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Silent film unveils Eglish GAA first

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Sports history books will have to be rewritten after a newly discovered silent newsreel from the 1920s revealed the earliest footage of a penalty being taken at a GAA match.

The grainy footage, which dates from 1929, shows Malachy Mallon from Ballymackilduff, Eglish, who was hailed at the time as a sporting prodigy, taking a penalty-kick for Tyrone against Antrim at the old O’Neill Park, Dungannon.

According to GAA history expert and Eglish native, Dr Donal McAnallen, this has turned out to be the first such penalty in Gaelic football that is captured on film, confounding previously received logic that the penalty was introduced into the game in the late 1930s.

“While still a teenager, Mallon played full-back for the first-ever Ulster Gaelic football team in 1926, and until 1931 was the regular full-back for the Dungannon and Tyrone teams”, said Dr McAnallen, who will be delivering a talk on the discovery as part of the ONeill Country Historical Society Spring 2014 Lecture Series.

“For years Malachy Mallon’s athletic greatness was renowned on a local level, but his name is now largely forgotten. The talk will not only outline his sporting career, the significance of the 1929 film and the penalty-kick, it will also seek to explain why his fame has waned and explores social, sporting and political aspects of the time.

The talk will take place on Tuesday, March 11, at the Moy Inn at 8.00pm.

History

The archive footage offers a rare glimpse into the revival of GAA in Tyrone after the political upheavals of the War of Independence and the Civil War.

According to GAA historians, the outlook at the beginning of the 1920s for the GAA in Tyrone was poor. Even though other Ulster counties had struggled for survival in the turbulent period that had just passed, the neglect of the GAA in Tyrone was particularly acute.

The beginning of this renaissance can be dated to Tyrone’s participation in the 1923 Ulster championship against Monaghan, though unsurprisingly, a group of players that had not had the opportunity for competitive club or county games for three years were soundly beaten on that occasion.

The following year, Tyrone’s first round victory over Donegal in Letterkenny saw a large contingent of Tyrone supporters travel to the match by a specially scheduled train – evidence of a new vitality in the Association in the county. This first victory in an Ulster senior football championship was followed by a narrow defeat in Belturbet, to Cavan, the dominant power in Ulster right up until the 1950s.

This work received a tremendous boost in 1929 when Cardinal MacRory, a native of Ballygawley, lent his considerable weight to the Association in Tyrone by agreeing to become its patron.

 

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