Oh Canada! Dubs lead Gaels to first Toronto victory in a generation

by Aaron Dunne
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Dubliners played a key role as Toronto Gaels claimed their first Toronto title in almost 30 years recently.

 Dan Higgins of Kilbarrack’s Naomh Barróg, Aran Waters of Ballyboden St Enda’s and Cormac Bonner of Kilmacud Crokes, alongside manager Sean O’Molloy, were all central as the club defeated Durham Robert Emmetts in a hard fought decider. 

 The Toronto Gaels club arose from the ashes of the old Toronto Garryowen club in 1987, with men such as Billy Millar, Paddy Callan, Billy Gilroy and Joe Matthews at the forefront.

The early years of Toronto Gaels were strong, and by 1994 the club won the league and championship double with Laois’s Mark O’Brien at the helm and featuring players like Dublin’s Deco Kiernan, Niall Cotter, Shane Carroll, Niall and Damien Donnelly.

But 1994 was to be the last championship win for a generation. The club later experienced some lean years and went through a stage of rebuilding.

By 2016, the efforts of some dedicated club stalwarts began to bear fruit and the club were once again competitive. 

In 2017 Toronto Gaels won their first senior football silverware in over two decades when they claimed a Senior Football League. 

The Dublin contingent of Dan Higgins (Naomh Barróg), Aran Waters (Ballyboden St Enda’s), Cormac Bonner (Kilmacud Crokes) and manager Sean O’Molloy celebrate after leading Toronto Gaels to their first title since 1994

Unfortunately, the club fell short in the championship semi-final. This streak repeated itself in 2018 and 2019, with the Gaels dominating in the league but falling short at the final hurdle.

In that time, Toronto Gaels fielded their first ladies’ football team, thanks to the hard work of Niamh Cafferkey and Adam Kiernan.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no competitions in 2020, and 2021 only saw limited games with the City of Toronto just reopening. The pandemic had also taken its toll on the club, with a number of players having retired or returned to Ireland.

By early 2022 Toronto Gaels once again started a process of rebuilding, focusing on recruiting new players to the club from the young Irish arriving in Toronto. 

A bright spark for this new looking team was the arrival of two Dublin men, Aran Waters of Ballyboden St Enda’s and Dan Higgins of Naomh Barróg.

Waters had been a dominant feature of Dublin Senior Club Football challenges for the past number of years, and he made an immediate impact once he landed on Canadian shores.

After a tough game against old rival S. Vincent’s in the semi-final, Toronto Gaels came through to face Durham Robert Emmetts in the Toronto Senior Football Final. 

Anyone interesed in finding ou more about the club can contact [email protected] or follow the club on Instagram at torontogaelsgfc and Twitter @torontogaelsgfc or at the website: torontogaelsgaa.com

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