A Brief History Of The Club



Click here to view St Clarets Roll Of Honour



So how and when did this whole St Clarets GFC thing begin? Well, the decade was the psychedelic ‘70s, the place was Hayes in west London and the plan was simple: encourage young English born players to play Gaelic football, develop these young players through the various under-age competitions in London and finally, when the time was right, send them out into the adult arena to test their skills against those of their Irish-born contemporaries.

The plan was plausible, possible, positively simplistic and relatively easy to execute …. or at least it should have been!

The one stumbling block was the reluctance of some to facilitate the transition of young footballers from under-age competition in London to adult football, a transition that would have seen these young English-born players testing themselves against players generally vastly more experienced but not necessarily more competent at the sport. It was always going to be a challenge, but it was never going to be impossible. All that the players needed was an opportunity.

Too many though didn’t see the overall game plan as a viable project and instead preferred to limit the opportunities of the home-grown talent, only using them in the case of emergencies, preferring instead to fill their playing rosters with some of the countless Irish players who were quite literally coming to London by the plane load.

Birth of the club


And that’s when it happened, that’s when one Gaelic football team based in Hayes split like an atom and became two different clubs, that’s when St Clarets GFC was formed out of St Brendan’s GFC and a whole new story was started - a story that some 35-years later is still going strong and a story that still does everything it can to hold true to its original principles and the ideals of its founders.

The architect-in-chief of the plan for St Clarets GFC Hayes was undoubtedly the wandering Kerry man Denis McCarthy RIP, a man born in the Kingdom, raised in Wicklow but forever part of the Gaeldom of London, a man who really did believe in the talents of the young players he had invested years in helping to develop and a man who was determined to show that there was a logic in his thinking.

Others followed his path and brought their sons with them. Men with a deep affinity to the GAA but an even greater desire to see their kids carry on the traditions they had been brought up with, men such as Frank Gilmartin RIP (Sligo), the Kerry triumvirate of Mick O’Shea, Danny Collins and Brendan Curran along with Jim O’Regan from Limerick to name but a few.

Young guns


Progress was slow but steady. Some of the young players had gained a little experience before but had been used all too sparingly at senior level by their former club, but now they were ready to take a step up on their own. Quality young athletes like Kevin Gilmartin, Paul Treanor, Denis McCarthy jnr, John McCarthy, Eamon O’Shea, Brendan Collins, Tommy Quigley, John Carney, Laurence Forde, Mick Flanagan and Mark Mellett, all good players, all in need of an extended opportunity to prove their worth, all capable of proving their worth. Another wandering soul named Dave Roe, a man with no tangible Irish connections, also appeared and lit up many games during his time with the club.

Click on image to enlarge.

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(1) One of the successful under-age teams from the late 1970s along with mentors Denis McCarthy, Danny Collins, Jack Carolan and Mick O'Shea. (2) Players after a 7-a-side tournament c.1984 with a guest appearance from Jim O'Regan.

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(3) A St Clarets Championship side c.1984. (4) Early Clarets in colour -winners again of course.


By the early 1980s this young group were beginning to show their true potential, to the point that they contested their first Intermediate Championship Final in 1982, losing to an emerging Tir Chonaill Gaels side, a side that then went on to win the Senior Championship in London the following year. But that defeat wasn’t viewed as a set back, that was never the St Clarets way, but it was a start of something, it was a base to build from and proof, as if it required any further confirmation, that young London-born players, given the opportunity, could survive at Intermediate level in London and possibly higher if they were given the chance.

First silverware


The under-age development continued with the next generation of London-born players starting to come through the ranks. Mayo man Kevin Lynott’s three sons, Kevin, Colm and Gerry all played in the 1989 team which finally landed that first key piece of silverware for St Clarets, the London Intermediate Football Championship, with that prize bringing with it the right to play Senior football in 1990 for the very first time.

In total there were nine players on that 1989 team who had been brought through the under-age ranks in London and several more, the likes of Colin Keane, Barry Wallace, Adrian Adair and Paul Myers were on the substitute list that day.

As important as the London players were, it wasn’t always about the English guys. There were Irish born players on the team too. A strong Galway contingent included Martin Hession, Danny Grehan and John Carey, while Ollie Walsh represented the other western powerhouse, Mayo, and they too were all key to the plan in 1989, while another Galwegian, John Kelly, injured for most of 1989, assumed the role of manager and carried it off with great success, a steady head in the occasional madness that sometimes consumed the St Clarets dressing room.

The cause was helped further by the drive and intensity of Derry man John Heaney, who missed out on the Championship year but did so much to further the development of the club in his time with the club. He was a born winner and demanded much from the players who played with him, he raised the bar for those who played with him.

The project that had been started with great confidence and conviction in 1975 was proving to be worthwhile.

And there were other successes too. Denis McCarthy jnr won an All Ireland Junior medal with London when they defeated Cork in the 1986 final, while Colm Lynott and John Collins both represented London on an historic trip made by the London Minor team to New York in 1987. St Claret’s were starting to become part of the establishment.

Senior was more difficult though. London in the early 1990s was awash with quality footballers and St Clarets preference of sticking to their principles, whilst noble, also made competing at senior difficult, and after a couple of years the inevitable happened and the club went back down to the intermediate grade, a more natural habitat for them at the time.

Re-grouping


New blood came on board in helping to organise the club and the addition of people like Charlie McEvoy (Offaly), Mick Keane (Galway) and the late Tony “Spinner” McLaughlin (Tyrone) brought with it an influx of new players and new energy. Their enthusiasm provided much needed oxygen to the club.

Meath man John Bennett was also a crucial part of the club in the mid-1990s, driving the side on from midfield and along with him, players such as the Galway duo of Donnacha Ryder and Mattie Kelly, who would both became fixtures on the team over the years, came along to galvanise the playing side even further.

The following years saw the club yo-yo between senior and intermediate, although they always struggled to make any huge impression at senior level and were generally scrapping for survival rather than silverware at the end of each season when they were at that level although a return to senior football did materialise in the late 1990s.

However, the development of young players had continued through the work of Monaghan man Brendan Sherry and his Hillingdon Gaels team. St Claret’s inherited a host of new players into their ranks, most notably Brendan’s son Stevan, Dermot Wallace and John McDermott, all of whom were to be instrumental in the club winning the Intermediate Championship again in 1998, on a team that still contained many of the veterans of the 1989 team such as Martin Hession, John Kelly, Gerry Lynott and Colm Lynott. The club was developing a family-feel to it and as young men matured into family men, they brought their families along to the club with them. The club was fast becoming part of these people’s identities.

By that stage St Clarets had also added Offaly man Tony Murphy to their number and Murphy was to go on and bring great honour to the club in his time as a London senior player and also later as captain of the London junior team. Others from the club to represent London at senior level included Martin Hession, Brian McNiece, Stevan Sherry, Paddy Quinn, Mickey McConomy and the three Lynott brothers Colm, Gerry and the youngest Patrick.

And along the way the club was to have what has been, to date at least, its one and only dalliance with the real big time, the 2002 Senior Football Final, and as the football gods would deem it fit, they were pitted against their mother club and local rivals, St Brendans. Fittingly it was one of the local born players who captained the team that year, with Stevan Sherry leading the troops.

Alas the Claret’s efforts were in vain, but that’s not to say that they didn’t leave a great impression of themselves that year. Nicknamed the “Crazy Gang” due to their refusal to pay any sort of respect to the more established members of the London football hierarchy, St Clarets brought a smile to the face of London football in 2002.

Still featuring many of the heroes of 1989, they had also added several very capable Irish players to their ranks in the likes of Declan McGeeney (Roscommon), Gerry Daly (Cork), Brian McNiece (Armagh), Eric Kinlon (Kildare), Alex McIndoo (Kerry) and the irrepressible Tyrone man Mickey McConomy. They reached that final in 2002 not because of luck, but because they deserved to and even beat the mighty Tir Chonaill Gaels en-route, Championship revenge at last for 1982.

But the club weren’t content just to rest on their laurels at that stage. In 2003 they lifted their first senior trophy winning the prestigious Tipperary Cup, thanks greatly to the efforts of another Tyrone man Paddy Quinn, who captained the side and several of his fellow Tyrone men like Paddy Donaghy and his brother Aiden.

Recognition


Suddenly St Claret’s were being viewed with a far greater level of respect than they had been used to. Further to that, veteran goalkeeper Paul Myers was named London Footballer of the Year in 2004, the ultimate acknowledgement that Denis McCarthy’s vision for the club and for London born players had at last come to be realised. The previous year Patrick Lynott had won an All Star award for his performances in what was his first full season playing for the club.

On the same evening that Myers collected his award, Denis himself was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to the GAA in London. St Claret’s had finally arrived.

Since then there has been further success on the field, with yet another Intermediate Championship being added to the trophy cabinet in 2004, at the end of what most people regarded was the most competitive and entertaining Intermediate Championship to be seen in London for many years. That particular success also lead to club legend Tony Murphy being given the honour of captaining the London Junior Football team in 2005, when they re-captured the British Championship for the first time in almost a decade. Aiden Donaghy was also part of that team.

However there was a glitch in the planning. After the generation of Dermot Wallace and Stevan Sherry had graduated from the production rooms, the supply ran dry and St Claret’s no longer possessed any sort of underage system.

The next generation


Suddenly there were no new faces coming through and the reliance turned to Irish-born players, never a situation St Clarets have ever been overly comfortable with or flourished in. Something had to be done and it was as Denis McCarthy jnr, now a father of young boys himself, who stepped in to start to develop the under-age system within St Clarets again and so started the production line once more. Like father, like son, a little case of history repeating itself.

The last few years have on paper been a struggle for the club, but there is always far more to the St Clarets story than meets the eye. That work started by Denis is now starting to show its returns as many of these young men now follow in the footsteps of their fathers and progress on to the club’s senior team, lads like Denis’ own sons Sean and Joe, along with Luke Kelly, son of current Chairman and former player John Kelly.

Now that Denis has moved on to take over the role as Senior team manager, his work with the under-age is being continued by Colm Lynott and Mick Buckley, both of whom are working tirelessly to make sure the heritage of the club is maintained. And of course none of this would be possible were it not for the selfless sacrifices made by so many parents that help to facilitate their children’s involvement in the club.

Whilst the struggles on the field will always be met with a stubborn resistance by St Clarets and a realisation that sometimes it just isn’t your day, the one thing that they have developed effortlessly is the sense of “club” that so dominates every match that they play.

The WAGS


Much of the credit for this falls at the feet of the wives and mothers of the team members and following the path first walked by the incomparable Rose McCarthy, the next generation of St Claret’s WAGs are proving that they too are worthy of praise.

Marie Hession, daughter of Denis and Rose, Teresa Kelly, Colleen Lynott, Theresa Lynott and Caroline Murphy, to name just a few, are all loyally devoted to the St Claret’s cause and anything but fair-weather supporters. And along with the WAGs came the kids, the picnics and the family days out, proving that being a footballer’s wife isn’t all about big sun-glasses, bigger hair and even bigger handbags. A Claret’s game without them on the sidelines, just wouldn’t be a game.

Few if any clubs in London have such a family feel to them and it is that philosophy that will hopefully ensure that in time, the sons of the current generation of players will be pulling on the green and white hoops and representing the Crazy Gang from Hayes in Middlesex for many years to come.



St Clarets GFC Roll Of Honour

1976

Under-16 Championship winners
Under 18 League runners-up

1977

Under 14 Championship winners
Under 14 League winners

1978

Under 16 Championship runners-up
Under 18 Championship winners

1979

Under 16 Championship winners
Under18 Championship runners up

1980

Under 12 Championship winners
Under 12 League winners
Under 21 Championship winners

1982

Under 14 Championship winners
Under 14 League winners
All Ireland Under 14 Feile winners
Intermediate Championship runners-up

1983

Under 21 Championship runners up

1985

Jerry Keane Cup winners

1989

Intermediate Championship winners
Sean Shields Cup winners
League Division 2 winners
Murphy Cup runners-up

1990

Under 18 Championship winners

1991

John Joe Menehan Cup winners

1993

League Division 2 runners up

1996

John Joe Menehan Cup winners

1999

Intermediate Football Championship winners

2002

Senior Football Championship runners-up

2003

Tipperary Cup winners

2004

Intermediate Football Championship winners

2010

Under 12 B Championship winners
Under 12 League Division 2 winners

2011

Under 14 Championship Shield winners
Under 14 League winners
Conrad Ryan Cup winners

2012

Under 16 League winners
ABC Championship Under 14 winners
ABC Championship Under 16 winners
Conrad Ryan Cup winners (Under 16)
U16 Championship runners-up

2013

Under 10 Parnells Plate Blitz winners
ABC Championship Under 10 Shield runners-up
Under 16 Championship winners
ABC Championship Under 16 winners
Under 16 League winners
Under 18 Championship winners (in conjunction with St Kiernans).



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