The history of St.Colmcilles goes back to 1938 when the football team was formed by Fr McSweeney and Phillip Ó Neill who taught in St Albans. It was fondly recalled for many years that Philip tried hard to have a son to take over the running of the club; he ended up father to nine daughters!
Football closed during the war but it lived again in 1947 when Fr John Roche, later PP of St Alban & Stephen Church and Willie Nally who maintained an interest in the club to the 60s restarted the club along with Bill Lyne who became Rúnaí.
All their matches were played in London, being affiliated to the London County Board and in 1948-49 the club joined the London junior League and won the London JFC in 1948. Games were played on grounds adjoining the now closed Napsbury Hospital and away games were played in such places as Dagenham, Mitcham and New Eltham.
The hurling squad was formed in 1949 and in its first year won the league and championship finals. Players then included the McDonagh and Brophy brothers, Billy Joyce – founder of Clann na nGael hurling club, Eddie Ryan, Paddy Shine and Olympic marathon runner Dennis Ó Gorman living in Harpenden
The records show that in the early 1950s the hurlers defeated a much fancied Brian Borus to cause the surprise of the London Championship. Members of the victorious side were: Jimmy Wilson, Mick Ryan, Eddie Ryan (all Limerick); Martin and Brendan McDonough (Galway), Paddy Shine, Matt Touhy, Sony O’Gorman, Pat Kenneally and Joe Murphy (all Tipperary), Sean Brophy (Offaly), Danny Buckley and Willie Joyce (Cork), Mick and Tom Brophy and Joe Phelan (Kilkenny), Paddy Bagge (Waterford). Otherwise, these were apparently lean years for the club as there is no mention in the records of any great successes.
With the formation of the Herts County Board in 1960, the club began to flourish and the 1960s and early 70s saw successes in hurling and football. In the 60s the hurlers and footballers found fame in the newly formed Herts Board winning several trophies with the latter winning the grand slam of Championship, League and medal tournaments wins in 1965. Hurling stalwarts of the 60s included Mick Brophy, Willie Dywer, Jack Ó Mahony, Eddie Ryan and Jimmy Byrne who moved to Warwickshire. Football stars included Pat Davin, Liam Ó Leary, Joe Murphy, the five Fitzpatrick brothers, Jim Moss and the Rodgers brothers, Frank and Gabriel. The hurlers won the SHC in 1963 and 1968 and the SHL in 1962, 1963 and 1971. The Fr O’Hanlon Cup was annexed in 1966 and 1971 but further success was to elude the hurlers until 1995 when the SHL was regained.
From the successful 1971 hurling team that won the SHL and the Fr Ó Hanlon Cup, Seán Carroll, Seán McGarry, Mick Allen and Cronan Murphy played for Herts that year. In the semi-final Fr Ó Hanlon Cup, St Colmcilles had defeated Éire Óg by 3.04 to 1.05 with Jim Byrne, Seán Carroll and Tom McCarthy sharing the scoring. The side defeated Glen Rovers in the final 5.13 to 2.06.
Showing true dedication to his club, Seán Carroll cut short a holiday to Greece to play in the final. Jim Byrne was superb in goal. The full back line of Kevin Hourigan, Tom Reilly and Dave Lynch was in control throughout. Once again the half back line of Seán McGarry, Mick Kelly (Dungarvan) and Tom McCarthy was brilliant. At centre filed Billy McGarry and Liam DeRoe outshone their opponents. Seán Carroll (Roscrea), Mick Allen (capt.) and John Ó Donovan (Mullinvat) formed a great line with the latter placing some great passes. Séamus McGarry was deadly accurate with his shots and along with Eddie Ryan (Bruff) and full forward, Pat Sullivan had the Glen Rovers’ full backs at sixes and sevens. Scorers: Liam DeRoe 2.01, Mick Allen 1.04, Seán Carroll 1.03, Pat Sullivan 1.00, Séamus McGarry 0.04, Tom MacCarthy 0.01
SHC victory came to St Colmcilles when they won the delayed 1973 SHC title. The final was not played until May 1974 at Sundon Park and Colmcilles emerged victorious 3.08 to 1.08 for Maidenhead Harps. The midfield pairing of Micheal Allen (Kerryman and captain) and Eddie Purcell were real trump cards for Colmcilles. Allen emerged top marksman with 1.05 and his goal allowed St Colmcilles to assert their authority on the game. Forward, Seán McGarry also contributed handsomely to the championship win. Watching the game were proud officers of Colmcilles: Pat McGoey, John Doyle, Steve Walsh (Galway) and Jack Ó Mahony. The following Sunday St Colmcilles were in action when they lined out against Eóghan Ruadh in the replay of their Semi-final of the Fr. Ó Hanlon Cup at the same venue. Maybe the lengthy celebration is the key but victory did not smile on them as the Luton side ran out winners and later became winners of the final.
In 1976, St Colmcilles were playing at junior level and lost the Herts JFC final to Érins go Brágh at Oxhey Pay by a solitary point on a scoreline 0.06 to 0.05. Press report of the game suggests St Colmcilles had the winning of the game and despite fine performances from Frank Rogers, Jim Lawlor and Pat Davan, the men from Bletchley prevailed.
With the 90’s came much change in the St. Colmcilles club. There was a mixed bag of success at the club with the majority coming from the Hurling side that was resurrected in 1991, especially in the first half of the decade with E. Ryan in the chair, Aiden McCann as Secretary and John Egan as Manager for a total period of eight years before it finally deteriorated due to lack of numbers to fulfil a team on a regular basis. During the hurling reign though, the Fr. O’Hanlon was retained twice (1994 & 1995), with the league being won in 1996.
After a poor start to the 90’s the football side of the club came good with the “team of 98” winning all around them in fantastic fashion and becoming the holders of the SF Championship, John Wallace memorial and Walsh Cup all in the one season and just narrowly missing out on adding the league that year, although the lads made sure they got the one that got away the following year in 99’ together with the Walsh cup to bring an uplifting and positive end to the decade.
Off the field of play, much administration activity took place and although Jim Moss held chair until 1999, only handing it over to John Coughlan before become the chairman of the Herts senior board, the secretary position saw much change in 4 secretaries during that time in the form of Joe McCann, Pat Lavelle, John B McCusker and Tony Griffin (who also captained the football team in 95’).
Some very important years stand out in the clubs history during the 1990’s and that would be without question the formation of the underage section of the club in 1994 when it was started up by John Coughlan, Kevin Armstrong and Gabriel Rodgers. The club has also been at the heart of the community throughout it’s existence and were delighted to be part of running a very successful “family day” in 1995 that brought all parts of the community together, and finally not forgetting that the club has also been very proud to boast about the very first introduction (1999) of a converted southern hemisphere Australian rules player from Hobart (Tasmania) to Hertfordshire GAA in the form of none other than jumping James Lane, the club or county would never be the same again!
The 00’s started as the 90’s finished with the club very much on a winning streak by retaining the championship and Walsh cup for the second year in succession. Silverware was still very much on top of the agenda for the senior team between 2002 – 2006 winning 4 championships (out of 5 finals and incorporating a 3-in-row success), 2 x John Wallace, 2 x League, 2 x Fr O’Hanlon and Cathal & Hurley cup titles.
2001 saw great strides being made at getting the underage section of the club up and running with the introduction of Brendan Brennan and Aaron O’Byrne to help the foundations set by John Coughlan. Brendan and Aaron officially became the chairman and secretary respectfully of the underage structure at the club from 2002 and winning the U10 league in 03’ and 04’ as well as the introduction of hurling by this time. By now with the underage numbers increasing, more help was certainly needed and after looking to the parents of the kids involved, the youth development of the club was headed by the introduction of Sean Carney as chairman in 2005, with success continuing by winning the U10 League and Championship as well as the U12 League in the same year. The grassroots of the clubs continues to thrive with recent victories in the 2007 U14 League and Championship as well as the U16 Championship title in 2009. Nowadays, with such a huge operation to control, much help is needed and given by many parents and members. A full club development plan is being put in place and driven by the current club chairman, Adrian Slavin (from 2006) with much help from various members on the ground such as Kevin Armstrong, Sean Carney, Kieran Clancy, Paul Bignold, Danny O’Neill, John Ryan, Tom McAndrew, Andy Connell, Rebecca Carroll-Griffin, Andy Clifford and many others.
With the playing subscription of the club going from strength to strength, the successes were mirrored off the field of play with the compliment of new changing and shower facilities in 2002 making the club the most equipped team within the county. Always the trend setters, during this era, both the administration and the playing side of the club where working in sync to make all aspects a success. The 00’s brought major change in overall club development and attitudes and changing with the times were embraced with development of the club website (first in the county at the time), the introduction of a permanent club physio, txt alert system to notify players and members of club events, matches and training as well as the introduction of the “Best and Fairest” competition which no doubt helped with the bond and comradery of all the players to aid with the success of the team – Neil Cletus Gallagher being the first to win the B&F comp back in 2003. New ideas weren’t just introduced at club level and in 2004 the proposal of a blitz run competition within the county was made, some said it would never work but Laurence Begley proved everyone wrong as the format continues each season until this day. The concept of running summer camps were also accepted by the board on the back of a proposal made by the club in 2005 prior to full time appointment of the Herts CDA who ultimately drove the initiative through the Croke Park remit so all in all, with every club being at the centre of the association its fantastic to know that St. Colmcilles are very supportive of, and bring ideas to the table with regard to overall county activities to aid with growth and development.
Following on from the clubs winning ways in the early and mid stages of the 00’s, due to the product of it’s own successes and an aging team the current senior team is going through a state of flux at present and in transition of build for the future as we draw to an end of another decade. The development of the underage wing of the club continues to move from strength to strength and it won’t be too long before the underage teams of today are the senior teams of tomorrow with the club boosting a full compliment of teams right the way through each level. The administration side of the club is equally as strong as it stands today (not as much movement in office in the last 10 years with Adrian Slavin taking over as Chair from John Coughlan in 2006 and Aaron O’Byrne taken on the secretarial role in 2004 with a hard act to follow from Joe McCann) and has very able bodies to deal with club matters from not only at underage and senior level but with dealing with matters from a county minor and senior board perspective, with various offices being held at county level by St. Colmcilles club men to include the current honorary President of the Herts County Board, Mr Bob Canty. The club continues to move with the times and a full club development plan is being introduced and has the full commitment and support of the current committee and all club members for a brighter future for the club, the county and the association as a whole.