Slane GFC In The Beginning

November 7, 2018

In The Beginning

Where did is all begin?  One has only to read the 1981 edition of the Guinness Book of records to learn of a game of football between Meath and Louth which was played in Slane in the year 1712.  A very early meeting indeed between these two neighbouring counties.

The earliest record of parish or club football also goes back as far as the late sixteen hundreds or early seventeen hundreds.  The source of this information is a poem entitled Iomainn Na Boinne which was written by Seamus Dall Mac Cuarta.

Mac Cuarta was born in Omeath in 1647 and he left his hometown early in his life and came to work on a farm in the Slane area where he remained until his death in 1733.  Iomainn Na Boinne describes a game of football which was played on the heights of Fennor between a team from Slane and a team from the Nanny River area in Duleek.The year that the game was played in is not known (the poem gives no indication of the year) but the date was positively the 28th of October.

On that day a sports festival was held of which the game of football was only one of a number of events on the programme.  Slane won the game and the poem tells that this Slane team would beat without respite every good team that would come to play them.  Players named as having taken part in the game are three O’Reilly Brothers, White, Clarke, and a James Heeney, not unfamiliar names in the Slane area today.

The poem indicates that there were twelve players on each team.  This game, therefore, was one of the first (if not the first) twelve a side games played in Ireland.  The game of football that was usually played in that era bore no resemblance to the game that we know today.  The teams would assemble at the centre point between the two parishes involved and the object of the game was to get the ball beyond your opponent’s parish boundary in order to win the game.  This would be achieved by fair means or foul.

There were no set number of players, no defined playing area nor was there any time limit.  The game could go on for hours before a victory was gained.  It was not until 1884 that the game became standardised when the Gaelic Athletic Association was formed at a meeting in Hayes Hotel in Thurles.  Therefore the twelve a side game played on the heights of Fennor must have great significance in football history.

The Meath v Louth game in 1712 and the game between Slane and the Nanny River played in Fennor are the two earliest records of football pastimes in the Slane area and one has now to move into the early nineteen hundreds before further evidence of football games is discovered and indeed the beginning of a Gaelic Football Club in Slane.