By Niall Gartland
A CARRICKMORE native will attempt to plot the downfall of Stewartstown when they take on Glasgow Gaels in Sunday’s All-Ireland Junior Championship quarter-final.
The Glasgow-based side are managed by Jimmy Treacy, who has never lost his love for the GAA despite moved across the water for 13 years now.
He grew up playing hurling for Carrickmore Éire Óg, and his father, also called Jimmy, is one of the great dignitaries of Tyrone GAA, having been named its first honorary President back in 2009.
Glasgow Gaels are a strong outfit with a few recognisable names in their ranks (former Fermanagh player Tomás Clarke captained them to this year’s All-Britain Championship, a seismic victory for the club), but Treacy says there’s more at stake than just a place in the All-Ireland Championship semi-final this weekend.
Yes, they want to claim a historic victory over Stewartstown, but they also want to leave a lasting positive impression on their visitors.
“As a Tyrone man I definitely want us to put our best foot forward. If you’re not making friends and enjoying this sort of thing, you shouldn’t be doing it. If we have one particular aim this weekend, it’s making sure the people of Stewartstown will feel right at home, because Glasgow has certainly made us feel at home.
“We want them to go home singing the praises of our club and our facilities, the result is almost secondary. Hopefully that will encourage others to consider coming to us as well, whether it’s GAA clubs or even players when they pick universities or a place to work.”
Even though it’s a long time since he lived in Tyrone, Treacy says Carrickmore will always be his home at the end of it all.
“You never get away from Carrickmore, it’s still my home and where I’m from. People ask me what my club is and I say Carrickmore Éire Óg. The only reason I took up football over here is because there was no hurling at the time.
“Everyone in Tyrone is from a football background but I think some of us rebel and love hurling too. I keep very close tabs on the Éire Ógs, I’m very proud of how well they’ve been doing.”
Treacy says it’s difficult to entice teams from the Emerald Isle over to Scotland for fairly obvious logistical reasons, so they’re delighted to have the opportunity to take on a strong Tyrone team this weekend.
“It’s lovely to play a team from home. For the last eight years we’ve been trying to get teams from Ireland to come over to Glasgow to play in challenge games – as team builders for them and as an opportunity to gain experience for us. We’d have loved a game like this where there’s possibly less riding on it. Stewartstown are coming through a county and province that love football, they’re having an absolute juggernaut of a season.”
Son of former Tyrone Chairman Jimmy Treacy, he says he’s been proud to bring his love of the GAA to somewhere where gaelic football and hurling are nowhere near as prominent.
“I grew up in a GAA household and it’s great to be able to take that passion for our games to a different city and nurture it. It’s definitely helped me, we’ve not always had successful seasons and that can be testing, but whenever you’ve grown up in a GAA household, you have that resilience, that the good years will come.”
While the vast majority of their players grew up in Ireland, there are a handful of exceptions, a testament to the sterling work being done by the club. Treacy, who jointly manages the team with Burren man Damian McGovern, said: “We’ve had people all over Ireland in our panel the last two or three years. At one point we did a check and there was only one county represented and that was Longford.
“We’ve a strong cohort of Irish players but we’re really proud of the fact we’ve Scottish guys on our team as well. There’s a young fella A.G. Friel who started when he was 12, he’s around 17 now and he’s been a great success story for the club. It’s not just a home away from home for our Irish players. There’s a genuine pathway for true Glaswegians who maybe have Irish avenue and now have a good avenue through which to learn the sport.”
Whatever happens, it’s a huge occasion for all associated with Glasgow Gaels this weekend – especially so as it’s the first time a GAA match will be played under floodlights in Britain.
“The facility is a real jewel in the crown, the Clydebank Community Sports Hub. Scotland GAA has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds, and we have the first full-sized floodlit 4G Gaelic Football pitch in Britain. It’s a tribute to the Glasgow Gaels of the past and the county board members who have made this happen. It’s lovely that we have the opportunity to do this and to roll out the red carpet to Stewartstown.”