Speaking to Davitt’s chairman Tommy Shaw his enthusiasm for the GAA and deep love of the Davitt’s club shines through. Born in Dunlewey Street in the Lower Falls he joined Davitt’s at fourteen years of age when they had clubrooms in Dunville Street, affectionately know as The Shack. He had started to play gaelic football at the De la Salle Christian Brothers school in Harden Street after he caught the eye of one of the brothers in the school playground. He played schools football and he and a few of his friends were approached by two Davitt’s clubmen Jimmy McDaid and John O’Toole who were interested in starting an underage football team.
“Jimmy McDaid and John O’Toole approached us about coming down the ‘Shack’. There was a ¾ sized snooker table down there so we all started to go there and soon the word go around the district that Davitt’s were starting an underage team. We were the first underage team in the area”.
Of course they had no home pitch at that time and played their games wherever a pitch, or an area of green grass, was available, among them Shaw’s Road (which was not the set-up we know today), McCrory Park, Falls Park and Corrigan Park. That love affair with the club and the GAA endured and Tommy went on to play for the club right through to senior level.
“We got into Division 1 football during my time with them and we also played in the Senior Championship.” The club actually won a Senior Championship title back in 1923 and it has been a dream of Tommy’s to see them get back there now that they have a pitch of their own.
There new pitch and changing rooms is Tommy’s pride and joy, and rightly so. Years of hard work by the Davitt’s committee will finally come to fruition on Saturday when All Ireland Hurling Champions Tipperary play Antrim on the magnificent new Davitt Park. They have had many setbacks over the thirty odd years that Tommy has been in the chair and bought ground in Lagmore and Twinbrook at different times, but their plans fell through. However the determination of Tommy and his team took many hard blows and kept coming back for more. When the current site became available Tommy and his team saw a great opportunity and with the help of PP Fr Devlin and people within the Diocese the ground for the new pitch was secured. Ground adjacent to the playing pitch was later bought from the Deparment of Social Development and on it stands their new changing rooms and clubhouse.
The clubrooms were actually opened last year and the pitch itself was originally scheduled to host its first game last September. However Tommy felt that the leagues were almost over at that stage of the season and after consultation with the contractor Paul Patterson they decided to leave the official opening to the start of the new season. Club secretary Eugene Gallager approached county secretary Frankie Quinn about the possibility of hosting a National Football League game to mark the opening but Frankie told him that there was something else in the pipeline that might be even better.
“Frankie asked us to give him a couple of weeks and he would get back to us so we said ‘Fair enough, go ahead’. He came back to us in a week or two and said ‘How would you feel about All Ireland champions Tipperary coming to play Antrim?’ “To be honest with you I nearly fell out of the chair. I couldn’t believe it. Eugene and myself had to keep it to ourselves for a while and there was a lot of work done by Frankie and county chairman Ciaran McCavana, plus the Tipperary board before we could announce it.”
On Saturday Tommy’s dream will come true when Tippeary come to town. Tommy has a soft spot for the men in blue and gold as he had a group of his friends have been making a pilgrimage to the Munster Hurling final for over forty years. They stayed in Cashel for many years and more recently move to Nenagh and last year actually stayed in the same hotel as the Tipperary team met before their final clash with Limerick.
A mountain of work has gone into building the fantastic facilities that at Davitt Park. There have been many bumps on the road along the way but Saturday will mark the start of a new era for Tommy Shaw and the Davitt’s club. Hopefully the storm the weathermen are predicting will hold off for a few hours so everyone involved gets the chance to witness this historic day in comfort.
Below – Tommy Shaw speaks with pride about Davitt Park