Michael Davitt's, Swatragh all set to celebrate their 70th birthday in style
MICHAEL DAVITT'S, Swatragh, home to one of Derry and Ireland’s most successful footballers of all-time, will this weekend celebrate their 70th anniversary.
The south Derry club was formed in 1946, some 100 years after the birth of Michael Davitt, and will, on Saturday night, host a gala dinner to mark the occasion.
The club was formed by founding members Jim McMullan, Patsy Collins, John E Friel, James McGurk and John McCormack - whose three sons became chairmen, including former Derry footballer Dr Paul John McCormack.
The Davitt's, playing in the green-and-white hoops associated with a number of Davitt's teams around Ireland, were successful in the intermediate championship ranks in 1972 and '79 and rose to the senior ranks in the 1980s.
A first Derry minor football championship title in 1988 with players including Anthony Tohill and Brian Óg McAtamney were the back bone of a run to the 1993 senior championship final.
Their hopes of winning that game against Lavey weren’t helped, however, by Derry’s All-Ireland success that year. The start of the club championship was delayed and the final eventually went ahead on St Stephen's Day at an icy Glenullin.
The start of that era and the village’s most famous son, Anthony Tohill, achieved as much as could be in his football career. From success in club, school, college, county and country, Tohill can boast four Allstar awards, an All-Ireland senior title and the esteemed honour of captaining and managing his country in the International Rules series.
Club secretary and long-serving football goalkeeper Michael O’Kane recalls that era as the spell that sparked his love for the club: “Growing up in the '80s and '90s and watching the great team we had in the '90s in some epic championship matches in the summer months will stay with me forever," he said.
“It was a pleasure lining out with some of this great players during my own playing days, with some good days including getting a chance to play in the Ulster championship with boys like Philip Mooney and Johnny McKeefry.”
Success continued for Swatragh with another intermediate football championship in 2012 along with the club’s first senior hurling championship the same year.
Led by stalwarts such as Mickey Conway, Ruairí Convery, Conor Quinn and Michael Kirkpatrick, Swatragh were too strong for Banagher on an historic afternoon in Celtic Park.
Club chairman Willie Turner said: “I'd like to thank everyone who has helped the club through the years including groundkeepers, men who have lined the pitch, team coaches, managers, tea makers and the long list of people who have been invaluable in ensuring the club and its facilities operate fully.”
The highlight of the celebrations on Saturday will be the announcement of the club’s 70th anniversary Allstar team, made up of nominations from the 70 years of Swatragh teams.