by Jerry Savage and Mike Sweeney
The G.A.A. as we know it today was introduced into Kerry by a young student teacher training in Dublin. His name was Mr. Maurice Moynihan from Ballymacelligott. As a result, Ballymacelligott was very much to the fore in the early days of the Association, winning four County Championships in the period up to 1918. Their great opponents in this era were the legendary Laune Rangers led by the peerless J.P. O’Sullivan. The last County Final Ballymac contested and won was in 1918 and the team included five Baily brothers. Many of that team won All Ireland medals with Kerry in subsequent years. It is said that if the 1918 team had stayed together it would have won many more County Championships. But the fight for freedom was at its height in those years and the Ballymac men, as in the football, played their part. No parish in Kerry suffered more, and many men made the supreme sacrifice, as the roadside crosses bear witness. Others were imprisoned for their part in the fight and many were left homeless by the plundering of the Black and Tans as they earned out the deathbed orders of the infamous Major McKinnon to “burn Ballymac”. But the order was met by a defiant people with an army of their own who made the enemy pay dearly for its atrocities and rallied to the cry of “Ballymac still unconquered”. Within a few years o the founding of the G.A.A., Ballymacelligott, as outlined above, became the kingpins of Kerry football.
The title was won for the first time in 1891, and then again in 1894 and 1895. The names of Jer Clifford, Den Costello, the Erraught brothers, John O’Neill, the McQuinn brothers, Patcheen Sugrue, the Sweeneys and the Hickeys of Flemby, John Corcoran, the Laceys, J.D. McMahon, J. Galvin and T. Lynch from Ballyseedy, Bryan O’Connor, Bill Irwin, Sonny Groves, Tim Reidy, Tom Lacey and Pa Reidy of the Forge were passed on with honour to the next generation of Ballymac footballers.
Hurling existed too, although it was never as prevalent in this part of Kerry. In May, 1903, infact, a young lad called Dorgan died from injuries received playing a game in his native O’Brennan.
In 1917 the team rose again, and the following season the County Championship was won for the fourth time by a team that included no less than five Baily brothers. Of these, Din Joe was to leave an indelible mark on Kerry football. Din Joe was one of the founders of the club in 1917, along with noted cyclist Jerry McEllistrim. The winning team of 1918 was: Patie Baily, Phil O’Sullivan, Peter O’Sullivan, Dan O’Connor, Bat Culloty, Mick McCarthy, Patcheen Clifford, Din Joe Baily (Capt.), Tom O’Connor, Matt O’Sullivan,Pat`Gal’ Slattery, Bill Diggins, Jim Baily, Moss Galvin, John Baily.
Of that team, Phil O’Sullivan went on to captain Kerry to All-Ireland glory in 1924, a side that included his Ballymac team-mates John and Jim Baily. Phil, although a native of Tuosist, Kenmare, was a teacher at O’Brennan National School. In 1926 Kerry again won the All Ireland, and this time Jim Baily was there again his colleague Pat Clifford at corner back also earning his winner’s medal. And although John ‘Gal’ SlatterySlattery was then playing forRock Street, he was also a Ballymac man, being from Carrignafeela. Jim Baily then earned his third All Ireland medal in 1929 when Kerry won theSam Maguire Cup for the first time. Previous to this, Dinny Curran was an All Ireland medal winner in 1903, Con Clifford followed suit in 1913.
In 1927, an All-Kerry team represented Munster in the first Railway Cup Competition and won it out. On that Kerry team were five players from the Ballymac Club: Jimmy Baily, Johnny Baily, Pat Clifford, John “Gal” Slattery and Phil O’Sullivan, surely a record for a rural parish.
Unfortunately, that was to be the last success at this level for the club, which shortly afterwards fell out of commission altogether. The Ballymac players, who continued to play in the parish leagues for Ballycarty, O’Brennan and Gortatlea often played for the Tralee clubs in the Championship. Jimmy Baily (1937) and Charlie Irwin (1947) both won medals with Boherbee John Mitchels.
By the time Charlie won his County Championship, however, Ballymac was back in business. Jack McEllistrim and Jerry Savage both had spells as Chairman and Thomas Dowling spent 18 years as secretary.
The newly formed Ballymacelligott team won the Castleisland District League in 1945. Some of those who brought glory back were: Tommy Campbell, Paddy Corcoran, Bill O’Sullivan, Denis Leen, Tom McElligott, Derry Sugrue, Tom McCarthy, Paul Barry, Sean Savage, Pat Keane and Jimmy Reidy. In later years players like Jim Vale, Jimmy O’Connor, Tom O’Connor and Ted O’Keeffe also made their mark.
The internal parish leagues still continued, with O’Brennan fielding the likes of Timmie Griffin, Dick Chute, Michael Lynch, Paul Barry and Paddy Brick. Clogher had Sean Scanlon, George Groves, Dick McEllistrim, Jer and John Browne and Timmy and Denis Baily. In the Ballycarty side would be found Brendan Galvin, Francis Galvin, Michael Moynihan and Dave Fitzgerald. Timmy Baily, Dick Chute and Jackie Greaney won Minor County Championship medals with Castleisland.
A return to the County Championship in the 1950s did not, alas, see Ballymac reach the great heights of success again. In 1955 there was a near miss when the then champions, Kerins O’Rahilly’s escaped with a two point win after great displays from Timmy Baily, Tim Leen, Sean Scanlon, Murty Quinlan and Dick Chute.
In 1961, ’62 and ’63 Ballymac had a range of new players in stock, players like Mike Rahilly in goal, Paddy Joe Baily, John and Tom Slattery, Liam Chute, J.P. Leen and Pat ,McDonnell. Along with Timmy Baily,Dick Chute Jim Vale and Sean Scanlon, the foundation of a solid team developed and in those three years the Castleisland District League was captured. Dick Chute notched 3-1 in a memorable first round County Championship match with St. Brendans as Ballymac won by 3-3 to 2-5.
That team went on to play North Kerry in the semi?final of the Kerry Co. Championship. They were the best team since we won the Castleisland Championship in 1945.
J.P. Leen won an All Ireland Junior medal with Kerry in 1967. And again in 1969, Ballymac won out in the Castleisland District League. There were four O’Connor brothers in that team, Thomas, Sean, Michael and Brendan, and also in the side was Pat Aherne who was captain of that Kerry Junior side in 1967 and who had been a substitute on the senior team for the 1962 win over Roscommon.
In the 1970’s, Ballymac won Special Junior Leagues in ’71, ’73, ’74 and again in ’79, defeating Churchill in the final. The dressing rooms were built with voluntary labour from 1977/1980 when they were officially opened on the 11 th of May, 1980 with a game between Kerry and Down.
Ballymac was defeated in the County Novice Final in 1983 by Scartaglin by 0-8 to 0-6. The club contested the Novice ‘B’ Final in 1987, defeating Dromid Pearses in a one?sided match. In 1989, promotion to Division 4 of the County League was achieved and the first ever Cahill Cup saw Ballymac become the inaugural winners. Gaeltacht beat Ballymac in the 1992 Novice Final, but the following year amends were made when Finuge was easily defeated to claim a first Novice Title. In that season also, promotion to Division 3 of the County League was won. In the second season there, Ballymac almost gained promotion again, this time to Division 2 but there was consolation in the Minor side winning the County Title after losing the previous two; third time lucky.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, fantastic strides in juvenile football have been made. Every Sunday a huge gathering of young footballers can be found training at the field. This has resulted in the achievement of many county and district board titles at under age levels.
Great credit is due to all who supported and helped in these achievements. This success: had helped the club to attain results at minor and senior level.
Development in the field continued thoroughout the 80’s. The wall, carpark and dugouts were completed in 1987. In 1990, the pitch was rewired and re-seeded. In 1991, the stand and gym were erected.
Ta tradisiún láidir in ar bparóiste. Is féidir linn féachaint siar le mórtas ar an sean-saol agus gan amhras is féidir linn féachaint ar aghaidh le dóchas do no blianta atá le teacht.