A Sweep Across Sixty Years Of The Association

Gerry Quinn and Liam Caldwell

The Longford Association in Dublin was founded in May 1936 by the late Captain Dan Sheridan from Ballinamuck and the late Thomas Gray, a native of Moyne, father of the former Dublin Co Board and Leinster Council Chairman, Jimmy Gray.

In 1939, due to WW2, or the “Emergency” as it was known in Ireland, the Association broke up, but was revived again in 1954 after a lengthy hiatus at a meeting in Luke Belton’s public house on Summerhill Parade. Back then it was quaintly called “The Longford Men’s Association”. However, the word “Men’s” was dropped some twenty five years later

It's aim was to provide a focus for Longford people living in Dublin and the promotion of all things ‘Longford’ in the capital, in the social, cultural and sporting spheres. During the early years, in the name of bringing Longford people together, the Annual Dinner was a much anticipated feature and the then committees were also involved in organising all types of events such as football matches between Dublin club teams and the Longford county team, outings for Association members to various parts of the country and organising fund-raising dances in Clery’s ballroom, St Peter’s Hall, Phibsboro; the Irish Club, the Teachers’ Club the National ballroom and the Parkside hotel

The 1960’s were rich years for the organisation, having been hugely boosted by the unprecedented success of the then Longford County Senior team in the mid to late 60’s. The Association’s support increased enormously as receptions and various other activities surrounding the team were organised in the Capital

Spurred on from the highs of the 60’s, the Association continued to be very active well into the 1970’s, participating in Inter-County Association debates, lectures, hospital visitations and members were also involved in the St Patrick’s Day Parade on two or three occasions, proudly marching behind the Longford Pipe Band. The mid to late ‘70’s, however, presented a short period of decline – Paddy Kenny resigned as chairman on transfer to Carlow and other members also left around this time. But there was a new impetus in 1977 with the involvement of the late Mel Farrell and Gerry Quinn, who headed up a recruiting drive resulting in quite an influx of new members, some of whom are still involved.

This, not unnaturally, brought a great vibrancy to the Association: the Longford Person of the Year award was introduced in 1980 and, with the resulting increased attendances at our Annual Dinner Dances, larger venues had to be sourced. There were team successes in the Laois Association Inter-county Talent Competition in 1983 and ’84, and also a win in the Offaly Association’s Inter-county football 7’s in 1984, with Jimmy Hanniffy as captain. Our own Inter-parish 7’s was begun in 1983 and was sponsored by Longford business people in Dublin and the business community at home in Longford. The tournament was well supported by the home GAA clubs and was thus very successful over its lifetime, but unfortunately it had to be brought to an end in 1997 due to difficulty in obtaining insurance cover.

The 1990’s started off with great energy and excitment – The Laois Association sponsored talent competition was again won by our talented selection in ’90 and ’91 and our footballers won the Offaly sevens for the second time in ’91, with Sean O’Shea as captain on this occasion. And 1990 saw us taking part in a Longford television special on the popular Bibi Baskin TV show on RTE, with Gerry Quinn as our spokesman.

In 1992, the Association hit the national headlines when new Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, was honoured as Longford Person of that Year. Down the years we’ve had many memorable Annual Dinner nights with our various choices as Longford Persons of the Year, but honouring the Taoiseach was historic.

And to mark the organisation’s 40th anniversary and the launch of our special forty years publication, “Fostering Friendship”, we featured in a three-hour live broadcast from Oliver Barden’s iconic pub, O’Donoghue’s in Merrion Row, dedicated to the Association and presented by Frank Kilbride on Shannonside Radio. Later in the decade we organised our first Golf Outing with the aim of helping local Longford charities. This became an annual event and has continued to the present day, and has thankfully enabled us to help many local charities since its inception.

The Association’s sporting success was repeated again in 2001 when our 7’s team, captained this time round by the redoubtable Paul Barden, triumphed in the Offaly 7’s tournament of that year.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the strong emotional bonds with the home county always affect our members positively, and indeed the Longford-Dublin community in general, when anything positive happens there: the occasion in 1997 when Longford Ladies won the junior All Ireland, with Drumlish man Liam Forde in charge, and in 2002 and again in 2010, when Longford County Minors won Leinster, made us all feel like winners; and what celebrations we had in the RDS in 2003 and ’04 when Longford Town won two successive FAI Cup Finals! More recently we celebrated Longford Seniors in O’Donoghue’s of Merrion Row, when in 2011 they were promoted to div. 3 and in 2012 up to div. 2. Unfortunately, we have had all too few such occasions. On the other side of the coin, however, bleak news involving Longford will always result in great sadness, such as the news of St Mel’s Cathedral being destroyed by fire on Christmas morning 2009.

2004 saw us marking the Association’s 50th year in business in a memorable celebration. The ‘Longford Leader’ designed, produced and published a special supplement in conjunction with our Golden Jubilee, which gave our celebrations an additional public profile.

While we had successful Annual Dinners and Golf Outings in the ten years from 2004 to the present, attracting and retaining new members with fresh ideas and energy proved a real challenge and had us questioning and examining whether we had a role to play at all in these times. With better roads, faster cars, internet and social networks, such as Twitter and Facebook, we have good cause to wonder if we are now a mere anachronism in the context of the way life has evolved.

But before we start wondering too much, let us have one big celebration and mark our 60th in style – and then grapple with the future!