Drumragh Sarsfields are enjoying good numbers at training, bolstered by their fantastic facilties
“They have some excellent coaches”
Peter Doherty is a Derry man who has lived in Tyrone for a number of years. He played for Derry, and also coached the senior teams.
He has been one of the key men in the Drumragh club in Tyrone, and has helped set up coaching structures for underage teams, and even managed their seniors at one point.
Doherty is in a good position to explain where Drumragh are at in their coaching progression.
“They have got a good structure in there, and they have got good coaches. There’s a support network that is there that is important.
“I have been trying to encourage them to go and do their badges. Coaching is about development and Drumragh have bought into that. The have some excellent coaches, both male and female coaches.
“There is great commitment from those coaches.”
He said that the club are seeing numbers grow at underage level, some are bigger than others, but he says that they are really showing great signs of progress.
The reason for their good numbers has to do with facilities.
“Since they have moved to Clanabogan there is less chance of them breaking up. They have established a great identity. That has helped to catapult them. St Pat’s park (in Omagh) wasn’t the same. Fragmentation doesn’t happen now. They have a great facility out there.”
In 2019 they showed their progress when they beat Aghyaran in the Grade three u-16 final.
For Doherty, the club is an established grade two team, and could improve. But improving skills is more important than moving up the grades.
“You will see at underage at grade three they are always punching above their weight.
“You look at the tables over the last few years, they are appearing in those grade two tables very favourably.
“They want to get people on county teams. They want to get grade two success.
“It would be great to win grade one titles. It is better for them to build a foundation where players are enjoying themselves. Because they don’t have massive numbers then everyone gets playing. That is very important.”
He says their coaching is working, as it is evident in the ability of their senior teams.
“You can see cases of players who have learned the basic skills. You can look at players at senior level (in other teams) basic skills can be missing, kicking with both feet, the action of kicking, but in Drumragh you can see that that is all being taught.”
If there is a challenge facing Drumragh, then it is retention of players. The Clanabogan site has helped to stop that, but they will still see players transfer to Omagh, or to drift away.
“You are beside Omagh, players are going to migrate there. That is going to happen.
They are in a rural area, and that can have an effect on clubs like Drumragh.”
Perhaps that happens more on the mens side of things though, as Drumragh have a fantastic women’s element, and have two All-Stars in Neamh Woods and Sinead McLaughlin.
“They have a lot of women involved in every aspect
“They have All Stars from the ladies, from a junior club that is some going. That is a catalyst for the girls.”
Seasons To Remember
Junior joy, Reserves success and u-16 glories
The club won the Junior championship in 1999, beating Stewartstown to win their second junior title.
Drumragh’s u-21s reached the grade two final in 2014. That was played before the county final when Omagh beat Carrickmore. It was an exciting day for the club to feature on that day.
Drumragh won the reserve championship and they also managed to reach the play off series but were beaten by a point.
Another Reserve championship was won, and an u-16 title.
Drumragh away days
“We ended up getting into First class”
One of the memorable trips away was in 1981, when Ciaran McGlone organised for a group to stay with host families in Manchester.
Ciaran is a relation of Fabian McGlone’s, who is a committee member and club referee, and was over there working as a teacher.
The group of u-12s and u-14s did a sponsored walk so that they could go to Manchester for the weekend.
40-50 lads got the boat over then got the train to Manchester.
Fabian McGlone said: “We ended up getting into First class. There was no one on it. And it was Good Friday. Perhaps the sheer weight of numbers put Train conductors off.”
They played matches against the local clubs, and they went to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play West Brom.
The host club St Brendan’s had a reception on the Sunday.
The following year they went to Kerry, thanks to a link up with Pat Spillane, they went to his club Templenoe.
Fabian McGlones said: “We had a good team in those years. Those trips helped to bond those teams. It was a real tight knit group.”
They went to Salthill in 1984 (pictured right).
McGlone said: “At that stage a few of the boys were slipping towards drink. That was the beginning of the end for some of them.”
An important game last season
In previous years Drumragh have struggled to beat the teams that have been above them, precisely the six or seven teams who have reached the play off places. But that changed last year when they beat Castlederg in Castlederg.
Eoin McGread said: “It was a brilliant game, and a hard-won game. We were down at half time but came back and won by two points. There was great optimism then after that. It showed that we are improving.”
“The work that has went in over
the last ten years has been immense”
Drumragh’s early years saw them playing in St Patrick’s Park in Omagh. However ever since they moved to their facility in Clanabogan things have changed.
Fabian McGlone said: “The biggest change in our history has been the facilities. I played all my football in St Patrick’s Park behind the fire station (in Omagh).
“The new facility at Clanabogan has meant that there attracted people who have moved to Omagh.
“Before we used to be all locals. If I called out to the club now I wouldn’t know half the people. Back when I was playing I knew everyone.
“The change is for the better. You could go out there and there would be u-10 blitz and there are great numbers. It is a great improvement.”
Another Committee member, Eoin McGread said: “Our facilities are second to none and that is down to a lot of hard work from our members in year gone by, and the strength of the volunteers.
“The work that has went in over the last ten years has been immense. I can remember going in and training at St Patrick’s park. There’s a barbed wire fence at one end. I can remember getting to Saturday training and finding out that someone had forgot the key. That meant that the warm up was to climb the fence.
“This year we have added a proper sized gym to the facility as well. We have a proper gym in a separate building outside the club house..”
For McGread, the move to Clanabogan was inspirational.
“Moving out to Clanabogan happened because of the group of members who were able to plan, organise and execute it.That is what I want to do. You want to look at the next five, ten or 20 years and find out how we can build on that.”
Chairperson Aidy O’Kane said: “The future is bright, Clanabogan Park is home to our youth. Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.”
“It needs to be innovative
for people to take part”
Drumragh’s success at fundraising comes from their eagerness to be entertaining. They have tried to put on events that are different, and unusual, and on a few occasions they have caught the imagination of the Gaels in Tyrone.
Committee member Eoin McGread said: “The last few years Drumragh has been known to have been very innovative with regards to fund-raisers.
“Back in 2011 we had the great solo run where we did a relay down to Dublin with a Gaelic football. 150 members took part. In 2011 we had only moved in to the club rooms in two years. That fund-raiser allowed us to put money into the training ground.”
Their next big event was ‘the Great game’ in 2015.
“We successfully held the most amount of people take part in a Gaelic Football match, we had over 500 people take part in a match with continuous subs.”
Perhaps the event that really excited folks in Tyrone came in 2017 when they asked entrants to pay to select the best 15 Tyrone players ever.
Those who selected the same team as the three Drumragh judges won the top prize.
“It needs to be innovative for people to take part.” McGread said
On field optimism for the years ahead
Fabian McGlone believes that Drumragh Sarsfields have great potential to be even more competitive on the field of play.
He said: “There are a lot of good lads coming through and it is good that they are being blooded. They have two Montgomery lads there who were on the Omagh CBS MacRory Cup team last year, Ronan Maguire, Malachy McManus. The potential is there.
“You would hope that them boys would push on and help us get up to Intermediate football, because junior football is tough. If they get up to Intermediate football it would be better than Junior football where there is a lot of thumping The reserve team last year was all young boys. They need to give them young boys a chance to push on.”
Eoin McGread is one of the senior players on the team. He explained what the feeling is among the current players.
“We reached the play offs three years ago and lost by a point up in Derrytresk. There was an expectation then that we should pushing forward. It hasn’t quite happened in the last few years but there is optimism there that the team is getting stronger particularly with youth players.”
Last year newer players were blooded into the senior team, such as Aaron Montgomery. He has been involved with Omagh CBS, Tyrone minors and u-21s.
“There is great talent coming through from the youth structures. The ones like myself who are on the senior team are looking over our shoulder and we are pushing ourselves on.”
For McGread, the club have made great strides in recent years, and he thinks things can get better.
“There was a period there when I started playing seniors six or seven years ago when were, if not rock bottom, second or third from the bottom in grade three. I think that was because there was a huge age gap when we came through from minors. The group ahead of me was Gareth Haughey’s age group and he was always four years ahead of me.
“There was a huge gap there and it has take a huge amount of time for us to transition from minor to seniors. But it definitely feels like we are on an upward trajectory.
“We are a long way away from where we were a couple of years ago.”
Anniversary gets closer
The Drumragh club began in 1972 and was the result of an amalgamation.
Pat McGlone was one of the founding members. He said: “The reason the club was started was that Tattyreagh and Tattysallagh, couldn’t field teams at underage.
“A couple came to me and said if they could join up.We entered an underage team in 1970 and we played under the name Tattyreagh/Tattysallagh. We had a very good team.”
When the group got older they wanted to play together and they lobbied for the two teams to join up.
“We had a meeting and there were 18 for and two against joining up, so we amalgamated.”
They are looking forward to 2022 when they celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Chairman Aidy O’Kane said: “The names synonymous with Drumragh 1972-2022 are Starrs, Mullin, Campbell, McGread McGlone and Quinn – 50 years on those families are stlll associated with the club. All these memorabilia flashbacks during covid have directed our minds to updating our Silver Jubilee booklet, so our fastidious PRO Paddy Griffin has already set his mind to that. We shall remember those who set us on our way, from Bradley’s Holm through St Patrick’s Park to Clanabogan. Celebrated games shall be recalled, and highlights such as the visit of Uachtarain na hEireann in May 2018.”
Unique to our club
King Billy on a GAA jersey
In 1972 when the club was formed, they called themselves Sarsfields. The name was settled on by Hugh Gallagher, father of the current commmitte member Patrick Gallagher. The club were the first in Tyrone to be called Sarsfields and there was a little confusion about what the man looked like. They were told that Sarsfields was involved with the siege of Limerick, and that most importantly he rode a horse. But nobody had ever seen a picture of Patrick Sarsfield, the man in question. Pat McGlone was one of the founding members, but along with him was a man called Paul Doris. So they had got a set of jerseys but they needed a crest.
So not knowing what he looked like, and having no picture of him Paul Doris suggested that they use a picture of King Billy, William of Orange, the man whom Patrick Sarsfields was battling against in 1690. They selected the one of King Billy riding the horse.
They picked out the image and gambled that no one would know any the wiser.
Pat McGlone said: “That is the truth. We were going to Brocagh, Mountjoy, the Windmill, all them places with King Billy on the jersey. Nobody knew who it was, nobody would have looked at the jersey anyway.
“But the image was of King Billy riding up on that horse, and that was supposed to be Patrick Sarsfields. Paul said to me ‘don’t worry, we’ll get away with it’.
“They were in a hurry to get the crest on the jerseys.”
The thing is though, there is no evidence of that jersey as they have all disappeared. So if anyone believes that they have an original jersey from the 1972 team, get in touch.
The heart of the
Drumragh Sarsfields response to the Covid-19 outbreak saw them join with Omagh St Enda’s, Drumragh parish and st Vincent and de Paul in order to come together to provide support for those who are in need during this time of lockdown.
Their efforts serve to highlight how much the club cares about the community.
Eoin McGread, who is part of the committee and a senior team member, said that a host of club members were keen to help out in any way that they could.
“Any GAA club is at the heart of the community and when members are in difficult there are always people who want to help.
“In Drumragh everyone has different skills that we can use to help.”