With the nineteen seventies we move into a decade that through enthusiasm, dedication and hard work, was to bring Caherlistrane to a forefront position in the G.A.A. The new spirit and determinaton was there at the Annual General Meeting in 1970, when it was decided to tackle the twenty year old problem of the undeveloped pitch. A special committee, known as the Field Committee, was set up to deal with this. Their scheme was to be a bold and ambitious one, calling for much input of time and effort, and we shall
return to appreciate what they did later. But involvement with building and pitch development was not to interfere with the playing of football. Quite the contrary, as the new enterprising spirit moved players to greater effort.
The under-21 team made most progress in the early 70s, when they reached the North Board Final, only to be beaten by Mountbellew, who were county champions at the time. Nor were the juniors far behind. They reached the North Board Final in ’72, and were unlucky to lose by just two points to Ballygar (1-8 to 0-9). The junior team came ﬁghting back in '73 With three great wins in the championship. There was a win oyer Glenamaddy (2-17 to 0-7) with “Caherlistrane’s hero of the hour, J.J. Higgins, who scored seven points in all”. Next came victory over Menlough (1-10 to 0-8) at Athenry, where the great asset that the winners possessed was the workmanship and combination of the three Judge brothers”. Then we beat Ballygar, whose forwards were "held back time and time by a stonewall defence."
In the 1973 Junior League our team had a runaway victory (4-13 to 0-3) at Tuam Stadium, where “Coroﬁn were never in the game, and totally lacked the drive and determination of their opponents, who fought for every ball, leaving the opposition completely helpless for long periods". Caltra, though, beat Caherlistrane in the League Final that year, as they were to do again in ’74. But we were back yet again for the North Board Final in 1975, this time against Monivea, “who fought bravely all through, but Caherlistrane were out to make up for the previous years defeats, and took the League title in fine style with six points to spare”. That year, also, the under-21 team reversed an earlier result when “their experience and stamina” were evident in a win over Mountbellew.
Things were now looking bright, and to add a professional touch, Father Martin Newell and Michael McHugh (both ex-Caherlistrane players) travelled regularly from Claremorris to train the team. For all that effort, 1976 brought its reward. We went all the way to the County Final. And to add to the excitement, we were playing Headford.
There was a huge build-up to this match (played in Corofin), and perhaps never before or since was there such a following for either team. People never seen at a match before helped to pack the sidelines, and the tension mounted as the starting time drew near.
Hearts fell, though, in the first quarter, as the opposition ran up four points
without reply, and Caherlistrane supporters tried to come to terms with the possibility of a Headford victory. But the Caherlistrane players were having none of that, and after their first score, “a well-taken point”, a fierce do-or-die determination gripped the team. A measure of that determination is the fact that the backs held Headford scoreless for the rest of the match, while Caherlistrane went on to score a total of seven points (six of them from M. Judge).
“Every man in the Caherlistrane defence played as if the issue depended on him alone, but all responded to the leadership of Mick Judge, who was the dominant figure in a tough, uncompromising game. If this hard fought final lacked the stamp of class, it never fell short of courage and honest endeavour, with Caherlistrane’s determination the deciding factor”.
Following is that victorious team, the 1976 (Division 2) County Champions: Paddy Lee, Malachy Naughton, Paddy Cradock, Joe Cradock, Sean Moran, Michael J . Judge, Tom Conlisk, Peter Lee, Vinnie Judge, Paschal Murphy, Tom Cradock, Eamonn Monaghan, Ger Naughton, Paddy Mulroe, Larry Bane and M. Greally.
1977 was the year when all the time and effort expended over the previous seven years brought its reward, with the opening of the New Pitch and Community Centre. At the G.A.A. Annual General Meeting, held in the Parochial Hall (the old school) for the last time, in January of that year, the Field Commitee for the coming twelve months was elected. Vincent Judge was chosen as Chairman, in recognition of the great work he had done in the whole building and development scheme, and indeed all of the members elected that night were people who has put in much voluntary effort. The other members were: Secretary: Paddy Mc Hugh; Treasurer: Christy Roche; Committee: Padraic Lee, Oliver Curley, Sean Moran, J.J Higgins, Bunny Mangan, John Joe O'Neill, Patrick O' Neill and Paddy Flanagan.
The pitch, dressing rooms and other facilities, were all ready on time for the ofﬁcial opening on Sunday 24 July. The Ofﬁcial Programme of that day gives an outline of the history of the project:
“At the Annual General Meeting in 1970 it was decided that something definite should be done about providing a proper pitch and facilities. The idea grew from here, plans were drawn up, and a special committee, known as the Field Committee, was formed. It has been a long road since, with many setbacks like the storm damage (1974), when the steel structure and part of the boundary wall were levelled to the ground. Having overcome these setbacks, everyone battled on to bring the development to its present stage. There is still a lot of work to be ﬁnished, like the community centre, a dugout press facility, covered accommodation for spectators and a handball alley”.
There was also a message on the programme from Padraic Lee, Chairman of Caherlistrane G.A.A. that year, and one of the driving forces in the development. He thanked the many club members for their dedicated effort (most of the building work was done by voluntary labour), the people of the parish, and outside, who gave subscriptions, materials and use of machinery, and all those who supported dances, sales of work and other fundraising activities.
The blessing of the new pitch (Pairc Naomh Padraig) was performed by Father Malachy King P.P., and it was then ofﬁcially opened by Norman Farragher, Chairman of Galway County Board G.A.A., who said he felt honoured to come to Caherlistrane, a parish with such a long tradition in the G.A.A.
The Community Centre was opened the following December, and its many facilities brought a new dimension to the lives of Caherlistrane people. Now they could take part in such varied pursuits as indoor games, craft classes, dancing lessons, lectures and social gatherings of all kinds, from old folks’ parties to victory celebrations.
Talking of celebrations, the team had something to celebrate in June 1977 when, back in the senior ranks, they overcame U.C.G. in Tuam. On that day Caherlistrane “tackled hard enough to keep the faster College side from gaining any real advantage,” and “Michael Judge was the man of the match, and it was he who not only held the defence together, but played great attacking football from the centre-half berth”.
Our next match in the Championship was against Corofin, and the Tuam Herald report on the game is worth quoting:
"If Corofin win the county football championship they are unlikely to have a harder match then they had at Tuam Stadium on Sunday evening when it took all their reserve of craft to overcome the spirited challenge of Caherlistrane. This was a game to raise the hearts of followers, for it abounded in fair but fiery exchanges, laced with spectacular high fielding and long kicking from two teams so evenly matched that there was never more then a couple of points between them. Caherlistrane lacked nothing in spirit or ability, and certainly the future looks bright for this team, who have made such a big impact."
Corofin won by just two points (0-12 to 0-10) that day, and then went on to become county champions.
Caherlistrane supporters saw another good performance from their seniors the following year (1978) when they took on Father Griffin's in the New Pitch, and the home team were leading when "Father Griffin's came back for the equalizer almost on the stroke of time."
The early 1980s brought a new surge of enthusiasm from G.A.A. members and supporters on both the Caherlistrane and Comer Chapel sides of the parish, as they took on a further major programme of building. In 1981 a commitment was made to provide a handball and squash court, games room, meeting rooms, improved dressing rooms and a catering area. A lounge bar was also to be included.
Having made the commitment, a huge outlay on wages and materials had now to be met. The wages problem was partly solved by the involvement of AnCO (the State training authority) in the building work. This involvement also gave work experience and training to local youth.’ But still huge bills remained to be met, for the estimated cost of the 1980s development was £93,000. A £20,000 bank loan was obtained, and a £10,000 Government grant (after much lobbying). Most of the balance was gathered through the usual fund raising activities (card games, discos, prize draws, etc.), and then there was a grand competition among prominent parishioners, with the honorary title of Mayor of Caherlistrane going to the person who raised the most funds. Brendan Gannon was the one to get the mayoral chain.
Brendan Gannon was also chairman of the first Caherlistrane Festival Committee, and the Festival, originally started to raise funds for the Community Centre, has become an annual feature of parish life since the inaugural one of 1980. It has included such varied events as football competitions, tug-of-war contests, tractor skills displays, sheaf tossing, treasure hunts, concerts, open air dancing, band displays and old-time waltz competitions. The Festival has a special attraction for emigrants from the parish home on their annual holidays (the two—week festival usually starts in early August), for it gives them an opportunity to meet old friends and see the parish in festive mood.
The handball court was ﬁnished in 1982, and it was ofﬁcially opened in February of that year by Mr. C. Jones, President of the National Handball Council. 1984, the centenary year of the G.A.A., saw the completion of the much enlarged Community Centre - a monument to parish eo-operation, and standing proud for this and future generations.
On the playing ﬁelds in the early 1980s the emphasis was on youth, with Tom Cradock taking on the training of the young players. On his initiative a parish league was started for juveniles, and all the effort involved brought its reward ‘with a notable achievement in l983—the winning of under-14 and under—16 county titles.
The seniors were also doing well in the early eighties and reached the 1981 League Final (Section B). Their opponents were Ballygar, and the game, played in Coroﬁn on Easter Sunday ’82, ended in a draw, with Caherlistrane going on to win the replay in Mountbellew. Following that victory the team were in the top league for 1982, and proved their worth there by going on to the Premier League Final, having won ﬁve of their seven matches on the way and getting a draw in another. This time they were playing Dunmore, who won in a replay, having survived in the drawn game which Caherlistrane should have won.
In the summer of '82, Caherlistrane had a win over Monivea/Abbey in the championship only to go under to Mountbellew, who were beaten by Annaghdown in the County Final. A few weeks before the Final, Caherlistrane beat Annaghdown in the Madden cup.
The team had some consolation for their defeat in '77 when they beat Corofin in the 1987 senior championship. Many people now fancied Caherlistrane's chances of taking the county title, and they were favourites against Annaghdown in the next roung. Annaghdown, never an easy team to beat, had their ex-county player, Tom Naughton, in fine form that day, and he played a big part in Caherlistrane’s surprise defeat, with his team going on to win the county championship again.
Following the disapointment 0f the previous year, hopes were on a better result for ’86. The big game that year was against Mountbellew, and after a drawn game that was there for the taking, they beat Caherlistrane in the replay, and also went on to become county champions.
1987 saw our up-and-coming young footballers win the Minor League, while in the previous year’s senior team were now at intermediate level. But not for long. They were back at senior level in '88, and went on to take the County League (Division B) title. Then to add to a great year, the minor footballers won their ﬁrst county championship title.
The parish was well represented on Galway teams during the nineteen seventies and eighties. In 1972 Eamon Monaghan of Prospect was on the county under-21 team. On the opening of our new pitch in 1977, the main feature was a Galway v Mayo senior football match, and there were the following four parish players on the winning home team on that July Sunday: Michael J . Judge (Carrowconlaun), Peter Lee (Ballyfruit), Paddy Joe Dooley (Mirehill) and Paschal Murphy (Wakeﬁeld).
Michael Judge, the Galway captain that day, was a regular on the county team by this time, and played in three consecutive Connacht Finals ('76, '77 and '78). He won three Connacht Senior Football medals ('76, '82 and '83), and played for the province in Railway Cup competition. Peter Lee was also a regular on the Galway senior team, winning Connacht medals in '82 and '83, and playing at centre half back position on the team beaten by Dublin in the 1983 All-Ireland Final.
In 1979 the ﬁrst of the Glynn brothers from Feeragh made his entry into inter-county football when Seamus played in the under-21 Final against Down (the winners). The under-21 Galway team had another Caherlistrane man in '81 when Denis McHugh from the Comer Chapel side of the parish played with them. Seamus Glynn was there again in '85 when he played on the Galway junior team that won the All-Ireland that year.
Since the mid-eighties there has been a strong Caherlistrane representation on Galway minor teams. John Mitchell of Castlehackett won an All-Ireland medal in '86, and the following year he gained a Connacht championship medal, as did Pat Costello of Pollnahallia. In 1988 Pat Costello was joined by John Dooley, while in 1989, as beﬁts County Minor Champions, there were three from the parish on the county team. They were Joe Mitchell, Richie Lydon (captain) and Sean Costello.
At senior level we now have Sean Glynn (brother of Seamus), a regular on Galway teams in the late 1980s, playing in comer back position.