The History of St. Matthew's Drumsurn
1927 - A beginning A County Championship Final!
by Liam Begley & Aidan Refferty

Drumsurn certainly started their Gaelic football traditional on a peak, when in 1927 they replaced Glenulin, who had previously won the North Derry league, but who were disqualified because of fighting, to contest the county championship final against Ballinderry. There are no reports of the game to be found. However at the Ballinderry convention of 1928 their secretary congratulated Ballinderry on winning.

In 1928 a 'friendly' was organised by Edward Cowan O'Connor in a field of Mick Devlins' in Kilhoyle, and the result was a victory fro Glenhullin, 1-4 to 1-1. Perhaps as important as the result was the fierce row which took place during the game, with Lizzie Devlin having to attend to serious wounds inflicted to players on both teams.

Perhaps as a result of this or more likely due to the inconsistency of the G.A.A. throughout the country, this was the only Gaelic match played up until then, with the locals returning to soccer and cricket as popular pastimes.

In 1937 a Galvin team which included Jim and Dan Mullan, Jack Farrell, Frank Doherty, Emmett McNicholl, Henry, Jimmy and Francis Heaveron, played a friendly against Dungiven and were duly beaten.

The seeds now sown resulted in Eddie McGlinchey, Edward Cowan O'Connor and John Heaney forming a Drumsurn team to compete in the Neal Carlin Cup. The team played six matches and lost them all.

This was the team which lost to Claudy 3-5 to 1-0.

H. Doherty
W. Ferris C. Ferris J.Ferris
E.C. O'Connor J.P. O'Kane H. Murray
John Devlin James Devlin V. McMacken
D. McCloskey C. Gallagher L. Quigg

Not to be disappointed, Drumsurn with a much larger panel of players, contested the league in 1938. Included in the panel were Tommy Mullan, Jim Deighan, John Deighan, Eddie Ferris, Walter Ferris, Jim Lagan, John Joe O'Connor, Jimmy Devlin, Frank Doherty, Vincent McMacken, Patsy Taggart, Johnny Burke and Dennis McCloskey.

The games were played in John Joe O'Connor's field in Mullan's Hill. The North Derry final was also played here and was won by Limavady, with the two O'Connor priests scoring 3 goals. However, the increase in players didn't lead to the bettering of results and the only tow points obtained that year was when the Foreglen didn't turn up for a match. 1939 brought more new players to Drumsurn mainly form Limavady and Dungiven including the great John Eddie Mullan, the result being that long waited victories eventually arrived. The team did well in both league and championship, beating Dungiven, Limavady, Glenullin and Faughanvale. In the same year Drumsurn again hosted the Northern Derry Final, in which Dungiven beat Limavady.

The 1939 Drumsurn Senior Team:-

Jim Lagan
James Ferris John Devlin Eddie Ferris
Patsy Taggart Dennis McCloskey Paddy Mullan
Sean McDermott Packie Kealey John Eddie Mullan
Master McGuigan Jim Mullan Dan Mullan

The same team under Eddie McGlinchey, got to the league play-off in 1940, which Magilligan won. However the temperamental nature of many clubs in these times was also evident in Drumsurn, since despite having a strong team and hosting a county league match in Bridget O'Kane's field, between N. Derry and Fermanagh, the club didn't field a team in the championship. This was a major blow, as many players automatically transferred to other local clubs, and Drumsurn ceased to function as a club.

Back on the Road 1958

In 1958 although Drumsurn had no football team as such, they had many players with neighbouring clubs Dungiven, Drum, Ballerin, and Glenullin. Interest in Gaelic was high in the area at this time as Derry reached Croke Park for the All-Ireland Semi-Final and Final and Jimmy Devlin and Mickey McNicholl who had married and settled in the area, discussed the idea of forming a club in Drumsurn again. The response to this idea was immediate and emphatic: "Lets get going!"

The first club meeting was held in Jimmy Lamb's house. One of the committee's first tasks was to raise money for a set of jerseys. Soon after Jimmy, Mickey and Perry travelled to Belfast and purchased in the Athletic Stores a set of red jerseys with white collars and a green shamrock on the breast.

The club affiliated to the county board and entered the league the following year. The first senior competitive match they had was against Glenullin in the Neal Carlin cup and surprised many by winning.

The team playing was: -

John Joe McGilligan
Perry O'Connor Dick Ferris Jackie Harkin
Richard Douglas Laurie Boyle Sean Farrell
Brendan O'Connor Seamus Devlin Cathal Boyle
Mickey McNicholl Junior Devlin Joe O'Connor
Subs: Willie Douglas, Phil Woods

After the 1940 league match between Derry and Fermanagh, the Derry Journal reported that the match was played in "Drumsurn in the Wilderness".

Drumsurn Minors (1959)
(Back Row L to R) S Devlin, S Farrell, T. McCormack, Joe O'Connor, H McCutcheon, J. Devlin R.I.P., Jas O'Connor, P. O'Connor, W. Douglas R.I.P.
(Front Row L to R) P. Woods, D. McLaughlin, K. Boyle, S.Devlin, E. Devlin, W. Devlin, M. McGilligan R.I.P.

In 1959 they gave some very good performances and they received great support from the whole community, especially in their home games in John Joe O'Connor's field in the Mullans' Hill.

1960 saw Drumsurn win the North Derry Junior championship for the first time. They then played the city champions, Faughanvale, in the county semi-final at Celtic Park, but, despite leading at half time, they went down by 2-6 to 0-4. The Derry Journal of that week states that county player Seamus Devlin was the best player on the park. Others to shine were Cathal Bole and Sean Farrell in defence, Lauri Boyle at mid-field and Brendan O'Connor in attack. The team that day was:-

Jack Devlin
Junior Devlin Dick Ferris Kieran Boyle
Cathal Boyle Richard Douglas Sean Farrell
Seamus Devlin Laurie Boyle
Willie Devlin Brendan O'Connor Pax O'Connor
Willie Douglas Perry O'Connor Eamon Devlin

The following year Drumsurn again won the North Derry junior Championship but were beaten by Magherfelt in the County Final 3-5 to 0-4.

Drumsurn Seniors (1961)
(Back Row L to R) Mickey McNicholl, Sean Farrell, John Loughery, Brendan O'Connor, Dick Ferris, Seamus Devlin, Pax O'Connor, Lauri Boyle
(Front Row L to R) W. Douglas R.I.P., Eugene Devlin, Joe O'Connor, Richard Douglas, Eamon Devlin, Jackie Harkin

North Derry Junior Championship Cup. Richard (captain) and Willie Douglas

Sean Moore captain of St. Patrick's Secondary school, Ulster Champions in 1962-63. Also in picture are John Doran and Hugh McGill to the left of Fr. Conway (R.I.P), while Brian Feeny is to his right


In 1962-63 Sean Moore captained the St. Patrick's Secondary School team to an Ulster title at the first attempt. Other Drumsurn players on the team were Brian Feeney, John Doran and Hugh McGill. In the same year Tony O'Connor captained St. Columb's College to their first Ulster title, the McLornon Cup.

Also on that team was Kevin Farrell. At the same time Seamus Devlin and Dick Ferris were regulars on the Derry Senior team while many others were representing Derry at a variety of other levels. In 1965, Dermot Mullan, who has starred for Ballerin and Derry, came to live in Drumsurn and transferred to the club. All these factors added together to produce an excellent team which won the North Derry League, Div.2. During that year also Sean Moore won an All-Ireland Minor Medal with Derry Minors.

Another notable event of this era, which was not on the field of play was the purchase of the land opposite the chapel from Miss Bridgid O'Kane for the sum of 1000. This has now been converted into the fine playing field that we have today. This field was sold for the sole purpose of being a football field. The first trustees were Jimmy Devlin, Mickey McNicholl, E. C. O'Connor and Jack Farrell. One of the main instigators of this purchase was James O'Connor, son of Edward Cowan.

About this time the club began playing in E.C. O'Connor's field beside the new pitch.

1966 saw Drumsurn emerge as a force to be reckoned with. They won the prestigious Mahon cup in Celtic Park when they defeated Ardmore
1-7 to 0-2. The team that day was: -

John E. Ferris
James O'Connor Dick Ferris Jackie Harkin
Pascal O'Connor Sean Moore Brian Feeney
Brendan O'Connor Seamus Devlin Dermot Mullan
Harry Chiver Tony O'Connor Tommy Harkin
Subs: Sean Farrell, George Harkin

During an earlier round of the competition they had a magnificent victory over McCumhaill's, the Donegal champions.

In that year they were also beaten by Ballerin in the final of the Dr. Kerlin cup 4-8 to 4-2 but won the Neal Carlin cup by beating Glenullin 1-4 to 0-3 on a very wintry day in Dungiven. Drumsurn also had a magnificent victory over Magherfelt in the first round of the county championship in 1966.

9 aside winners 1967


In 1967 Drumsurn consolidated their position in Division 1 of the All-County League. They also won the first 9-a-side competition in Derry organised by St. Colm's, Ballinascreen, when they beat Ballinderry 5-7 to 1-4. The team that day was: Jackie Harkin, Joe Chivers, Eugene Devlin, Seamus Devlin, Sean Farrell, Sean Moore, Brian Feeney, Tommy Harkin, Liam Begley

It's a small world, two Drumsurn players, one from Drumgavenny one from the village, shared a taxi in Liverpool, going to play a match for John Mitchell's.

Liam Begley played rugby for Lancashire in the British Championship final in 1971. Is he that age???

Drumsurn Seniors (1968)
Drumsurn Seniors 1968
County Championship Semi-Finalist v Bellaghy 1968

(Back Row L to R) K. Cummings, G. Harkin, D. Ferris, E. McCloskey, V. Devlin, J. Chivers, S. Farrell, E. Devlin, J.E. Ferris, Sean Murry
(Front Row L to R) K.Farrell, T. O'Connor, D. Mullan, E. Devlin, J. Harkin, B. Feeney, L. Begley, S. Devlin, P. O'Connor

In 1986 Drunsurn reached the semi final of the County Championship, their best ever performance in it so far. In that year also Drunsurn had three club players on the Derry minor team beaten by Armagh in the Ulster Final. Joe Chivers, Ken Cummings and Liam Begley. Joe Chivers went on to win an All-Ireland U-21 medal the same year. Little did they know at that stage that this was to be the peak of their success for many years. However, many things happened at the same time which greatly depleted this excellent side. James O'Connor, a very good player, an excellent motivator and an example to club members, emigrated to Canada, Joe Chivers and Kenny Cummings were suspended for playing soccer. Many others left the area or went to college so that the team began to slide from then on.

1969 saw the club relegated to Div. 2. The following year, despite fielding a very young and inexperienced side they reached the final of the Neal Carlin cup and to Claudy to a replay before going down by the narrowest of margins at Dungiven. It is worth recording that in this game Dermot Mullan scored 2-5 of Drunsurn's 2-6. In 1971, Brendan O'Connor, a founder member of the club, who had given sterling service to the club, emigrated to Australia and was sadly missed. Brendan, like James, had coached and looked after schoolboy and minor teams as well as the senior team for many years.

Brendan O'Connor
Brendan O'Connor

Fr. Michael McEldowney
Fr. Michael McEldowney


James McKee was another who gave freely of his time and transport for the under age teams and deserves great credit for doing so.

In 1973 and 1974 the club fielded both senior and reserve teams and although they did not set the league alight they were producing credible performances. In 1975, however, a strange lack of interest set in and the club did not field a senior team in 1976.

Summer 1977

The arrival of Fr Michael McEldowney, someone who had shown a keen interest in G.A.A affairs, spurred Henry Forsythe, Joe Irwin and Johnny Mulgrew to approach the former with a view to revival of the club at a senior level. Fr McEldowney's response was that the former players in the area should be approached to find if enough people were interested.

After a number of meetings in the parochial house a new committee was formed in early 1978, with Fr. McEldowney as president, a position he has held ever since, and former Glenullin player Paddy Rafferty as chairman. Despite scepticism and a few uneasy moments, success on the field was instant, finishing second in Division 3. This was due in no small part to the return from Swatragh of Joe Irwin, the ending of many players premature retirement and an influx of young players. The availability of such young players was a reflection on the enormous work carried on in the early 70's at primary and under-age level by Rev.Authur O'Reilly, Tommy Crampsie and Liam Begley. The 1978 team was:-

John Irwin, Peter Harkin, Seamus Devlin, Jackie Harkin, Henry Forsthye, John Eddie Ferris, Tommy Crampsie, Joe Irwin, Johnny Mulgrew, Liam Begley, Gerry O'Connor, Cathal Ferris, Aidan Rafferty, Noel Mullan, Jimmy Guyler

Others to play during the year included Eamon Guyler, Malcolm Irwin, Eunan Raffterty, Gerard Mullan, Eamon Devlin, Ambrose Curley, Lawrence Guyler, Gabriel Gallagher and Fergal Moore.

Drumsurn if not a championship team are at least a carnival team. They won 8 carnival cups in 1982 and a set of jersies at a 7-a-side in Limavady

The teams early success was mirrored in the Scor of the same year, when Mary O'Connor was only narrowly defeated in the All-Ireland Final of the solo singing section. Mary's example was followed by the now famous Mulgrew bothers, Chris Doran, Brian Donaghey and Eamon Devlin who not only won the Derry Fianl three years in a row in the ballad section, but also contested an Ulster Final.

Having opted to stay in Division 3 in 1979, and with Noel Mullan the new chairman, Harry Chivers and Pax O'Coonor took charge of the team. Drumsurn were again successful on the field, wining their first trophy of recent times by beating Ardmore in extra time of the Neal Carlin cup, and by winning the Division 3 league outright.

1980 saw Gerry O'Connor take the chair, Harry Chivers became secretary and Pax O'Connor became treasurer. With Eamon Devlin as manager and Joe Irwin as captain, and the return of players from Glenullin and Magilligan, Drumsurn duplicated their previous season's success by winning the Division 2 league outright, and became the first club in Derry to do so. They also contested the Intermediate Championship Final being narrowly defeated by Glen Maghera 0-6 to 0-8.

Such a phenomenal success in so short a time was recognised at national level by the club's winning of an Allied Irish Bank, club of the year award.
Gerry O'Connor

Drumsurn Seniors (1980)
Beaten Finalists in Intermediate Championship 1980

(Back Row L to R) J Chivers, G Mullan, G O'Connor, N Mullan, J Guyler, J Irwin, P Harkin, L Moore, S Devlin, HB Mullan
(Middle Row L to R) S Mullan, J Mulgrew, T Harkin, J Irwin, E Guyler, A Devlin, E Rafferty, L Guyler
(Front Row L to R) E O'Connor, J Forsythe, K Quigg, C Mccartney, G Gallagher, E Devlin

The 1981 Willie Douglas (R.I.P), a long time stalwart of Drumsurn, took the chair, and for the third year in a row they moved up a division, now entering the premier league. In the same year Drumsurn were again represented in an All-Ireland Minor Final in Croke Park, this time by Eunan Rafferty. Unfortunately Derry lost to Cork. This marked the end of the senior field victories, as Drumsurn found themselves in 1984 back in Division 1. During this period, Joe Irwin established himself on the county and provincial team, captaining Derry in'84 and winning Railway Cup medals in '83 and '84.

Again Scor participation was giving results, through the efforts of those previously mentioned, and the name of St. Matthew's Drumsurn was to be heard in the Ulster Finals.

Off the field Sean Mullan became chairman, and with the aid of a dynamic committee, he set his sights very determinedly upon-fundraising, with a view to the development of the club's playing fields. A car draw was immediately launched. As a result of this and a 1 a week draw, the club's assets rose from 4,000 to 30,000 by the convention of 1985. With the whole community supporting the club, they decided to accept a 75,000 price to build a Prunty pitch on their own land. Form them until now, the club, under the same committee has had three 1 a week draws and another car draw. The result of which has been that the club were able to pay off the pitch and 22,000 to Hassans of Rasharkin for the steel work and cladding of the new hall.. Thanks mainly to the efforts of Eamon Devlin and Harry Chivers, it was possible to obtain an A.C.E scheme, which greatly helped the voluntary labour which constructed the hall. Apart from this scheme no government grants were available for any of the work done.

Much admirable work has been done by so many in the community, and it would appear that fundraising and voluntary labour are to be a feature of the club for the immediate future.

Cutting the first sod in (1984)

On the field, the work of Richard Ferris, who has joined Joe Irwin and Eunan Rafferty as county panellists, at an under-age level , has brought its rewards. In 1985, Drumsurn won the U-16 North Derry league. In 1986, they were just beaten in the Og Sport county final, and in'87 they got to the semi-final of the minor championship. This is reflected in the present team which, at the time of going to press, are still in the senior championship. Hopefully with the excellent facilities which have now been provided, the future for Gaelic games and culture in the Drumsurn area must be strong.

Derry Seniors (1986)
National League Quarter-Final in Croke Park. Joe Irwin captain, Eunan Rafferty (front row second from right)

(Back Row L to R) E Gormley, P McCormick, T Scullion, T Doherty, D McCusker, P Murphy, B Kealey, D Barton, B McGilligan
(Front Row L to R) P Mackle, D Cassidy, J Irwin, P mcCann, E Rafferty, Hm McGurk

We can justifiably feel proud of our first 61 years as a club, and look forward with optimism to a community supporting its club, and a club that the community can be proud of.

The End 1988.