|The Founding Members
No Ordinary JOE Soap
of hope which existed in the eyes of Simonstown Gaels GFC founding member Joe
Clarke has fertilised into a bright shining light boasting one of the top GAA
clubs in the county. Members of the north Navan club owe a lot to Joe.
Where football wasn’t the topic of conversation in Simonstown during the
past year or so, it almost inevitably meant that talk revolved around the club’s
ambitious development plans and second House Draw. Lottery funding, builder’s
quotations, £100 tickets occupied much of the minutes from the various Executive
When all this is considered, it’s difficult to
believe that at one stage Simonstown had to borrow a set of jerseys from the
neighbouring Gibbstown team or that weekly meetings was held in the A.O.H Hall
on Navan’s Watergate St.
Founding member Joe Clarke remembers these days
as if it were yesterday. He also vividly recalls meeting with Jim Lane snr. in
John O’Loughlin’s pub (now Ross’s) on a Sunday night in February 1965 and
setting the wheels in motion for the foundation of one of the biggest clubs in
Joe takes up the story: “I had gone around a few lads who
had retired from playing football with the surrounding clubs asking them would
they play if I organised a team and received a positive response. The last night
for affiliation was a Sunday night in February and I met Jim Lane in John
O’Loughlin’s and two of us headed over to Liam Creavin’s house.”
continued: “We told Liam what we were planning and paid our affiliation fee of 2
shillings and six pence. He gave us a receipt and the next thing to decide was
what colours we would wear. We eventually settled on sky blue. When we went back
to the lads they didn’t believe us when we told them but we had the receipt to
Joe handled a lot more receipts over the next seventeen years
in his role as treasurer. Jack ‘Duck’ Callaghan was the club’s first chairman
while Loman Fagan was secretary. Other prominent members of the first committee
included Jim Lane, the late Packy Flood and Joe’s brother Mickey – well known in
Royal County GAA circles as a former chairman of the club and current delegate
to the Co Board.
“We got a great response from the lads who had promised
to play with us,” recalled Joe. “Our first meeting was held in the A.O.H Hall on
Watergate St. and membership cards were half a crown. The money which we raised
from membership paid for a new set of jerseys.”
The next problem facing
the fledgling committee was the small matter of a playing field. That was
quickly resolved, however, when the Clarke’s late mother, Mrs. Julia Clarke -
the club’s first jersey washer – came to the rescue by offering the use of one
her fields down Simonstown Lane. The first game played by Simonstown Gaels GFC -
who, incidentally, wore the Gibbstown jerseys on that landmark occasion – took
place on that field against a team from the Commons.
Five years later
the Navan club qualified for their first ever final, the Junior ‘B’ decider of
1970, where their opponents were none other than Navan O’Mahony’s. It turned out
to be an unhappy final debut for the poor footballing relation in Navan at the
Frank Carberry, who later transferred to the other side of town
and won a NFL medal with Meath in 1975, Eamonn Kearney, father of current senior
star Ned, Val Devlin, Pat and John Lynch, Dick Stapleton, Jimmy Fitzsimons,
Victor McCullagh, Phil and Mickey Hegarty, John Carroll, Tommy Lynch and Ollie
Plunkett were amongst those who wore the sky blue jersey that day.
“Myself and Mickey were subs that day. He came on and missed an open
goal and I haven’t let him forget about it since,” laughed Joe.
wasn’t much success to recall during the early seventies but the initiative of a
group of people in 1976 would ensure that Simonstown would evolve into a force
to be reckoned with in Meath GAA. The setting up of a juvenile section that year
sowed the seeds for their ascension up the ladder.
“It was hard to keep
things going at that time because we weren’t winning anything so the interest
wasn’t as high as it should have been. The start of the juvenile section made us
the club we are today. Myself, Mickey and John O’Hare set it up and then fellas
like Tommy Clynch came in. Once we started winning underage titles things began
to pick up on the adult side.”
Needless to say Joe has a story or two to
tell about the early juvenile days. “I remember travelling to an U-12 match in
Ballivor. Colm Keys would have been playing while Mickey was the referee and I
was a linesman. Young Johnny Cantwell from St. Mary’s Park, who have only been
about nine or ten at the time, was the first aid man! That goes to show the type
of help we had at the time but we won easily on the day so it wasn’t so bad.”
Who were the best juvenile footballers Joe said played with Simonstown?
“That’s a difficult question because there has been so many but fellas like Colm
Keys, Philip Traynor, Paul O’Brien, Hank Traynor and Ned Kearney stick out in
the memory.” When I approached Joe about having a chat for this article his
reply was: “the office will be open tomorrow night from 7 to 9. Joe’s office is
located at the end of the counter, to the left as you enter the door of the
club’s lounge, and if the truth be known, his office is always open.
He’s always on that seat, except on Sunday nights when he moves closer
to the larger television to catch up on the latest goings-on in Glenroe. He’s a
creature of habit. Other habits, for instance, include fulfilling his umpiring
duties at all Simonstown games, from U-12 right up to senior. He was once
compared to an Ariston electrical appliance because he keeps going on and on and
on . . .
“I enjoy doing the umpiring. I’ve been doing it from the start
so I’m not going to stop now. Colum Cromwell once told me that I may hold the
record for umpiring at most games.”
As an Honorary President of the club
- Robbie McCullagh being the other – Joe has been a regular at the club’s
executive meetings and during this time of continued expansion and development,
he admits that it has surpassed his wildest expectations.
facilities we have here at the moment are absolutely brilliant. The pavilion is
a great achievement and provides a place where club members can come and meet
and have a bit of craic. When I think of the old shed down in the corner of the
field we used to have as changing rooms I can’t believe it. I never imagined I’d
see the day where it would be as big as this.”
Joe concluded: “But,
while the development is great and all that, I’d be more interested in the
football end of things.”
Tell us something we didn’t know!
(The above is an updated version of an article which appeared in the
Meath GAA yearbook in 1998.)
Simonstown’s first Hon.
James Lane (1926-1980)
The late Jimmy Lane was a
native of Trim who moved to Navan when he took up employment with Spicers
Bakery. He had previously worked with Spicers in Trim and dedicated some 33
years service to the industry in total.
A very accomplished sportsman,
he represented Trim at all grades in hurling. He won an O’Growney Cyp medals in
1947 and added two Meath SHC medals in 1949 and 1950. He also enjoyed success at
intercounty level when he was a member of the Royal County hurling panel which
captured the Leinster and All-Ireland JHC titles in 1948. He would be pleased to
know efforts have been underway to establish a hurling section within the club
over the past number of years.
Jim passed his love of gaelic games on to
his sons, Jim, Paul, David and Sean, all of whom have represented the club at
some time or another. Indeed, Jim jnr is presently vice-chairman of the club.
Simonstown’s first chairman
Jack “Duck” Callaghan
Jack was the first chairman of the newly formed
Simonstown Gaels club back 1965 and remained involved in club affairs up until
his death in 1976.
Born in Carrick-on-Shannon in 1923, Jack, at the age
of seven, came to live with his aunt and two uncles in Simonstown on the death
of his father.
Jack continued his education in the local De La Salles
Brothers school and it was here that he developed his love for football.
He won U-16 and minor medals with the Salles in 1939 and ’40. He also
spent a year in St Patrick’s Classical School but decided to leave and farm
full-time on his uncle’s farm.
He continued to play football with the
Parnells club at adult level and won a Meath IFC medal with them in 1943. In
1948 Jack, along with nine others – including the late Benny Gartland,
Simonstown’s first goalkeeper – formed the Navan O’Mahony’s club. In 1949, he
captained the first ever O’Mahony’s team to win a county title – the junior
championship. A regular in the full-back position, he went on to win a SFC
souvenir in 1953 and a Feis Cup equivalent in 1956.
was invaluable when Simonstown was set-up in 1965 and in order to cement the
foundation of a second club in Navan, he undertook the position of chairman. So
as well as playing for the infant club he guided its development until his death
The present day club owes an immense amount of gratitude to its
first chairman for his guidance and wisdom.