St. Catherine’s Football Club owes it’s origins to the men who brought the railway to southwest Donegal in the late 1800’s. Soccer had been played in and around Killybegs for a number of years when it was decided to form a club. In the Hibernian Hall, Bridge Street on the 15th of August 1896, the club was formed by parish priest at the time Fr. John Sweeney P.P. and other local businessmen for the benefit of the youth of the town and parish.
In those early years, challenge matches were played with neighbouring teams and then in 1909 The Woods Cup was organised in Ballyshannon by teams from south Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo and Fermanagh. Killybegs Emeralds (as the club was known then) first won the competition in 1912 beating Ballyshannon, having overcome Beleek in the semi final. Other competitions the club played in at the time were the Western League, Britton Cup and Holmes Donegal Cup, the latter cup was split between north and south Donegal. During the 30’s the club enjoyed some great battles in this cup, most notably against Drumoghill and won the cup against Creeslough in 1931.In 1933 the club had the distinction of wining The Connaught Cup, beating Galway at The Showground’s in Sligo.The club reached its highest peak on Sunday May 7th1939, reaching the final of the Junior Cup playing against Drumcondra in Dalymount Park, having overcome Sligo Bohemians, Athlone, Limerick and Central Rovers (Cork) in earlier rounds. Having such a strong team, this was a great period for football in Killybegs. The players at the time were, Daniel Campbell, Tommy Dorrian, Casimir Carr, James Byrne, Paddy Mc Ginley, P. Quigley, James P. Mc Ginley, Joe Lee, Jim Dorrian, Charlie Murrin, Peadar Molloy, John Mc Gilloway, Leo Mc Ginley, Hugh Dorrian, Dennis Kenny, Pat Dorrian, Willie Hegarty, Michael Gillespie, Packie Mulreany, Steve Dorrian, J.P. Mc Guinness, Jimmy Green and Edmund Rodgers. And backroom men at the time contained Charlie Sheridan, Willie Joe Molloy, Tommy Smith and many more.
Since1904, the Killybegs Sports and Regatta Committee organised matches every August Bank Holiday. Teams came from far and wide to play and in 1944, FAI Senior Cup winners Bohemians were invited .Other teams which visited at the time were Derry, Strabane Utd, and Drumcondra. This tradition still lives on in the club in the form of the annual -7- a side competition. In 1947 the club purchased Emerald Park, a park which had served the community for many years for various sporting events, to being a place where fishermen spread their nets for mending in the early years of the fishing industry. Other great battles took place in the Emerald Cup and the annual Town versus Corporation match, where no questions were asked!
In the 50’and 60’s the club continued, taking part in the Junior Cup, Connaught Cup, Ballybofey Cup, Rosses League and Convoy Cup. The team reached the final of the Ballybofey Cup in 1958, having beaten Derry Celtic and St. James’ Gate (Derry) along the way. However, the team made up of Michael Boyle, Pat Quinn, Sean Mc Guinness, Charlie Mc Gowan and several Sligo Rovers players were beaten by a Letterkenny team containing Busty Blake and Charlie “Bovril” Collins. The following year it was decided to enter two teams. The second team wore an all white strip and became known as the “All Whites”. They played a team from Kilmacrennan mostly made up from the priesthood, including Fr. Hugh Strain, known as the “All Blacks”. During this time, games were often arranged between the club and the navy, whenever they were ashore in Killybegs.
During the fifties the club decided to change its name from Killybegs Emeralds to St. Catherine’s Football Club in honour of the patron saint of the town and parish, Saint Catherine of Alexandria. Tommy Smith designed a crest for the club at the time, incorporating the wheel that is found at the feet of St.Catherine’s statue at the well in the town.
In 1968, Daniel Campbell and Tommy Dorrian along with Fred Coll(Gweedore) and Manus Mc Cole(Burtonport) set up The Rosses League. St. Catherine’s won the league in 68 but lost out to Mullaghduff the following year. Also in 1968, Finn Harps won the Junior Cup and the following year came to Killybegs in the second round to defend it. The Saints, with a man sent off, beat the holders 3 – 2.
In 1971, the club became one of the founder members of the Donegal League and in 1974 reached the IAWS Cup Final, been beaten 5-1 by Lifford. Consolation came in winning the Convoy Cup. The following year however was an historic year, with the club becoming the first club to win the double. Losing 3-1 in Gweedore in the first league game of the season, the team progressed to win their first Donegal League title beating Fanad 3-0 in the Hollybush. The club won the IAWS Cup that year beating Letterkenny in the final. The next year the club finished runners up to Fern Utd, losing out by a point. In 1983 the club met Fanad Utd in the Ulster Cup Final played in Ramelton, winning 3-1. 1987 saw the club claim the Donegal Area Junior Cup beating Dunkineely by penalties, and went on to meet St. Michaels of Tipperary. In 1989 the club decided to join the Ulster Senior League and won its only piece of silverware at intermediate level when beating Swilly Rovers in the Hotel Glenveigh Cup Final. The club rejoined the Donegal League in 1995 and went on to win the Ulster Cup in 1999 against Ballybofey Utd. In 2001 the Saints lost out to Dunkineely in a play off to win the league.
In 1996 the club had the honour of celebrating its centenary. Around this time the club began to field a second team in the Saturday League. Along with the great work being done at underage, this was seen as a strong addition in developing young players. Founder members of the South Donegal Schoolboys League, the club fields teams from u-10 up to u-16 and has regularly reached the latter stages of national cup competitions. Also many club players have represented the county at the annual Foyle and Kennedy Cup competitions. A strong emphasis is placed at underage player development and in 2005 the club launched The Academy where some 200 boys and girls are coached over the summer months. This work paid dividends when in 2006 the club won the Donegal League after a 30 year wait. The team was one of the youngest squads to ever win it, having also won the Brian McCormick Cup the previous year.
St. Catherine’s F.C. has a long and rich history, being a source of pride and enjoyment for the people of Killybegs for well over a century. The club is a progressive one and the challenge is to continue to develop what so many have worked so hard to achieve. The club has an all inclusive policy, endeavouring to encourage and help young people develop through the sport of football.