Reproduced with kind permission of Kevin Griffin
from the book
'Ballina/Boher Parish - Our history and traditions'
Kevin M. Griffin, Kevin A. Griffin
Copyright © 2000
ISBN: 0 9539320 0 1
Organised sport was practically unheard of in nineteenth century Ireland. One might say that the whole country suffered from a stagnation of which both Michael Cusack and Archbishop Croke were acutely aware, and deplored. Archbishop Croke noted: ‘during my visitations there was nothing that grieved me so much as to see fine strapping big fellows lying beside the ditches on their faces and hands, or otherwise sneaking about with their hands in their pockets and humps on them’ .
There was a definite class barrier in the sports which did exist, especially in athletics, as it was believed that sport was only for ‘gentlemen’. In the eyes of those who organised sports at that time, this excluded the vast majority of the people of Ireland. Added to this was the fact that the rules of rural games and sports, which existed, varied from place to place. The size of the ball, the number on a team, the duration of a game and the proper supervision of games was so unpredictable that at times games went so far out of hand that they resembled a faction fight rather than a sporting event . The first printed rules for hurling were drawn up by Pat Larkin of Kiltormer in 1869 .
In October 1877 one of the founders of the G.A.A., Maurice Davin, a Carrick-on-Suir man and a great athlete in his own right, stated about athletics: ‘We are very much in the want of some governing body for the management of athletics in this country’.
A short few years later, the G.A.A. was officially founded on November 1st 1884 in Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles. From then on, in the words of Michael Cusack, the G.A.A. ‘swept the country like a prairie fire’. In the early years of the Association it was as much concerned with athletic events as with Gaelic games. Hurling and football matches were often played in conjunction with athletic meetings, and from the beginning they attracted massive crowds.
This was the beginning of a huge social revolution, which dispelled the apathy of generations. The young men of Ireland found a new expression of pride in battling against their neighbours ‘for the honour of the little village’, and the G.A.A. engendered a new self-respect and national pride in the youth of our country. The social revolution reached into every parish and community and the parish of Ballina / Boher was no exception.
The following examples from local records show how active the Ballina and Boher hurling clubs were. It will be noted too that they often played as separate clubs, but on occasion they could unite, and then they became a real force to be reckoned with. The matches were played in various locations throughout the parish. One venue was at the back of the village off ‘O’Brien’s Lane’, another Tim Minogue’s field opposite the present G.A.A. field, and Ned Hayes remembered that important matches involving Ahane and other great teams, were played just beyond his house in Coole and beside the river .
There was a hurling match in Ballina on February 2nd 1886. In the following month, Sunday March 21st, Ballina Club played Limerick in a challenge match. This seems to have been an important match, and travel tickets were on sale: one shilling and three pence return to Limerick (about 6 new pence). We do not know what club in Limerick opposed the Ballina men on that day, but the Ballina team came out victorious. On the return challenge match they beat the Limerick team once again . Fresh from their victories over Limerick, the Ballina Club played Ogonnelloe on Sunday April 11th of the same year, and the return match was held on April 25th. Here they were beaten on both occasions .
Boher played in Shallee on May 9th 1886 and they took on the Quarries on April 17th 1887 . Another reference to hurling states that the Ballina and Boher boys played Killaloe on March 24th 1889. This match took place in Peter Scanlan’s field . These few examples show that the Gaelic Games were part of parish life right back at the foundation of the Association, and even before the Gaelic Athletic Association was formed.
Much of the following material has been provided by Gerard McKeogh of Ballyea, who was appointed as Secretary of the North Tipperary Senior G.A.A. Board in December 1999. He emphasises the early stage at which Ballina / Boher became involved in this national revolution. He writes:
‘As far back as 1883 a Ballina / Boher combination under the name of Kincora, beat Killaloe. This must surely be one of the first inter-county games on record, with Kincora recording a victory of 2-1 to 0-1.
In 1885 Ballina G.A.A. club was formally established. Indeed, at the Convention in Nenagh on Sunday November 20th 1887, 35 affiliated clubs were represented by their respective delegates. This list of 35 included two from the parish, namely Ballina and Boher. Shortly after this in 1902 Michael Minihan of Boher became North Tipperary Chairman.
In the early years of the Association, Ballina played in the Senior Hurling Championship. In 1912 Ballina reached the North Tipp. Senior Hurling Final, only to be beaten by Toomevara. Gaelic Games suffered lean times in the parish over the next two decades. In 1932 Ballina won their first Championship, namely the North Tipp. Junior Championship. The team, which lined out in the Final was: Frank Hannon, John Joe Gleeson, John O’Brien, Michael McKeogh, Eddie Maher, Gerry Gough, Leo Mahoney, Mattie Hayes (Capt.) Harry Mooney, Michael Ahern, Paddy Darcy, Joe Murphy, John Nash, Jimmy Cooke, Paddy Hannon.
Ballina had to wait another 35 years before sampling success in the Championship again. In 1939 Tomás Malone (see chapter on Famous People) became chairman of the North Board. At that time the Club did not have its own playing pitch and important championship games were played in Boher at Gleeson’s field (Bushfield), Mulcahy’s field (Ballinteenoe) and Paddy O’Brien’s field (Boher); At Ballina, McKeogh’s field in the village of Ballina and Timmy Minogue’s field in Cullina were used.
During the 30s and 40s the parish fielded two teams at various stages. Ballina fielded an Intermediate team, while Boher fielded a Junior team. During this period, Burgess defeated Boher in a North Tipperary Minor Hurling Final. In 1967 Ballina / Boher captured their second North Tipp Junior Hurling title. They played Roscrea in the final in Nenagh and won with a score of 1-8 to 0-9. The local team was: Connie Collins, Junior Cawley, James Riordan, Michael Tuohy, Thomas King, Jerry McKeogh, Michael King, Paddy O’Brien, Tony King (Capt.), Jimmy Ryan, Danny McKeogh, Eddie Grimes, Michael O’Sullivan, Jimmy O’ Donovan, John McDonnell.
Around this time the club ran a number of successful carnivals and marquee dances. The funds raised in these ventures enabled the club to purchase the present playing field at Cullina from the Rohan family. The club developed these lands and the field was officially opened on Thursday May 13th 1982. Michael Frawley, then Chairman of the Munster Council performed the opening ceremony. Tipperary and Limerick played in an inter-county Senior Hurling Tournament on the same evening.
In 1982 Ballina Juvenile Club was formed. The club was an amalgamation with Ballinahinch and played under the name of Sean Treacy’s.
In 1984 the Ballina Junior Hurling team achieved success. Nenagh was once again the setting for the North Tipperary Final and Knockshegowna the opponents. After this Ballina played Carrick Swans in the County semi-final, and progressed to meet Cashel King Cormac’s in the County Final. Both of these games took place in Semple Stadium. In the Final itself, Ballina beat Cashel to win its first County Junior Hurling Final. The team was: Paddy Coleman, Tomás O’Brien, Michael Sheehy, Tony McInerney, John Molamphy, Pat Sheehy, William Kennedy, Michael Kelly, Jerry McKeogh (Capt.), John McKeogh, Paddy Kennedy, John O’Sullivan, Connie Collins, Dermot O’Donovan, Liam Sheehy.
The next North Tipp. Junior Hurling Championship won by the club was in 1990. Toomevara provided the opposition in the final. At the county semi-final stage, Ballina beat Rosegreen in Holycross. The County Final was played in Cashel, but on the day, Moyne Templetuohy beat Ballina. The 1990 team was: Gerard Spaight, Liam Sheehy, Tomás O’Brien, Pat Sheehy, Kevin Gleeson, Jim McGrath, Michael Shanahan, Michael Kelly, Martin McInerney, Ronan Slevin, Stephen Shanahan, Seamus McKeogh, Peter Curtin, Jerry McKeogh, Connie Collins (Capt.).
1990 marked a unique achievement for Connie Collins and Jerry McKeogh. Both had played for Ballina in four different decades, and ended up with North Tipp. Junior Championship medals in the 60s, 80s and 90s.
Ballina won their fifth North Tipp. Junior Championship in 1996. As in 1990, Toomevara provided the opposition in the North Final in Nenagh. In the County semi-final, Ballina beat Aherlow in Cappawhite. In the county final it took Ballina two games to beat Skenarinky in Cashel. The team was: Pat McCarthy, Mark King, Sean Collins, Fergus Collins, Brendan McKeogh, Jim McGrath, Eamon Cawley, Michael Shanahan, Michael Grace, Mark Riordan, Brian Stritch (Capt.), William Shanahan, Adrian King, Denis Keane, Seamus McKeogh.
The year 1996 marked the fourth and final year of John Joe McKeogh’s reign as Chairman of the North Board. He was the third man from the parish to hold that position.
Besides the five North Junior Championships and two county Championships, Ballina have won 4 North Tipp. Minor Hurling ‘B’ Championships. The first of these titles came in 1987. That year Ballina were joined with Ballinahinch.
In 1992 Ballina beat Newport in Cloughjordan in the North Final. In the County Semi-final, Ballina were beaten by Ballingarry in the Ragg. 1995 was Ballina’s third Minor success, beating Templederry Kenyons in the North Final at Nenagh. At the County Semi-final stage it took Cahir two games to beat Ballina. Both of these games took place at the Ragg. In the last year of the Century, Ballina won their fourth minor hurling title, beating Borrisoleigh after a replay in Dolla. The semi-final of the county championship took place in Semple Stadium. In this game Ballina beat Galtee Rovers. In the county final in Tipperary town, Newcastle beat Ballina.
Ballina also won a North U-21 hurling title in 1994. In the final Ballina beat Borrisoleigh in Toomevara. Ballina were beaten in the county semi-final in Templederry by Loughmore-Castleiney. Ballina have also won four North Junior Hurling League titles in the years 1991, 1992,1996 & 2010.
The club has also experienced success with the big ball. In 1994 Ballina beat Ballinahinch in its first North Tipp. Junior ‘B’ football Championship final in Nenagh. There was no county championship in this grade at this time. In 1992 Sean Treacy’s (Ballina / Ballinahinch) beat Silvermines in the North U-21 ‘B’ Football Final in Kilcolman. They were beaten in the county semi-final by Ardfinnan in Golden. In 1999 Ballina completed a Minor double by beating Newport in the North ‘B’ Football Final in Dolla. The county semi-final took place in Drombane where Ballina beat Golden-Kilfeacle. In the County Final, Ballina beat Loughmore-Castleiney in Templederry to capture the first adult football title.
At the end of 1999 Gerard McKeogh (son of John J. McKeogh, a former Chairman of the County Board) became Secretary of the North Tipp. Senior Board. In addition to administrative roles, the club has also had many players on many different county panels over the years. These players have represented the County in both Hurling and Football. The Club has also been represented at Scór level and has been represented on various county selection committees’.