By Damian Dolan
Like all GAA clubs the many are indebted to ‘the few’. Those who possessed the vision and the sinew to start something where once there was nothing.
An idea made real by a group of like-minded individuals sharing a ‘love for Gaelic Games’, and from which emerges more than just a club, but a ‘sense of community spirit’. St Dympna’s GFC of Luton is no exception.
In the case of St Dympna’s, its debt is to 20 Monaghan Gaels who, following a ‘get ‘together’, decided that what Luton needed was a GAA club.
On Saturday, the St Dympna’s will pay homage to ‘the few’ as well as to the many who followed in their footsteps over the subsequent six decades, as it marks its 60th Anniversary with a Dinner and Dance at St Joseph’s Parish Centre.
With no Hertfordshire county to join at the time, the club was initially affiliated to London. Its first challenge match was arranged by the late Reverend Canon Brewer.
The club didn’t have to wait too long to win its first trophy, just a year in fact. In 1958 the club beat a strong St Mary’s team from Kilburn in a thrilling London divisional championship final.
When the Hertfordshire County Board was formed, a St Dympna’s officer, the late Benny McCaffrey, was elected as county registrar.
The club went on to win the first Senior Football League to be staged in the newly formed county.
It claimed its first Senior Football Championship in 1971 and went on to win it again in 1972 and 1973. A feat which made it the first club in Hertfordshire to complete the coveted ‘three in a row’.
It was a glorious period in the club’s history, which they came agonisingly close to crowning with All Britain glory in 1972, only to lose out to London champions Garryowen in a replay in Luton by a solitary point.
It’s the closest a side from Hertfordshire has come. In 1983, St Dympna’s reached the All Britain semifinals, only to lose out to Tir Chonaill Gaels in a thriller at Ruislip.
Like all clubs, it endured tough times, but emerged the other side to win the Senior Championship again in 2001, 2005 and 2008.
But it isn’t just at senior level that the club has made its presence felt. Since reforming its underage in 2006-07 success has followed, in no short measure thanks to the hard work of volunteers who run its youth sections.
Fielding teams at U8, U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18, the club’s youngsters can hold their own against other teams in Hertfordshire, or at the All- Britain Competition in London or the various invitational tournaments that the club has attended in Coventry, Birmingham, London and Wales.
The club enjoyed no bigger win than in 2013 when it won the U18 All-Britain Competition, while the club’s U12s were beaten in their final. This marked a very successful year for the St Dympna’s at underage.
It is a source of great pride to the club that not only has its youth set-up provided many players for the county underage sides, but that such talent has also been brought through into its own senior team.
To mark its 60th Anniversary the club is launching a book celebrating, and capturing for all-time, those first six decades. As well as recording its on-field successes, the book also portrays a club ‘built around a real community spirit’.
A club which ‘provided a warm welcome to many people down the years traveling from Ireland and beyond to forge lifetime friendships’.
The foreword to the book, written by the club’s committee, continues: “Someone once said one-time that ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’.
“Looking back over the years since the club was formed in 1957 there has been tremendous social, economic, political and global changes in that time. We can only imagine the changes that the next sixty years will bring.
“However, the same key ingredients underpinning the success of the club in reaching this major milestone and which are required for the future growth and success of the club – a sheer love of Gaelic games, dedication, hard work, vision, community spirit and fun – these things remain the same.
“This is a time for looking back and celebrating the past sixty years but also a time to look forward to the future of the club. With the continued success of the club’s underage structure and the continued determination and vision within the club, it is on a strong footing for many years to come.”