The history of the GAA in Claregalway goes back to the 1800s with a strong hurling team representing the area. The team competed but lost two Senior Hurling Finals in the 1880’s. The team continued right up to the 1950s, indeed they won a junior final in 1952. Around that time a club was also formed in Carnmore. When a change at county board level meant only one hurling team from each parish, the Claregalway team was not allowed to continue. This in a way led a group of youngsters to form a Gaelic football team. They played under the name Waterdale from a field in the townland of the same name.
Although not a traditional stronghold of football, Claregalway fielded a Gaelic Football in the 1940-1942 era and had both a Junior and Minor team at that time. It was frowned upon by some of the locals as a foreign sport and it would be another two decades before a team was reformed, The success of the County Galway football teams in the 1950s/60s stimulated the imagination of local football enthusiasts. It was just after Galway’s three in a row, 1964-1966 that Claregalway Gaelic Football team officially came into being in 1968. The team had played together since 1963 under the club name Waterdale, the townland in Claregalway, where most of the players came from, and the team trained. The first Club officers in 1968 were Chairman Tom Flaherty, Secretary Peter Greally and Treasurer Johnny Duggan. A Junior team was fielded in the first year, with the playing pitch of Hession’s Field, located beside the famous shop in the village. Incidently that same field had been the training and playing field of the Claregalway Hurling team.
Business expansion in the 1970s gave rise to an inward movement of people into the Claregalway area, a trend that has continued to accelerate to the present day. From the start, this expansion included an influx of football followers and players from north Galway and other counties. The arrival of Patsy O’Hagan, winner of two All-Irelands with the great Down team of the 1960s, was a big bonus, followed by Gerry Hestor (RIP) and Michael Conroy (RIP) from Ballintubber, Co.Roscommon, Jackie Morris ex Tuam Stars. Claregalway v St.Croans became an annual fixture for the Hestor/Conroy Cup. This constructive blend of new members with locals provided a platform for promoting football. A Parish league was run annually and this helped gain interest in what was primarily a Hurling Parish. The Juniors achieved their first success in 1975 by winning the West Board League. Underage football was launched with U-16, Minor and U-21 teams competing at top level.
As is the case with most new clubs, the need for a permanent pitch was soon top of the agenda. Eventually, in the late 1970s a new dawn arrived for sports in Claregalway when the search for a suitable facility ended up with the purchase of 7 acres of land in Lakeview from Martin Boyle of Cregboy.
An energetic fundraising campaign was mounted led by Chairman Patsy O’Hagan, Secretary Tom Lehihan and Treasurer Gerry Hestor. The club also set about providing faciliites for indoor sports. Continued fundraising plus a government grant enabled the club to build the Leisure Centre which is in fact a Sports Hall designed to house a variety of activities e.g. basketball, volleyball, badminton and indoor football. It was opened in 1980 and was extended later to include a stage for concerts, drama and feiseanna.
Atheltics featured strongly in local sporting life and the new pitch became a widely acclaimed venue for the Claregalway/Lackagh Community Games. It was an exciting era for young and old alike as they now had access to recreational facilities for the first time.
Having secured a home, the club then set about imrproving the standards of football skills and team performance. The Juniors won the championship in 1986 and promotion to the A division.
A special committee was set up to cater for the seperate needs of Juveniles in 1985. The first Chairman was Marcus Conroy. Successes followed quickly with U-12 championships in 1986, 1987 and 1991. The U-14s captured their first titles in ’87, ’89 and ’93. Participation in the Galway City Leagues was richly rewarded with league honours for U-13s and U-15s in ’93, ’95 and ’96. Another major success for the club was in 1993 when Claregalway won the Co. Galway Feile na nOg and represented the county in the All Ireland Féile in Kerry.
Success filtered up the line and in 1991 the Claregalway minors managed by Seamus Concannon won the double i.e. the county B championship and league. The minors won legues again in ’93 and ’97, while the U-21s won the West Baord championship in ’97 with PJ MCGovern as Manager.
The club won county Junior Titles in 1993 and again in 1998 to achieve intermediate status. Responding to the increasing numbers joining the club in the 90s, Club Chairman Mick Higgins and the committee took on the challenge of organising and financing the construction of a new club house, including dressing rooms and meeting rooms. This was finished in 1997.
Recognising the role of mentors and the importance of good quality coaching the club has organised a number of Foundation Level Coaching Courses for their benefit.
In 2002, Claregalway finally achieved Senior Status after winning the intermediate Championship when they defeated Litir Mor in the final. It was a tremendous occasion for the parish. That same season the U21’s won the B County championship and the Junior B team won the North Board League.
That same year saw the setting up of the Ladies Club which has grown in strength since then. This was powered by Mick O’Connell. The Ladies have continued to capture cups every year.
In 2003 there was a third adult team entered to cater for the numbers turning out to train and play. In 2005 the U-14 and U-12 teams both captured league and championship titles and our U-10 Community Games team won the All-Ireland title.
2009 provided another historic year in that our Ladies club was ranked No.1 Club in Ireland, our Juvenile Club was awarded the Galway Juvenile Club of the Year by Coiste Peil na Gaillimhe and our Seniors gained promotion to the A division in the league. The Club also purchased 20 acres of land in the north of the parish in which training facilities to match the aspirations fo the club are being developed.