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.