When Gerard Barton first registered as a member of Pearse Óg GFC in the late 1960’s, early 1970’s little did he know that his active involvement would stretch 5 decades and counting.
Along with his two brothers, Paul and Tony, Gerard first donned the Green and Gold in and around 1970 and there began a lifelong commitment to our club. He moved through the ranks from u-14 &16, minor, juvenile and then into Senior football. Gerard himself says he was lucky to play on teams that were laced with players of great skill, commitment and passion. Gerry Cullen, Seamie Campbell, Malachy & Noel Mc Sorley, Joe & Gerard Gordon and Eamonn Donaldson to name but a few. He was also privileged to play alongside Marty Oliver, whom he says was one of the best footballers he ever saw play for the Ógs. (until he left and played for the Harps)
Senior success is the quest for any footballer and success came Gerard’s way in 1973 when he was a member of the first championship winning side that beat Whitecross. Managed by Gerry Mc Gleenon and Jimmy Mc Keown, that Ógs team included players many of whom are revered as Pearse Óg greats today. Joe Harney, Mickey D, The Mc Quade brothers, Kevin and Cathal & Donat Toner. A broken leg in a match in Middletown put him out of action for a period of time and following a spell in Canada he returned to playing Senior football in 1977/78.
He remained as a playing member until his retirement in the 1980’s. However hanging up his boots didn’t mark the end of his involvement with Pearse Óg Gfc, in some ways it only marked the beginning.
With the playing days behind him, Gerard immersed himself in the social aspect of the club and along with Eugene Campbell and the others on the social committee they organised dances, Take your Pick, bands and of course Friday Night Bingo. Friday night Bingo in the Old club was like an institution for the hundreds that attended each week. The social club in those days was the place to be and many big names entertained our members on many great nights- Paddy Kielty, Johnny Mc Evoy, Paddy Reilly and the Sands family. Such was his commitment with the Social club that he held the role of Secretary and Chairman of the social committee in the time when the club had two committees in place. Great links during those days were also forged with Waterford clubs, driven by the hard working Henry Donnelly and their trips to Armagh meant a packed social club, keeping barmen Tommy Powell and Tommy Darragh busy! The partnership of Gerard and Eugene Campbell continues to this day as both are still involved in the running of social events within the club.
The devastation at the loss of the old club to fire led to the optimism and excitement that the building of the new club brought. The official opening in 1999 saw the President of Ulster Council Danny Murphy and the President of the GAA Jack Boothman (now both deceased)welcomed to our club to by all our committee, members and Gerard as his role as Club Chairman . He was elected as Chairman of Pearse Óg in 1991 and remained there until 2002.
This was a special and memorable time for our club on the footballing front. During those years we celebrated Houli’s Allstar award in 1993, we witnessed our historic 5 in a row winning minor side that included modern day greats of Andy Mallon and Rónán Clarke, we won 4 Juvenile championships and of course we had the great honour of having Pearse Óg representation of players and management as part of the magnificent Armagh All-Ireland winning side of 2002. What a night that was when Sam was welcomed to Pearse Óg GFC. During his time as Chairman, Gerard also introduced the Lotto, which remains to be our weekly source of income to the club, taking the lead from a club in Roslea thanks to help from the late, great Joe D as his wife Mary hailed from there.
His work within Pearse Óg would take a different direction after his spell as Chairman, namely in what some viewed as a bold move, bringing Ladies Gaelic Football to Pearse Óg, making our club a more inclusive one. With the help of a few others like Pauline Brady, Bronagh Donnelly and Joanne Gordon, 2009 saw the very first girls team field at -16 level. Numbers continued to grow year after year and in the in 2011/12 season we fielded our first senior ladies side. This year we are entering competitions at u-12, u-14, u-16 and senior level. Players, mentors and helpers come and go but the only permanent feature in Ladies football within Pearse Óg since its inception has been Gerard Barton. That involvement takes tremendous commitment and Gerard has never failed. Many girls have said that without him, there would be no ladies football, he goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the girls enjoy the game and have what they need.
There are often parallels made with the GAA being like a family and the tradition of Pearse Óg is steadfast among the Barton/Donnelly family circle. From the 70’s when himself and his brothers played on teams along with brother in law Mickey D, to more recent times which saw his sons, nephews (The Donnelly brothers) and daughter all wear the Jersey. Wayne played to minor level, Gerald and John to senior level. Christine flies the flag playing for our senior ladies and grandson Ryan now fields for our u-8 team. The playing tradition looks set to continue.
In the past the club was supported by a very well-run Ladies committee that looked after catering etc at social events. His sister the late Margaret Donnelly was among this band of hard working women. They say behind every good man is an even better woman, and Gerard has this with Geraldine. Although, originally from Tyrone, Geraldine immersed herself fully into GAA life with Pearse Óg and continues to do so. The ladies committee has long since folded but Geraldine regularly makes sandwiches/food for the ladies teams and events in the social club.
It’s now 2017 and Gerard is still actively involved in club life. Rarely when you meet him does he talk about anything other than football. It is a big part of his life. He currently manages the senior ladies, sits on the club committee and as previously mentioned continues to help with the organising of social events and club fundraising. Ironically another initiative Gerard pioneered during his reign as Chairman was the Hall of Fame Award. He noticed that other clubs had been presenting the award and thought it would be a nice gesture to introduce it to our club in recognition of the sterling commitment to club life and hard work by an individual. Gerard Barton with his continued dedication to Pearse Óg Gfc and his passion to ensure that our club is the best, is most definitely a very fitting and deserving recipient of this award. Comhghairdeas leat!
Club Presentation Night on Saturday 25th February 9pm. Light supper and LIVE music. All welcome.