St Teresa’s Camogie Club

St Teresa’s Camogie Club

County Louth has never been known as a camogie stronghold and Monasterboice does little to change that image. However, there was a time when the small ball was a big hit with the ladies of the parish.
In the early 1950s, a group of girls from Monasterboice talked about setting up a camogie team. There were already clubs in existence in Tullyallen and St Eithne’s in Drogheda and there was demand for a similar set up closer to home.

Rose Clarke was working in Donegans at the time and offered advice on how to go about setting up a new club. There were humble beginnings for the Monasterboice ladies, as there were no uniforms, no funds and little or no experience, but enthusiasm was a commodity in bountiful supply.

The first step was to equip the players with ‘cumaini’, which were purchased from Harbisons in Drogheda. Next, Paddy Donegan was approached for permission to practice in the field beside the Post Office on the Old Main Road. Permission was gladly given and training was held the following Sunday.

Uniforms were next on the agenda. Dark brown gym slips, most of which were made by Bridgie Gilsenan, white blouses, long, thick black stockings held up by garters and an unflattering garment known as ‘navy bloomers’ completed the ensemble and ensured the Monasterboice girls looked the part.

The club’s first games were played at venues which could be reached by bicycle. A sports day in Tullyallen was one of these.

However, finding a suitable home venue proved difficult. The pitch used for training was in poor condition, with long grass and no flags or pitch markings. Fortunately the late Kevin Healy intervened and helped get the pitch to match-standard.

With more and more fixtures in the pipeline, a meeting was called to decide on a way to raise funds for travel and other expenses. A sports day and Feis was seen as the best method of fundraising. It was a difficult undertaking, but the girls of St Teresa’s were equal to the challenge and with the help of the late Nicky Devin and his brother Frank, the event was a huge success.

Trips to matches with the taxi men Jimmy White and Pat Wynne were always fun-filled, almost overshadowing the excitement of the matches themselves. On one memorable occasion only one taxi was available and legend has it 14 girls squeezed into the back of Pat Wynne’s taxi.

The girls would often plead with the drivers to stop off at the carnivals which were dotted around the county at the time so they could enjoy a dance after games. On a couple of occasions dances in Kilsaran and Dunleer were frequented.

As you may have guessed by now, St Teresa’s camogie club was as much an outlet for social interaction as it was an institution of sporting excellence. Training was held on Sunday afternoons and a couple of evenings during the week. However, many of the girls used training as an excuse to get out of the house to meet male acquaintances!

In general, the camogie girls and the men’s football team managed to get on relative harmoniously. However, on one occasion the girls bore the brunt of the boys’ immature side. It was a drizzly December Sunday and the girls were holding their AGM in the hall, with the fire lit in the kitchen to keep the cold at bay. Little did they know, some of the men thought it would be funny to place a wet sack over the chimney and fill the hall with smoke. Needless to say the ladies were none too pleased
and reprimanded the boys for their cruel joke.

A highlight of the St Teresa’s era was the visit of Dublin gaelic football side St Vincent’s to Dunleer to play the home side. The ladies of St Vincent’s also came to town and faced a mid-Louth selection team, featuring a number of St Teresa’s players including Breege Coyle. A dance was held afterwards in Dunleer and proved very enjoyable. The return game was held in the Phoenix Park a few weeks later,
followed by a meal and a dance in the capital.

Socialising aside, some of the St Teresa’s girls excelled with the small ball. Breege Coyle was the club’s most high-profile player and represented Louth on a number of occasions. She also played for Leinster against Ulster in Casement Park, Belfast.

It would be impossible to recount the names of all the ladies who played for St Teresa’s. However, what can be recounted is the fact that every woman and girl from the parish, and further afield, was welcomed with open arms to participate in the club’s activities.

Moira Flanagan was the club’s treasurer, Kathleen Woods was secretary and the club’s chairman was Kevin Healy. Together they built the club and represented it at meetings of the Louth County Board
and Leinster Council.