LADIES GAELIC FOOTBALL IN CO. DERRY – WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Ladies football in County Derry can be traced back to about 1990 when Greenlough Primary School, managed by Joe Lagan, played the first official girls football match against Lissan Primary School, managed by Peadar Totten. In the years which followed an annual primary school’s blitz tournament was played the winning team representing the county at the INTO Mini Seven’s trials. Over the years quite a number of Derry girls have appeared at half time in the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in Croke Park.
The early 90’s were big years in the GAA in Derry: 3 National league titles and Sam Maguire came to visit. One young lady, Leona McEldowney from Maghera, decided there was no reason why girls couldn’t do as well as the boys and set about finding out how to get ladies football started in the county. She contacted Philip O’Hare from Ulster Council and they set up a meeting of all interested parties. Helen O’Rourke and Mick Fitzgerald from Central Council came to the meeting but unfortunately not too many Derry folk turned up for the meeting. The few who did were well impressed and set to work through all the local clubs to kindle the fire of ladies football. The first county board was set up in 1995 with Leona McEldowney (Glen) in the chair, Mavourneen Convery (Glen) as secretary, Olivia McCormack (Magherafelt) as vice-chairperson and Brenda Niblock (Magherafelt) as Treasurer. The County affiliated to Ulster Council with 5 clubs: Dungiven, Desertmartin, Magherafelt, Swatragh and Glen. Leona McEldowney and Matt Covery (both Glen) represented Derry as delegates to Ulster and Central Councils. The first County Championship was won by Dungiven who donated the Evalyn McGonagle Memorial Cup as the perpetual trophy for the competition.