History of Ballintubber GAA Club
BALLINTUBBER G.A.A CLUB.
A HISTORY 1885 T0 1900.
Today as we approach the year 2,000 Ballintubber G.A.A Club enjoys a profile as one of the most active and committed Clubs in County Mayo. Many people may feel the Club is a relatively new one, only in existence since the late 1940s but the roots of the Gaelic game in this the heartland of Mayo Gaelic Football stretches right back to the dawn of the Association. The Ballintubber story mirrors the story of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Co Mayo and indeed Nationally.
Man in all cultures has played ball games from the earliest times and while hurling is centuries old, football in one form or another has been played in Ireland since the Middle Ages. In 1338 the river liffey froze hard and the men of Dublin played football on the ice, a feat again repeated in 1740. A drama written in 1612 contains a story of Irish footballers using a human head for a ball and this is also to be found in an ancient Kerry folktale. In 1527 the Statute of Galway banned hurling but permitted men to ‘use only the grate football’. So indeed ball games, rural sports and athletics flourished in Ireland until the great famine of 1845 to 1850.
People, especially in Mayo and the West of Ireland generally died by the tens of thousands in the Great Potato Famine. Many of the most able-bodied left for the large Industrial Cities of America and England. Many of those who were left behind were malnourished, ill and dispirited. A silence fell over the land. The years from 1850 until the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association by Michael Cusack, P.W Nally, Michael Davitt and others in 1884 saw a decline in the rural sporting activities of Athletics, Hurling and Football. In 1884 Ireland was on its knees. Three rebellions had been quelled. Famine and disease had decimated the most able in the population. Land agitation festered all over the Country. The spirit of the people was low.
It was not an ideal time to found the G.A.A and promote traditional Gaelic Games but when Cusack sounded “his clarion call” the Nation responded. Still scarcely a dozen people attended the inaugural meeting of the G.A.A in Hayes’s Commercial Hotel in Thurles on Saturday afternoon, November 1st 1884. Yet within a short time “the Association had swept the country like a prairie fire”
FIRST RECORDED FOOTBALL IN MAYO
Early in the spring of 1885, Valentine Blake, eldest son of Catholic landlord Coronel Blake, Towerhill House reintroduced the game of football to the local tenants in surrounding villages.
Teams from Ballyglass, Carnacon, Towerhill, Rosslee, Cornfield, Ballintubber and Belcarra were making historic sports news in James Daly’s Connacht Telegraph.
The first Newspaper report is dated December 26th 1885 and it covers a game played at Towerhill between Carnacon and Ballyglass after second Mass on the previous Sunday.
As the following snippet illustrates, it was a hard fought contest that ended on the best of terms-
“The ‘war’ was now nicely kindled and the game went on from half past two to half past four, when after a hard fought battle, victory crowned the brows of the Carnacon boys. Colonel Blake and his lady looked on admiring the revival of one of our ancient national sports, and the former generously ordered from his cellar a barrel of XX to refresh both the vanquished and the victors. All separated in the best of humour, resolved to try it again on St Stephen’s Day.
We can see from an extract of another Connacht Telegraph report on a match between Carnacon and Belcarra dated 27/1/ 1886 that Gaelic Football was first played in Towerhill, Ballyglass early in 1885.
“ The above game which is happily becoming very popular in this neighbourhood under the auspices of Mr V. Blake who introduced it some twelve months ago-was admirably played for about an hour and a half on Sunday last in one of Mr McEvilly’s Fields at Ballyglass.
The Carnacon boys who wore very pretty caps of light blue were headed by Mr M. Blake and Master Richard McEvilly and the Belcarra boys, led on by Messrs C and J Daly wore handsome caps of green and yellow.”
Later the report states that “ the Belcarra men, too obstinate in their opinion against a decision given in reference to an ‘out’ could not be got to wafer their objection and so left the field to the utter disappointment of their opponents as well as that of hundreds of others, many of whom came long distances anticipating a good evenings fun”
THE GREEN ABOVE THE RED
The first mention of the Green above the Red comes in a Connacht Telegraph report in the Edition of Saturday, January 29 1887.
Towerhill v Cornfield.
“On Sunday, 23rd inst., the above teams met in a field in the Towerhill Demesne. The ground was very tastefully marked out, the Green above the Red-the Towerhill motto, waving gracefully all round, the same badge worn by the guards, with strong wire enclosing the whole area. Shortly after two O’ Clock the Cornfield men, wearing caps of red and white, marshalled by their Capt. J. Ruttledge arrived and received a hearty cheer from the Towerhill men. Cornfield looked its best, full of high hope and ardent expectation that their defeat of last season on the same ground would now be returned with “blood for blood”. But false was the hope and vain the expectation, for at the expiration of the play, after taking in three fresh men, they scored nil, while their opponents, under the colours they love best, and which their eyes are hot to see, realise the position they gave it that day, secured two goals.”
The Nationalist fervour of the above lines indicates that the adoption of the “Green above the Red” was indeed a strong political statement by the Towerhill men. The report goes on to state that amazingly “at least 2,000 persons were present, among whom many were the elite of this and surrounding Parishes”.
The teams on the day were 23 aside with victory going to Towerhill with fine performances by Kenny and Prendergast. This two goal victory by Towerhill was hotly disputed in the following weeks and excerpts from the reply of the Correspondent make very interesting reading as regards the make-up of the Towerhill team.
“ The assertion that Towerhill team consisted of men from four or five other clubs is only in keeping with the other false statements contained in that rabid effusion. Of the 23 men who constituted the Towerhill team, fifteen were tenants or sons of tenants on the Towerhill property- three were from the adjacent townland of Rosslee and members of the club since its inception two years ago, the remaining five were from historic Ballintubber; duly enrolled members of this club. Not so with Cornfield in this respect. Had they not men from Ballinrobe (to whom they owe whatever manful play was shown by them) and strangers from other places unknown to Towerhill men.”
The above excerpt shows that some things never change in the G.A.A and it also shows that Ballyglass, Carnacon and Ballintubber men were playing football together since the very dawn of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
THE FIRST BALLINTUBBER TEAM
The early games were usually 21 or 23 a side and were of the rough and tumble variety.
Two players might begin to wrestle each other (one fall was allowed) while the others followed the ball. Tripping, catching and tackling above the knees were all permissible. However high accurate fielding was a notable respected feature of the early game. A goal was the only score at first. Forfeit points were allowed when a defending side put the ball over the line. A ball going over the bar counted 3 forfeit points but a goal could blot out any number of points! There were goal and point posts. At the G.A.A Convention in 1886 wrestling was prohibited and ‘side point posts ‘ were introduced.
The Mayo Examiner reported on May 21st 1887 that Ballintubber played Rosslee at Ballintubber. Many of the familiar names, which are listed on the match report thankfully, still abound in the Communities of Ballyglass and Ballintubber today.
Ballintubber V Rosslee
“ This match, which had been postponed, came off last Sunday at Ballintubber and resulted in a win for the former by a goal and a point to a point. The following were the teams. - Ballintubber: -Jas Prendergast, Jas Corley, John Feeney, Sheridan (backs); P. Tuohy, D. Gavin, M. Tool (half-backs) W. Prendergast, P. Tuohy, (Captain) John Donnelly, T. McDonagh, M. McHugh, Thos Tool, John Hopkins, H. Corley, M. Lawless, P Cusack (forwards).
Rosslee- J. Prendergast, Michael Connolly, Nary, (backs) A. O McEvilly, (Capt.), Matt Murphy, (halfbacks) John O Gara, P. Killeen, Malachy Glynn, Thos Prendergast, James Bourke, Myles Garret, McDonnell, Keaveney, Dea, Nally, Killeen, Hughes (Forwards).
Many players played with each Club as they were required and the Towerhill team, which played Balla earlier that year as reported in the Mayo Examiner in February 1887, illustrates this.
Towerhill- Quinn and Prendergast, backs, Toole, Fitzgerald, Kenny, quarter backs. Forwards Blake (Capt.) J. Walsh, Tuohy, McHugh, Carroll, J. Walsh, Malley, Phaden, Nalty, Gallagher, Lawless, Donnelly, Brennan, Gavin and J Quinn.
There were of course arguments and bitter disputes but it all added to the excitement and hype of the rejuvenated game.
In the early years the game spread rapidly to the local towns. Castlebar Mitchell’s and Ballina Stephenites were among the first clubs formed.
Other clubs that started up included, Balla, Ballinrobe, Swinford, Ballyhaunis, and Kiltimagh.
In 1887, games between Ballyglass, Cornfield, Carnacon, Rosslee, Ballintubber and Towerhill were very frequent. In that year also Balla played Ballinrobe at the Towerhill Demesne which was once again decorated and marked with the Green above the Red. In this period the most powerful team in the region and the team with the longest tradition was Towerhill, or the old Parish of Toughty, now long included in the reformed present Parish of Burriscarra/Ballintubber. The Green above the Red first worn with pride by the men of Ballyglass, Carnacon and Ballintubber in Towerhill subsequently became the colours of Mayo and was also adopted by Ballina Stephenites from an early stage.
BRANDY, WINE, WHISKEY AND GUINNESS GALORE!
A quite striking feature of these early games was the wonderful hospitality shown by teams to each other.
On Thursday, March 26th 1886 after a Towerhill v Ballinrobe game played in Ballinrobe,
“ Captain Hearn, on behalf of his Club, invited the Towerhill party to a substantial luncheon at Miss Cunningham’s, Bridge Street, and it is not too much to say that the proverbial hospitality of Ballinrobe was hardly ever more manifest than on the present occasion. Anybody who did not indeed satisfy ‘inner man’ with abundance of roast beef and mutton, together with a copious supply of Guinness and Bass beer to wash it down, was himself at fault.”
Following a Towerhill v Balla game in 1887 the Mayo Examiner report states that,
“Play over, both teams, with a few other friends, were invited to a sumptuous repast by Mr V. Valkenburgh in his hospitable hotel, where, until a pretty late hour they enjoyed themselves with the good things of Balla, including brandy, wine, and whiskey with ‘X X’ galore. Quite unexpectedly on leaving the Hotel, when just about proceeding home, the Towerhill captain was hoisted on the shoulders of his late opponents, and carried amidst repeated cheers through the town. Thus ended the day’s amusement, which will not soon be forgotten by either party.”
Unfortunately, one can say with a fair degree of certainty that the above scene would not take place in 1999.
NATIONALISM AND THE GAELIC REVIVAL
The early growth in GAA activities came at a time of increased activity and expanding National ideas. In the Connacht Telegraph of January 21st 1888 a letter signed ‘Old Ballyglass’ stated that, 1) “this Club henceforth be known as ‘The William Smith O Brien Gaelic Athletic Association”.
11) “That we beg to assure our chieftain, we fully appreciate the compliment paid him by the spindle-shanked coereionist ruler of Ireland.”
111) “ Aware of the inimitable courage of our patriot priest, Father Ryan, we respectfully tender him our congratulations, rather that sympathy on his second incarceration, fully conscious that brutal force has no terrors for him.”
The Gaelic revival included the Irish language, culture, athletics, sport and music. Ballintubber was also to the fore with the newly formed and famous Land League Band made up of local musicians and led by Pat Flynn of Glasgort. They travelled to many sports meetings and football matches all over the County.
Ballintubber band also played at Land League meetings and one of the largest meetings ever held in the area was held in a field known as Turlough Patrick, now owned by the Hughes and addressed by Michael Davitt.
The rejuvenated game of Gaelic Football still thrived in the area up to 1900 and a rich tradition had indeed been established in the Parish.
BALLINTUBBER G.A.A CLUB
A HISTORY 1900 - 1930
WELL CONTESTED GAME
Croke Park archive records from 1907 give details of a team from Partry in action against Cong in the County Championship. Once again the Partry names are highly familiar and could almost be re-selected today: M. Hennelly (Captain) R. Heneghan (Goal) W. Reilly, J. Garry, T. Casey, M. Gibbons, J. Kennedy, P. Cannon, D Melia, W. Carney, B. Horan, M. Cannon, P. Higgins, M. Walsh, P. Staunton, P. Joyce and P. Prendergast.
“ Then came one of the best contested matches ever played in Mayo between Carnacon and Shrule. In the first stages of the game several of the players had to be cautioned for rough work. But they were prompt to obey directions, and the subsequent exposition of the game was all that could be desired. At halftime Carnacon had scored two points, while their opponents had nothing to their credit, but in the second half the Shrule men proved their mettle, and secured three points as against one for their opponents thus leaving the match a draw – 3 points all. The date and venue of the replay will be fixed at the next meeting of the County Committee. The teams were Carnacon – O’ Hara, (Captain), Hughes, Cody, Prendergast, Glynn, McDonnell, Quinn, Matthews, Hughes, Burke, Kelly, Langan, Muldoon, Atkinson, Hughes, Brown, and Hession. Shrule, Joe Morris, (Captain), J. Burke, P. Heneghan, J. Higgins, M. Haverty, J. Quinn, J. Casey, Joe Dooley, J. Flanagan, John Dooley, W. Monaghan, P. Donoghue, M. Casey, M. Ryan, P. Killalea, P. Langan and P. Haverty”.
One wonders 93 years later who won the replay.
On the 18th of June 1910 ‘Ballintubber Emmets’ affiliated to the County Board. In July 1910 the Rev. J. F Mullarkey, C.C, represented Ballintubber at the County Board. There was indeed huge Community pride in the local football team. The fledgling team played Ballyhaunis in the Junior Championship at the Pigeon Park, Castlebar and a match report on the 18th of the 6th 1910 states ‘Simultaneously with the arrival of the trains the Ballintubber team appeared on the scene with their beautiful Fife and Drum band and their handsome banner, which floated in the breeze from one of the brakes. A procession of huge dimensions was then formed, the brass band leading while the Ballintubber contingent with a long string of cars containing their supporters brought up the rear. It was an imposing sight and showed that Mayo was in no backward state as far as its support of the G.A.A was concerned’. Ballyhaunis won the game but there were outstanding displays from Connacht champion high jumper, P. J O’ Malley and Lyons and McGreevy also starred for Ballintubber. On Easter Sunday night, April 1911, Ballintubber Club arranged a huge Concert in the local National School to raise funds. The club thanked Rev. M O’ Connell, P.P, Carnacon for use of the School.
In June 1911 Ballintubber Emmets hosted Castlebar Mitchells in the first round of the Mayo Junior Football Championship.
Castlebar played with the breeze and held a 1 –2 to 0 –1 advantage at halftime. Though O’ Malley scored a goal and two points from frees Castlebar won on the score 3 – 2 to 1 – 3.
Ballintubber, B. Vahey (Captain) J.J O’ Malley, P. O’ Malley, Quinn, Lyons, Ludden, Costello, Gibbons, P. Shaughnessy, T. Staunton, F. McCarthy, T. Moran, J. McGoff, Langan, Prendergast, Hughes and Staunton.
BALLYBURKE AND KILLAWALLA TO THE FORE
In the year 1912 teams from Killawalla, Partry, Ballyburke and Ballyglass all participated in the Junior Championship and in Tournaments and delegates from Ballintubber and Killawalla attended County Board Meetings.
At the end of June 1912 a Ballyburke team (also calledEmmets) recorded a huge 2 – goals and four points to nil victory over Castlebar. Ludden and O’ Malley were to the fore in this outstanding victory.
In August 1912 Killawalla played Kilmeena in the Junior Championship. The game was two hours late starting and ‘Kilmeena won the toss and played with the slope in their favour and Killawalla were early on the defensive, but Ludden cleared to midfield. Moran for Kilmeena made several fine runs but was unable to penetrate the Killawalla defence. McGreevy was responsible for many fine clearances in Killawalla goal. Up to half time neither team had scored. On resuming after the interval Killawalla attacked and Malley raised the white flag. After the kick out the same player got possession and after a melee in front of the posts he again succeeded in scoring, this time a goal. Killawalla had now the best of play and the ball was dangerously near the Kilmeena posts until Flynn cleared and passed to Moran who after a splendid run on the left wing was fouled by one of the Kilmeena backs.
However, taking the free he succeeded in scoring a nice goal, but a few minutes later, with a grand shot from far out he scored a point. After the kick out one of the Killawalla players (Madden) had to retire, and from this to the finish play was in midfield when the long whistle sounded leaving both sides equal, the score being Kilmeena 1 – 1 Killawalla I – 1.
For Kilmeena, Moran Flynn and Higgins were prominent while O’ Malley, McGreevy, Ludden and Quinn for Killawalla played a dashing game, and they were decidedly unlucky on several occasions in their failure to add the winning score.”
In October 1912, Killawalla also played Balla at the Pigeon Park, Castlebar in the Junior Championship. Though Balla won the game by a point the media raved about the performance of O’ Malley in the Killawalla goal. “ Mr O’ Malley, the Killawalla goalkeeper, is about as excellent a man as we have ever seen in that position. With shot after shot he drove the ball from between the posts to mid-field and his splendid play alone saved his team from a bad defeat. He is as scientific a goal keeper as there is in the Province, and we hope to see a good deal of him on football fields in the future…”
The Killawalla team on that day was, W. O Malley (Captain), P. Ludden, M. Ludden, J. Murphy, J. O. Malley, E. Gibbons, T. Brennan, W. Carroll, P. Moran, M. Berry, M. Gibbons, M. Carter, P. Shaughnessy, T. Hunt, J. McGreevy, J. Basqul, and S. Gibbons.
There seems to have been little formal football in the following years until October 1918 when Ballintubber comprehensively beat Ballyglass in a Castlebar G.A.A tournament.
The scorers for Ballintubber were Kerrigan, Gibbons, Herrity, Cannon and Geraghty.
For Ballyglass, Comerskey, M. Casey and McGing played a grand combination. Mr T. Forde, Balla gave entire satisfaction as referee.
A UNIFYING FORCE
From the beginning of the second decade of the Century the dark clouds of war were gathering over Europe. Some young men were conscripted into the British
Army and left the Parish to fight for the freedom of little Belgium and small Nations.
In the words of the War Poet Rupert Brooke
“ These laid the world away;
Poured out the red sweet wine of youth,
Gave up the years to be,
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age;
And those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immorality.”
Other young men saw things differently and joined Sinn Fein, the I.R.B and the struggle for National Independence.
After 1916 many young men from the club area took part in the great anti-Conscription pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick and were active in the Sinn Fein Elections of 1917. Some also participated in the first Military action against Crown Forces in Mayo at Kilfaul, Partry in 1921 and also the evacuation of Divisional Commander Tom Maguire from the Tourmakeady Ambush in May of 1921.
These were not however Romantic times but times of great suffering. In the words of the well known poetic verse;
“ No drums rolled when the red dawn came,
No columns marched with flags a flame
And no white road or sheltering glen
Echoed the tramp of green clad men;
‘Twas the hiding bog, the sudden flight,
The fighting chance in the murky night;
The rusty gun, the sheltering wall’
And the scaffold’s shadow over all.”
Despite the intensity of “the troubles,” veteran Republican, Michael Staunton R.I.P Burriscarra, could recall in 1975 “The area was very densely populated then. Young and old took part in some form of sport. Most villages were able to turn out a football team.
Towerhill Grand Gate and Quinns’ field saw many fine games between teams like Carnacon, Ballintubber and Ballinafad.
We often set out from Carnacon after Mass and walked to Ballinafad, stopping to eat turnips on the way, played the game and walked back again.
During the troubles the British military authorities banned G.A.A games but matches were arranged and played whenever possible. One particular Sunday the G.A.A had arranged 500 matches to take place, to show that the ban could not prevent the National game from being played. Carnacon arranged a game to be played with Castlebar. The game was advertised for The Mall, Castlebar and on the day both teams arrived on the Mall to play the match. The Military had no intention of allowing the game to take place. Meanwhile, out at Towerhill Grand gates, the real game between Carnacon and Castlebar was in progress. The teams on the Mall were just there as a decoy but by the time the Military authorities realised this they were too late to stop the game at Towerhill”.
Good footballers on the Carnacon team at that time were, Dick Quinn, Tom and Geoff Hurst, Pa Varley, Martin Varley and John Goaley.
Then came the great divisions of the Civil War as brother was pitted
against brother. Many tragedies occurred that were to be lamented for years after by
both sides. Though many activists emigrated, those who remained found the G.A.A a great unifying force in the Community and in every Parish around Ireland.
Attention now switches to Partry, Ballyglass, Ballyheane and also to the Ballintubber/ Ballyburke end of the Parish. The first team photograph from that era shows a proud and fit looking Partry team dressed out in their best suits in 1926.
Ballintubber players such as Mike McHugh, Dick Feeney, John ‘Brian’ Heneghan, Barney Ferris and John Kelly aided this Partry team.
Ballyglass too rejuvenated their team in the late 1920s. They played their football in Blake’s Estate in Towerhill where they played in the Mayo county colours.
In the 1st Sunday of September 1929 Ballyglass met Cogaula in a challenge match at Cornagushluan Bridge. Favoured by the fine weather and an excellent pitch the game from the start was fast and well contested. Cogaula however emerged winners on the sore 3 – 2 to 1 – 2. The Ballyglass side on the day was J. Brennan, T. Durcan (Goal) M. Hastings, P. Muldoon, P. Higgins, P. Doyle, B. Murray, P. Brennan, Sonny Craven, T. Moore and Frank Craven.
In the Junior Championship of 1931 Ballyglass suffered a six-point defeat at the hands of Ballyhaunis. The Ballyglass side was Langan, Barry, Gorman, McGovern, Donnelly, McHugh, McGlynn, Feeney, Walsh, Maher, Higgins, Moran, Finnerty, Kelly and Durkan.
The late 1920s also saw rejuvenation in hurling and Ballyheane Hurling Club played the traditional game. Early delegates to the County Board were Michael Higgins, J. O’ Connor, J. Kilcourse and P Rainsford. In 1931, at McHale Park Castlebar, Ballyheane were defeated 3 – 2 to 1 – 2 by Galway Commercials after a fine match. Ballyheane also played in the 1932 league against such opposition as Ballinrobe, Balla, Claremorris, Westport and Ballina.
BALLINTUBBER G.A.A CLUB
A HISTORY 1930 - 1950
Ballintubber established their own team again in the early 1930s. They played most of their football in South Mayo and played regularly against, Ballinrobe, Shrule and Cloonecashel.
The Ballintubber delegates to the County Board were Sean Corkell, Richard Feeney and Sean Kelly.
All of Ballintubbers home games were played in a field owned by the Tuohy family, which was known locally as “Log”. In June 1932, Dick Feeney was granted a transfer from Westport to Ballintubber. However the transfer of two other players, Casey and Colleran from Cloonecashel to Ballintubber was deferred.
Hugh Newell, the only survivor of that early 1930s team can vividly remember many battles almost 70 years ago.
“I remember playing with such players as John Tuohy, Dick Feeney, Mike McHugh, Michael Joyce from Killawalla, John Hennelly and Joe Horan from Partry. Pake McGreevy was a good player and Willie Cawley was as good as half a score of players.”
In 1933 The Quay beat Ballintubber 3-3 to 3-2 in a match played in Ballintubber. Tuohy, Feeney, Kelly and Walsh were the stars for Ballintubber. In 1933 also, Ballintubber beat Hollymount and Ballyglass in Tournament matches played at Ballyglass. T. Gibbons gave a brilliant display in the back division for Ballintubber and McHugh, Sheridan and Kelly also gave notable displays.
In 1934 John Tuohy, W. Cawley, R. Feeney, J. Kelly and McGreevy were assisting Aughagower in a match against Westport Quay. At this time also John Tuohy and Willie Cawley featured on the Mayo Hurling Team. While at a Cic Fada event in Aughagower Mr P. Nally of Ballintubber emerged the winner in the ‘off-hand-kick’ section.
Ballintubber players had walked or cycled to most of their matches and would have been transported by Pat Jennings in his lorry to the far away games.
In 1934/35 Ballintubber ladies were also a force on the Camogie fields. Matches were played against, Islandeady, Breaffy and Aughagower.
Sections of the Press report on a Ballintubber v Aughagower Camogie match played at Ballintubber reads thus.
‘ In the second half the Ballintubber team gave a surprisingly good display and succeeded in adding two goals to their total. During this period the Aughagower team swarmed the Ballintubber goal, but the Ballintubber backline proved impassable and just before the final whistle blew the visitors after some strenuous efforts succeeded per N. Waters in scoring another goal.
After this score the Aughagower boys got very excited and Jer was clapping with a Hurley and white wash brush. The Ballintubber goalie became excited as she looks at her watch and says ‘ three minutes after the time’. The referee allows for an accident and as his word is final, the game continues. When the final whistle sounded the scores were- Ballintubber 3 goals, Aughagower 2 goals.
For the Ballintubber team, Miss Dromy, Mary McCarthy, and Rita Kelly played a wonderful game and were the outstanding players on the field. A word of praise also goes to the ‘star’ goalie, Miss Murray who seems to be well suited to her position on the field.
The Aughagower team was as follows, M. Mullahy, L. Knight, M. Langan, K. Walsh, N. Watters, B. Watters, R. Hopkins, K. Walsh, T. Graven, M. Killeen, and M. Hawkshaw.
Ballintubber, Miss K. Murray (Captain) Miss Dromy, Mary McCarthy, Rita Kelly, Nora Kelly, M. A Kelly, B. McNally, J. Gibbons, Nora Finnerty, M. Toole, A.M Hayes and K. Murphy.
Mr Badger was a capable referee.’
The ladies of the Ballintubber Camogie team wore very long skirts because such skirts were ideal for stopping the ball. Another reason is given in this extract from the Ballintubber Notes replying to an objection in the Mayo News in 1934.
‘ The long skirts were typical of the modesty of our girls who have not adopted the degrading evils of modernism. Why was not the objection raised on the playing field? Surely this was not an afterthought? The dress of our girls is a ‘very touch me not’ subject so we do not propose to make any further comment on the matter.’
It is hard to believe that the length of the ‘ skirts’ caused such a furore 65 years ago. In December 1934 Ballintubber ladies suffered defeat at the hands of Westport. Mrs O’ Gorman and Mag McGough played well in the Ballintubber back line. Ballintubber also fielded a ‘B’ team and Rita Kelly was the outstanding Camogie forward of the time. Ballintubber continued to be a force in the Camogie fields of West Mayo in the mid-1930s.
AUGHAGOWER AND BALLYBURKE MAKE THEIR MARK
The Eucharistic Congress was held in Dublin in 1932 and tens of thousands of people from all over the Country had flocked to the Capital.
It was harsh economic times in the rural Countryside of the new State as the Trade War commenced with Britain. Cattle prices slumped but Gaelic football continued to thrive and grow.
Aughagower affiliated in 1934 and, backboned by many of those same players and others such as Paddy Hastings, Gerry Muldoon, and the high fielding John Walsh from Mace, they won the West Mayo Junior Championship title.
The focus of G.A.A activity in the Parish now switches to Ballyburke.
The expertise and enthusiasm of ex-Jarlaths player Willie Cawley aided in no small way by Brod Kirby, William Joyce, who became Secretary of the West Mayo G.A.A Board in 1937, and Pake Gibbons was instrumental in the emergence of a strong team in Ballyburke.
Tom Prendergast, Mike Kelly and Paddy O’ Malley were other well-respected stars for Ballyburke.
Indeed Paddy O’Malley from Lufferton won an All Ireland Minor Medal with Mayo in 1935 and was one of the most exciting prospects in the County at that time.
Matt O’ Malley has fond memories of that Ballyburke team and is able to recall many exciting duels between the fine players of that era.
In June 1937 the Mayo news reported ‘Mr W. Joyce, N.T who has been appointed Secretary of the West Mayo G.A.A, in room of Mr T. Kelly, N.T who has left the district temporarily, is an ardent G.A.A supporter and mainly responsible for keeping the flag flying in Ballyburke and Ballintubber areas. He takes a keen interest in the games and is one of the best referees in the division.’
In 1938 members of the West Mayo G.A.A Board were expressing concern at the lack of a Ballyburke team in the league. Ballyburke had indeed gone slack for a period.
In Europe the black clouds of war were gathering once again. Those awful dark days in Europe were known in Ireland as only “the Emergency.”
Though a harsh economic climate prevailed, young men in the Parish joined the LDF, caught rabbits, played Pitch and Toss, went to house dances, courted girls in haystacks and played Gaelic Football.
After a short lull, the Ballyburke team re-emerged in 1940 stronger than ever.
A Press report of the time states,
‘The Ballyburke selection created the surprise of the season in decisively beating much fancied Castlebar and Balla selections and have greatly strengthened their team by the inclusion of Galvin, St Jarlath’s-the best Minor of his year in Ireland according to ‘Green Flag’, O Reilly (ex-St Jarlath’s-first class goalie), R. Horan (ex Westport No 1) and J. Kelly (ex Mayo Junior).’
Ballyburke were indeed strong and walloped Westport 4 – 2 to 0 – 2 in late November 1941.
Assisted by Maurice Galvin, Fr Richie Horan, Anthony Lally, Jimmy McNally and Jimmy Reilly (Goalkeeper) Ballyburke reached the West Mayo Junior Final in 1942 where they were defeated by Achill. Maurice Galvin now residing in Ballinrobe has recalled many of those distant battles in which he played a major part. Ballyburke continued to field in 1943 and were beaten by Castlebar 1 – 1 to 0 – 1.
O’ Malley’s Field was the focal point of all these G.A.A activities and hosted the annual G.A.A Sports which featured running, cycle races, swimming and pony races. There followed of course a lively dance in O’ Malleys hall. Competitive challenges were played between Ballyburke, Ballintubber, Ballyheane, Tourmakeady and Aughagower in what was a golden Age for Ballyburke Club.
BALLINTUBBER AND BALLYGLASS REORGANISE
The Mayo news of April 29th 1944 reported that ‘Rumour has it that Ballyburke are going to affiliate with South Mayo this year as they have acquired a new field in Ballintubber. Good luck to a fine Club.’
The Western people of June 1st 1944 reported that Ballintubber, near Partry had set up another new Club. The Officers were, chairman, Rev. M Hanley, C.C, V.C, vice chairman, Mr P. O Malley, secretary, Mr Joe Horan, N. T, treasurer, Mr Sean Kelly. Players from Ballyburke, Ballintubber and Partry would represent the club in competition in the Southern Division.
Though the new club suffered an early defeat by Ballinrobe in the semi-final of the South Junior Championship, this Press report dated. 26th 8th 1944 shows they were in fine fettle against the Neale ' On Sunday last, Ballintubber team accompanied by a large contingent of supporters, cycled over 18 miles to the Neale and beat the homesters in a hard fought game. Ballintubber although playing at the loss of P. Prendergast one of their best players, who retired in the early stages of the game through injury, proved themselves the better team and emerged victorious by one point. The final scores were, Ballintubber 1 goal and 5points, The Neale 2 goals and 1 point.’
Action on the Gaelic fields seemed to quieten down in the war years but 1948/49 would again see a plethora of challenges between, Tourmakeady, Partry, Aughagower and a short re-emergence by Ballyburke.
Ballyglass were also active on the Gaelic Football scene with Dr John Langan, a great player in his heyday and now an efficient organiser helping out. Dick Langan was also prominently involved and was a source of great encouragement to the G.A.A. The Round O in Mountpleasant and the Turlough was the main training venues for the Ballyglass boys. The Mayo News of May 12th 1945 states that ‘ Ballyglass beat Ballygarris 7 – 7 to 1 – 1 at Ballygarris on Sunday last. Conroy, Healy, Bourke and Finnerty were prominent for Ballyglass while Hennelly was outstanding for Ballygarris’.
The Ballyglass Club elected the following Officers in October 1945, president, Fr Heaney, P.P, Carnacon, Vice-President, Mr Ml Conroy, Stonepark, chairman, Mr James Burke, Graddogue, vice-chairman, Mr P.J Murphy, Moorehall, joint hon. treasurers, Messrs, Richard Langan and James Finnerty, Ballyglass, hon. secretary, Mr P.J Healy, G.S Ballyglass. A local league, Clooneen v Stonepark, Carnacon v Moorehall, Ballyglass v Rathnacreeva, Clogher v Weatherfort and Parks v Castlelucas was organised and medals presented at a Ceilidhe.
Though the main villages of the Parish often played each other, there was great friendship among players who often lined out for the different teams when needed. Joe Mulrooney was playing with Ballinrobe; Mickey Conroy had won a Senior Championship with Mayo Abbey in 1946. Michael Joe Sheridan was beginning his career with Ballinrobe and Carras. Paddy Prendergast had joined the Gardai and was stationed in Co Donegal. In 1948 he was giving sterling displays for his native Mayo. In 1949 Ballyburke and Ballintubber were playing each other in the Town league with the McNally brothers, Toole, Prendergast, Feeney and Lally carving out a 1 – 4 to 2 – 1 draw.
Soon however James McNally would pull all the disparate threads from Ballyglass to Ballyburke together to weave the fabric of the modern Ballintubber G.A.A Club in 1949/50.