Ballinrobe’s Greatest Ever Year

November 7, 2018


A variety of circumstances dictated that Ballinrobe GAA Club did not have a dinner-dance in 1999.  The omission will certainly be repaired this year; no obstacle could deter the club from celebrating a season of spectacular achievement, underlined by the winning of two adult county championships and one county league.

As the new century began its faltering steps, Ballinrobe in keeping with other clubs, had its aspirations.  Setbacks had blighted expectations in the past and caution modified the optimism.  Adrian Heneghan’s last-gasp winning point for Mayo Gaels in the 1998 intermediate final at Hollymount was green in the memory.

Rain-sodden pitches in the murky days of January and February may not be the ideal setting for sporting prowess, but the exploits of the under 21 footballers in winning the Brennan Cup for the first time had an uplifting effect on club morale.  Skill and a determination, which did not brook any difficulty, blended harmoniously, and success in the South Mayo competition was further embellished by the capturing of the Supermacs County A title at Hollymount on the first Sunday in May.  Neighbouring Kilmaine were our doughty opponents on that occasion, as they had been in the Brennan Cup decider, and the hour was on its last legs when Ballinrobe got their heads in front to prevail by 0-12 to 1-7. It occasions no surprise that Kilmaine are already relishing the prospect of renewing our acquaintance in the grade next year.

 Seventeen points were accumulated in the Welcome Inn league, marginally short of the tally necessary to be in contention for elevation to Division One.  The opening round involved another encounter with visiting Kilmaine, which ended in a draw, and one or two erratic performances cost us valuable points at the heel of the hunt.

                Bonniconlon, depleted by injuries and players going abroad, Westport and Lahardane failed to check Ballinrobe’s march to the final of the championship, sponsored by Supermac’s. Lahardane provided the most searching test and even Ballinrobe supporters can appreciate the viewpoint that fortune did not favour the north Mayo representatives. 

Ballinrobe’s finest hour was unquestionably reserved for the final against Ballaghaderreen at Claremorris on Sunday, October 8th.  Many of the skills of the code adorned that polished display, which culminated in a staggering winning margin of eighteen points 1-21 to 0-6.  Unbridled joy greeted the presentation of the Sweeney Memorial Cup to Tony Walkin, the captain, by P.J.McGrath, Chairman, County Board, and the significant input of the management quintet of Peter Ford, Martin Walsh, Billy Burke, Dick Langan and Sean Fahy was acknowledged.

Adult success has not been confined exclusively to the Intermediate team.  The South Mayo junior B championship and the Welcome Inn Reserve league trophies also rest on Ballinrobe sideboards, a deserved tribute to the managerial skills of Padraig Costello, who was not averse to entering the fray himself, when necessity demanded.  Who can forget Tommy Cameron’s witty speech as he accepted the league cup on that miserable October Sunday in windswept Tourmakeady? The Billy Diskin Memorial Cup is in Ballinrobe’s custody for another year, following a decisive victory over Clonbur in August.

Ruairi Keane gave the club a national dimension when he captained the county minors in the All Ireland final against Cork. Divisional titles were won by the under 16B and under 13C sides and there is a general acceptance that more attention must be devoted to emerging players.

The club’s influence has permeated other aspects of community life, apart from the sporting.  One has only to cite its production of A Day in the Life, a book featuring images of Ballinrobe on New Year’s Eve, 1999 and New Year’s Day, 2000 and sponsored by Aer Lingus. It evoked widespread appreciation and Ballinrobe people living abroad eagerly sought copies. It will be a night for sharing stirring memories at the dinner dance,