The club played its first game on February 17th 1963 in Blackheath against Du Hollow GFC in a friendly. However, reports were sketchy but it seems the game never actually got finished with the Gaels on top 1-08 to 0-01. Based on recollection the first Tir Chonaill team was Frank McLaughlin (London), Enda Brennan (Mountcharles), Jimmy Doogan (Killybegs), Patsy Higgins (Donegal), Tony Rushe (Donegal), Jackie Reilly (Letterkenny and captain), Jackie Rushe (USA), Peadar Duffy (Ballybofey), Joe Shovelin (Donegal), Donal Boyle (London), Bernard Laverty (Ballybofey), Christy Boyle (London), Mickey Duffy (Shetland Islands), Danny Quinn (London) and Barney McLaughlin (London).
At a meeting after this game it was agreed that a new ball had to be purchased and it was to be bought in Ireland and shipped over as the balls were off better quality in Ireland. In March that year the club organised its first dance to raise much needed funds. It took place on Quex Road March 7th with premises booked, 1,000 tickets printed and with an admission set at 3s 6d.
Barney Coyle had now being installed as team manager and training was now in full swing with training taking place on Tuesday night’s in Clapham Common and in Gladstone Park on Thursday nights. However, the season had only really started when disaster struck. During a League game against London Rovers on June 30th in Dagenham a serious fight broke out between the estimated 300 supporters there to watch the game and some of the players. According to reports Tony Rushe was struck first and a row ensued.
As a result of this on the 4th July at a County Board meeting the club was suspended from all competitions. Chairman Liam Doherty pleaded with club members to stick together and that they would be determined to get this overturned. Over the next two months the busiest man in the club would be Bernard Laverty the clubs county board delegate as he attended a number of club and county board meeting. By early September the suspension was still in place and the executive committee were getting concerned as numbers at training had fallen. However, on September 5th the club members and players was notified at a club meeting that they had being successful in getting reinstated. However, it was at a price as four players were to face long suspensions, which resulted in two players getting six months and two getting five years. That’s how serious the charge was, resulting in such long suspensions.
Tir Chonaill Gaels may have had to spend more than their normal share of time involved in boardroom battles in 1963, than on the field of play. But, what a year it was to be. On November 22nd 1963 the Donegal Democrat ran the headline “Tir Chonaill Gaels maintain their unbeaten record to win junior league” The Gaels in there first season won the league and better was to come. They defeated the Garryowen in the final 1-12 to 2-02 in New Eltham. The Emerald pipers led the victorious team to the pavilion at New Eltham GAA grounds.
It’s too important of an occasion not to mention the winning team that day. Frank McLaughlin, Pat Higgins, Jimmy Doogan, Enda Brennan, Jackie Rushe, Jackie Reilly capt, Eamon McNelis, Bernard Laverty, Neil McGinley, Christy Boyle, Donal Boyle, John McHugh, Michael Duffy, Danny Quinn, and Barney McLaughlin. Sub. Charlie McGinley for Barney McLaughlin.
The Gaels were to complete the double when they won the junior championship on 6th December 1963 beating the Garryowen again 3-04 to 0-02. After presenting the victorious captain with the cup for the London junior championship, chairman of the London County Board Jim Mullarkey praised the Tir Chonaill team for their record making success in winning the league and championship in their first season as an affiliated club. The team on the day was the same as the league winning team the previous week with the exception of Seoirse Williamson, Charlie McGinley and Charlie McLaughlin starting. History was made and these men made it by becoming the first Tir Chonaill Gaels team to win silverware, a trend was set and one that will continue for the next forty nine years.
London junior League Champions 1963
London junior Championship Winners 1963