The History of the Toronto Gaels
The Toronto Gaels arose from the ashes of the old Garryowen club in 1987, with men such as Billy Millar, Billy Gilroy & Joe Matthews at the forefront. Other former Garryowen men, such as the legendary and sorely missed Tommy White (RIP), and Paddy Callan also played crucial roles in the establishment and growth of the Toronto Gaels over the years.
The club has enjoyed a successful first 25 years, having managed to field competitive teams from day one. Success came early for the club, winning a couple of Championships in the late 80's and early 90's.
The club's most recent championship victories were in 2016 and in 2015, as Men’s Intermediate Champions.
In 2016 Mark O'Brien Managed the team, rejoining the club after a few years absence since playing with the club as an original squad member. Finbarr Sheehan worked at his side to bring the club close in a Senior League Final, and to victory in the Intermediate Championship.
In 2015 Manager John McCormack held the reins and ran things with a professional feel that helped to build very strong Senior and Intermediate panels. Previous to this the last win was in 2012, again as Men’s Intermediate Champions. ending an 18 year drought. The team trained under 1994 champion Gerry Caldwell, whose "no nonsense" approach to training and management, ensured a very fit and well-prepared team. Enda McCaffery was named Toronto GAA’s Intermediate Player of the Year for his part in the Gaels 2012 Championship success.
That 1994 side, captained by Mark O'Brien and featuring other club stalwarts such as Charlie Doorley, Decko Kiernan, Niall Cotter, Shane Carroll, Niall & Damien Donnelly and Roger McGovern to name but a few, completed the Senior League & Championship double. Doorley was named the Toronto GAA's player of the year for the 1994 season, a feat he repeated in 2002, becoming one of the few players to win the coveted award twice. Other Gaels to win this honour include Mark O'Brien and Frank Cosigani, widely regarded as the greatest ever Italian Gaelic footballer!
Although the 2016 Intermediate win was the club's most recent Championship, we have come close at the Senior level on many occasions, and were finalists in both 2001 and 2002, against St Mikes and St. Vincent’s respectively. The club were also Championship and League finalists in 2014 at Senior and Intermediate levels.
The club has faced some tough times, struggling for numbers in recent years, and came very close to folding in the 2010 season; however, thanks in no small part to the dedication of backroom committee staff including Paul Deeney, Greg Callan, Shane Watters, Anthony McGuire, and Iain McMahon, the club battled back and has seen a strong resurgence in the subsequent years. As a result, the squad of players has expanded to the extent that the Gaels have been able to field both Senior and Intermediate teams since the 2011 season.
In 1997 the club celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a 2 week tour to Ireland, playing games against St Johns (Belfast), Derrygonnelly Harps (Fermanagh), and Whitehall Colmcilles (Dublin), in recognition of the contribution of Belfast men such as Billy Millar and Pat Donnelly; Fermanagh folks such as Roger McGovern, Eamonn & Phyllis Gallagher and John "Compo" Wadsworth; and Dubs such as Brendan Rossitter, and Padraig & Jacinta Crogrove to the success of the club in its first decade.
The club has always played an active part in the management of the Toronto GAA with members such as Billy Millar, Pat Donnelly, Cormac Monaghan, Sinead Canavan, and Mark O'Brien each serving as Toronto GAA President for at least one season.
There are many other individuals who have made huge contributions to the club over the years, notably Pat Murray, Greg Callan, David & Stephen Millar, Chris Gaffney, Mike Donnelly, and Stevie Owens. Today, current members such as Shane Watters, Mick Cussen, Keith Barry, Sean O’Molloy and John McCormack have taken on key leadership roles as the club continues past its quarter century.
Special acknowledgement should go to Club MVP for every year that he played with us (2001 - 2005), Ciaran Shannon (RIP) who was arguably one the greatest players ever to grace the Toronto GAA, and certainly one of the best to never win a Championship.
The club has always enjoyed strong support from its sponsors, too many to name, but we give particular mention to Kemptville Travel, Ross-Clair Construction, The Tara Inn, The Frog and Firkin, Dunmurray Electric, The Galway Arms, and Winters Technical Staffing who have been long time supporters of ours.
The Toronto Gaels has always played a very big part in the daily lives of its members, creating strong ties among those involved, be they past players, current players, backroom members, short term visitors to the country, lifetime Torontonians, or those new to Canada who have made Toronto their home. We hope to continue on to the next 25 years, with our proud club tradition.