Updated: June 16th, 2023

Owenbeg to host inaugural Francis Lagan Cumann na mBunscol finals

The late Francis Lagan will be in the hearts and minds of all who attend tonight’s Cumann na mBunscol football finals at Owenbeg. 

Francis Lagan guides St Mary’s Gortnaghey to victory in 2019 at Owenbeg. Photo: Margaret McLaughlin.

The larger than life Maghera man passed away in November 2021 following a tragic accident. The 40-year-old was principal of St Mary’s PS in Maghera where he was a strong advocate of Gaelic games and a champion of his community. This week, his former colleagues on the committee of the primary schools body for Gaelic games in the county have taken the decision to remember Francis by naming their annual festival of football in his honour.

Chairman of Cumann na mBunscol Doire, John McCormack, has explained the decision, saying: 

“Francis was a much-respected School Principal, a teacher, a coach and an inspiration to all those in his presence. He loved the children in his care, and by God, they loved him.”

“Tragically he was taken from us far too young and this evening we attempt to honour him and the legacy he has left us by promoting the skills and abilities of our young footballers.”

Writing in the programme for tonight’s event, Peter Donnelly, a former chairman of Cumann na mBunscol Doire, paid a moving tribute to Francis Lagan.

“There was an expectation for so much more to come, a life that was just blossoming into its prime, devastatingly stopped in its tracks” writes Donnelly. 

“Often photographed with his family, arms outstretched with what seemed an invisible cloak of invincibility around everything he held most dear in the world. This was the man who gave so much to others, he revelled in the formation of youth, both spiritually and socially and after answering his vocation to extend this formation journey into education, he worked tirelessly to turn children’s aspirations into realities. He truly believed he was ‘home’ with his appointment as Principal of St. Mary’s PS Glenview, Maghera; his native parish.”

Donnelly explained what made Francis Lagan unique, saying:

“Children’s life chances brought a great sense of focus to his life, as he strived to support every child in their quest to reach their potential and he acutely recognised the role that sport played in this journey. Francis immersed himself in gaelic games and embraced a central role in Cumann na mBunscol, Doire. His activities both at pitch side and at more social events within the organisation were beginning to build legendary status for this giant of a man.”

Eighteen primary schools from across Derry will travel to Owenbeg on this summer’s evening for the games. In attendance will be the Lagan family, invited guests and Derry county chairman John Keenan. 

“The work done by Cumann na mBunscol in Derry is phenomenal” says Keenan. “From the now regular Derry Days to events like tonight’s games they bring huge energy and colour to the GAA in Derry. We’ve seen the results of their efforts in Clones and Croke Park in recent times, bringing our games to new generations of children. I want to thank all of the committee and the teachers for their efforts. It is hugely appreciated.”

“I particularly want to welcome Louise Lagan, her children and all the Lagan family to Owenbeg tonight. Francis Lagan was a good man, always well intentioned, with a kind heart and genuine afffection for children. His life was an example to all of us.”

The inaugural Francis Lagan Cumann na mBunscol finals throw in tonight at Owenbeg at 7.30pm. All are welcome.