Only in the dreams and aspirations of the founders of Cumann Peil Caltra, Pat Dillon, Jim Hannon and J.P Lyons in 1899 when they formed the first club did the possibility of winning a County Senior Football Championship and being the top club in the County and in the Country in the one year ever entered their heads. The flicker of hope then ignited has lived on for those 104 years.
It is important to record that, due to the difficulties of travel, the competitions were organised in local baronies and even in 1897, in the Parish of Ahascragh-Caltra, a local tournament involved five teams from the parish- Castleblakeney, Caltra, Castleffrench, Killasolan and Ahascragh. But in 1899 Caltra played in their first County Championship. The five regions of the parish listed above continued to play the local barony competitions and that in itself was a "Mini-All-Ireland".
The very existence of five teams then and for many years afterwards hindered the chances of Senior County Final success. The respective teams in the parish achieved success with Castleffrench contesting but defeated by Dunmore in the 1912 County Senior Final.
Castleffrench 1912 County Finalists
Front Row (L to R): Peter Cusack, Joe Connor, Pat Brien, John Kilroy, Frank Quinn.
Second Row: Michael Connelly, Willie Daly, Pa Hannon, Don Keaveny, John Kilroy, John Murray.
Third Row: Martin Kelly, James Cahan, fifth from left is Michael Kelly, Andy Lohan, Jim McDonnell, John Turley (hat)
Caltra recorded their first success when they won the North Board Junior Final in 1924 (after an objection already recorded in Centenary publication and played in 1925) when they defeated Kilkerrin and went on to win a semi-final over Corofin and then beat Galway Gaels in the final, to go senior for the first time.
Members of that 1924 team included Michael Kilroy, Michael Meehan, (grandfathers of the current players) and Pa Hennelly, (granduncles of the current players), now household names.
An interesting story from the North Board Final of 1924 was that the performance of Michael Meehan earned him a call up for the County Team.
In 1926 a Caltra-Ahascragh combination entered the Senior Championship and defeated Mountbellew by 2-0 to 1-2, but went down to Tuam in the 1929 Senior Final.
Caltra fielded two teams in the 1931 Senior Championship No.1 Caltra and No.2 Ahascragh-Caltra. Michael Meehan, James Meehan, Michael Kilroy, Pake Hennelly and Johnny Hennelly were familiar names on the No.1 Team.
A player, also of that team, James Davis at 92 years of age attended all of the games in the 2003 run to the All-Ireland.
In 1934 Killasolan captured a North Board Title but were defeated by Wolfe Tones of Galway City in the final. Familiar names on this Killasolan side included Johnnie Gavin (grandfather of Kevin), Jimmy Meehan (granduncle of the current crop), Christy Kelly (grand-uncle of Oisín and Solan).
In 1940 Killasolan after disappointments decided to amalgamate with Caltra. In the same year it was the turn of Castleblakeney to achieve success when they went on to win the County Junior Title and were promoted to the Senior ranks. Famous names included the Kitt priests, Fr. Sean and Fr. Liam, while Captain Michael Kitt went on to be a T.D. in the Dáil for many years.
Castleblakeney County Junior Champions of 1940
Back Row(Lto R): Thomas Keane (Liscub.,Grandfather of Kilroy Clann), Thomas Mannion, Bobbie Mannion, Mikie Keane (Rabane), Jack Mannion (Castleblakeney), Mick Carrig (Ashfield), Martin Keating, Tim Naughton, Jimmy Cloonan, Thomas Cloonan, T. Gavin, Mikie Cloonan, T. Connolly, Paddy Coffey, Sonny Mannion.
Kneeling ( L to R): Jimmy Melody, Sean Keane, Pat O’Dowd, Fr. Liam Kitt, Gerry O’Dowd, Jimmy Keane, Michael Kitt, M. Cahill, Fr. Martin Daly, Mick Ryan, Des Melody, Noel O’Dowd, Fr. Sean Kitt, Deirdre Daly, Marsey O’Dowd, Paddy Connolly, Paddy Raftery, Mattie Kilgannon, K. O’Dowd, John Lydon.
In 1942 Ahascragh had a North Board Minor Final success over Tuam Stars but went down to the reigning county champions Erin’s Hope in the County Final. Caltra returned to Junior ranks and went on to win the County Junior Title of 1943 and returned to Senior again.
Caltra 1943 Co. Junior Champions
Back Row (L to R): Matt Cronnelly, Marty Gordan, Peter Mulryan, Christy Kelly, Martin Clarke, Larry Heneghan, Gerry Henelly, Tommy Keane, Paddy Tyrrells.
Front Row: Pake Connelly, Michael (Head) Conheeney, Paddy Coffey (Capt.), John Loughnane, Bernie Mannion and Patrick Keeley. Mascot - Hughie Higgins.
Missing from photo: Sonny Naughton, Francis Delaney, Tom Coffey,Paddy Higgins.
In 1943 the Ahascragh team again captured a North Board Minor Title but the County Semi-Final and Final were not played due to War difficulties. (There are other opinions)
In 1944 Castleblakeney had little success in the Senior Championship and decided to amalgamate with Caltra. Ahascragh captured a North Board Junior Title in 1945 with many of these young minor players but after a replay, went down to Mícheal Breathnach’s by four points.
In 1947 Caltra minors won a North Board final. In 1949 Ahascragh players came on board with Caltra to capture a North Board Junior Title defeating Dunmore 5-4 to 3-4. Caltra were defeated by Kilgerrill by 0-1- to 1-4 in the Semi-Finals.
In 1951 Castleblakeney again registered a Junior Team and went on to win a North board Title beating Carrantryla ( Dunmore) in the final but lost out in an objection. In 1952 Ahascragh were defeated by Milltown in a North Board Junior Final after a replay, were awarded the Cup after an objection, but were defeated by Clifden in the County Championship. In 1954 Killasolan again registered a team and lasted for three years but with no success. They finally amalgamated with Caltra in 1957.
In 1955 emigration was at a peak, employment prospects were low and this had a great effect on all teams in the Parish. The movement of players from one team to another, even within the parish and to outside, was devastating. The great Tom "Pook" Dillon played with Ballinasloe and there was little success at Parish level from any of the teams for a few years and this finally yielded only one football team in the Parish - namely Caltra. In 1956 three players from the Parish won County Minor Championship medals with Ballygar (now St. Brendan’s), namely Padraic Fitzgerald, Bertie Concannon and Ollie Mitchell.
Ballygar Winners of Galway Co. Minor Football Championships 1956
Back Row: O. Mulligan, N. Hughes, P. Mulrooney, P. Fitzmaurice, B. Farrell, K.Donnelly, A. Carty, M. Cormican.
Front Row: P. Fitzgerald, B. Concannon, P. Kilcommins, O. Mitchell, P. Fitzmaurice, G. Fallon, P. McDonagh, S. Ryan.
The organisation of Juvenile Football at Club level had commenced in 1952 and Caltra Club Members, National School Teachers Michael Hogan, Tom Fitzgerald and another National School Teacher from Mountbellew Mr. M. Lohan were instrumental in its inception while Fr. Liam Kitt who was earlier referred to in Castleblakeneys 1943 Team, by then a missionary in the U.S.A., presented an U-16 Championship Cup. The first winners of the Trophy, Ballygar, had future All-Ireland medal winners in Mattie McDonagh (now the only Connacht man to win four All-Ireland Senior medals), Jackie Coyle and Jimmy Greally.
The development of underage football continued with only one football team at all levels in the Parish, but it was not until 1966 that any success came their way, with a North Board Minor Final win over Corofin, but a defeat in the County final by Moycullen.
1968 U-21 A County Champions:
Front Row L to R: Andy Finnerty, Micheal Kitt, Declan Kelly, Ger Fitzgerald, Andy Gavin, Micheal Healy, Martin Mitchell,
Frankie Leonard, Kevin Mcloughlin, John Fitzgerald,
Back row L to R: Tom Divilly, Johnny Costello, John Mannion, Joe Burke, Jim Finnerty, Lawrence Raftery, Christy Kelly, Des Fitzgerald, Sean Divilly, Jim McDermott
In 1968 the first Galway U-21 Championship was held and Caltra were the winners of the first title. On the promptings of the then Galway Football Board Officers, Caltra went Senior, but went down to a star studded Dunmore outfit which included Seamus Leydon, John Keenan, Pat and John Donnellan and others of All-Ireland fame. It was a case of back to Junior for Caltra. Caltra soon had success with three Junior League Titles, 1971, 1972, and 1973 and a County Junior Championship success in 1973. The Juvenile structures at the Club continued to be strong which led to an U-16 League Final win in 1973 and defeat in a County Minor Final of 1974.
1973 County Junior Champions:
Kneeling L to R: Mike Hennelly, Martin Healy, Bernie Lyons, Micheal Greene.
Seated L to R: Micheal Meehan, Micheal Healy, Joe Burke, James Mcloughlin, J Davis, Brendan Davis.
Standing: Tom Divilly, Tim Flanagan, Des Fitzgerald, Sean Divilly, Micheal Kitt, John Fitzgerald, Christy Kelly, Tom Kitt, Willie Gavin, Declan Kelly.
Defeated Minor County Finalists in 1974.
Back Row: (L to R): W. Hannon, J. McGuire, J. Quigley, L. Kitt, F. Daly, E. Kitt, P. Farragher, P. Kennedy, S. Kitt, L. Conway, G. Smith, M. Kilroy (selector)
Front Row: M. Conheeney, J. Griffin, M. Donnellan, J. Cahill, M. Kelly (capt), F. Tully, K. Blundell, O. Tully, N. Finnerty,
Mascot - Seamus Lawlor.
It was then back up to Senior in 1974 and this was a very successful period for the Club despite the lack of a County Senior Championship. Caltra recorded a famous win in the Newtown-Cashel, Co. Longford tournament in 1974, with top teams from a number of counties.
In the Final Caltra defeated a Tony McTaigue led Ferbane, Co. Offaly and this gave hope for future success. This win helped the team after a defeat in the Championship by Dunmore and brought them through the summer in top class games. Weekend trips to Kerry organised by John Lawlor and a trip to Cleggan organised by Brian De Courcey also helped to keep the panel of players together or in modern terms helped with team bonding. They contested three County League Finals in a row -1975, 1976, 1977- but lost all three to Killererin, Tuam Stars and Milltown, and in between reached the County Senior Championship final of 1975, but went down to a star studded Fr. Griffin’s side (city) in the County Senior Championship Final.
1975 Senior Championship Finalists
Back L to R: Tom Divilly, Declan Kelly, Micheal Kitt, John Killilea, Padraig Farragher, Micheal Kelly, Des Fitzgerald, Joe Burke,
Front L to R: Mike Hynes, Owen Tully, Brendan Davis, Tim Flanagan, Micheal Healy, Christy Kelly, Johnny Costello.
The following is an extract from the report of the match in the Connacht Tribune.
"Caltra were unfortunate to meet Griffins on a day when the whole team was rising to the task in hand, that of winning the County title. Liam Sammon certainly did not spare himself and Jim Noone and
Ger O’Mahony proved a real handful for the stout hearted Caltra defenders, particularly Des Fitzgerald and Declan Kelly who certainly gave of their best. While Joe Burke and Tim Flanagan tried very hard at mid-field they did not on this occasion enjoy the success they usually do in this sector. The final score was Fr. Griffins 0-9, Caltra 0-5."
In 1982 Caltra went back to intermediate. No one could imagine that it would take until 1997 to regain Senior status again. The Club history abbreviated above has been chronicled in the Centenary Publication with team mentors and incidents recorded.
Another chapter in this book entitled "It was not an overnight success", will outline the successes at under-age which brought about the current crop of players and indeed ended that 104 year wait for the first ever County Final.
Seán ó Siocháin(former general secretary of Cumann Lúth Chleas Gael) at the official opening of the club grounds and dressing rooms in 1983 flanked by Michael Meehan (chairman), Mattie Kilroy (secretary of the sportsfield committee)