The club was founded in 1970 by a group of local men who would meet up most evenings to play a game of football. #
The men would meet in Swan’s Park, Buncrana were it fulfilled the old football cliché ‘Jumpers for Goalposts’.
The team, due to their location, was known as Westbrook Celtic, later to become Cockhill Celtic.
The first meeting of Westbrook Celtic was held on October 28th 1970 and was chaired by Frank Beirne.
The first committee was elected at this meeting and comprised of the following members: Chairman: Willie Doherty (Proposed by: Charlie McDaid, seconded by: Sean Galvin) Secretary: Charlie McDaid (Proposed by: Charlie O’Donnell, seconded by: Denis McLaughlin) Treasurer: Charlie O’Donnell (Proposed by: Paddy Grant, seconded by: Sean Galvin)
In the early years, the club played their matches at the ‘Coneyburrow’ pitch in the ‘Castle Grounds’, Buncrana. The training, for around 20 members, was held in the Paris Hall, Desertegney (~5 miles away). The club initially competed in both the Inishowen Football League as well as the Derry & District League.
The 1973/74 Season seen the club have its first success on the pitch, when they gained promotion to the Division one of the D&D League, promotion was gained by winning their section undefeated although they were beat in the final.
The club competed in the D&D for four years Westbrook Celtic encountered a problem, around this time, relating to the availability of the pitch in Buncrana.
The late Mr. Hugh O’Donnell, a local Cockhill man, approached the club and offered the use of a field, in Cockhill, as a football pitch.
The club accepted this offer and still use this pitch, known as ‘O’Donnell’s Holm’, to the present day.
The Club, during this period, had now become firmly rooted in Cockhill and thus the name change from Westbrook Celtic to Cockhill Celtic came about.
The older club members agree that the football club grew from strength to strength after the change of name and location.
In 1976 the late Mr. Jim Sheridan (a teacher at St. Mary’s NS, Cockhill) formed Cockhill Youth Club. The ‘Youth Club’ was formed with the assistance of a group of parents from the area and operated on a Friday night in the National School building.
School desks had to be removed on the Friday evening to accommodate the youth club’s activities.
A snooker table was set up in the hall and the partitions, which defined the classrooms, were pushed back to create larger activity rooms.
Table tennis and darts were in one room, with board games and computer games in the other.
Around forty children attended the ‘Youth Club’ at this time.
Competitions took place for all activities and there was a prize giving night, with an annual disco, held at the end of each year.
Meanwhile Cockhill Celtic FC was going from strength to strength.
The club was now fielding teams at U13, U15 and U17 level in the Inishowen Youth League.
The club thought the new youth set-up was vital to the growing community in the Cockhill area at this time.
The new youth structure would also help produce future senior players for the club.
This, allied with success of the men’s team, made the future bright for Cockhill Celtic on the pitch The ‘Football Club’ had had success in earlier years but it didn’t come easy.
In the 1984/85 Season the success became impossible to ignore, one of the club’s most successful season was summed up in a ‘Derry Journal’ headline in 1985, ‘FIVE TROPHIES WON – a great season for Cockhill Celtic’.
In this season, the club won an unprecedented five trophies.
The team managed by founder members Michael Doherty and Joe McLaughlin, included a mixture of some older players with a blend of some products from the youth teams, went after everything and won most of it.
The 1984/85 Season trophy haul included:First Division: – Inishowen Football League (now the Premier Division) Bertie O’Neill Cup: – Inishowen Football League, Top Four: – Inishowen Football League, Inishowen Trophy: – Maginn Park Committee, Carndonagh Cup: – Open to teams from Derry and Donegal, Clonmany Cup: – Runners-up
Following the club’s success in 1985, it was decided to apply to join the Ulster Senior League.
The Ulster Senior League was formed in 1986/1987 through the work of the Inishowen football League, the Donegal League and the Ulster FA to provide a league for teams who either were dominant in their own league or wanted to provide an intermediate structure in their clubs.
The first season proved difficult in the Ulster Senior League as the club lost a number of players during this period to emigration.
The team subsequently rejoined the Inishowen League the following year and attempted to improve the youth structure of the club to provide players and help replace those lost to emigration.
Cockhill Celtic did however have the honour of being one of the first tams in the newly formed league along with other Inishowen clubs, Carndonagh, Buncrana and Culdaff.
The club’s success, in the early 80’s, made it evident to the club’s committee that it needed its own ground in order to further develop.
The club, including the season in the Ulster Senior League, were playing at ‘O’Donnell’s Holm’ and felt it needed more playing facilities.
A plot of land had been purchased opposite the old National School, Cockhill and despite the many setbacks of inclement weather; Packie Bonner, the Republic of Ireland goalkeeper, opened ‘Celtic Park, Cockhill’ on 12th of July 1987.
The new pitch was funded, purely by fundraising in the community with no funding available at this time.
The club now had two teams participating in the Inishowen League and three underage teams, U13, U15 and U17.
In 1989, ‘Cockhill Celtic Football Club’ and ‘Cockhill Youth Club’ amalgamated and collectively became known as Cockhill Celtic Youth and Football Club.
The committee recognised that a firm base was essential due to the growing membership and ongoing expansion of both Clubs’ activities.
This was found with the help of Fr. Joseph Carolan, the local Parish Priest at the time. Fr. Joseph Carolan, now deceased, allowed the club to acquire the old National School building as the club’s new headquarters.
An agreement was reached with Fr. Carolan in which the club would get the old school building in exchange for a piece of land the club owned, this land is now a car park for St. Mary’s Church, Cockhill.
In July 1990, the club received planning permission to extend and reconstruct the old national school.
The school was developed internally and now consists of an office, boardroom, games room and two dressing rooms with shower facilities, with separate changing facilities for match officials.
A grant was received from the ‘Programme for Peace and Reconciliation’ to help with this development and to employ a facilitator to assess the needs of the area.
The exterior of the building was deliberately kept unchanged, as much as was possible, to keep the tradition of the building.
The number of young members within the club was growing rapidly and in order to maintain the youth structure and promote football activities throughout the year, a new team, Cockhill Celtic Youth was introduced to the club.
The team later became known as Cockhill Reserves and was managed for a number of years by Tommy Doherty and Colm Carey.
In conjunction with the Cockhill Community Association, the club began a project to build a floodlit, all-weather, training facility.
The club ran a £100 draw, to fund this project, and became one of the first clubs to have a house as the prize.
The club opened this facility in the early 1990s, thanks mainly to the success and imagination of this draw.
In 1994 Damien McColgan, Samantha McColgan (Bell) and Kate McColgan (McLaughlin) started Cockhill Ladies and Cockhill U16’s for the girls, however within a few years the U16 team had dwindled due to lack of interest.
1994 also seen the management committee began to make moves to obtain land for a second new pitch.
It had become evident that it would not be long before existing facilities would become inadequate.
The Club was fielding 9 teams in all – 3 men’s teams, boy’s teams at U10, U12, U14, U16 and U18 level and a ladies team.
The Club, through Charlie McDaid, approached local landowner Mr. Patrick McKinney regarding the purchase of land at Cockhill.
The club proved wise to have purchased the land at the time they did because other parties were also interested, the successful deal was signed and agreed in June 1996.
The club could not have been able to afford the purchase of the land had it not been for the fundraising efforts of the various members.
Various events were organised such as discos and dances.
The main fundraising effort was in the form of £100 draw, in fact two were held.
The first in 1996 was in conjunction with the Buncrana Leisure Centre and the first prize was a house.
The second, in 1998, and top prize was £10,000.
The support, which the club has had from the public in the area, was always overwhelming and the club would like to take this opportunity to say thank you!
The club also made several grant applications to the Department of Sport, Tourism and Recreation and after a few failed applications the club was subsequently awarded £40,000 in July 2000.
The Club was now in a position to begin work on the pitch, which would become known as St. Mary’s Park.
The project began in 2000, Seamus Fullerton was the main contractor and with the weather on our side everything went according to plan.
The grass was sown on the new pitch in September 2000 (pitch dimensions are: 110yrds long by 74yrds wide).
Progression on the ground works eased for a while as the club had once again exhausted its funds.
Further grant applications were made in 2001 & 2003 to the Department of Sport, Tourism and Recreation, 2001 was unsuccessful but an allocation of €25,000 was received in April 2003.
The promise of further money had allowed the club to complete the ground works at the pitch, Mary Coughlan TD, the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, performed the opening of the new development in August 2003.
In the video, which was made to capture this moment, a number of interesting facts come to light.
The chairman of the club, Charlie O’Donnell, stated that the club have never had a loan to fund any of its developments with all monies been generated through fundraising in the community or from grants.
The new pitch, named St. Mary’s Park, is undoubtedly one of the best pitches in Donegal and has already hosted a number of finals and representative matches.
The club plans to develop another changing facility adjacent to the pitch in the future.
The impetus gained by opening the new pitch, as well as a crop of young players moving into the first team squad, meant that things improved on the pitch as well.
The first team won the Ulster Junior Cup for the first time in the 2003/04 Season and followed this up in 2004/05 by winning the Inishowen League Premier Division together with the two major cups in Inishowen.
When the celebrations cooled after the 04/05 Season the club again felt that the senior team should move up to the Ulster Senior League, and so they did and still compete there to this day.
As one project finishes, the committee are always planning ahead for the next one.
They feel it is important to keep the momentum going.
In this case, the next project was the development of an Astroturf training facility.
The plan was to redevelop the old, gravel based, all-weather pitch into a new up-to-date modern Astroturf facility.
The committee started more fundraising activities, for this development, with €100 draws held in consecutive years.
The draws along with Sports Capital funding meant that monies were now in place.
The Astroturf facility was completed in March 2008 and consists of two 7-a-side floodlit pitches with the option to have one larger playing area (10-a-side)
Tragically our chairman, Charlie O’Donnell, did not live to see the latest development reach its completion date having passed away on October 8th 2007.
Charlie was a founder member of the club and served as chairman from 1978 until his sudden passing, he was the driving force behind all developments that was seen to be moving the club forward.
Charlie was also chairman of the Inishowen League and had overseen their development, owning their own pitches and premises.
The other committee members who worked with ‘Charlie’ are determined not to let this tragedy be the end of the story but only let Charlie be an inspiration to all that comes after him.
Charlie will always be remembered and never forgotten among everyone associated with Cockhill Celtic Youth & Football Club.