Ballindine, Co. Mayo

Club History

July 9, 2009

The Origins of Football in the Parish of Kilvine (by Mattie Sheridan)

The first football teams in the parish were formed after the ending of the Civil War (1923-1924) – a team in Irishtown and a team in Ballindine. Some of the men on these teams had memories of playing football with a ball that consisted of newspapers tied with string in the prison camp in Ballykinlar, but even before then, young men went out in the local fields kicking football on Sunday afternoons. There were no championships and leagues back then. The players organised matches among themselves, friends and visitors were invited in. There were no rules; neither was there a definite number of players on each side – that depended on the number available. Jerseys, togs and football boots were unheard of; corduroy pants and hobnail boots were the fashion of the day. Muscle and brawn were of greater importance than brains or skill. It was a case of survival of the fittest!

The players I can remember in those far off days were Luke McManus (Kilmacnella), Eddie Mullarkey (New York), George O’Malley (Irishtown and Westport) [George was a commercial traveller in Castlerea; he married Maggie Slattery, Irishtown, who lived where Sean Bourke’s bar now stands. George was Connaught handball champion. He emigrated to the US later on in life]; Paddy McGarry, Willie and Austin O’Donnell, Tom Melvin and Mickie Griffin (Irishtown), Stephen Noonan of Creevard [who came home from the US and went into business in Ballina], James Huane (Knockadoon) [a tailor by profession], Packie Huane (Boleyboy), Dr. Tossie Heneghan (Ballindine) ([played with both Irishtown and Ballindine – it was good for business!], Basil Curran, (Ballyhaunis) [a six foot two inches centerfield man who later went into extensive cattle export business in Co. Meath], and Laurence Morrin of Boleyboy.

I remember the famous Mayo footballer ‘Purty’ Kelly, Westport, training and playing with the local footballers. He worked as a ganger on the Ballindine to Irishtown road. He stayed in a caravan in Ryan’s field in Castlereagh.

Ballyhaunis football club had a falling out with the County Board which lasted for four or five years. A number of their footballers used to cycle to Irishtown to play football: Jim Forde, who played for the county, the famous Jackie Carney, Ballina, who was a shopkeeper in Ballyhaunis, Eddie Biesty and a few others.

‘Purty’ Kelly and Jackie Carney helped train and coach the local players long before the terms “coach” or “manager” were even mentioned in connection with the game.

I can remember other footballers of the time: Jimmy Curran (Oldtown and Dublin), Frank Patten (Ballindine and Dublin), and ‘Nipper’ Shanley, a native of Leitrim who was a senior clerk in the goods yard in Claremorris and a member of the Tailteann team of 1927 or 1928; he played for Ballindine.

Members of the Garda Siochana played a great part in football in the parish. I can remember a Guard Murray, a great organiser, Guard Cronin, and in later times Guard Callaghan and Guard McHugh from Kerry.

We had no definite pitch in Irishtown. We played where we could until the owners ran us out. We played in Michael O’Connor’s of Knockadoon, Michael Flaherty’s in Rockfort, J.J. Mullarkey’s in Irishtown, Mickie Griffin’s in Oldtown, and J.J. Noonan’s of Creevard. We also played on the site of the present cemetery in Irishtown, a field given to Fr. O’Connor as a sportsfield by the Congested District Board and known as Páirc Connor.

Teams were not affiliated then. Championship games took place only between the larger towns. We depended on challenge games among ourselves, with Ballindine or with visiting teams. I can remember travelling to places like Mount Delvin (Co. Roscommon) for challenge games.

July 9, 2009

Football in the Forties and Fifties

Football continued to be played in the area throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s but not on an organised basis. Most games were between the local players themselves with the odd challenge ‘thrown in’.

An interesting feature of the 1940’s was the Castlemagarrett League. This was organised by Una Guinness, wife of Lord Oranmore and Browne – the then owner of the castle and the estate. The league comprised of five teams – the Farm, the House, the Garden, the Mill and the Stables. You didn’t have to be an employee to the estate to play. Youths from the Claremorris and Ballindine area took part. Each team was provided with coloured jerseys – red and white, green and white, blue and white, etc. The matches were played in a field at Roxes Bridge. After the game players could wash and ‘shower’ in the adjacent River Robe (sports complex how are you!).

Medals were presented to the league winners at a special ball held in the Saddle Room of the Castle. A half barrel (or three) was tapped for the occasion and the revelry continued into the early hours.

An amusing tale is told of two certain gentlemen from “Davittland” who were heading for home on bicycles after one of these ‘balls’. They cycled on either side of the avenue leading from the Castle. Neither, of course, had a light on his bicycle. As they discussed the day’s and night’s fortunes, suddenly there was a loud crash and a thump which abruptly ended the conversation.

On returning to the scene of the commotion one of the gentlemen discovered his partner and bicycle entangled in one of the main gates! It was a double gate with one half open with one half open and (unfortunately) the other half closed. Those were the days!

Occasionally a team representing the Castle travelled away to matches to which they were ‘chauffeur driven’ and provided with plenty of food as well as football gear (a hint of early professionalism perhaps?). They were envied by players from other areas and regarded as the elite of the game.

Nonetheless, life continued outside the estate with the odd game played among the locals themselves. It is interesting to note that in the late ‘40s Joe Turner (former owner of Clarke’s Bar) played minor football for Claremorris, junior for Garrymore and senior for Mayo Abbey – this was quite within the rules of the day.

In the early 1950s more concerted efforts were made to bring some organisation into the whole football scene. One of the main instigators of this was a Guard McHugh, a native of Knocknagashel in Kerry. The two ‘teams’ of Irishtown and Ballindine amalgamated and affiliated in 1952. The team took part in the South Mayo Junior Championship of that year but without any success. Mattie Sheridan was the first chairman of the club with Laddie Griffith acting as secretary. The club was called Ballindine and the players practiced in ‘Duffy’s Field’ which is adjacent to Davitt Park. Opposition at the time was provided by Hollymount, Carramore, Garrymore, Shrule, Kilmaine and The Neale, among others. Some of the more prominent players of the early ‘50s were Laddie Griffith, Pa Kirrane, Patsy Bourke, Michael Guilmore, Michael Devane, Henry Cleary, Herbie Glynn, Jimmy Bourke, Billy Godfrey, Jimmy Kilkenny, Pete Bourke, Willie Corley, Brendan Rattigan, James Raftery , John Mongan, Pete McHugh, Dinny Browne (a C.I.E. employee from Limerick), Mick Connelly, Paddy McTigue, Tom Niland , Tom Hosty, John Callaghan and Edmund Cleary.

The management staff included Mattie Sheridan, Laddie Griffith, Tom Connolly and Barney Donnellan. As was the case during the ‘40s, migration and emigration took its toll. It is interesting to compare travel arrangements in those days to present day coach busses etc. Michael Guilmore recalled travelling to Kilmaine to play the local side in an O’Mara Cup game in 1953. Some of the team including Michael travelled on the back of an open truck which had little or no exhaust. Naturally the fumes were ‘choking’ so that by the time they reached Kilmaine many stomachs were beginning to roll. The game was only five minutes old when Michael ‘revealed’ to all present what he had eaten for dinner that day. After getting that ‘load off his chest’ Michael went on to play what he described as “the only good match I ever played”.

Despite those little problems the team continued to play, but with little or no success. A ‘mix-up’ occurred within the club however about 1956, and the team split up with some players going to Garrymore and others going to Crossboyne club.

This break-up lasted for about two years, until the club was revived through the efforts of men like Mattie Sheridan (Chairman), Laddie Griffith, Tom Connolly, Hugh Treacy , Christy Rattigan, Sergeant McBride, Sonny Cummins (who also refereed in those days), Dr. Waldron and Paddy Gleeson. A minor split occurred again about 1959 but didn’t last very long, and the team was reformed again. Some of the local players however didn’t return to join the team, then named Ballindine, until about 1964, as Crossboyne, who they played for, were enjoying some success.

Despite some minor hic-cups the club continued to take part in the junior championship and O’Mara Cup through the late ‘50s and into the ‘60s. Success on the field however, was, to say the least, limited, as one mentor of the era (who shall remain nameless) recalls playing 34 matches without recording a win. Certainly there can be no doubting the loyalty of the players at that period in the club’s history.

Some of the players to represent the club in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were Laddie Griffith, Tom Niland, Patsy Bourke, Billy Griffin, John Joyce, Henry Cleary, Lar Murphy, Mattie Moran, Jimmy Corr, John Joe McGee, Jimmy Treacy, Seamus Kirrane, Martian Kearney, Dave Kearney, Austin O’Donnell, Michael Devane, J. McTigue, M. Connolly, Jackie Gleeson and Mickie Treacy.

The club began to expand somewhat in the early ‘60s with players from Brickens joining – man like Eddie Prendergast, Enda Cleary, Tom and Dennis Waldron, Sean Moore, John Clancy and Sean and Tom Hestor (who actually cycled from Castlerea for a match). The junior championship was played on a league basis at this time and the first win that can be recalled was the defeat of Shrule in 1962.

‘Carraleena Park’ (the old pitch) was acquired officially about this time and the first match played on it was against Garrymore. While the local team received great support on the day they failed to defeat ‘Garry’ having conceded two soft goals. Referee for the game was Jim Heneghan, Mayo Abbey. Among the players to represent Garrymore on that day were Patsy Higgins, Pete Fallon, Tony Hynes, Vincent Nally, Jim and Tom Tierney and Joe Corcoran.

An interesting feature of Carraleena Park was the famous hollow in the ground. It was quite deep and whenever players followed the ball into it they disappeared from view. Many a tale is told of the ‘goings on’ in the said hollow and many an unsuspecting visiting young player in his enthusiasm to gain possession, ruefully regretted his youthful folly. The hollow was eventually filled in to afford better visibility to all concerned.

July 9, 2009

My Years (1963-1973) by Tom FitzGearld

In 1964 when Crossboyne GAA Club amalgamated with Garrymore, Irishtown players like Mark Connelly, Pa Kirrane, Kevin Mitchell and I, urged on by a sense of pride in our locality, decided to form a club in Irishtown under the guidance of Jimmy Curran, N.T., and Barney Donnellan, Garryduff. We formed a junior football club which was affiliated under the name of Irishtown and competed in the junior and O’Meara Cup championships for that year.

With emigration rampant during the sixties and the parish playing rules not properly enforced, our greatest difficulty was to field a team. Foreign lands had claimed stars like John J. Fitzgearld (one of the brightest prospects at the time), Kevin Mitchell, Johnny Mooney, Sean Connor to name but a few. Garrymore club was backboned by four or five of our players from the village of Ballindine. Against these odds we fielded a junior team made up of six to eight lads from Brickens, and the remainder from Irishtown.

Anybody who was involved during the years 1964-1973 can recall with pride the wonderful comradeship that existed amongst the lads involved. Even though it was our dream to win a South Mayo junior title, having to play against teams like Garrymore, Claremorris, Hollymount, Ballinrobe and Kilmaine was a great source of pride for us and often the lads did themselves proud on these occasions because junior football during these years was on par with senior today. During these years county senior players played junior football with their local clubs as senior club football was confined mainly to towns like Castlebar and Ballina. During these years players of the calibre of Padraic Prendergast, Matt McGrath, Eddie Prendergast and Pa Kirrane, to name but a few, would in today’s world of training techniques, selection and opportunities, be wearing the county jersey with distinction.

There were no sophisticated methods of training during these years. We met every evening in the playground in Irishtown. Training usually consisted of a crowd outfield, some in togs and jerseys, others in togs and shirts, others in their Sunday suits (on their way to meet some girl), and more in wellington boots after returning home from a day in the bog. In order to put some ‘bite’ into training some bright spark suggested we form teams, one called “Road down from the crossroads” and the other an amalgamation of “the road back and road over”. This arrangement produced the necessary ‘bite’ and nearly put and end to the club as we discovered that pride in our roads far exceeded pride in the club, so luckily enough somebody stepped in before boiling point was reached and we returned to the ‘ould’ method of training again. As part of our training programme, we played Ballyhaunis on a few occasions, often running them to a point which was no mean achievement against a team backboned by county stars like J.J. Cribben, John Cleary, Doc Healy and Johnny Biesty. During these years we were proud to have three representatives wearing the county jersey and minor level – Bernie and Matt McGrath, and their brother Frank at both minor and Under 21 level.

For the record, when the club was formed only two of our players (who shall remain nameless) took Guinness for strength and courage. The team’s performance did nothing, however, to prove the theory that players perform better with no alcohol in their systems! In 1967 we fielded a minor team but due to lack of numbers it had to be propped up by a number of overage players, qualifications being…very little hair on your legs and just a trace of stubble on the jaw. It was from this era that the term “Hairy minor” originated. During one of their first outings against Hollymount in Hollymount, their trainer, Jimmy Curran, felt that the referee was rather harsh and upsetting to his team so he took them off the field in protest.

In 1968 our years of perseverance began to yield results, our team reaching the play-off stages of the South Mayo championship, losing by two points to Garrymore (5 points to 3). On that particular day lady luck turned her back on us as Frank McTigue blasted a penalty off the crossbar at a vital stage of the game. In 1969 we again reached the play-off stages, his time to be beaten by Ballinrobe. On this occasion we had difficulty in fielding a team as we had lost two of our stars – Padraic Prendergast to Ballyhaunis and Frank McGrath to Crossmolina.

The year 1970 started as a very lean year, as defeat in 1969 had finally smashed our morale. When all seemed lost Austin O’Donnell, Michael Roche and myself decided to rally the team and have another try at winning the South title. Our efforts almost bore fruit as, for the first time, we reached the South Mayo final, having beaten Mayo Abbey in a thriller of a semi-final. For me, it was a very proud day as I was lucky enough to be captain at the time. Garrymore beat us by two point, a team which included stars like Danny Dolan, T.J. Farragher, Joe Mellett, and many others who later went on to become the finest senior championship club in Mayo during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, winning no fewer than six senior county titles.

During my years with the club I had the honour and pleasure with playing with stars like Sean Sweeney, Eddie Prendergast, John McLoughlin, Padraic and Jarleth Prendergast, Pa Kirrane, Tom Waldron, the McGrath brothers and Frank McTigue. In my years playing and being associated with the club from 1964 to 1972 and having competed in every league and championship fixture, only seven medals were won by our team members and they were won by Tom Connor, Pa Kirrane, Matt McGrath, Frank McGrath, Frank McTigue, Tom Waldron, Eddie Prendergast at a seven-a-side tournament in Mayo Abbey. I think this warrants a space in the Guinness Book of Records. Even though we have no plaques or medals to display, one thing those years achieved was comradeship and friendship both amongst the team members and with outside clubs – a friendship that is still in existence.

During those years money to run the club was raised by holding dances in Dunmore (Gannon’s Hall), Milltown (CYMS Hall), Ballindine (People’s Hall) and Claremorris (Savoy Ballroom). The Paramount Showband was one of our most regular bands and men like Pa Kirrane and Tom Connor had the dangerous task of counting the door takings. On one occasion the committee decided to put on a big show so the Gallowglass Ceili Band was booked for the People’s Hall in Ballindine. The band’s fee was £60 (big money in 1965) and a meal was provided by Mrs. Moran. The admission fee for the night was six shillings. The Hall was jammed tight, leaving a profit of £5.00. Our greatest source of revenue during these years was a play staged in the People’s Hall, Ballindine, every Christmas night by our local Drama Group. The group was tutored by Jimmy Curran, John Duignan, Willie Corley and Fr. Pat McGrath. This was always a great social occasion for the locality and, like football, it also created lasting friendships. No Oscars came our way but it was a pleasure to be part of a group which included Austin O’Donnell, Pat Kirrane, Willie Corley, Mary Commins, Sheila Diskin, Freddie Goggins and Peggy Reapy.

Let me recall some incidents from those years which are often discussed whenever we meet; like the evening after being humiliated on the football field by Mayo Abbey we took over a certain pub in Claremorris and a few lads who hadn’t fared too well on the field decided to have a go at the piano and microphone hoping that their talents were in the musical field if not on the football field. Men like Joe McNamara brought a deafening silence over the place as he painfully tore into a version of Danny Boy, proving to us all that his musical talents equalled his football ones!!

Another event I can’t let go without mention was one certain player who always insisted on a ‘fag’ at half time, and when the game was re-started he insisted on finishing off his smoke so he was often seen going for a ball with the butt stuck in the side of his mouth! Another incident I can recall concerned Pa Kirrane who, when at the twilight of his football career, switched from full back to full forward. I was given the task of filling his shoes (not so easy) if and when things were not going so well. In my first game Pa came running down the field and told me to “get too hell out of there”. The following Sunday when I lined out at full back again I had to keep an eye on two full forwards, my own man and the fellow wearing No. 14 on our team, as if he moved too far outfield I knew I was in for a long walk again! These were some of the events which made playing the game a pleasure for us all.

Looking back over the years I would like to put on record the names of local footballers who impressed me and who, I believe, would under today’s methods of selection and training be household names not alone in the county, but wherever football would be discussed in Ireland. Players like James Raftery, Logrea and Willie Corley, Burrish were a class above most. James Raftery was the complete athlete, the pride of any trainer in today’s scene. Padraic Prendergast was a player in the mould of Mick O’Connell of Kerry. Most people involved with him during his playing days will tell you of the utmost respect he had for each of his opponents. Another great player was John J. Fitzgearld whom many named as the best centre back playing club football in his time, a man who made light of any opposition he met during his playing days. Men like Eddie Prendergast, Fr. Matt McGrath, Sean Sweeney and John McLoughlin were fit to take their places amongst any group of county footballers, but unfortunately all these belonged to an era when county teams were selected from within certain towns and clubs – a time which has thankfully passed away.

I would also like to pay a special tribute to a man who gave unselfishly of time during the ‘60s. A man who often cycled to South Mayo meetings in Hollymount where he always fearlessly defended our club, a man who often stood on his own in the worst of weather conditions on the sideline watching us play, a man who also gave encouragement to us. The man I refer to is Barney Donnellan of Garryduff.

In conclusion, I would like to give the team that lined out for Irishtown in the ‘70s when we contested the South Mayo final against Garrymore. These were years when match programmes were unheard of, and, unlike today’s scene where every game gets press coverage, we have no records to look back on.

1. John Waldron
2. Tom Fitzgearld
3. Jarleth Prendergast
4. Bernie McGrath
5. Michael Mooney
6. Sean Sweeney
7. Jim Roche
8. John McLoughlin
9. Matt McGrath
10. Jarleth Griffin
11. Eddie Prendergast
12. Frank McGrath
13. Mark Connelly
14. Patsy McGrath
15. Sean Kirrane

Subs: Tom Connor, Mickey McTigue, Michael Roche, Finbarr Conroy.

July 9, 2009

How the name Davitts came into existence

Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s the team played under the name ‘Ballindine’ at one stage and ‘Irishtown’ at another. In fact, the name ‘St. Josephs’ was also used, as could be seen from the initials ‘S.J.’ on the crest of the jerseys at this time.

Since the title of the club seemed to be a ‘bone of contention’ at times, it was decided to try and settle on a name to unite both sides of the parish. At a meeting in the People’s Hall, Ballindine, in 1973, it was decided that the club be named ‘Davitts’ (after our national hero Michael Davitt, who arranged the first meeting of the tenant farmers in Irishtown on April 20th 1879). This was to be on a trial basis for one year but, of course, it has lasted ever since and the club has continued to expand and prosper. The first chairman of Davitts GAA Club was Joe Turner.

July 9, 2009

Success at Last (by Frank McGrath)

I began playing football for Irishtown/Ballindine as far back as 1964. Although training and organisation were not a strong point then, nevertheless some very good football was played. Two things I will always remember from that time: one is the pride they held for their parish and their ambition to win the junior championship.

No major trophies were won during the sixties except a seven-a-side tournament in Mayo Abbey in 1966. A lot of friendships were made – and I’m sure some enemies as well – but we entered the seventies with optimism. In 1970 the club reached the South Mayo final but were defeated by Garrymore when luck seemed to have sided with our arch rivals once again. In 1971 we were defeated by Ballinrobe, again in the South final. That final marked the end for quite a few of the senior members of the team who had given great service to the club during the sixties.

During the next few years the club underwent a transition. The name changed to Davitts and a lot of young talent came on the scene. By 1975 all who remained from the early seventies were John Waldron, Bernie McGrath, Louis Prendergast, Michael Mooney, Jarleth Griffin and myself.

In 1972 the competition was played on a league basis and we failed to qualify for the semi-finals. In 1973 we were defeated by Hollymount in the South semi-finals. In ’74 we failed to make the semi-finals, this time we were beaten by Glencorrib. We had a problem trying to field a team for this match. And after this defeat we realised the organisation, dedication and fitness were essential if we were to succeed.

In 1975 I was asked to train and captain the team. Michael Mooney was the appointed captain that year but as he sustained a broken ankle early in the year he was unable to play for the entire season. We trained regularly in Irishtown and our training was as rigorous and hard as any done today. This type of training and some early success in the championship transformed us into a fit, determined young team.

We were able to get challenge matches with Cortoon, Ballyhaunis and Kilconly and these brought about a great sense of camaraderie amongst the team as well as improving our football skills. That year we beat Claremorris, Hollymount and drew with Garrymore, thus qualifying for the South Mayo junior semi-finals.

We beat Glencorrib in the semi-final and our opponents for the final were The Neale – as always formidable opposition. We had our homework done on the day and it all came right. At last, the club’s first major success. To people outside the club it may have seemed a small success but too us and all the teams who had tried before us, it was a cornerstone.It united both sides of the parish and opened the gates for all the now followed. A lot of people have worked hard to try to keep the club from going down the years but during the seventies one man who stood out above all the rest was Austin O’Donnell.

We crowned that year by beating Hollymount in the O’Meara Cup final in Hollymount on the last Sunday of 1975.

July 9, 2009

The Growth of Davitts… from Junior to Senior

In 1976 Davitts made the welcome transition from junior to intermediate after their success at winning the South Mayo junior title in 1975. Our first outing was against Ballintubber in Ballinrobe where inexperience proved to be a telling factor against us and we were defeated by 4-7 to 2-10.

In the league final of the same year however we had more success and reached the county final only to lose to Lacken. We commenced the 1977 championship with a resounding win against Louisburgh on the scoreline of 1-16 to 1-7. This gave rise to much optimism but this was dispelled in the second round where we fell to the power of Kilmaine for whom the McGrath brother Joe and Des played leading roles.

The panel to represent Davitts that year was: C. Hyland, J. Stephens, E. McLoughlin, A. O’Malley, F. McGrath, G. Kirrane, S. Connolly, M. Connolly, F. Fahey, MI. Griffin, L. Prendergast, E. Griffin, L. Daly, F. Conroy, J.P. Rattigan, M.J. McLoughlin, B. McGrath, N. Hennelly, T. Waldron.

The experience gained in the previous two years began to show in 1978 when we accounted for Ballinrobe rather easily in the county semi-final showdown with Kiltimagh. In that final at Castlebar, Davitts dominated the play but failed to translate our outfield dominance on the scoreboard and lady luck turned her back on us so we went down by the narrowest of margins 0-6 to 0-5.

Following our defeat of 1978 we faced Ballinrobe the following year full of hope and confidence. However, we were sadly disappointed as we were well beaten in a hard game, 2-5 to 0-3. Ballinrobe went on from here to take the county title.

Davitts bounced back again in 1980 however and had a most emphatic win over Bonniconlon in the county semi-final. Surely we could erase memories of the previous years final disappointments as we faced Crossmolina in the decider. Once again however our aspirations were dealt a bitter blow and we went under by 1-7 to 0-6. Many Davitts’ supporters must by now have been wondering would we ever win an intermediate title.

The year 1981 however was to make up for all those previous years’ disappointments. We entered the senior league for the first time and got our first taste of senior football against Ballaghadereen in Ballindine where we lost 3-9 to 1-8. However, we followed this defeat with wins over Hollymount (1-9 to 0-9), Kiltimagh (2-11 to 1-10) and Ballinrobe (2-11 to 1-10). By the half way mark of the league we were joint second with Garrymore on 10 points.

Meanwhile the intermediate championship had commenced and Davitts kept up the winning sequence with a 3-8 to 1-2 victory over Glencorrib at Ballinrobe. We were strong favourites to account for Balla in the county semi-final but we were very lucky to snatch a draw with a late point from a free by Martin Connolly. The replay at Kiltimagh however turned out to be something of an anti-climax with Davitts completely on top and running out convincing winners 2-9 to 0-4.

And so we faced our third intermediate final with a certain amount of trepidation and caution as a result of our two previous final appearances. This time, however, it was to be third time lucky as we took our first intermediate final by the narrowest of margins over Tourmakeady 0-9 to 1-5.

July 9, 2009

Davitts Capture First Ever Football Title (1975 South Mayo Junior Championship)

The Neale……….1-5

Irishtown, the tiny South Mayo village which was the scene of many Land League meetings in the last century, had another chapter written into it’s history when the local Davitts team captured their first ever football title by defeating The Neale in the final of the South Mayo junior football championship at Hollymount on Sunday.

In dismissing the challenge of The Neale more easily than the scoreline would suggest, they stamped themselves as a team with a bright future. The crystal clear difference between the sides was the winners’ ability to make full use of defensive errors by the losers and this was clearly illustrated shortly after the resumption when the winners belted home their second goal.

Davitts’ midfielders Tommy Griffin and Frank Fahy took complete control after ten minutes and despite a variety of pairings which the losers drafted into the area, they were never able to curb the Davitts pair.

Centre-half forward Louis Prendergast was the real thorn in The Neale’s defence and along with his second half goal from 30 yards he also combined with breaking through for a number of other scores.

The Neale had the better of the early exchanges but despite exerting strong pressure on Davitts defence, they did not chalk up their first score – a point by Michael Keane – until the 9th minute.

After the winners settled down and drew level – 0-2 each – at the end of the first quarter, they could be considered lucky not to have been a goal behind soon afterwards when Larry O’Dea had a point blank shot miraculously saved by the winners’ goalkeeper, John Waldron.

But from then on Davitts held the reins and before the interval had a well taken goal by full forward M.J. McLoughlin when he collected a gift pass from Prendergast to plant the ball in the net.

One minute after the restart the winners hit another shattering blow when they increased their half-time lead of 1-3 to 0-3 with another goal by Prendergast.

Outstanding for the winners were J. Waldron (goal), B. McGrath, J. Kirrane, M. Connolly, F. Fahy, T. Griffin, L. Prendergast, M.J. McLoughlin, M. Griffin and F. McGrath.

Scorers for Davitts: M.J. McLoughlin (1-3), M. Griffin (0-5), L. Prendergast (1-0).

Davitts: J. Waldron; J. Kirrane; B. McGrath; J. McHugh; E. McLoughlin; F. McGrath; M. Connelly; F. Fahy; T. Griffin; M. Griffin; L. Prendergast; S. Connolly; J. Griffin; M.J. McLoughlin; J. Stephens. Sub: T. Tighe (for J. Griffin).


July 9, 2009

Davitts Day of Glory (1981 Intermediate Championship Final – Match Report)


Davitts are Mayo intermediate champions! After years of despair and near misses, the gods smiled in their favour on Sunday and they edged out a gallant Tourmakeady team by the narrowest of margins. It was by no means a classic game. But the final quarter was tension packed as both sides went all out for victory. And in the end Davitts snatched a deserved win.

The fact that Davitts had tasted bitter disappointment in the past made this win all the more sweeter. Yet, once again, as they had done in the semi-final against Balla, they almost succeeded in giving their supporters heart attacks. And I’m sure that the jinx that seems to have haunted them must have sent fear rushing through their followers in case they would be ‘robbed again’.

No doubt at all as to who was the man of the match. Young Seamus Butler will never qualify for the heavyweight division. Neither will he be an international basketball player because he hasn’t got the height. But on Sunday he showed more guts and skill than many a seasoned campaigner.

Tourmakeady were favoured by a slight breeze in the first half and Adrian Gavin floated over an early point from a free. Joe Gavin extended the lead with a point from play. Davitts opened their scoring with a point from a Martin Connolly free. And Martin Kearns shot the equaliser when he collected a lose ball near the Tourmakeady post.

In the 15th minute Adrian Gavin sent in a long ball that appeared to be going harmlessly wide. But somehow Eugene Heneghan managed to keep it in play and he punched it across the goalmouth. Eoin Mulrooney was on hand to punch it to the net for a surprise goal.

Even after that goal the game failed to come to life as both defences were well marshalled. But Ger Kirrane was beginning to exert control in the middle and Martin Connolly and Lawrence Daly were in superb form in the Davitts defence.

But the Tourmakeady defence were also functioning nicely. And this is borne out by the fact that Martin Connolly who is a defender managed to score more than the combined total of the Davitts forwards.

Finbar Conroy had a great point for Davitts but just before the break, Joe Gavin lobbed a fine effort from 40 yards between the posts to leave Tourmakeady in front by 1-3 to 0-3. On the resumption, Davitts had an early point from a free by Martin Connolly. And when Michael Joe McLoughlin’s effort was deflected out for a ‘fifty’, Connolly again reduced the lead with a fine kick. Taking advantage of a defensive blunder, Paul Gavin restored Tourmakeady’s two point lead in the 11th minute.

It was fitting that Seamus Butler should have got his name on the score sheet. After good ground work by Norman McCarthy, Butler flung over a magnificent point from out near the sideline. And when McCarthy was fouled following a move between Kirrane and Fahy, Martin Connolly popped over the equaliser.

Davitts went ahead for the first time in the 20th minute when a long clearance by Sean Connolly was picked up by Pat Ronayne and placed between the posts. A speculative lob by Michael Molloy almost went to the net as Cyril Hyland dropped the ball but he was quick to recover and avert danger.

Three minutes from time Joe Gavin landed the equaliser and the game seemed to be deadlocked when Seamus Butler collected the ball and soloed towards the Tourmakeady posts. He kicked high into the goalmouth and a Davitts forward was fouled with just a minute to go. Martin Connolly calmly tapped over the winning score. And Davitts had finally come good.

Michael Joe McLoughlin’s comment to me just after the whistle sounded summed it all up: “I can’t believe we have done it at last.”

Team captain, Frank Fahey accepted the Sean Shiel Shield from Paddy Muldoon, chairman Mayo GAA. Frank thanked Pa Kirrane, Frank Hyland, John Halligan, Martin Connolly and all who made it possible to win the title.

Davitts: C. Hyland, J. Kearns, E. McLoughlin, L. Daly, P. Butler, M. Connolly (0-5), S. Connolly, F. Fahy, G. Kirrane, P. Ronayne (0-1), F. Conroy (0-1), S. Butler (0-1), M.J. McLoughlin, N. McCarthy, M. Kearns (0-1). Sub: T. Griffin for F. Fahy

Tourmakeady: G. Mulrooney, M. Morrin, V. Hennelly, J.J. Joyce, F. Lally, P. Naughton, T. Heneghan, S. Lydon, E. Mulrooney (1-0), A. Gavin (0-1), P. Gavin (0-1), J. Gavin (0-3), E. Heneghan.
Subs: W. Feely for E. Mulrooney, M. Molloy for S. Lydon, B. Hennelly for J. Gavin.

Ref: T. McNicholas, Kiltimagh.

July 9, 2009

Dynamic Davitts Shatter Stephenites (1981 Senior League Final – Match Report)

Ballina Stephenites……0-6

A constructive and extremely hard working Davitts etched a unique piece of history into the annals of the GAA when they annexed the county senior league title with authority and ease against Ballina Stephenites in a hard fought but thoroughly entertaining final in bitter conditions at Knockmore on Sunday.

For Davitts it was the completion of a unique double, having won the intermediate championship earlier in the year and the accomplishment of this double feat in the one year is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of the team which showed tremendous dash and verve to outwit and outplay a disappointing Stephenites team.

For Ballina it was a bitter blow for two years in succession to be beaten in the league final. The winners were strong in the vital areas with their defence extremely strong.

It was pressure that Ballina were unable to bare and with the Davitts full forward Finbar Conroy playing a roving role, the yawning gaps in the Ballina rearguard were fully exploited by the interval with the winners tallying 2-5 and affording the luxury of nine wides with the aid of a stiff breeze.

Ballina had managed four points in that first half but their contributions with the breeze in the second half was to be halved and they never proved a threat. Conroy was undoubtedly the biggest thorn in the losers defence and his personal contribution of 1-4 played a major part in achieving victory. His goal was particularly devastating coming four minutes before the interval and it was mainly responsible for removing any glimmer of hope for Ballina.

Conroy’s was the second of two devastating goals in the first half. The first came from Martin Kearns in the 7th minute after a superbly engineered move which started with Pat Butler at the back. Seamus Butler, Finbar Conroy and Michael J. McLoughlin had a hand in it before Kearns streaked through a wide gap to give the Ballina keeper no chance from close range.

It wiped out Ballina’s 4th minute lead which was a point from Eamon Hennigan and that two point gap remained after ten minutes with Brian Mulloy and Norman McCarthy swapping two excellent points from play.

Conroy was on hand again to take advantage of a bad Ballina kick out to extend the lead to four points and the same player was in the right place to crack home that second goal after Norman McCarthy’s first effort was blocked by a defender.

Ballina were perhaps lucky not to concede a third goal before the interval only to be saved by the mud, but Martin Kearns managed a point from the scramble and two points from P.J. Kavanagh for Ballina left his side in deep trouble at the break, trailing 0-4 to 2-5. Dessie Barrett gave Ballina some hope of pulling back that seven point deficit four minutes into the second half when he pointed from play, but Ballina were not to score again until seconds before the sound of the final whistle.

The losers had chances of scores, particularly from close-in frees in the last ten minutes, but it was felt that points were not worth going for and the Davitts defence was in no form for giving away soft goals form frees.

Ballina’s best chance of a goal fell to Eamon Hennigan and had he taken a few more steps his dangerous shot along the ground might not have been so narrowly wide. Martin Connolly from a free and Finbar Conroy from play put the winners eight points clear entering the final ten minutes. Connolly was again on target from a free in the 49th minute and the days takings were wrapped up by Frank McGrath with a superb point six minutes from the end.

The winners had some excellent players in defence where Cyril Hyland had a fine game between the posts. Eddie McLoughlin shoed immense strength and ability in the true fashion of a full back while Laurence Daly and Jimmy Kearns worked extremely hard. Pat Butler, Martin Connolly and Sean Connolly were most impressive in a half back line which caused Ballina a lot of problems, while Ger Kirrane and Tommy Griffin held the reins for long periods at midfield. Seamus Butler could be described as a defender’s nightmare with the tigerish attacking; Finbar Conroy and Martin Kearns could be fitted into the same category showing some superb flashes of intelligent, attacking football. They had good support from Norman McCarthy, Frank McGrath and Michael J. McLoughlin.

Gerry Leonard, Tom Gilvarry and Tommie Lyons tried hard for Ballina in defence. P.J. Kavanagh did an awful amount of work while Brian Molloy and Peter Heffernan tried best.

Davitts: C. Hyland, J. Kearns, E. McLoughlin, L. Daly, P. Butler, M. Connolly (0-2), S. Connolly, T. Griffin, G. Kirrane, S. Butler, N. McCarthy (0-1), F. McGrath (0-1), M. Kearns (1-1), F. Conroy (1-4), M. Kearns. Subs: B. Kearns (for McGrath).

Ballina: P. Glynn, T. Rafter, H. Gilvarry, P. Gilvarry, T. Knight, G. Leonard, T. Lyons, P.J. Kavanagh (0-2), B. Molloy (0-1), E. Hennigan (0-1), T. Gilvarry, B. Williams (0-1), D. Barrett (0-1), P. Bolton, P. Heffernan. Subs: L. Brennan (for Knight), J. Browne (for Lyons inj.).

July 9, 2009

A Close Call for Davitts (1976 U-21 Final Report)


Belmullet almost did it again. In the reply of the Mayo under-21 county final at McHale Park the northern squad kept gnawing away at Davitts strong lead and in the end almost gave a repeat of the last gasp equaliser in the drawn game some weeks back.

Unlike the initial meeting there was plenty of excitement in this game with some good entertaining football and a healthy sprinkling of goals and points to keep the large attendance on their toes.

Davitts must be the coolest team in the county. With a lead of 2-10 to 1-8 with only five minutes to go they stood and watched as the Belmullet men whittled away the lead. But Davitts were content to win by a point in the end. Michael Griffin opened the scoring for Davitts in the first minute with Kirrane adding their second point after five minutes.

Two more points came from Michael Griffin before Belmullet scored in the 15th minute with a point from Seamus Nallen. Another point from Padraic O’Toole cut the lead to two points.

Davitts were on top in the opening half and the well organised and composed side they are was proven when Michael O’Toole scored an unexpected goal for Belmullet in the 18th minute from a free kick. It was probably the blinding sun which affected defender Edie McLoughlin’s judgement and he caught the ball but dropped it in the net.

Tom Luddy added a point one minute later and it did seem for a moment that Belmullet were going to take over. But Martin Connolly and Eugene Griffin changed all that in the space of one minute when they both hammered home two brilliantly taken goals for the winners.

Connolly broke through himself in the 25th minute and shot to the net and the ball was no sooner kicked out than Eugene Griffin powered the ball to the net for the goal of the match. John Gallagher and Tom Griffin swapped points to leave the half time score at 2-5 to 1-3 in favour of Davitts.

The unchainable Michael Griffin got into his stride again early in the second half and sent over three points in succession in four minutes.

If Michael Griffin was the outstanding scorer for the winners then Padraic O’Toole must certainly emerge as the top man up front for Belmullet. He replied with two points to keep them in touch and when Ger Kirrane and Michael Mannion added two more it seemed to put the issue beyond doubt in the 20th minute.

O’Toole fought back again with a point and another from Tom Ruddy left the margin at five points with four minutes to go. Then out of nowhere O’Toole struck again with a great goal from about 20 yards.

Watches were checked and the crowd got restless. Belmullet seemed poised to repeat what they had done at the same venue only two weeks previously. There were now only two points between the sides and three minutes left in the game. Substitute Michael Gaughan sent over a great point to bring the margin to one point but it was too late.

The winners had sterling performances from E. Mcloughlin, S. Connolly, Michael Griffin, Tom Griffin, Eugene Griffin, Ger Kirrane and Michael Mannion.

Belmullet were served well by the Trojan work of Padraic O’Toole, Tom Ruddy, Tom Reilly, John Gallagher, Padraic Barrett and Michael O’Toole.

Scorers for Davitts were: M. Griffin (0-6), M. Connolly and E. Griffin (1-0 each), Ger Kirrane (0-2), T. Griffin and M. Mannion (0-1 each). For Belmullet: P. O’Toole (1-4), M. O’Toole (1-0), T. Ruddy (0-2), M. Gaughan, S. Nallen and M. Gallagher (0-1 each).

Davitts: C. Hyland, T. Tighe, A. Gallagher, P. Butler, E. McLoughlin, S. Connolly, T. Griffin, G. Kirrane, M. Griffin, M. Connolly, G. Hennigan, M. Mannion, E. Griffin.

Belmullet: J. Murphy, T. Reilly, E. Reilly, T. Kelly, M. O’Toole, P. Barrett, J. Gallagher, W.J. Padden, S. Nallen, P. O’Toole, T. Ruddy, M. Lavelle, M.G. Lavelle. Subs: M. Gaughan for M. Lavelle, D. Geraghty for E. Reilly and M. Togher for T. Ruddy.

Ref: Dick Conboy, Islandeady.

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