The early years

The Garrycastle GAA Club was founded in 1981. A group of GAA enthusiasts in the area saw the need for a second club in the Athlone area to cater for the growing young population on the eastern side of the town. These men of vision - Dan Hogan, Seamus Nugent, Jack Veale, Felim Finnegan and Eddie Martin - convened a series of meetings in 1980. When the Westmeath Co. Board accepted its affiliation in January 1981 the Garrycastle GAA Club was born.

The club enjoyed early success when the Junior Footballers won the championship in 1982, but some key players were then coming to the end of their careers and the team gradually went into decline. Having struggled for a few years at Intermediate level the team was eventually relegated to Junior in 1988.

Juvenile Sector

Close attention was given to underage coaching from the outset, and when the Under 12s won the championship in 1985 it signalled the start of an amazing run of success. The club contested 25 underage premier championship finals between 1985 and 1997, winning on 14 occasions. Numerous league titles were also won at all underage levels during this period.

Féile na n-Óg

Westmeath County Board selected Garrycastle to represent the county in the inaugural Féile na n-Óg tournament hosted by Co. Cavan in 1982. Subsequently, a special qualifying competition was introduced in the county, and Garrycastle won the Westmeath Féile title on six occasions between 1986 and 1995. The crowning glory came in Mayo in 1995 when Garrycastle defeated Cullyhanna of Armagh in the Division 2 All-Ireland Féile final. To date, no other Westmeath club has emulated this achievement.

Intermediate Breakthrough

The adult scene was revived in 1993 when Garrycastle again won the Junior championship with a team backboned by players from the underage teams of the 1980s. With the addition to the squad of some talented players from the successful 1996 Minor team, the club finally won the Intermediate title, and promotion to the senior grade, in 1997. The club had already annexed the All-County League Division 2 title in 1995, and has maintained its status as a Division 1 team ever since.

Senior Success

Having already competed in Division 1 of the league for a few seasons, Garrycastle had little difficulty in adjusting to the demands of senior championship football. After the team was boosted by a further injection of young players from the championship winning 1999 minor team, they reached the semi-final in 2000, losing to eventual champions Mullingar Shamrocks. History was made in 2001 when Garrycastle defeated Tyrrellspass by 1-9 to 0-11 in the championship final, bringing the Flanagan Cup to the club just 20 years after its foundation. The fact that each member of the panel had come through the club’s underage structure made this achievement even more significant. The following year they retained the title, defeating Castledaly by 4-11 to 0-9. This team showed remarkable consistency by also winning Division 1 of the All County League in both 2001 and 2002 without losing a single game, and they retained this title in 2003 with the loss of just one game. One defeat in 29 consecutive league games must surely constitute some kind of record. A third senior championship was secured in 2004 with victory over Castledaly on a scoreline of 1-8 to 0-9. The senior team secured the club's first ever Feis Cup win in 2004 and repeated this success in both 2006 and 2007. The senior side qualified for the 2005 senior championship final, but unfortunately lost to The Downs. The senior side also contested the 2008 final, but lost to Castledaly. However, there was a happier outcome in 2009, with the club winning it's fourth senior title with a victory over St. Loman's. The All County League Division 1 title was secured in both 2008 and 2009. Garrycastle seniors secured a fifth senior title for the club with a win over Mullingar Shamrocks in the 2010 decider. A sixth title was secured after a replay with a win, yet again, over Mullingar Shamrocks in 2011 - that is a 3-in-a -row.

Westmeath Underage Teams

The club has consistently provided players to Westmeath underage teams. In 1995 three club players – Cathal Mullin, Alan Daly and Colm Holohan – won All-Ireland medals with Westmeath’s Minors. In 1999, when Westmeath won the Under 21 All-Ireland title, the club was represented by Cathal Mullin, David O’Shaughnessy, Dessie Dolan, Alan Daly and Enda Mulvihill, while Michael Lydon was a selector. The following year, Dessie Dolan was captain when Westmeath retained the Leinster Under 21 title, with Sean O’Donoghue and Enda Mulvihill also involved. Patrick Mulvihill was a member of the under 21 side in 2005.

County Senior Representatives

At adult level Enda Nugent was the first player from the club to play senior football for Westmeath, and was a member of the Westmeath team that won the O’Byrne Cup in 1988. Ciarán Ryan came onto the county senior panel in 1993 and was on the squad that won Division 3 of the National League in 1994. Cathal Mullin, David O’Shaughnessy and Dessie Dolan graduated from the county Under 21 team to the senior team, and played key roles in Westmeath’s Division 2 league victory over Cork in 2001. Karl Henson and Gary Dolan played for the county in both league and championship in 2003. In 2004 Garrycastle provided four county representatives, David O'Shaughnessy (Westmeath captain), Dessie Dolan, Gary Dolan and Justin McAteer as Westmeath won their first ever Leinster Senior Football title. In 2005, the number of county representatives increased to five, with the inclusion of Paddy Mulvihill in the Westmeath squad. In 2006, Cathal Mullin rejoined the squad and was joined by Doran Harte, but Paddy Mulvihill (due to injury) left the panel. In 2007, Dessie Dolan, Gary Dolan, David O'Shaughnessy and Cathal Mullin were joined by John Gaffey.

Aidan Browne played in the O’Byrne Cup in January 2008 against Dublin Institute of Technology.

International Recognition

In 1998 Sean O’Donoghue played for Ireland’s Under 17 Compromise Rules team that played against the visiting Australian team. Dessie Dolan brought further glory to the club when he won a place on the Ireland team to visit Australia for the Compromise Rules series in 1999. He received an All-Star nomination in the same year, and was also nominated for Young Footballer of the Year. Injury cost Dessie his place on the Ireland team for the 2001 Australian trip, but he was back on the team for the 2002 series in Croke Park, when he was Ireland’s top scorer. He made his second trip with Ireland to Australia in 2003 and was also a part of the 2004 team for the series in Ireland. Dessie was a member of the Irish team that travelled to Australia in 2005 and was on stand-by in Sean Boylan's squad for the 2006 series against Australia.

GAA All Star

Garrycastle and Westmeath footballer, Dessie Dolan, became the first player from the club to be awarded an All Star when he was chosen on the 2004 All Star Team. Dessie’s selection was based on his consistently outstanding displays for Westmeath during the course of their march to an historic first ever Leinster Senior Fooball Championship title. The magnificent performances of Westmeath during 2004 were further acknowledged with Dessie being joined on the 2004 All Star Team by his Westmeath colleague, John Keane (Rosemount).

Camogie & Hurling

A year after the GAA club’s foundation, a camogie club was established in Garrycastle. After losing the County Junior final in 1982, they bounced back the following year to take the title. This was followed by the introduction of underage hurling in 1984 and Garrycastle fielded hurling teams from Under 12 to Minor level over the next few years. In 1986 the Under 14s won the Shield competition in the Midland Féile in Co. Offaly. However, it became increasingly difficult to continue the promotion of both games, mainly because at the time the club had no pitch of its own, and was already depending on the generosity of local schools and clubs for use of their facilities for football. It was reluctantly decided to abandon the experiment in 1989.

Ladies Football

Football for girls started to flourish in local schools in the early 1990s, and this eventually led to the formation of Garrycastle Ladies Football Club in 1996. Following the example of their male counterparts, a special emphasis was put on underage coaching and inevitably this led to success on the playing field. After winning several underage championships, the club quickly attained senior status and had a golden season in 2003. They won the Westmeath Senior championship for the first time, and had the unique distinction of contesting all four underage finals. In addition, the Under 14s represented Westmeath in Féile na n-Óg and won the All-Ireland Division 3 title in Galway. Clearly a bright future beckons for the girls of Garrycastle.

Ground Acquisition & Development

One of the biggest challenges that faced the new club in 1981 was the acquisition of its own grounds. In the first few years the club rented a local field owned by Westmeath Co. Council, but the construction of the Athlone by-pass took away a major part of this ground in 1984. After a lengthy search for a permanent home, the club eventually purchased nine acres of land from the Co. Council in 1988. Following extensive fundraising, a major development programme culminated in the opening of a new playing pitch in 1992. Further development saw the erection of an impressive clubhouse and dressing-rooms, which were completed in 1996. A spectator stand and scoreboard was added in 2003, and a top of the range floodlighting system was installed in 2004.

Garrycastle U-8's play at Croke Park

The Garrycastle U-8 team made club history on Wednesday July 1st 2009 when they became the first team from the club to play a match in Croke Park. This has to be one of the best ideas ever to emanate from the GAA corridors of power in many a year. Literally hundreds of kids got the opportunity to play a game they love, in one of the finest stadiums in the world. The Leinster Council and their band of dedicated stewards did an absolutely fabulous job of controlling and marshalling a huge crowd of youngsters and their parents, armed only with a clipboard and smile.

The early start did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm and excitement as the group boarded the bus for the trip. The steps up to the rear of the Cusack stand were taken two at a time and the first look down at the magnificent pitch brought gasps and smiles all around (The kids were fairly impressed as well).

The panel were brought to the Dressing Rooms by Team Mentors John Henson and Mark Redmond and at 11.50am , team captain Fergal Mullin and vice captain Shauna Clyne, led the team out the tunnel and down to play on their pitch beside the Hogan Stand and Hill 16. Leixlip were the opposition for this very well contested game and in the end they proved a little too strong around the middle of the field although from Garrycastle's point of view, Fergal Mullin's goal was the best of the game.

Cian Donoghue had a great game in goal and provided some great kickouts to the wings. He was well supported by a backline of James Murphy and Shauna Clyne who were well marshalled by Owen Keogh, who had a great game at full back. The midfield of Fergal Mullin, Daniel Mc Manus and Shane Coffey worked very hard throughout and the forward line of Matthew Broderick, Muireann Mulvihill and Thomas Devery, made the Leixlip defence work hard. Aine Green, Cathal Redmond, Sean Quinn, all played their part in this historic game and team member David Doolin, who could not play due to a broken finger, was there to shout his team mates on.

After the final whistle the team were allowed to go to the Presentation area in the Hogan Stand and pose for photos with the Delaney cup, just as grown men from Kildare and Dublin will dream of doing very shortly. Looking at Fergal and Shauna lift the cup, it brought back memories of another Garrycastle player, David Shaughnessy, who was captain of the only Westmeath team to date, to lift the Delaney Cup. The day was rounded off with the obligatory visit to Supermacs and a tired but happy bunch made their way home with plenty of stories for their friends. Once again, take a bow, Leinster Council

Major Events in the Club's History

The major events in the club’s short history can be summarised as follows:

1981: Club founded

1982: The first championship success - Junior Football

1985: The first underage championship, at Under 12 level

1988: Purchase of club grounds

1992: Opening of club pitch

1993: Winning second Junior Football championship

1995: Winning All-Ireland Féile na n-Óg (Division 2) in Castlebar

1995: Westmeath’s All-Ireland Minor victory, with three club players on the panel

1996: Club wins first Minor championship

1996: Completion of dressing-rooms and clubhouse

1997: Winning Intermediate championship

1999: Six club personnel associated with Westmeath’s All-Ireland Under 21 success

1999: Dessie Dolan plays for Ireland in Compromise Rules series

2001: First Senior Championship victory

2002: Retained Senior Championship title, Senior "B" Championship

2003: Spectator stand erected

2004: 3rd Senior Championship Victory, Dessie Dolan wins club's first All Star,

First Feis Cup victory

2006: 2nd Feis Cup win (played 4/8/07)

2007: 3rd Feis Cup win

2009: 4th Senior Championship win.

2010: 5th Senior Championship Title, Junior "B" Championship

2011: 3rd Junior Championship; 6th Senior title; Leinster club senior Championship and minor title as part of a St Ciarans amalgamation.