The passing of the flame at St Mary’s

June 16, 2017

SIGERSON Cup holders St Mary’s University are planning an event for later in the year to mark the passing of the flame through the college since the 1950s.

The trophy resides in the west Belfast college for the second time in its history, the first having been in 1989, yet that is only part of the tale of their history in Gaelic games.

Despite repeated requests to be accepted into the Sigerson Cup, it wasn’t until 1988 that they were finally accepted – and they responded by going on to win it the following season.

But Gaelic football had been around the colleges for almost four decades by then. It wasn’t until the introduction of secondary schools around the country in the 1950s that the impetus came.

Out of St Mary’s now were coming trained PE teachers that had proper gym facilities in these new schools with which to promote the game.

Borne of these new educational establishments were secondary school leagues, which pitted local schools against each other. The idea eventually spread out of Belfast and across the whole of Ulster.

The teachers that were behind arranging the games and competitions had all been guided by the hand of Derry legend Jim McKeever, who lectured at the college from 1957 until his retirement in 1992.

That it took them so long to win acceptance into the Sigerson Cup shouldn’t detract from the level of talent that passed through the college’s halls.

For instance, in 1956 they travelled to Croke Park and beat a St Patrick’s TC Drumcondra in an annual challenge game. That St Patrick’s team would come to Belfast the following May and win before that summer beating St Vincent’s in the Dublin SFC, ending a 13-year unbeaten sequence for the Marino club.

The flame has passed from hand to hand since. Art McCrory, for instance, was goalkeeper for St Mary’s in 1958. He studied under Jim McKeever before moving on to teach in Dungannon.

Some years later, under McRory’s wing for teaching practice would fall one Paddy Tally, who went on to coach this year’s Sigerson Cup winning team, creating a chain all the way back to the early days of the college.

Now they are planning a celebration of all things GAA in the college, which will be held on September 9, and organisers are asking for any sporting memorabilia to be brought forward so that it can be displayed.

“If anybody has – and they will have – material in the forms of photographs, cuttings, jerseys, any form of memorabilia, if they get to our contacts in their own county it would be greatly appreciated,” said former Ranch student Jimmy Smyth.

County contacts for memorabilia

Antrim: (Paddy Diamond); (Carl McCabe); (Hugh McGettigan); (Rafael Gatt)

Armagh: (Jimmy Smyth); (Tommy Rodgers); (Oliver Short)

Derry: (Sean Bradley); (Kevin Toner); (Danny Quinn)

Down: (Barney McAleenan); (PJ McGee); (Peadar Hynes)

Fermanagh: (Pat Blake); (Peter McGinnity)

Tyrone: (Donal Magee); (Paddy Tally); (Paddy Linden); (Pat McGivern)

By Cahair O’Kane published in The Irish News