Summerhill G.F.C 1905-1967
There was a football team in Summerhill around the turn of the century. Very little is known however about these men who have blazed the trail over a hundred years ago, except what can be gathered from hearsay and an old photograph. The team was in existence from about 1905 to 1913. The most prominent players were Mossie Keefe and Kit Kelly both of whom later played with Bohermeen.
Sometime around 1913 or '14 this team broke up and in the years that followed Summerhill had no team of its own. Many of the players gave their service to neighbouring teams, the best going to Bohermeen at that time the most prominent team in the county. With players scattered it was to take nearly twenty years before another Summerhill team took the field again.
It appears that the present club was reformed in 1931 and strange to relate success greeted the team in that same year. Mainly through the efforts of Sergeant Fitzpatrick and Bill Shaw, Summerhill entered a team for the Junior Championship of 1931. The divisional draw saw Summerhill lined up against Ballivor, Ballinabrackey, Enfield and Rathmolyon. The first outing was in the month of April against Ballivor and the hurdle was successfully cleared by 3-2 to 0-1. More victories were added to this initial one and the Meath Chronicle in one of its games reports mentions "Summerhill's promising Juniors". The team went on to qualify for the final by beating Byerstown and Curraha in the final stages. The most prominent players were John Elliott, Ben Holmes and Bill Shaw. Shaw was then at the beginning of an illustrious career which saw him give many outstanding displays for his county and province.
1966 Junior Team (click for larger image)
The 1931 Junior Final between Summerhill and St. Colmcilles (Kells) was played late in that year and the result was a draw. The replay took place in February of 1932 and this time Summerhill triumphed by 6 points to 3. So the team which was entered at the beginning of the championship for the first time brought home the laurels. Bill Shaw who had missed the drawn game gave an outstanding display. The Meath Chronicle reports that "William Shaw was in his usual good form and was responsible for most of the scores."
The following is the team which brought the first championship to Summerhill all those years ago: 1.Eddie Elliott; 2.John Elliott, 3.Matt Brady, 4.Ger Brady; 5.John McGough, 6.Pat Early, 7.Christy Keogh; 8.Ben Holmes, 9.Mick Power; 10.M.Pender, 11.Bill Shaw, 12.Jimmy Peakin; 13.J.J.Fagan, 14.Gus Walsh, 15.Paddy Peakin. Subs; Andy Elliott & Patrick Brady.
1932 however was to be a year of bitter sweet experience for the club. One would have expected this tremendous initial success to augur well for the future. But such was not to be. As the present Intermediate grade was not in existence then the next step was promotion to Senior ranks. This step was too great and too early. After only one game in the Senior Championship of 1932 this team broke up and went out of existence.
In 1933 it was back at starting point once more in the Junior grade and things were at a low ebb until 1937 when a fresh start was made. That year a minor team was entered in the championship for the first time. This team succeeded in reaching the final of the competition only to lose to Donaghmore. It is well worth recalling that in this period there was also a team in Ginnetts, and Garadice often succeeded in fielding a team.
1905 Summerhill Team (click for larger image)
1942 brought the first Underage title ever to the club. The Minor Championship for that year was won by Summerhill. This team was captained by Niall Fagan and had promising young players in Colm Larkin, Patrick Lyons and Laurence Dwyer. Navan De La Salles were their opponents in the final, in that same year Ollie Fagan and Johnny Ashe played with the Meath Junior team.
In 1945 the club was only able to field a minor team and in the following year most of these stepped into Junior ranks. Things were beginning to look bright and in the next 5 years the club contested four divisional finals.
1953 saw the Junior Championship barrier crashed for a second time. In that years final Summerhill captained by Mick Connolly beat Drumbarragh by 1-6 to 1-5. Seamus Hughes was called to the Meath minor colours in the early fifties and Jim Nangle, Tommy Fagan and Johnny Fagan made the Meath Junior team in 1954.
Back at club level the promotion to Senior status in 1954, as before, proved too big a jump. The creation of the Intermediate grade in 1955 allowed the club to leave Senior ranks after only one year. In 1956 Summerhill reached the final of the Intermediate championship only to go under to Duleek. This effort however only flattered to deceive for in 1958 came relegation to Junior status once more.
1931 Junior Team (click for larger image)
Despite this setback certain signs of hope and encouragement for the future had been emerging. For some years previous to this the club had fielded a second adult team annually - in the Junior "B" grade as it was then called. Tom Flynn was called to the Meath Junior team which went on to win the All-Ireland Championship in that grade in 1962; Garda Jim McNelis a senior county player with his native Donegal came to Summerhill and threw in his lot with the club. Then in 1957 the club purchased its own playing field. Now at last the club had a home of its own.
The emphasis placed on underage teams in the late fifties and early sixties began to pay off. Young blood was soon to make its mark. Paddy and Austin Lyons, Donie Mooney, John Ennis and Paud Thompson were called to the Meath Minor colours. Mayo born Tom Gibbons (who was later to make his own bit of history) and his brother Paddy entered the club around this time. Enthusiasm was high as the 1966 Championship was about to begin.
When the final stages were reached Summerhill were still there. The final was played in October at O'Growney Park, Athboy, between Summerhill and Killallon. Summerhill triumphed by 0-10 to 0-2. Tom Gibbons was top scorer with 7 points, the others coming from Jim McNelis (2) and Seamus Brennan. This win brought an exciting new name to the Meath football scene in the person of Mattie Kerrigan. Mattie soon made his mark with the county and was joined by Austin Lyons the following year. Both collected All-Ireland medals when Meath won the All-Ireland title. The 1966 team lined out as follows: 1.Vincent Nangle; 2.Donie Mooney, 3.Paddy Gibbons, 4.John McKay; 5.Seamus Hughes, 6.Tom Flynn, 7.Tom Austin; 8.Austin Lyons, 9.Jim McNelis; 10.Tom Gibbons, 11.Paddy Lyons, 12.Colm Holmes; 13.Seamus Brennan, 14.Mattie Kerrigan, 15.Jim Nangle. Subs: Pat O'Donnell and Bobby White.
A big disappointment was soon to follow, having won the Junior "A" championship the team lost the final proper to Junior "B" winners Kells. This game was played in February 1967. A hard lesson was learned from this defeat and putting disappointment aside the team reached the semi-final of the Intermediate Championship that same year. Many voices in the club would point out this period as a major step in the final breakthrough to the big time.
Looking back now it is easy to be wise but there can scarcely be anyone at that particular time who could forecast that within ten years from that Junior "A" championship win in 1966 that Summerhill would have captured one Junior championship, one Intermediate and four Senior championships in a row.
Having come to the end of this short journey down the years. It may not be inappropriate to reflect upon the endeavours of the many who strove so valiantly down the years with so little reward. It is only right that we should recall that it was their efforts during the unrewarded years which laid the foundation of the success which is now ours.