The history of the Warwickshire County Board
It is not possible at present to fix the exact year in which organized playing of games commenced in Warwickshire. However it can be definitely stated that there was a strong and thriving hurling club Erin’s Hope operating in Birmingham in 1907 and games were then being arranged with teams at Liverpool, Manchester and London. No trace of any activity to speak of between 1916 and 1935 can be found presumably there were clubs formed from time to time, but it would seem that there were no organized competitions.
In 1935 the Provincial Council were responsible for the insertion of an advertisement in a local newspaper asking those interested to attend a meeting with a view to the formation of a Board. As a result a small band of enthusiasts formed themselves into a Committee and set out to unite under the banner of the G.A.A. The quite large numbers of Irishmen who were around at the time, settling in the Midlands from then until 1939 considerable progress was made. During the war years it was impossible to continue but in 1941 due to efforts of John Mitchels in response to a request from the Lancashire County Board the Warwickshire County Board was formed. Clubs were formed in Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Redditch. As the G.A.A. flourished in London the Irish in Birmingham and Midlands began to establish the roots of what we see today. Frank Short (R.I.P.) Dennis Cronin and Sean Cassidy (R.I.P.) were amongst the first G.A.A. men in Birmingham.
Frank Short a school teacher (father of Claire Short) became the first in a long line of dedicated Chairmen. Initially the board functioned with four clubs but as the G.A.A. took hold in the Midlands more and more clubs were formed. John Mitchels role was still one of prominence they donated the pitches on which these teams played. In Birmingham we saw teams such as Robert Emmets, St. Patricks, Tara, St. Pauls, St. Chads, Emerald Isles, The Sacred Heart, J F Kennedy’s, Sean McDermott’s and Erin-go-bragh. In Coventry Shannon Rovers, Banba Rovers, Four Masters, St. Finbarrs and Roger Casements and in Leamington Spa St. Peters, in Wolverhampton St. Marys. In 1959 there were 40 teams playing hurling and football in Warwickshire.
The list of Frank Short’s successors includes Roscommon Jack Higgins (R.I.P.) Kilkenny’s Chris Holden (R.I.P.) Dr. John McAndrew, Mayo, Kevin Reynolds from Leitrim, Michael Houlihan, Tipperary, George McGuigan, Tyrone and Billy Collins (R.I.P.), Limerick. Chris Holdens legacy to Warwickshire Gaels can be seen today at Pairc Na h Eireann. He saw the need for a base and it was due to his efforts in instigating the massive and long running fund raising scheme that the goal was reached 20 years ago. His work was continued as Warwickshire Gaels strove towards this goal as his scheme came to fruition the development committee under the chairmanship of Noel McLean worked immensely hard to ensure its success. Pairc Na h Eireann stands as a monument to the work of not only Chris Holden and his successors but to the continued efforts and support of the Warwickshire Gaels. It represents the strength of the community and the culture they have brought from their homeland.
The first juvenile hurling game was played in Glebe Farm Birmingham in 1958 between a team from Birmingham and a team from Coventry. The underage football commenced in the Mid 1960’s and has gone from strength to strength. Donal Kelly(R.I.P.), Tim Foley(R.I.P.), Jimmy Smyth and Peadar Moran were responsible for the commencing of teams and were the main officers of the Juvenile Board when it was formed.
Warwickshire footballers have played 9 All-Ireland Junior Finals to date but have yet to win one. Their first appearance was in 1946 against Down and Warwickshire held the northern county to a four point defeat. Warwickshire next two final appearances in 1951 and 1955 were against Cork who were comfortable winners on both occasions. Mayo were Warwickshires opposition in 1957, a game our current past secretary George McGuigan remembers well. He played in it, to date it was our best performance losing a tight match by only 2 points. From 1984 to 1990 Warwickshire played five finals, four of them against Cork and one against Galway and suffered some heavy defeats.
Warwickshire hurler have reached eight All-Ireland Junior finals and our past county chairman Billy Collins (R.I.P.) held a winners medal and trained 3 successful teams 1968, 1969 and 1973.