FOOTSTEPS TO THE FIRST FINAL
by JIMMY McNALLY
My earliest memories are of the 1930s and that is a long time ago now. John Tuohy and Jack Kelly were two heroes of that time as both were in contention for places on the Mayo team. John Tuohy was a beautiful footballer. He used to practise by opening a window at the top of the granary and shooting the ball at it. Joe Keohane, that great Kerry full back was reported to have once said that John Tuohy was one of the finest footballers he had ever seen. John once won a Cic Fadá Competition in Hollymount with only a pair of sandals on his feet. That is how powerful a man he was.
Jack Kelly was a wonderful footballer also as indeed was Patsy Kelly (Jim’s twin brother). Patsy played for Ballintubber and also played senior football for Roscommon.
Joe Moran was another who played for Ballintubber in the 1930s. Mike McHugh used to play in goal. Pake McGreevy was a good tough player. Pake was afraid of nothing but there were a lot of wonderful footballers from the 30s. I remember Willie Cawley (born 1911) playing in ‘Log’. He played with Dick Feeney, John Kelly and Johnny Walsh from Mace…Willie was a sweet footballer.
Johnny Walsh who played when Ballintubber and Aughagower were amalgamated was an outstanding player too. It was widely said at the time that Johnny had such a good catch that he would ‘pick potatoes out of the air’. I remember Jim Horan played in goal for Ballintubber on the Pitch where Mary and Mattie Dolans house is now built. Jim injured his knee that day.
I played my first game in Paddy Matt’s field in 1940 or ’41. There had been a spell with no Ballintubber team. There was a challenge arranged to pick one team between Ballintubber and Ballyglass. Ballyglass had only 12 players so Brendan Horan Anthony Lally and myself were persuaded to play for Ballyglass to make up the numbers. Mickey Conroy, the Hurst’s and Frank McDonnell were playing also. I can remember getting into a tussle with Dick Feeney that day. I mustn’t have done too badly, as I never lost my place after that. Ned Kelly was one of the star forwards for Ballintubber from that era.
I can remember Paddy Prendergast playing his first game for Ballintubber in Fitzgerald’s field in Islandeady when he was only fifteen and a half. He played Centre field with the great Paddy O’ Malley. I never saw a player with such a spring in his step when jumping for a ball. I was often afraid myself that he would get killed. Perky Hennelly from Partry was another who played for Ballintubber around that time. Brod Kirby, Fr Richie Horan, Jimmy Reilly and Mickey Prendergast from Mayo Abbey also played for Ballintubber in Paddy Matt’s field. Mickey Prendergast used to love playing the ball on the ground. We played a match in Mellotts field in the Neale. It was a really tight game. I dived across and saved a certain goal and we hung on to win by a point. I also played with Tom Prendergast. There were only a few months between us and yet I remember colliding with him and having to be ‘carted off’. He was a powerful man; he used take size 12 shoes you know.
I can recall a good player called Tom Langan from Doon who played with Aughagower. He and I had a woeful battle every time we met. The last time we played against each other Tom came up to me beforehand and said he was moving to Roscommon and could we have one ‘clean game’ before he left. We shook hands on it and that was the only friendly match we ever played. There was a lot of tussles that time but if we had Dick Feeney and Yank McGreevy as umpires ‘fair play’ would always be given. They were the two best Umpires in the County. In the early 1940s …1944 I think we played in South Mayo. Harry Wilson from Claremorris played a few games with Ballintubber. He had cousins in Tooreen. Maurice Galvin also played for Ballintubber. His father was Principal of Clogher National School and they lived in Belcarra. Later on Sean Cunningham and other lads from Belcarra came back to play for Ballintubber.
Brod Murray was a late starter to the code but he could hold his own with anyone. We used to get John Heneghan, Cogaula, and Pat Jennings to transport the players in the covered-in lorry. In the mid -1940s many players emigrated and left. There was no team for a spell. In 1948/49 we played a seven-a-side in Tourmakeady. I was playing myself and also Mick Burke (Banogues) Martin Walsh, R.I.P (Rock) Murt Prendergast; Liam O’ Toole, Anthony Lally and the goalie was either Frank Moran or Frank McDermott. I had built a special trailer to transport us. It was a fine job.
A diligent Garda stopped us at the ‘Goat Hotel’. He didn’t need a ball frame to count. There was seven in the trailer. I was brought to court and fined ten shillings.
10/= was also the charge for matches played in Matt’s field. We played a few times in McNallys field opposite Patricia Finnertys house but only if we were stuck.
Dick Langan did a lot for the Club at the time. Dick Langan and Doctor Langan were great G.A.A men as were all the Langan’s down the years.
To put the Club on a solid footing I recruited Carnacon and Ballyglass lads to play for Ballintubber. Mickey Conroy was experienced with Mayo Abbey. Frank McDonnell was a sharp footballer and Michael Joe Sheridan was as solid as a rock.
During the Rural Electrification Scheme, Eamon Kelly, Paddy Moran and the E.S.B lads used play for Ballintubber. Eamon who is retired in Salthill was from Roscommon. Mattie Philbin from Derrew was also a handy player. Eamon Paddy and Michael Cannon gave us added strength up to the 1954 final. J. K Byrne was a superb free taker. Murt Prendergast didn’t start that day as he had a broken collarbone but he came on and played well and we won the match by 9 or 10 points. It was a match that will never be forgotten in Ballintubber. Maybe I have left out some players and places but that is my best memory of the ‘Footsteps to our First Final’.