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Air of excitement & enthusiasm still surrounds St Breckans

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*Photograph: Burren Eye Photography

An air of excitement greeted the beginning of the St Breckans in February 1971, fifty years on enthusiasm still surrounds the club but intertwined with a hope that bigger days are on the horizon.

Lisdoonvarna and Doolin competed on their own until the formation of St Breckans on February 19th when both forces pooled resources to create the club that would cover both areas along with Kilshanny and Toovahera.

Kincora Hotel hosted the inaugural meeting of the club on this date when a huge air of excitement resulted in a packed venue. The first hurdle would be the naming of the new organisation with St Endas, St Brendans and St Breckans among the names suggested from the floor. After a vote, St. Breckans was chosen through its connection to a ‘Well’ located between both areas as the fairest compromise.

Tom Tarpey, the club’s first chairman who was a chaplain at the Stella Maris Nursing Home and teacher at the Mary Immaculate Secondary School in Lisdoonvarna decided than maroon and white would be the club colours, following the example of his native Galway.

Tarpey is recalled by Eugene Garrihy as “a highly motivated and inspirational man, with foresight and energy in spades, which he drew on tirelessly for the benefit of the parishes of Lisdoonvarna . He was a coach, a mentor, and a leader. He was kind, decent and extremely generous with his time and expertise. His legacy to the parish of Lisdoonvarna and its people is immeasurable and still evident in so many ways”.

His legacy includes setting up the first Youth Club in the locality and also overseeing the building of the Community Sports Complex for Handball, Badminton and many other sports.

Doolin NS principal Paddy Garrihy and Jim Hillery joined Tarpey on the first Executive as the first secretary and treasurer of the club.

Individuals such as former long-serving secretary John O’Flaherty, ex Club President Frank Sheedy, former player and manager Francie Hawes, school coach Pat Harrington are also held in high regard by club members when reflecting on its history. The publication of a club history which is due to be released later this year will remember the many great contributors to St Breckans.

County titles have been secured at U18A, U21A, Intermediate, and Junior along with success in the Cusack Cup, Geraldine League and Kenny Cup. The club has reached two senior championship finals when managed by Pat Harrington (1985) and Tommy Curtin (1996) but has yet to get its hands on the Jack Daly.

Positive changes have been witnessed in the club with five representatives now on the Clare senior football panel. Johnny Mooney represented the club on the Clare panel which claimed Munster glory in 1992.

Off-field development is visible in the form of a clubhouse with new changing rooms and a gym, the main field has also been upgraded in recent years.

Former secretary Kenneth Flanagan is of the view that the levels of “semi-professionalism” brought in by current senior manager Donie Garrihy and his management have the current crop in a healthy position. “Players, mentors, executive and club members have all bought into the increased demands of competing at the highest level in the modern game. Breckans want success and now more than ever, they know they have a shot at winning numerous titles at all levels”.

Fifty year anniversary celebrations kick off on Friday with St Breckans set to mark the milestone on social media. Videos containing best wishes will be uploaded on Friday and throughout the month. A message from club president Christy Hogan will also go online with a special underage video collage.

Publication of a club history, a time capsule, live monthly podcast, storyboards unveiling, re-opening of the sports complex and a dinner dance are some of the events planned to mark the 50 years of the club.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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