon, Barney Murphy, Gabriel Beatson, Richard Johnston, Patrick Close, John McCourt, Frank Gamble and Hughie Dowd. The name Erin's Own (Clann Na hÉireann) was the suggestion of our first manager, Mr Liam O'Connor, and was titled after an old team that had existed in his home area of Ballycastle, North Co Mayo. Liam would eventually move to Knockloughrim and form the famous Erin's Own Lavey, later settling in Co Carlow becoming Chairman of St Patricks, Tullow GAC.

Clann Na hÉireann as a name for this new movement was unanimously agreed as it gave a clear statement and reminder to us all that even in the difficult period post-partition when our very identity was at threat, we in Cargin were and always would be 'of Ireland' and partition would not separate or remove us. We would forever be Ireland's own sons and daughters - 'the Children of Ireland'.

In this formative decade Barney Lynn, William Young, Pat McCloskey, Frank Gamble, Pat Corr, Charlie Doherty, Paddy Lynn, Ned Quinn, PB Laverty, Charlie Totten and John Murphy drove the club onwards. Una Mallon, Tessie McKeon, Harry Dobbin, Cissie Mallon, Celia Corr, James Johnston, Pat Murphy, Dan McKeever and Mary Gilmore would play key roles in establishing both our sporting arm alongside our cultural aspirations and traditions.

By adopting the existing local townland teams, such as Carlane, Moneynick, Annaghmore and Toome, Erin’s Own Cargin was inspired to grow immeasurably, now one of the first football clubs formed post-partition. This was a landmark venture for SW Antrim and South Derry. Fr Magennis encouraged the creation of a SW Antrim Football League which was duly realised in 1925. Erin's Own entered as a pioneer member and won their first title of that competition in 1928 and then again in 1929. The nickname for the football and hurling teams was 'The Emmet Band' or at times simply, 'The Emmets'.

The earliest Cargin teams in the first 10 years held surnames such as Lynn, Grant, McKenna, Gamble, Barton, Kenny, Corr, O'Donnell, O'Connor, Conway, O'Kane, Totten, Murray, Murphy, Laverty, Pettigrew, Diamond, Toner, Beatson, Mallon, Kane, Johnston, Magee, McStocker, McCloskey, Maguire, Doherty, McCann, Fulton, McErlean, Doyle, McLarnon, Close and Neeson.

As part of the ongoing Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) Irish Cultural movement in The Feevagh, the parish needed a place within which to realise the Irish heritage and social centre that Cargin Hill had been growing, and so the Emmet Hall was constructed in 1932 across the road and between the Sacred Heart Chapel and Mallon's Bar on the Staffordstown Road. It was fittingly opened by Fr Magennis. Built completely by volunteer spirit and effort by The Emmet Band, it gave a solid home to the Gaelic spirit of the Parish.

In 1926, due to the growing popularity of Gaelic Football in Cargin and SW Antrim, another GAA unit formed in the Parish called 'Lámh Dhearg Toome', evolving out of the Toome Social Club and Toome FC led by Joe Grant, Owen Toal, Jimmy Gribben, Joe McKinless, Monaghan's Tom Lynch and another Mayo man, Michael O'Grady. Fr Magennis and Michael Mallon were also heavily involved in getting this new GAA unit up and running. Some Erin's Own players from the village area joined the new team and just 3 years later Lámh Dhearg won the Antrim Senior Football Championship which was a remarkable feat only 1 year after winning the Antrim Junior Championship in 1928. Lámh Dhearg gradually faded from the scene shortly after their historical achievement and by the early 1950s had ceased to exist.

Erins Own and Lámh Dhearg were traditionally close and their members integrated seamlessly into Erin's Own, not just from the work done by Fr Magennis and Michael Mallon of Erin's Own to facilitate their establishment but primarily due to their strong familial, chapelry, farming and fishing ties. They also socially mixed as part of Conradh na Gaeilge activities, cultural outlook and common ancestry thereby giving an inextricable link between Clann Na hÉireann and the old Lámh Dhearg club. People such as Joe Grant would be heavily linked with both clubs. The descendants of the notable Lámh Dhearg members who came to Clann Na hÉireann are well-known and have always been and continue to be at the core of the club. We give tribute to them with our away football strip being the old colours of Lámh Dhearg and their 'Magpies' attire, and also our Camogie strip being 'hooped' to reflect the old club jersey.

One former Lámh Dhearg member to note was the forward-thinking Brian Devlin. Behind the scenes, Brian was instrumental in promoting the move of Cargin’s pitch to the field of another previous Lámh Dhearg member, Sean McCann, on the Shore Road (Bóthar Na Trá) and played their first match there as residents on the 22nd November, 1953. Now having found their permanent home following numerous venues across the Cargin area, the club acquired the grounds from Sean in March 1970 giving a stable base from which to build. It is here that they have flourished on and off the field, developing both players and facilities continuously. Since their arrival at McCann's Field they have collected a whole host of titles, moving steadily to the summit of Antrim club football.

In their formative years while being resolute in SW Antrim, the Clann Na hÉireann men found the going tough in terms of claiming silverware on an All-County basis. It was not until 1938 that they collected their first County title in hurling as part of an amalgamation (under the name Erin's Own, Cargin) with near neighbours Creggan Kickhams and Tír Na nÓg Randalstown, by winning the 1938 Junior Hurling Championship and followed this up by winning the Senior hurling championship (Under the name Tír Na nÓg) in 1939.

The breakthrough for Cargin football came after 30 years in 1953 when we won the County Junior Football title achieving senior status for the first time, spring boarding from the Minor team of 1944 who collected the club's first Minor Championship. A football generation later, we obtained our first Senior football championship in 1974, again launched from the superb Minor teams of the late 60s.

Since 1953, Clann Na hÉireann have collected a host of titles at all levels and have gradually moved to the forefront of Antrim Football and Camogie. Our members, such as Peadar Totten and Micky McNabb were at the beginning of the revival of Rounders in Ireland, with Erin's Own winning All-Ireland titles in both Male and Female competitions. Hurling was played at various stages although football was the primary sport, Camogie was reintroduced and we had our first Senior team of the modern era in 2015. Ladies Football was started at u8 level and the initial cohort of girls have reached u16 age in 2023 with a Senior Ladies team to be started in 2024. In more recent times we have brought Handball into the club while also assisting the local primary schools in their games. In January 2024 we officially became a 4 Code organisation with Football, Ladies Football, Camogie and Handball becoming the one club.

Our facilities are used 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. With two full size floodlit pitches, all-weather Astroturf training area, contemporary bar and entertainment facilities, Indoor Hall, Handball court, changing rooms, weights room, gymnasium, supporters terracing and a new elevated spectator balcony.

The result of this work will mean Clann Na hÉireann will be among the best equipped and active clubs in Ulster, and one of the very few with all facilities in-house and every requirement in a single location. We are completely self sufficient with no reliance on outside amenities, council grounds, public halls or remote organisations. McCann's Field over the years has been transformed into a modern Sport and Community Hub for the Parish. One Club, One location.

Our history has been a character building journey, often fraught with difficulty and disappointment, tragedy and loss, but also of tremendous pride and joy, highs and elation. The players and members of Erin’s Own have endured and grew, instilling a passion inspired by the efforts of their forebearers, driving onwards to constantly improve and challenge, espousing all that is good about the GAA but also staying true to their roots in Irish culture and the ideals of the Society of United Irishmen and Irishwomen - Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all regardless of religion, race, class or gender. As a result, they will continue to carry the torch of Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, ignited by the spark of the members of 1923.

The Emmet Band has came a long way and the GAA flame still burns bright in the chapelries of Cargin and Toome.

Many congratulations and best wishes to Cargin GAC and to all

its members, young and old, on their 100th anniversary.

What a wonderful achievement.

Go maire sibh cead eile agus carn corna buaite agaibh.

May you see another 100 ……………….and a heap of trophies won.

Best wishes from Liam & Eugene O’Connor and the O’Connor Family