Northern Ireland

Former soldier visits Crossmaglen GAA club

John McEntee and Oisín McConville
Image caption John McEntee and Oisín McConville were among the boys who formed Crossmaglen Rangers

A former soldier who was stationed in Crossmaglen during the Troubles has met one of the players involved in a GAA team in the south Armagh town.

During the Troubles, the army base was situated right beside the GAA ground.

The meeting was revealed during the filming of the True North documentary, 'Crossmaglen Field of Dreams'.

During the Troubles, a group of local children, brought together by Crossmaglen Rangers, formed what was to become one of the greatest Gaelic football teams in the country.

Two of those boys, Oisín McConville and John McEntee, who graduated through the underage ranks went on to help 'Cross' win its first All-Ireland club championship in 1996.

The 1970s saw an increased Army presence in Northern Ireland, and the building of a base in the largely Catholic town was a cause of contention for many residents.

The club chose to ignore the Troubles as best it could and became determined to be known for sporting greatness.

Oisín and John recall how they were too busy playing football to get involved in politics.

Oisín said: "Despite what was going on, we were still determined to be successful on the field."

"We were far too busy playing football and getting on with life," John said.

During filming, Oisín reveals how he was contacted by a former soldier, who was once stationed at Crossmaglen.

Image caption In 2014, Oisín and John became managers of Cross and began their pursuit of the 2016 All-Ireland Club Championship

The former soldier, who is now involved in reconciliation work, meets Oisín on the club pitch and they discuss what that time was like for the team and for soldiers.

In 2014, Oisín and John became managers of Cross and began their pursuit of the 2016 All-Ireland Club Championship.

The film follows them as they guide the next generation of players to hoped-for victory at Dublin's Croke Park.

Since 1996, the team has won 19 county championships, 11 Ulster club trophies and five more all-Ireland finals.

The programme focuses on the daily lives of the players and managers, including the squad's oldest member, Paul Hearty. Married with four children, Paul works as a milkman six days a week before football training in the evenings.

We also meet Jamie Clarke, a rising star in Gaelic football, who wants to see if there is more to life for him than GAA. He causes shockwaves by leaving the club mid-season to go to New York.

Producer Natalie Maynes said: "For years, Crossmaglen has lived with the reputation of being at the heart of 'bandit country'.

"But with unique access to the town's senior Gaelic football team over a two-year-period, we were able to gain an insight into the untold story of life beyond the label, and to discover how this remarkable frontier community has turned what could have been a siege mentality, into a formula for victory."

Assistant producer Thomas Niblock said: "From a sporting point of view, the reward for gaining two years of unrestricted access was a front row seat to the real Crossmaglen Rangers.

"No buff, no polish - instead we witnessed Cross during their most intimate and sacred moments. We were also able to document the humanity and exacting toll on a club in pursuit of sporting excellence."

True North: Crossmaglen Field of Dreams is on BBC One Northern Ireland at 21:00 GMT on Monday 21 March.