Ever since the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in 1884, and even prior to that, we have archival evidence that Gaelic football was played in Montreal. However we have more concrete evidence that, from 1945 and onwards, Irish immigrants gave exhibitions of their native games at Fletcher Fields and at the old MAA grounds. We know that in 1948 the Montreal branch of the GAA was officially convened under the presidency of Martin Greene. Martin applied for, and in the next year received, official approbation from the president of the GAA in Dublin.
Subsequently the American County Board of the GAA was established to include Montreal and Toronto in separate divisions. Division IV saw Montreal in competition on with teams from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Both Montreal and Toronto fared well in international competition as we were equally enriched by an influx of young Irish immigrants. Each did in fact, on more than one occasion, win the American Championship in both football and hurling.
In the early fifties, the Montreal GAA which adopted the name of “Montreal Shamrock Hurling and Football Club” was able to form an inter-squad league which consisted of five teams in hurling and four teams in football. And out of that league sprang the nucleus of the team that not only topped its Division, but also captured the Northern Division of the American League from Toronto at Kingston on October 4, 1959. Martin Greene felt truly vindicated. Two years later, the Montreal Hurling team won the American Senior Championship against Boston GAA, while on the same day at Loyola Park in Montreal, the Montreal football team narrowly lost to Boston Galway in a hectic final.
On 9 May 1965 the Montreal Shamrocks Football Team played host to a visiting Australian Rules Team from Melbourne, playing the first half under GAA rules, and the 2nd half under Australian Rules. The score at the final whistle read: Montreal 29 – Melbourne 28.
On St Helen’s Island Park, at the World Fair of Expo ’67, the Montreal Shamrock Hurling Team soundly defeated the visiting New York-Kilkenny Champions, before several hundred fascinated spectators, while on the same day, our footballers were narrowly defeated by an all-star Toronto team.
On 29 October 1969, Montreal GAA entertained the Kerry Senior Football Team, All-Ireland Champions, who were on their way home from their successful American tour. Trainer, Jackie Lyne and the Chairman of the Kerry County Board expressed their gratitude and appreciation to the Montreal Shamrock Club for the reception and fraternity shown the visiting champions.
On 8 October 1973, the Montreal Shamrock Hurling team captured the American League title against Cleveland in a hotly contested game at Toronto.
In August 1974, Montreal played host to an Irish Civil Service Football Team at Trenholme Park. This was the first time that a visiting Gaelic Football team from Ireland played in Montreal. Much publicity was given to that game by the media and several hundred spectators saw an excellent exhibition of Gaelic football under floodlights. The fitter Irish squad was easily victorious over their hosts on this occasion.
From the mid 70’s, however, Montreal was not attracting as many young Irish immigrants as Toronto, Boston and Chicago – cities that continued to be serviced by Aer Lingus. Accordingly, our club was forced to rely on its still nimble, but ageing veterans, and their up-and-coming sons. Competition between us and our traditional rivals from Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse (teams affected by the draft and the Vietnam War) had to be abandoned in favour of games with Canadian teams from Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton.
To commemorate the 35th Anniversary of our Club, a two-day Gala Celebration was held featuring games of Football and Hurling and culminating in a sumptuous Dinner Dance at the Seville Holiday Inn on 18 August 1984. A heart-warming citation from the President of the GAA in Ireland, Mr. Paddy Buggy, was presented and read at the Banquet.
In the meantime, our Club has participated in the Toronto GAA League as well as in exhibition games and various Tournaments, including our own Feis Ville-Marie Tournament, the Denis Leyne Tournament, and the celebrated Powerscreen Sevens Tournament. The highlight of the calendar is our yearly Tournament on the May Victoria Day Weekend.
On the occasion of his historic visit to Montreal on 24 January 1999, the President of the GAA, Mr. Joe McDonagh addressed more than a hundred members and guests at a Gala Banquet at McKibbin’s Pub-Restaurant. He paid tribute to the stalwart members who down through the years promoted and nurtured the games and culture of our ancestors, and he urged the current and future Executive to grasp the torch and carry it aloft to even higher and greater eminence.
Since the new millennium, the club has continued to progress, with new generations of Irish immigrants and locals joining its ranks. In 2008, the club celebrated its 60th anniversary – a tribute to the selfless work put in by many volunteers over the years
In recent years, the club has been successful both on and off the pitch, seeing increased membership and winning both the Quebec Championship for the past three seasons and the Great Irish American Festival tournament in the last three seasons. 2009 saw another landmark in the Shamrocks’ ever-evolving story, with the revival of the club’s hurling team for the first time in 35 years, with the team competing in the inaugural tournament in Portland Maine – performing admirably against the local team and another team from New Hampshire.
Since 2009, the club has also begun to compete in another code – Australian Rules Football! The Shamrocks now participate in an annual Quebec tournament at the beginning of every year. This has resulted in the local Australian Rules club fielding a Gaelic football to participate in our annual May tournament. There is also an international rules game in October of each year where the Shamrocks play the Aussies in a compromised rules game.
The club has also started a domestic coed city Gaelic football league, “The SuperLeague”, to help encourage new people to try the game and play on a more recreational level. This has been a huge success and the club is producing some good Canadian born players(both male and female). The three Superleague teams are the Griffintown Gaels, Verdun Vikings and the Goose Village Black Rocks.
In 2012, the club competed in the Eastern Championship, an ongoing set of games between the Montreal Shamrocks, Quebec Patriotes, Ottawa Gaels and Kingston . In 2014, after more clubs formed in Halifax and St.John`s, an official Eastern Canada GAA Division was formed and finals were held in St.Johns later that year. Host cities will be rotated each year.
Off the field, the club continues to remain very active. Members gather regularly for events such as the St Patrick’s Day parade, our annual golf tournament, social nights, as well as following the live Championship games from Ireland.
Since the days of Ras Tailteann and Feiseanna at Tara, Irish Games have tended to symbolise the irrepressible nature of our spirit, and the Montreal Gaelic Athletic Association seems, in the light of that spirit, determined to prove that our flag is still there.