GAA Football

Buncrana Cup a force for good in memory of youngsters killed in Omagh bomb

The Scarvey, home of Buncrana GAA, where the Buncrana Cup will be played this weekend between Donegal and Tyrone. The competition was set up in 2000 to honour the memories of Oran Doherty (8), Sean McLaughlin (11) and James Barker (13), along with two of their Spanish friends, Rocio Abad Ramos (23) and Fernando Blasco Baselga (12), who were on a cultural visit when the five were killed in the Omagh bomb in 1998.

THE Buncrana Cup is into its second decade, back this weekend after two lost years due to Covid-19, but its formation dates back to the tragic loss of young lives in the Omagh bomb.

The competition is an Ulster wide U16 Gaelic football inter-county competition with a flamboyant history that has witnessed many stars of the future taking centre stage since its inception in 2000.

Indeed, by a distance Donegal lead the table for Buncrana Cup wins sitting on eight, whilst near neighbours Derry come second with an impressive four wins.

But the story behind the formation of the Cup is down to a somewhat subdued but thought-provoking culmination of events that took place in 1998.

August 15 of that year will live long in the memories for many, and for the wrong reasons. On that day, 29 innocent people tragically died in the deadliest single incident of the Troubles.

Sadly, three of the victims of the Omagh bomb were from Scoil Isogáin in Buncrana - Oran Doherty (8), Sean McLaughlin (11) and James Barker (13), along with two of their Spanish friends, Rocio Abad Ramos (23) and Fernando Blasco Baselga (12), who were on a cultural visit that day, on a cross-border excursion to Omagh.

As a result of the tragedy, three men from Donegal took it upon themselves and along with the local GAC to set up the Buncrana Cup as a mark of respect to the young men from Buncrana and their Spanish friends who died.

The final of this now prestigious tournament has always been played at the Scarvey, Buncrana GAC’s pitch and this year’s 21st final will be no different with the throw-in at 12.30pm this Saturday featuring Donegal and Tyrone.

The three men who made the change were Michael McMenamin (Donegal Youth Officer), Martin McHugh (Donegal Academy) and John McConnell, who was county chairman.

Michael McMenamin takes up the story of how the change came about.

“In the late nineties, I was the Donegal Youth Officer and was involved with Martin McHugh in the Donegal U16 development team who played in the Ted Webb Cup competition.

“Organised by Connacht GAA, the Ted Webb Cup mostly involved Connacht teams and meant a lot of travelling as most of the games were played in the province.

“After the 1998 Omagh tragedy it was decided by Martin, myself and John McConnell, to set up an U16 Ulster competition in honour of those three local boys from Buncrana and their two Spanish friends who so tragically lost their young lives in the Omagh bombing.

“At the time when it was set up, it was a condition that the semi-finals would be played in Inishowen and that the final would always be played in Buncrana.

“In the first year, six Ulster teams competed for Buncrana Cup glory and in 2002, all nine Ulster teams entered the competition.”

The Buncrana Cup went from strength to strength and such was its success that in 2002 the Ulster GAA took over the organization of the tournament, which helped ensure its longevity and prominence.

Over the years, many of the modern day prominent stars has played in the competition including Karl Lacey, Eamon McGee, Michael Doherty and Ronan MacNiallais - who all played on the Buncrana Cup-winning team of 2000. Derry’s Barry McGoldrick lifted the Buncrana Cup in 2001; and current Donegal player Conor O’Donnell, played in the 2016 final.

It’s also worth noting that Everton and Republic of Ireland captain Seamus Coleman was also a Buncrana Cup winner with Donegal in 2004.

To this day and for many years to come, the memories of the young men from Buncrana and their friends who lost their lives will live long with all involved in the organisation and participation of Ulster’s greatest U16 Gaelic football competition - the Buncrana Cup.

GAA Football