The John Mitchel Gaelic Athletic Club in Newry was formed by a group of enthusiasts back in the late 50’s. Gerry Brown of Clanrye Avenue, a Physical Education teacher at the Abbey Grammar was its first Chairman and under his expert guidance the new club attained immediate success with a number of notable championships.
John Mitchel Statue, Hill Street
As Noel Mathers (emigrant brother of Michael and Maurice) says on Guestbook here,
‘Charlie McCourt’s sweet shop on William Street was our unofficial headquarters. Meeting there would be such characters as Pa Jo Smith, Brian McCourt, Arthur Ruddy, Seamus Sarsfield, Teddy McCaul, Eddie O’Hagan, John McAleavey and Sean and Kevin O’Neill’.
An early enthusiast, Malachy McKevitt is still a hard-working member, and there are others. It is also the case that a number of pioneers, including a few of those already named, have passed on to their eternal reward.
It is notable too that a great many were residents of the South end of town where Shamrocks GAC already had a successful club and grounds. Mitchels never attained their own grounds. That is but one point of difference. Undoubtedly some of the mutual animosity that saw the Mitchels go their separate way then is still to be discerned in the second generation. Unfortunately though both clubs had early success, separately, and together in the successful All-Ireland teams of the Sixties, neither recently has demonstrated the full potential that a hugely-expanded population in Newry ought to offer. Disillusioned youth may have turned first to soccer, unable to comprehend the ‘false’ rivalry. Of course there is also the John Bosco GAC.
It was from the Bosco Club that the Mitchels first grew. The former was then centred in a cold, rambling old building in Erskine Street and its Gaelic football team was for Minors. Many stalwarts suddenly became ‘over-age’. The early Mitchels acquired clubrooms in Castle Street nicknamed Smokey Joes. From there fundraising nights were run to support the fledgling team. In their first year they won the County Minors Championships. In 1960 they lifted the County Senior title.
A feature of the early days was the number of brothers turning out in the teams’ colours: the McAteers, the Bannons, McCauls, Toals, McAleaveys, O’Neills, Hollywoods, Taveys, O’Rourkes, O’Halls, McParlands and Quinns. The pattern has continued through subsequent generations of the same families.
Of those named, Sean O’Neill won three All-Ireland Winners’ medals and his brother Kevin (later Chief Executive, Newry & Mourne District Council) twoo All-Irelands. Val Kane (and later his younger brother D J) also took an All_Ireland medal. The Senior Mitchels team took County honours in 1959, 1964, 1967 and 1968. Other notable names in the Mitchels’ success story include Jim Bannon, Paddy McAteer, Fr Raymond Hollywood and Brian Donaghy, while people like Peter McParland, Sean O’Neill, Pat Toal, Sean McCracken, Pa Jo Smith and Jim Gorman did a lot to prepare all teams for the various championships.
For more than four decades the Mitchels have been a vital part of life in Newry. Its leadership and inspirational moral strength, and the discipline imparted to generations of youth are a legacy to be proud of.
Long may this wonderful club thrive!