Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: CLG Iorras

‘We are encouraging everyone to stay positive and follow the guidelines. We are also looking forward to getting CLG Iorras teams back out onto the pitch, whenever that may be’

Hopefully, after the year we have all endured, the ‘quack’ will be 90 on the River Binnion this St Stephen’s Day, as it has been for many, many years past at the legendary CLG Iorras Duck Race.

The Duck Race is an annual fundraiser, which in 2015 then Treasurer, John Friel, described to Gaelscéalaí Inis Eoghain as “more Christmas quackers than Christmas crackers.”

Traditionally the ducks, which are of the rubber variety, are launched from Binnion Bridge and bob down-river, cheered on by the scores of enthusiastic children and adults watching from the river bank.

A colourful and fun family event, everyone is very welcome to take part.

According to John, CLG Iorras has been based in Crampsey Park in Straid since 1979, proudly sporting the red and black.

John recalled: “Before that, CLG Iorras had been playing at a field out in Leenan. Our new Park took its name from Charlie Crampsey, the man who sold us the land. One of the club’s highlights was undoubtedly the opening of our clubhouse in 2014.

“However, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael has a fascinating, much longer and thankfully well documented history in Urris. Its origins can be traced back to the stationing of the Irish Army and its renowned junior team, Dun Lionain, at Leenan. This was in addition to the arrival in Clonmany National School of a young teacher by the name of Dennis Callaghan in the 1930’s.

“Originally from Killybegs, Dennis represented Donegal at junior and senior levels while playing for Clonmany, who subsequently lifted the Inish Eoghain Championship in the 1940’s,” added John.

John recalled Dennis Callaghan had coached quite a few good minor teams and heavily promoted Gaelic football at schools level.

He continued: “CLG Iorras is also indebted to Dennis McElligot from County Kerry who taught at Carndonagh Vocational School.

“Coached by Dennis, Carndonagh won the County Vocational Championship for three consecutive years, a fantastic achievement in itself, however, 13 members of that team came from Urris and provided a solid foundation for CLG Iorras on which to build!

“And so, it was that the club was officially was founded in Danny Friel’s barn in September 1969, with Dennis Callaghan as its first president, and rightly so,” said John.

Five years ago, then CLG Iorras Children’s Officer, Susan McCarron, spoke with evident pride about CLG Iorras having the distinction of being the first club in Inishowen to establish a senior ladies football team.

Susan said: “That was back in the early 1990s,” said Susan. “I joined in my teens and played right up until I got married. The team went for a good few years and then it stopped for a wee while. About three years ago [2012] David Hession decided to revive it. He was our manager that first season.

“I think one of the biggest boosts CLG Iorras ever got was Donegal winning the Sam Maguire in 2012. Since then our underage membership has soared, with the support of local parents. Our new clubhouse has also helped,” added Susan.

Speaking to a locked-down Gaelscéalaí Inis Eoghain, CLG Iorras Chairperson, Mark Gilmore, who had certainly had a baptism of fire in this his first year in office, said the club had done a lot of work in the early part of the year “getting ready.”

Mark said: “We had done a bit of renovation work to the club house and we had put a lot of work into our underage structures too, to get that right. We also had a management team in place for our senior team and we had actually got our ladies team back onboard again, which had not been the case for the last four or five years.

“We had done a lot of work in the early part of the year to get the club ready for a good year. But, as it turned out then, Covid-19 hit us for six.

“We are definitely missing playing games, that’s the big issue at the minute. We are just trying to keep everybody in contact with the club. We are doing various things through social media,” said Mark.

Over the past few weeks, CLG Iorras has been actively fundraising for St Columbcille Day Centre in Clonmany.

Mark said: “Given the fact there was no club training taking place and there are no matches being played, using social media, we decided to organise the ‘Urris 5000’ to try and keep everybody connected to the club.

“Essentially, we tried to get the club as a whole to either walk or run 5000 kilometres in a month, while safely observing the 2km radius from their homes.

“The idea was basically, to encourage everybody outdoors in the good weather, families and players. It didn’t matter about fitness levels.

“If you were able to run, you did a run. If you were able to walk, you did a walk. The information was then recorded and sent back to the club, where our PRO, Rose Kelly, noted all the times and totalled the daily distances. It went brilliantly,” said Mark.

Parallel with the ‘Urris 5000’ Urris GAA also set up a GoFundMe page, as Mark said, “to gather a few euro for the Day Centre.”

Mark added: “Urris GAA wanted to show our support and appreciation to all the staff there for the great work they were doing in the area, in these difficult times.

“We also encouraged people to send in the photographs they took during their walks or runs. We posted these on the CLG Iorras Facebook page. Some of them were absolutely amazing.

“When the lockdown came in, we told all our members, players and coaches we had to down tools effectively. However, we knew we had a network in place here and when Donegal County Council’s Covid-19 Community Support Helpline [1800 928 982, 9am to 9pm, seven days per week] was set up, we had 50 club members who volunteered immediately.

“All the clubs in the Parish have people volunteering with the Helpline, not just the GAA. It is brilliant,” said Mark.

Mark had his fingers crossed CLG Iorras will play “some kind of football” before the year is out. However, he thought it was going to be “minimal.”

He added: “We are not expecting anything like a normal season this year at all. In terms of underage, we don’t know how that is going to go, whether there will be any games at all. The GAA is relying on Government guidance. Whenever the lockdown is lifted all we can do is basically be ready to go.

“We have also had deaths in the Parish during lockdown and it was difficult for the families and it was difficult for Parish as a whole not to be able to pass on our condolences.

“On behalf of CLG Iorras, I would like to take this opportunity to offer our sympathies anyone who has been bereaved recently,” said Mark.

Encouraging everyone to stay positive. Mark was looking forward to getting the teams onto the pitch at Crampsey Park “whenever that may be.”

He was also enjoying the old photographs of the club, which are being posted on Facebook during the lockdown.

He then passed the Gaelscéalaí Inis Eoghain baton to a reflective CLG Iorras PRO, Rose Kelly.

Rose mused: “As 2019, our 50th Anniversary, came to a close and the club's Golden Jubilee celebrations were all completed, CLG Iorras was looking forward to a quieter 2020.

“Never, in our wildest dreams did we imagine that on March 12, 2020, all our GAA activity, on and off the field of play, would be cancelled due to the Coronavirus.

“With no training or football taking place the club decided to run the 5000km Challenge and open it up to all club members and all in the Clonmany parish to give everyone something to do in lockdown.

“Blessed with beautiful weather and even better scenery, we got great buy-in with many families and individuals out and about walking/running in the parish and even Urris Gaels living in other parts of Donegal, Sligo, Galway and further afield in Australia and Boston,” said Rose.

The 5000 kilometre target was smashed within a fortnight.

The club then decided to push for 10,000 kilometres.

Rose said: “We finished up with a super total of 10,193.43km completed and more than €2,500 to date raised in donations.

“CLG Urris wishes to thank all who supported us in this challenge, showing true community spirit in these uncertain times and for taking part, sending on times and the great pictures all around Clonmany and further afield. I posted all pictures on our Facebook page over the four weeks.

“A massive thanks too to all who donated to the fundraiser. A special word of thanks must go to Susan McCarron and Mark Gilmore who helped me to co-ordinate times from various club groups and the general public. Thanks also to senior player Conor Bradley for setting up the GoFundMe for the club.

“Hopefully, we get back to the football soon in Crampsey Park, Straid. Until then we hope all keep safe and well,” said Rose.

To donate to the CLG Iorras 5000km fundraiser, click: HERE

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