Football is Doonbeg’s DNA

Doonbeg celebrate a county final win in the early 1970s. Photo Michael John Glynne Collection/Clare County Library

If Doonbeg win Saturday’s county final it won’t be the first time that a Doora-Barefield man has trained them to the biggest prize in Clare football as this trawl of the Magpies’ back catalogue reveals.

Football is Doonbeg’s DNA

THE ‘Bard of Bansha’ Padraig Haugh passed away earlier this year and at once the Magpies lost one of their great pioneers – a member of that special group of footballers who blazed a trail for their parish and their people.
The larger than life Haugh was a rare breed, one of those who did so much to put football DNA into Doonbeg.
They’ll dip into that DNA on Saturday, it’s the Magpies’ way of using their history, using the deeds of the past – much of which is commemorated in song and story penned by Haugh – to go to the county final well once more.
It’s the being present being reinforced the past, being awe-inspired by it. It’s part of the DNA as much as the football is.
“We were just doing what was expected of us,” the great Senan Downes told The Clare People in July, when the two three-in-a-row teams either side of 1970 had a ‘Gathering’ in Tubridy’s Bar.
“We were winning championships,” he added.
They’ve been doing it since 1955, the famous year that the Magpies started to fly, with the gauntlet thrown down before a ball was kicked. Who else could be, but ‘Big’ John O’Gorman who took on the Clare County Board.
“A motion was put to the county convention to reinstate me,” wrote O’Gorman in a letter to The Clare Champion early in the year. “The motion was not put to a vote, notwithstanding that it was supported by delegates from all over Clare, by men whose national record is second to none.
“The dictatorship which exists in the GAA in Clare can overrule the majority,” he continued. “If the powers that be are afraid of constructive criticism I say to them to keep them out and if they are willing for penny postcards from me they are destined to wait a long time,” he added.
Clohanes man O’Gorman meant business, so did wider Doonbeg, with things beginning to fall into place a few weeks later, as Bealaha’s Joe Hurley, who went on to captain the 1961 winning side, recalled.
“We had a curate in the parish and in the spring of 1955 he brought the three clubs together in the hall in Doonbeg and he hammered some sense into all of them,” revealed Hurley.
“He was adamant about it and said: ‘We will have one team and we will play with that team’. It was agreed that the name of the club would alternate. We could play with Doonbeg in 1955, Clohanes in ’56 and Bealaha in ’57, but after winning in ’55 we decided to stick with the Doonbeg name,” he added.
There the revolution began. They were organised and united at intra-parish level, while the same soon followed at underage when another priest, Fr Hayes, donated a cup to be played for between the five schools in the parish.
Then in the early 1960s the Magpies got their own field, having purchased nine acres of the old Studdert Estate from the Land Commission for £300 and then being put to work by another priest, Fr Taaffe.
They drew sand, built walls, dug holes and leveled the field in a massive meitheal oibre that was empire building at the same time.
“Football was not the game in the Doonbeg area,” revealed Hurley. “Athletics was the sport and the number one and athletes from the parish won Munster and All-Ireland titles. The Bealaha Sports was one of the biggest day of the year, but football took over after 1955.”
Just as Doonbeg took over after that first win in ’55 and the 18 titles in all that they have claimed in the intervening 58 years – that’s a strike rate of a championship every three and a half years, something that no other team in the county comes close to.
“John O’Gorman, Joe Hurley and Padraig Haugh were the guys who made the breakthrough with the championship win over Ennis Faughs in ’55 and they were the foundation on which all this success was built,” said Senan Downes.
“They were the trailblazers for football in Doonbeg, they started it and we were under pressure to keep it going. We felt that we had to keep it going, that the obligation was on us to do that,” he added.
“I remember that 1955 team well,” said Michael Haugh. “They used to train in Bealaha on Downes’ field and that’s where I really picked up the interest in football. MJ Greene and James Power were two lads who were on the Clare minor team of 1953 and they were kicking football there.
“I remember going up to the ’55 final against Ennis Faughs in Miltown and I remember Jimmy Smyth coming out on the field and there was an almighty smell of embrocation off him. They used to coat them embrocation at that time. They were a fine bunch of guys with great players like captain Matt McDonagh, Joe Hurley and Jimmy Carney who was a giant to me,” he added.
Haugh became one of the great Doonbeg captains, so too Downes as Doonbeg’s dominance stretched all the way to the dawn of the new millennium when the Clare legends from 1992 in captain Francis McInerney, Padraig Conway, Gerry Killeen and Kieran O’Mahony landed their last medals.
Now it’s the new generation – they already have their county medals from 2010, but as ever with Doonbeg it’s always the next title and the next mountain.
“We didn’t know how to win a championship,” recalled Joe Hurley from his youth before the dam was burst in ’55. “It was all new to us and we didn’t know what to expect. Mick Hayes was in goal for the Clare hurlers at the time and Jimmy Carney got him to come out and train us before the ’55 final. He did a fantastic job and we won the championship.”
Time moves on, but some things are the same. Mick Hayes from Doora-Barefield was the man in ’55; Kieran O’Neill from Doora-Barefield is the man nearly six decades later.
Just to win the championship, like Hayes did before him.

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