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.