Queensland Gaelic Football:
Past, Present, Future…
In the late 1960′s the hotels, boarding houses and flats in Spring Hill were full of young Irishman who were excavating and laying pipes as part of Lord Mayor Clem Jones’ plan to sewer Brisbane. During these times, hotels were not allowed to open on Sundays and popular publican, the late John Mahon from Leitrim and the late Seamus O’Kane from Co. Cork often talked about having games of hurling and football on Sundays. The word passed around and a meeting was called at John Mahon’s Acadia Hotel. At that first meeting there was no election of Committee as such, John Mahon was made President, Seamus O’Kane started to write down the names and take a few notes, so he was told that he was Secretary and when Michael O’Connor agreed to handle the money, he was announced the Treasurer.
Games were played where possible and they were great sporting days. Our first “home” was at the Nudgee Orphanage fields and later games were held at Iona College. There was never any shortage of players either. Perhaps a big incentive was the keg of beer that John Mahon always tapped on after the games! Nobody talked about affiliating with the Gaelic Athletic Association (G.A.A) down South during these times. People were just enjoying getting together for two games of football on Sundays.
By 1973 many of these young players had followed work and moved elsewhere and thus the casual Sunday friendlies ceased. But not for long! New people came along and the Queensland State branch of the G.A.A. was formed and affiliated with the National body in 1975. This year also saw Queensland send its first ever team to the Australasian Games.
In 1982 the land that is now “Gaelic Park” at Willawong was secured with the Brisbane City Council and it became the headquarters of Gaelic games in Brisbane. At this stage things were still quite informal, with two teams being picked from the assembled group. However in 1983 it was decided that four clubs should be formed to stimulate competition and spirit. This was done on a geographical basis with clubs representing the North, South, East and West.
Souths won the first ever Qld Championship in 1983 and went on to win 6 out of the first 10 Championships. Wests (now Shamrocks) won in the 2nd and 3rd years whilst Norths (sadly no longer in existence) won in 1986. Sarsfields joint the competition in 1986 and a surplus of players from this club led to the formation of John Mitchels the following year. Sarsfields scored their first Championship in 1991 whilst John Mitchels took out titles in 1993, 1997, 1998 & 2002. A sixth club “Harps” entered the competition in 1995 and were quickly successful in 1996. Easts, one of the earliest clubs to be formed, finally scored their first Championship in 1999 and had a very successful 2004 taking out both the Senior and Reserves Championships in the same year, which had only ever been done once prior by John Mitchels in 2002.
1996 saw the introduction of the Men’s Reserve grade that brought an influx of new young players. The Reserve grade provides a useful avenue for introducing new players to the game to allow them to find their skills, as well as being a good place to allow some of the old faithfuls to wind down at a slightly lesser pace.
Women stepped up and a competition was formed for them in 1997. From modest beginnings, the ladies have made great strides and the Women’s competition is now the fastest growing sector of the sport in Brisbane, as well as throughout most of Australia. Gaelic seems to lend itself well to a large group of women. The rules are slightly modified, omitting the contact element of the game, and provides a fast, fun and skilful opportunity for women to experience football safely.
The development of “Gaelic Park” steadily progressed throughout the eighties and was funded by the local Irish community and built entirely by volunteers. The dressing sheds were built in 1984 with work on the clubhouse commencing in 1989 and completed in 1990 to coincide with that year’s Australasian Championships hosted in Brisbane.