Gaelic Games have been played in Mullagh for more than 100 years even before the foundation of the G.A.A as a game called ‘Hurling over the ditch’ was played in the area as remembered in the folklore. The parish boundary with Killimor was the venue for the start with an agreed predetermined distance to be gained for victory. These games were between all the able bodied men of the parishes competing e.g. Killimor and Mullagh.
At a later date the games were confined to one field and the Fairgreen in Ballinasloe was the venue for the first recorded hurling game between Mullagh and Killimor in 1884.
Mullagh and Killimor did not immediately join the new Association as they considered the game under rules to be too gentile for their manly efforts. Football was also played and in 1886 Mullagh played Leitrim three times with no result at the end. The winner was then to be decided by wrestling but no result could be found from evenly matched opponents. These games introduced gaelic sport to a mass audience for the first time in rural east Galway with in excess of 4,000 present.
Both clubs later joined the G.A.A and tournaments were a popular Sunday afternoon activity. Organised competitions soon got under way and Meelick represented Galway in the first All Ireland final in Birr in 1888. Meelick had the advantage of John Lowry and Rick Melody from Mullagh.
It appears from the archives of the papers of the times that Mullagh won the 1889 County Senior Hurling championship but this is not recorded in official records.
Mullagh lost the County final of 1904 to Peterswell but returned in 1906 to beat Duniry in Killimor. This year of 2006 is the centenary of this success. The team as far as can be established was : Amby Briscoe (Capt), John Brien, Mick Brien, Jack Finnerty, Gilbey Jennings, Will Coughlan, John Coen, Tom Deely, John Reilly, Paddy Burke, James Muldoon, Joe Muldoon, James Fennessy, Mike Malone, Martin Coen, Jim Coen, Owen Donoghue.
In 1911 there were two separate County Boards in Galway and Mullagh affiliated to the Athenry based Board which was controlled by Tom Kenny of Craughwell. The other Board was based in Loughrea and it was staunchly anti Kennyite. This problem was solved in 1913 with the setting up of the four Divisional Boards.
The Club reverted back to Junior in the twenties and in ’22 won the East Board championship defeating Woodford - got a walk over against Kilmacduagh in the county semi-final and played Ahascragh in the final in Ballinasloe in March 1924. This ended in a draw and Mullagh won the replay played in April. Ahascragh objected and a further replay was ordered for June - but Mullagh were late arriving at the venue and the referee Stephen Jordan awarded the match to Ahascragh. He was assaulted by Mullagh players and after objection and counter objection the County Board awarded the championship to Mullagh in December 1924. The team was : Pakie Fahy (Capt), Tom Morgan, Jimmy Reilly, Tomsie Connors, Jack Murphy, Jack Hough, Vincent McNamara, Paddy McHugh, Martin Keogh, Tom McNamara, Martin Donohue, Joe Martin, T ‘Cox’ Tierney, Mick Keogh, Jim Cleary.
Tom McNamara was one of the most prominent Mullagh officials at the time and he was also East Board Secretary.
Mullagh again won the 1924 County Junior championship when the final was played in Craughwell in March 1927 when the defeated finalists were Gort.
The third County Junior championship of the decade was recorded when Mullagh defeated Maree in Loughrea in August 1930 for the 1928 final. The team was : Tom Morgan (capt), Pakie Fahy, Tom Daly, Martin Donohue, Johnny Cahalan, Mick Morgan, Tomsie Connors, Jack Murphy, Frank Clarke, Tom McNamara, Vincent McNamara Paddy McHugh, Jack Hough, Pake O’Donnell, Thomas Ashe (this was an alias for Dermot Ryan who was also playing rugby at the time).
The team was now on a winning streak and moved up to Senior winning the 1929 Senior championship final over Clarenbridge (9-3 to 1-2) when in was played at Loughrea in May 1931.
The future looked exciting and bright for Mullagh hurling but the result of a serious outburst of fighting in a game with Ballinakill in Killimor saw Mullagh being suspended for 1930 and 1931. The team proved resilient and bounced back to defeat Craughwell by 0-15 to 0-8 in the 1932 County final played at Loughrea in November 1932. The team lined out as follows: Pakie Fahy, Tom Morgan (Capt), Jimmy Reilly, Tom Daly, Tomsie Connors, Johnny Cahalan, Jimmy Burke, Pake O’Donnell, Dermot Ryan, Bill McDonnell, Jack Murphy, Mick Morgan, Pat Clarke, Bill O’Halloran, Jack Hough. Subs: Martin Donohue, Frank Clarke, Paddy Daly, Tom McNamara, Vincent McNamara, Paddy McHugh, Martin Keogh, Barney Clarke.
The same team got to the county semi-final in 1933 against Castlegar but walked off the field at halt time due to intimidation and harassment during the first half. Unfortunately politics had a bearing on this game as the Blueshirt movement had some supporters in Mullagh who had been parading in Galway City and they provided a target for attack. Mullagh were again suspended.
Many stars of the future emerged from an under 15 team which won the county championship in 1933 with the future Tipperary legendary goalie Tony Reddin at midfield. The rest of the panel was Josie Farrell (Capt), Mattie Brehony, Frank Farrell, Donal Ryan, Mick Brien, Fank Coen, Jimmy Brien, Jim Farrell, Pakie Whelan, Martin Coughlan, Tommy Byrnes, Jody Lyons, Mick Hobbins, Christy O’Donnell, John Kilgannon, Maurice Glynn, Mattie Fallon, Jack Brien, Johnsie Deely, Josie Gallagher Mick Reddin.
The senior team again met Castlegar in Ballinasloe in the 1935 championship with a similar scenario as in 1933. The game wasn’t finished as more fighting than hurling was seen on the pitch. The game was later replayed in Loughrea when Mullagh were heavily beaten. This ended the great Mullagh senior team as there was no affiliation for 1936 or 1937.
Mullagh were back again on the hurling fields in 1938 at Junior level winning the East Board championship in 1939 and then moving up to Senior in 1940 winning the East Board championship in 1942. There was little progress in the 40’s and Mullagh reverted back to Junior in 1948 winning the East Board final over Abbey and the county semi-final against Clarenbridge in a rough and tumble game. A wonderful quote from the report of the game states that ‘spectators were so far into the field that they could get a light from those on the opposite sideline’.
In the final Mullagh defeated Claregalway in Ballinasloe on 13 March 1949 by 5-4 to 3-1 in a game where hostilities broke out at regular intervals. The referee ‘Inky’ Flaherty got so frustrated at one stage that he hit a Claregalway supporter who continuously encroached on the field a box in the mouth. The Mullagh team was: Brendan Briscoe, Babs Coen, Mick Reddin, Jack Brien, Josie Farrell, Kevin Brehony, Marty Lowry, Pakie Whelan, T C Mitchell, Owen Connolly, Josie Gallagher, Frank Clarke, Tom Curley, Marty Coen, and Paddy Daly. Subs: Frank Farrell, Mikie Hardiman, Mick Hobbins (suspended).
The team was promoted to Senior once again making little progress in the fifties except to win the 1949 East Board championship. The team fell back to Junior A and then Junior B winning the 1956 County championship having defeated Woodford in the East Board final, Ahascragh in the semi-final and Craughwell in the final played at Loughrea on St Patrick’s day 1957. The team was : Pakie Cahalan, Michael Coen, Babs Coen, Brendan Cahalan, Josie Cahalan, Owen Connolly (Capt), Tomsie Kinsella, Paul Kelly, Christy Fallon, Attie Daly, Eddie Fallon, Seamus Gohery, Kevin Broder, Pat Joe Garvey, Dermot Donohue. Subs: Tommy Bowes, Mick Daly, Paddy Dolan, Laurence Larkin, Fintan Daly, Sonny Daly.
Unfortunately emigration put paid to the possibilities of progress after this as the employment situation in Ireland was very poor and England were still in the throes of rebuilding after the Second World War Many families at home were sustained by their siblings contributions from overseas.
For most of the sixties Mullagh were joined up with Leitrim winning a County Senior League in 1963 as Leitrim and reaching the County Senior Championship final in 1966 as Mullagh losing to Turloughmore who completed a six in a row. Mullagh : Sean Boderick, John Boyle, Josie Cahalan, Brendan Loughnane, Mike Boyle, Seamus Gohery, Paddy Clarke, Kevin Kennedy, Peter Hardiman, Pakie Cahalan, Joe Lyons, Mike Lyons, Cha Clarke, Pat Lyons, Frank Loughnane.
This combination fell away after a first round championship defeat in 1967 and Mullagh reverted to Junior again in 1969 but hope for the future sprang from a very good minor team which won two East Board championships in a row and formed the basis for the under 21 championship winning team of 1971.
This under 21team was one of the best ever to emerge from Mullagh and not alone did they register the first ever underage county title for the Club but 34 years later we are waiting for their achievement to be emulated. Maybe 2006 will be the year. The team beat Tommy Larkins in the East Board final and mitigated Carnmore to just one point in the county semi-final. The team annihilated Athenry in the final by 3-12 to 0-2.
The feat of Mikie Cahalan in keeping P J Molloy scoreless from play was major factor in such a comprehensive win. The team was: Bob Connaughton, Kieran Coone, Joe Clarke, Johnny Monaghan, John Mooney, Iggy Clarke, Mikie Cahalan, Tim Cahalan, Joe Cahalan, Aidan Kearns, Gerry Coone, Frank Donohue, Martin Daly, Gerry Clarke, and Martin Kelly. Subs – Tom Cahalan (injured), Tommy Lowry, Jody Hogan, Sean Dolan, and Brendan Reilly.
This led to further success at county level and arguably the start of the Galway Hurling revival when Iggy Clarke captained the Galway team to win the All Ireland Under 21 championship in 1972.
Success brings success and Mullagh were on a roll and went on to win the County Intermediate championship in 1972 defeating Ahascragh in Ballinasloe on 17 September 1972. The score was 1-10 to 0-5. Mullagh : Pakie Cahalan, J J O’Donnell, Joe Clarke, Padraig Donohue, John Mooney, Iggy Clarke, Kieran Coone, Charlie Clarke (Capt), Tim Cahalan, Aidan Kearns, Peter Hardiman, Frank Donohue, Martin Glennon, John Rafferty, Gerry Clarke. Subs: Joe Cahalan, Martin Kelly, Pat Coone.
This was repeated in 1974 when Mullagh defeated Kiltormer by 3-6 to 1-9. This was a more satisfying victory than in 1972 as it was achieved against the near neighbours on whom substantial wagers were placed as victory was guaranteed in the pub but not on the field. Mullagh : Bob Connaughton, J J O’Donnell, Joe Clarke, Kieran Coone, John Mooney, Iggy Clarke, Mikie Cahalan, Mickie Kearns, Charlie Clarke, Michael O’Reilly, Aidan Kearns, Tim Cahalan, Frank Donohue, Gerry Clarke, Tony Raftery. Subs: Peter Hardiman.
Mullagh were promoted to Senior again but made little progress from the first round of the championship being defeated by Meelick-Eyrecourt, Kiltormer, Athenry, Ardrahan and Castlegar in ’75, ’76 ’77 ’78 and ‘79. By now it was time to take stock and a regarding to Intermediate in 1980 brought Mullagh to a County final but unfortunately defeat by Beagh. But by 1983 Mullagh were back in Senior ranks having won the 1982 Intermediate championship defeating Tynagh in Loughrea on 22 August 1982. The score was 3-13 to 1-8. The team lined out : Tommy Coen, Sean Hobbins, Pete Finnerty, Bunny Kennedy, Sean Kelly, Seamus Coen, Paddy Finnerty, Tom Conway, Paddy Winters, Brendan Hobbins, John Murphy, Gerry Coen, Mickie Kearns, John Coen, David Glennon.
An unusual feature of this game was the fact that the Conway brothers played on opposite sides – Tom with Mullagh and Michael with Tynagh.
This team took two years to get adjusted to the standard at Senior level and in an exciting 1985 knocked out the County Champions Castlegar in the quarter-final losing to Turloughmore in the semi-final. This team had the ability to win a County final. It is hard to believe but none the less a fact that it took Mullagh another 21 years to get to a County semi-final in 2006 with a similar result this time defeat to Loughrea.