I am very thankful to Laragh Camogie Club for their kind invitation to come here tonight, and to Louise Reilly, for passing on the invitation. I am very pleased to be here and to have the opportunity of meeting and greeting so many friends.

I think it was an excellent decision of the Club to honour the 1951 team, on this, the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of their first historic winning of the County Championship. That team went on to win three more Championships in 1952, ’53 and ’54 and that was quite an achievement.

I congratulate the Club on producing The Golden Years. It is a well researched account of the history of camogie in part of the parish of Laragh. I say part because we mustn’t forget that Stradone had won the Championship in 1948, ’49 and ’50. This book spans the history of the Laragh Camogie Club over the last 50 or 60 years. I think a special word of congratulations is due to the Editorial Committee of nine ladies and two gentlemen. As the headings of the chapters indicate, with titles like: Stars Through the Years, the Good Old Day, The Early Years, Memories, Looking Back, As I Look Back, Fond Memories, this history is, of course, a journey down memory lane.

I must say that I found it quite moving. It brought back a lot of memories of my own youth when we, at Caulfield School, were very proud to have, I suppose, the foundress of the second Laragh Camogie Club, Annie Gallagher, as she was then known, as our teacher. She was the full-back on that Championship winning team of 1951, ’52, ’53 and ’54. I suppose we all basked in the reflected glory of that all-conquering side.

I found the photographs fascinating. There is one photograph where there are only two people identified but I am sure there will be people who will be able to put names to these faces before very long. The spark that was ignited in Shann’s field in 1944, developed into a flame in 1951. I think anyone reading these pages will see that Laragh Camogie Club has served the girls, and indeed much of the parish, very well over these years.

That flame has continued to burn brightly for many years as the article says, even if it did dim a little from time to time. When it dimmed there were always people to revive it as Annie Gallagher did in the mid-forties, as Rose McKenna, Teresa Colhoun (King), Nancy O’Rourke and Brigid Brady, did in 1969. It was revived later still by Bridie Smith (now Bridie McCahey) in 1979 along with Brigid Brady and Rose McKenna.

Brigid Brady writing in her article ‘Fond Memories’ says: ‘Little did I think starting my camogie career back in 1951, that five decades later I would still be involved’. Looking back, she says she has enjoyed every moment of it. I think that is a tremendous record of voluntary service. It is a marvellous example of dedication and it is that kind of spirit that has kept camogie alive in Laragh Club.

I think tonight we celebrate, not just the championship wins and the league wins and the many distinctions like playing in the Ulster Club Final or playing in Croke Park, but the deeper things that were required. Whether it was on Laragh rock or Shann’s field, I suppose you could call this club ‘The Institute or the University of Technology of the 50s’, where friendships were formed and loyalties were developed.

One thing playing on a team teaches is that you have to depend on others. No one person is a team in himself or herself. I can see that the qualities and the virtues which these girls learned as they played with each other and for one another, helped them immensely later in life as they came to become outstanding spouses, mothers, and I suppose, grandmothers now.

I am delighted to see that their daughters, and I suppose now, granddaughters, in some cases, are carrying on the tradition of loyalty to their club, friendship and fidelity with one another and that is something really worthy of praise.

Another club, which brought distinction to our parish in the early 1950s, was the athletic club. Its fame is not sung very often but I would hope that at some stage they too, will have a Golden Jubilee celebration in this decade because they have a lot to celebrate.

There is a programme on Radio Ulster called ‘Your Place and Mine’. I suppose the reason we are all here tonight is because this Laragh Camogie Club has got to do with ‘your place and mine’. It gives us a sense of who we are and where we belong. It builds bonds of friendship and interest and history. Teresa King (Colhoun) speaks about her mother playing in Drumboe. It was funny. It brought back memories of my own mother telling about her playing in Upper Lavey around the same time, at the beginning of the last century.

Tonight we celebrate everyone associated with the Laragh Camogie Club, whether they won a medal or whether they didn’t – it doesn’t really matter. They did have that experience of belonging to a team, of depending on each other, of playing for each other. That is the important part. They belonged to an organisation that gives of its time for the good of the community, for the good of the society in which they live, of handing on the skills, passing on the tactics, building understanding and respect for each other, on and off the field.

So tonight, I gladly salute the ladies of Laragh Camogie Club from its start in 1935 right up to the present day. I wish them continued success and hope that success will come every year, whether they win championships or leagues, because it will call forth great dedication, devotion, loyalty to each other and to their club and bind them together in striving for a common goal.

I hope the Club will forgive the wiseacre, the literary genius whoever he was – who once described the team to Nancy O’Rourke as being “like a batch of pigs on a pan looking for a sup of milk”.
I am sure the ladies are big enough and generous enough to ignore remarks like that now and that the person concerned is now wise enough to know that the ladies have come a long way since then.