About

About the Offaly Association in London

Offaly Association London is a group that offers help and advice to people from Offaly living and working in the capital.We Also offer help and support to those in need.

Offaly G.A.A. success in the early 60’s caused the birth of the Offaly Association in London. Offaly played Down in 1961 in the All-Ireland final and both teams were invited to play an exhibition game at Wembley in 1962. Offaly people formed a reception committee to host their team. This reception committee fund-raised for the event. Having achieved this they decided they should stay together and in August 1962 The Offalyman’s Association was formed.

Initially meetings were held at The Alexander Hotel in Clapham Common and alternated between the latter and The Swan in West Drayton.

After a couple of years the meetings were held at Butty Sugrue’s in Shepherds Bush as it was half way between the other two venues. Two founding members from this committee are still active members today, Joe Gallagher and Dermot O’Brien. During those years numerous socials were held in Clapham, West Drayton and Wimbledon. The annual Dinner-Dance of 1964 was held in The Irish Club in Eaton Sq. and our guest of Honour was The Irish Ambassador Mr. J.G. Molloy, who encouraged Offaly people to keep together socially and help each other.

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The Association affiliated to the Council of Irish County Associations (C.I.C.A.) in the mid 60’s based at The London Irish Centre. In 1969 the association changed its name losing the “mens” to become the Offaly Association London. Offaly footballers came back in 1969 to play in Wembley again despite the social and political upheaval in the North of Ireland. They socialised in The Oval the first Irish occasion to be staged at this cricket ground. This boosted membership for the Association again. The games of 1971 and 1972 also helped increase the membership. After the defeat of Offaly footballers in 73 All-Ireland semi-final the association’s profile declined owing to external pressures on all Irish Associations. The association was kept afloat by a dedicated committee.

Barkers in Kensington had seen the Annual Dinner-dances as this became the premier spot for London-Irish society functions at the time. This is where the 1971 All-Ireland winning team were entertained in 1972. The 80’s had a great breakthrough with the hurlers which re-ignited the Associations social activities and a most consistent committee formed that year and remained together for 15 years. 1981 saw the Association again hold a successful dinner-dance. Offaly were reigning Leinster champions in both hurling and football. This was a huge achievement considering the size and population of the county. From then until the present day, the Association has invited guests at its annual dinner-dance.

The McCarthy cup was on display in 1982 at the new banqueting suite in at the Irish centre and an attendance of 250. The memorable Offaly footballers win over Kerry in 1982 stopping Kerry’s 5 in a row further enhanced the Association membership. The dinner dance that year had a limited ticket number of 300 and there was a rush to get tickets but to everyone’s great surprise there was no Sam MaGuire as it had gone to America a double booking for the Sam meant we didn’t have its company on the night. The burning of the Church in Tullamore caused disbelief everywhere and the Association held a fund-raising event at The Forum and sent the much needed donation home.

Also in 1984 involvement in the London Irish Festival was high on the priority list and the committee members played important roles at all the festivals held.

By the mid 80’s The London Irish festival had become the largest gathering of Irish people anywhere in the world. Its purpose was social and cultural but primarily welfare and it distributed over 1.5 million pounds within the London Irish Community during its 24 year history. The year continued with fund-raising for the Matt Connor and which the Offaly Association became the biggest single contributor (12,000). Benefit dances and socials continued throughout the years.

By the late 1980’s a number of young recently arrives emigrants had joined and the Young Offaly Association was formed. In 1989 we auctioned the 1971 All-Ireland football which was taken over by Willie Bryan and auctioned for £511, the money was split between 2 charities in Tullamore The Lourdes Invalid fund and a treatment unit at The Tullamore Hospital.

In May of the same year the Senior Hurling team came to London and played London in Ruislip but were beaten on the day. The summer saw the successful continuation of The Offaly association stall at the London Irish Festival. Carrying into the nineties we had one of the biggest dinner-dances with over 300 in attendance. On St. Patrick’s day the Association won The McGann Cup for the best turned out float. Again re-unions and benefits nights continued and £2,596.00 was raised for the Offaly training fund. Donations were made to The Young Offaly Association, Comhaltas Ceolteori Eireann, The Birmingham Six fund and to Fr. Butlers tour of Ireland .

Dinner dances kept showing good numbers and various fund-raising was carried including the Nicola Meacle fund and David Hogan’s lifetime trip to Liverpool football ground. The Association also got involved in sending a contestant to the Clara Queen of the heather.

In 1994 the Offaly County council got involved with the Association and continue to make a donation every year to us since. T

he Offaly Association London supporters club had been formed and was very successful in helping with the much needed funds for Offaly training. 1996 saw the Association regain the McGann cup for best turned out float at the St. Patricks Day Parade helped by Clara’s Harp and Shamrock band.

The late 90’s saw a boom in the Irish economy leading to heavy numbers of people returning home. This had a big effect on the Association. Re-union nights grew so small that there was no reason to go on with them. A small dedicated team of individuals continued flying the flag for Offaly and the Association.

1999 saw the biggest dinner-dance the Association has held when 445 attended at The Cumberland Hotel in Marble Arch. Offaly being The All-Ireland Hurling Champions many of the County board, the team and their mentors joined us. Peter Hynes was accredited with Offaly person of the year. The Millennium started with our Dinner-Dance again in the Cumberland but much smaller numbers. Trying to attract new members to the Association is vital for its continuation. This is one of the main issues the committee wants to address. Huge numbers returning to Ireland owing to the Celtic tiger still roaring has kept membership low.

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The Annual Dinner-Dance returned to The Camden Irish Centre in 2001 much to many people’s delight. 2002 saw our 40th Anniversary and to celebrate it The Offaly Association Book was launched at Aras an Chontae in Tullamore depicting the history of the Association. The dinner dance has continued successfully in The Irish Centre in Murray St in Camden.

Some of Offaly’s finest men and women have kept the association going for over 40 years and it is owed to them, as much as us and future Offaly people emigrating to London, to keep this association together.

Your attendance at social gatherings, which are arranged throughout the year is aimed to increase membership of the Association and your attendance at these events would be appreciated. Getting to know people from other areas of Offaly and keeping in touch socially is what it is all about. We also aim to help people less well off or in need of help.

It has been a great pleasure writing this brief history of the Association and we hope it has enlightened you to what the association is about. This year 2009 we will launch our website and out greatest wish is to continue to get new members of all ages as your wisdom and energy is vital to our survival.