There has been evidence of Gaelic Games in Enniskillen since the early 1900s. In 1902 a Hurling Club Enniskillen O’Neills was formed & in 1904 a football team under the same name was entered into the Fermanagh Senior Championship. The hurlers secured championship titles in 1904, 1906 & 1907. Not to be outdone the footballers claimed a 3 in a row of championship titles 1907, 1908 & 1909. Leaner times were to follow and by 1912 Gaelic Games seemed to vanish from the town.
Over the next decade various attempts were made to resurrect Gaelic Games within the town. 1914 saw the formation of the Young Irish Gaelic Club, records show this only lasted about a year. Records from 1917 show another club competing from the town under the name of Sean McDermott’s GAA Club. This club provided Camogie, Football & Hurling playing a championship football final only to lose to Kinawley. Again whether this club disbanded or simply changed their name is unclear as a game between Enniskillen Maguire’s & Kinawley was played at the Gaelic field. The Maguire’s continued competing until the break up of the County Board in 1922 due to the political situation at the time. In 1924 the County Board reformed and Enniskillen was represented by the Geraldine’s Club. Whether this again was a renaming of the previous Maguire’s Club or a new Club is unclear but it appears that the Geraldine’s had great difficulty in fielding teams due to competition from soccer & young men joining the Free State Army & Garda Siochana. In fact in 1925 Geraldine’s withdrew from the senior league and Enniskillen was once again without a GAA team. Thankfully this did not last long and in 1926 a new club was born. This club was known as Enniskillen Lough Erne Gaels and played in Junior competitions. In fact, also at this time a local soccer club known as St Pauls were considering becoming a GAA club.
It is thought that Enniskillen Gaels grew out of the Enniskillen Lough Erne Gaels club. The first AGM of Lough Erne Gaels took place in 1927 and at this meeting a number of motions were proposed for the forthcoming County Convention. Two of these motions were self-serving in the fact that they would elevate the club from Junior status to that of Senior. There was also a request to the County Board to support a deputation to Ulster Council GAA for assistance in clearing the debt that incurred in the purchase of Enniskillen Gaelic Field. The proposals were accepted at Convention so the transition from Junior to Senior was made. It is thought by GAA historians that it was at this time that the name Enniskillen Gaels was formally accepted. The change in name likely coincided with the elevation in status to a Senior club. And so, this change in name brings about the beginning of our almost One-Hundred-year history as Enniskillen Gaels
Even in its infancy the Gaels were showing signs of the imaginative original thinking that we would be renowned for over the coming years. The Gaels purchased their own field on the Sligo road at a cost of £300; this was to prove a major benefit to both Club & County over the ensuing years. Even though the club found themselves in debt they still made plans to build a second handball court at Gaelic Park. This is evidence of the commitment to promoting Gaelic Games & Culture with members of the club at the time.
As previously mentioned, local soccer club St Pauls were considering becoming a GAA club and by the end of 1927 the decision was made and a second GAA club was formed in Enniskillen. Enniskillen St Pauls. In 1928 a unique challenge match took place at the old Gaelic field. Enniskillen Gaels took on Enniskillen St Pauls. Unfortunately, as with so much of this era there is no match report, score or teams available. However I can only assume it was a hotly contested game between the two clubs and attendance I suspect would have been high with each spectator having their own ‘Enniskillen’ team to cheer on.
St Pauls folded rather abruptly in 1929 having been told to “Get rid of five players who were playing soccer”. A crushing blow to the club and one they couldn’t recover from. Several of the St Pauls players transferred to the Gaels, among them Paddy Gillen who had been selected to play in goals for Ulster. A terriffic individual achievement.