The History of St. Mike’s!
St. Mikes all started in 1965 when a group of Irishmen assembled in the Club Canadiana. At this time, it was felt in the GAA circles that there was both the room and the need to have another club in the city. Present at the first meeting were Frank Murphy from Clan na Gael, Joe Carty, John Kane, Mickey Hamill, Tony Keys, Madge Galligan, and Mike Reilly of Garryown. The group schedules a general meeting for this new club for the following week. It was at this meeting that Eddie Flynn was elected as the first president of St. Mike’s. In the first year of existence, St. Mike’s entered team in both Hurling and Football. At this time, the Gaelic games were played in High Park. Their first match, a football game against Garryowen, resulted in a draw.
The club’s first banquet was held in 1965 in the Range Restaurant at Dundas and Bloor St. This started a tradition in St. Mike’s of holding an annual banquet to celebrate the glories and defeats of the previous season. These annual banquets have served the club well, in bonding his club by keeping the past members in touch with the present.
While under the Presidency of Michael Bellew, the club won its first trophy, the Expo ’67 Cup in a football match against Hamilton, played in Hamilton. This win was to be the first of many for the club. Among the players on this 1967 team were Joe Gogarty, Mickey Hamill, Gene Smyth, Denis Kelly, Bill Kiernan, and Bill Flanagan. The first hurling victory for St. Mikes came in 1968, when they won the Championship and the League in Lawrence Park. They repeated these victories again in 1969. This hurling team, comprised of Kevin Loughnane, Mickey Duane, Barney Moylan, Shem Walsh, Danny Kinahan, Jimmy Rochford, and Joe Kenny, among other, formed probably the best hurling team ever in Toronto. One of the noteworthy selectors of this hurling team was Frank Rafter. He had a keen eye for placing players in their proper positions, and was able to read the opposition very well. It was during this year that the club was under the Presidency of Mickey Hamill.
Among notable members of the club was a chartered accountant name Liam Cotter. He played both hurling and football, and he helped to write the Constitution for the Toronto GAA. He stood out in the group as the only hurler to ear working gloves while playing!
The footballer went on to victory in the Flynn Cup and the Hamilton Feis Cup in 1969. This football team had been strengthened with the likes of Frank Smyth and Seamus O’Kane. Gene Hickey served as President of the club in 1969 followed by Frank Smyth in 1970.
On the social scene in these years, functions were held at the Club Canadiana, the Masaryk Hall and the PBA Hall. At the Sunday night function held in the PBA Hall, there was no drink allowed; however, that never deterred St. Mike’s men, as there were lots of headaches on a Monday morning. Club meeting and some parties were also held in the Moose Hall on Dundas St. W from 1968-1970. Caretaker of the hall was Jim Stack.
The football team was struggling for players in 1970, and as a result, was recruiting soccer players. Most notable was the Aussie, Kenny Sarich. Both 1971 and 1972 were difficult years for the club, however under the strong leadership of Paddy Thornton, the club survived. It was thanks to Tony Keys that hurling was kept alive within the club. After these years the club never looked back. Form 1973 through to 1977, St. Mike’s was the strongest club in town, winning major honours in both grades. Mark Buckley from Westmeath was President in 1973. He was a great organizer and had great ability in delegating the work to others.
Reportedly, the best football team that St. Mike’s fielded, up to this point was the 1974 team. They won the Senior Football Championship and the League. Among the players was Seamus O’Kane, Dermot Coleman, Mickey Hamill, Danny Kinahan, Martin Coyle, Mike Elliot, Patsy McLarnon and Padraig (the hard hitting) Kelly. This was the first of several year that Patsy McLarnon served as President. He went on to be President in 1976, 1977 and 1979.
In 1975 St. Mike’s played Garryowen in a hurling match. Garryown had All-Ireland Handball champion Pat Kirby in from New York to play for their side, but he was marked out of the game by Larry Carroll. Larry, who normally played corner forward, was moved by Frank Rafter to centre half forward to mark Kirby, and held Kirby scoreless.
Probably the most outstanding win for the club was in 1975 when they beat Harry Bolands of Chicago in the final of the North American Senior Hurling Championship, the only club ever to win this in Canada. The team was captained by Dan O’Brien. According to Dan, Martin Loughnane was the outstanding player of the game. A most memorable point was scored in the second half of the game by Mike Normoyle to help clinch the win. There was true unity in the Toronto GAA that day when all the local clubs cheered on St. Mike’s. This club at this time was under the leadership of a Kerryman, Joe Houlihan.
During these years, the club often travelled out of town to play games in Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton, Detroit, and Boston. The bus driver at the helm was Eddie Duffy. On one of the trip to Boston, Eddie had to call on his back up driver, Kevin Loughnane, to take the bus and the team back to the hotel. On these out of town trips, not only did the players travel, but the families and supporters of the club. This is another tradition that continues in the present day. St Mike’s always enjoy a weekend out of town, and are usually accompanies by a good supporting cast.
From 1974 through to 1980, the football club imported a lot of players from its farm team in Draperstown, County Derry. Most notable being Jimmy Kennedy, Emmett O’Kane, Enda McMaster, The Bush Kelly, Kenny Bradley, Gary Lagan, and Brendan (Crimby) O’Kane. These were difficult years for these young men; not only had they to get used to wearing football boots, but also had to learn how to speak English! St. Mikes took a bold move in 1977 when the football team travelled to Ireland to play 5 games against local side in Swatragh, Clara, Draperstown, Downpatrick and Clonmore. They went on to victory in 3 of these games. The team was jopined by former players who had returned to live in Ireland. The trip was organized by Brian Farmer, Patsy McLarnon, and Mickey Hamill.
The Sunday evening parties in the summer were held in both the Parkway Club and the Bowling Alley, during the late seventies. The Bowling Alley, on Queen St. was run by Dermot (Red) O’Neill who was also the first goalkeeper in both Hurling and Football for St. Mike’s.
From 1978 to 1985, St. Mike’s and all the other teams in Toronto had an uphill battle due to out strict immigration laws. However, under the strong leadership of Emmett O’Kane, Paddy Hegarty, Ena O’Brien (first female President), and Enda McMaster, St. Mike’s carried on and never failed to field a team while some of the other clubs could not make the numbers every week. Late 1979 saw the arrival of Cormac O’Muiri, a Dubliner, much to the delight of Eddie Mangan! Cormac involved himself in the running of the club from day one and later extended this involvement in the running of the Toronto GAA. From 1980-1984 the clubs were playing 13 a-side football and a 11 a-side hurling. It was thanks to our hurlers who would play on the football team when we could not make that numbers – guys like Dan O’Brien, Shem Walsh, Jim O’Brien, Paddy Hegarty, Paddy Thornton, Mike O’Brien and Mike Costello. Unfortuantely, 1983 saw the end of competitive hurling in Toronto.
In 1984, under the leadership of Pauline Prior, the club won the Senior Football Championship, League and the McKenna Cup. The League was captured by beating Clan na Gael, a major victory for the club considering that two of the their top players, Jimmy Kennedy and Danny Kinahan, were absent. Mickey Hamill scored a goal in this game to clinch it for the club. The celebration was held afterwards at the party room in 24 Mabelle Ave., with songs, recitations, and good craic. This venue was used for many club parties. Prior to this locale, the club gathered at the “Funeral Home” or otherwise known as the “Hole in the Wall” on Annette St. The club banquets were held at the Wedgewood Restaurant, the Irish Centre and Lakeshore Lion’s Club.
In 1985 and 1986 the club underwent major changed in personnel thanks to an influx of players from Ireland. During these two years, the O’Brien brothers, Mike and Jim, served the club as Presidents. While under their leadership, very successful banquets and barbeques were held. On the football field, they won the McKenna Cup in 1985, Senior Football Championship, League, and the McKenna Cup in 1986. The 1986 team consisted of newcomers, Tomas Finnegan, Gabriel Rushe, Colm Flynn, Mike McCusker, Jimmy Connolly, and Gerry McFarland. A memorable game that year was when the club travelled to Ottawa to play in a League game. St. Mike’s were losing by ten points at half time but came back to win by a large margin thanks to the sharp shooting by Gerry McFarland, Brian Power, and Nishie Farmer. The craic that night in the Blackburn Arms in Ottawa was mighty. Songs were composed describing the victory that day. No doubt this signaled a new era for St. Mikes.
In 1987 and 1988, socially, the club was at a peak with lots of new members. During these two years the club was under the leadership of Cormac O’Muiri and Angela Howley. The A-team arrived in town in 1989: Ciaran and Paul McElvanna from Antrim, Brendan and Peter Smith from Armagh, John and Pat Maguire from Armagh, and Brendan O’Hagan from Armagh. Again, relief for Eddie and Cormac with the arrival of Niall O’Connell from Dublin. Under the watchful eye of President Mike Coghlan, coaches Brian Farmer and Seamus O’Kane and trainer Cormac O’Muiri, St. Mike’s captured the League, and were semi-finalists in the Championship and Seven-a-side Tournament.
1990 started with a 25th Anniversary banquet on April 14th, with an executive that included Eddie Mangan, Gene Hickey, Mike McCusker, Paddy Thornton, Eamon Devine, Brendan O’Hagan, Kevin Loughnane, Dan O’Brien, Paddy Hegarty, Paul McElvanna, Brendan Smith and Mike Coughlin. The club was not only celebrating a milestone, but also being league champions this year.
On May 28, 2005, the club celebrated its 40th Anniversary with An tUachtaran, Sean Kelly in attendance, along with guests from Ireland, the US and the four football provinces of Canada: British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec).
The 2000’s brought even more excitement for the club, including St. Mike’s fielding a ladies team for the first time. The idea was first hatched in a place where some of the greatest ideas are born – the pub! It was in late 2001 that Lisa McCart had the idea of starting the St. Mike’s ladies team. She soon after recruited her cousin and fellow Cookstown native Michelle Coyle and it wasn’t long before the framework was in place to get the ball rolling. The idea was brought forward by Paul Loughnane at the club’s 2002 AGM and was passed. Shortly after Mark Burns was brought in as the team’s first manager, with assistance from Ruiari O’Brien.
The first training’s were held at York University with a great turnout and many newcomers to the sport, both Canadian and Irish alike. The team’s first competition was at the Montreal tournament in May of 2002 led by captain Kerrie Burns, with many of the ladies playing in their first ever football matches. Though the results didn’t go in our favour, a tremendous effort was given by all involved and was certainly the first of many weekends of bonding, great craic, and the beginning of many lifelong friendships.
The team made steady progress over its first few years, and made great strides in nurturing the young Canadian talent in the early days that still makes up much of its present roster today. After many years of coming close but always falling short, St. Mike’s first ladies championship came in 2009 after defeating Ottawa in a hard fought battle. With team manager and long-time clubman Cormac O’Muiri looking on proudly, captain Tressa McMaster became the first St. Mike’s woman to hoist the championship trophy.
With much of the same panel intact St. Mike’s went on to win the championship the following year in 2010 and again in 2012, establishing themselves as one of the top teams in Toronto and following in the great winning tradition of St. Mike’s.
The team has certainly done its share of travelling over the years. The annual trips to Montreal and Ottawa have always made for some great entertainment on and off the pitch. In 2010 the club travelled to Boston for two friendlies against local clubs which with the high standard of football, was a fantastic experience for the club. Since 2011 the team has been travelling to participate in the North American championships (San Francisco, 2011; Philadelphia, 2012; Cleveland, 2013). Who knew back in 2002 where football would take them, but the ladies have certainly enjoyed themselves along the way.
You could not give a history of the St. Mike’s ladies without mentioning a few names and characters who over the years have done great work in shaping this team and getting it to where it is today. From past players like Sinead McElvanna, Kerrie Burns, Siobhan and Kirsten McQuarrie to some of our home grown talent, Siobhan O’Muiri, Catherine Harte, Ciara O’Brien, Mary Traynor, Meghan Deeney, Erin Loughnane and Tressa McMaster, the team has grown from strength to strength over the years. We certainly have to mention some past managers for their time, dedication and above all else, their patience – Mark Burns, Paul Loughnane, Mary O’Loughlin, Ronan Matthews, Cormac O’Muiri and Robbie Dore.
With the influx of young Irish coming to Toronto in recent years, there are certainly some new faces around the Mike’s ladies team, but this has only added to the passion with which the team plays football. But one thing remains the same – the St. Mike’s ladies legacy continues to be one of football, fun, and friendship for many years to come.
2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of St. Mike’s and we definitely have a great deal to celebrate! We will be holding our 50th Banquet on Friday September 25, 2015 at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex. For more information about the Banquet please visit the “50th” page, and for information about events throughout 2015, visit “Upcoming Events”. Thank you to everyone who had been a part of the club for the past 50 years, and here is to 50 more years!
2014 St. Mikes Teams!