The ‘70s had its highs and lows, reaching county finals and West A Finals at under 21, minor and junior levels. Defeating the then county senior football champions Dunmore in an exhibition match in Tuam Stadium in 1974 and defeating Dr. Croke’s in a friendly in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney in 1976 were some of the highs.
The lows were: being forced to regrade in to Junior Div.3 in 1977 when over half the team of the previous year was not available; travelling 40 miles for home matches to Oughterard as Naomh Feichín had no pitch of their own; the decision of Cleggan to form their own club and for Cleggan players not to play with Naomh Feichín, a loss which was sorely felt especially in the Under 21 A Final of 1975 when the final was narrowly lost with five of the best underage players from Cleggan not available for selection; being narrowly beaten by the Salthill first team in the quarter-final of 1978 even though Salthill in effect had not qualified for the quarter-final as an objection was in place at the time and thereby Naomh Feichin possibly being deprived of gaining Senior Div.1 status and of competing with the top 16 in the county.
The championship format was changed during the 1970s (1976) and was based on three divisions – the equivalent of senior, intermediate and junior. There were no west finals other than the league finals. The championship in effect was based on a league system, with the top four in the west and top four in the north in their respective leagues competing in the county championship. The club had no championship football in 1976 because they failed to finish in the top four of the league. The club re-graded to the lower Junior Division in 1977, defeated Carraroe’s first team in the county semi-final 0-13 to 0- 7 and the Monivea/Abbey’s second team in the county final on a score of 1-8 to 3-0. This was a game that Naomh Feichín had to win twice as the referee forgot to write down one point in the first game. The final score should have been 1-10 to 1-9 in favour of Naomh Feichín but one point was not recorded by the referee. He declared the match a draw and ‘all hell broke loose’ with West Board officials wanting to present the cup. Fortunately, Naomh Feichín won the replay. Naomh Feichín defeated Carraroe again in the League Final which was in effect the West Final. They were controversially defeated in a closely fought Div. 2 Championship quarter-final in 1978 by Salthill’s first team who at the time, had not qualified for the quarter-final. A win in that game would probably have led to Division 1 and Senior Football for Naomh Feichín. The Connemara League (IarChonnacht) was won in 1975 when Oughterard were defeated in the final. Joe Creane was captain. There was no official cup for this competition but John (Chip) Conneely rectified that by finding one. There were great celebrations in Vaughan’s Pub that night and some extracts from Joe Creane’s speech can be recalled to this day.
To listen to John (Chip) Conneely’s and Peter Carey’s memories of the 1977 final, click on track 13.
Minor football: In 1972, Naomh Feichín (St. Josephs) won the West, defeating Spiddal in the final, beat the South Board in semi-final but lost the final to Tuam Stars, 3-8 to 0-7. Naomh Feichín had injury problems for the final and the captain Sean O’Toole (Matt) led the team out and played with his arm in a sling.
Under 21 A Football: In 1973 with Liam Keogh as captain, Naomh Feichín lost the West Final to Moycullen and in 1975 with Vinnie Keogh as captain, Naomh Feichín lost to Clonbur – the Keogh brothers failing to win their father’s cup.
To listen to Eamon King speak about the story of the 1975 final, click on track 14.