Issue 2 – March 2012
In this Issue
Welcome to the second issue of BSJ30. We have 3 excellent articles below :
The Founding of Ballinteer St Johns GAA Club based on all new interviews with the founders by Gary Moran
Reaching the Promised Land a look at the club’s 1999 Intermediate Final success by Pat Smith (including video clip)
Setting the Scene : 1982 a reminder of the Ireland in which the club was founded by Sean MacConnell
We will have an article featuring the first BSJ’s first Hurling Team.
Please keep all your old photos, cuttings, articles and videos coming in to
The Founding of Ballinteer St Johns GAA Club
By Gary Moran
Back in the 1970’s, you were about as likely in Ballinteer to come across a field of cows as a primary school camogie squad. An orange jersey with black stripes may have been a coveted item in the wardrobe of a sporting youngster but that had nothing to do with local GAA and everything to do with Dutch football.
Dublin and Kerry were trading All Ireland’s but that didn’t seem to cut the mustard in the fast-expanding parish. At least that was the view of three men from varied backgrounds who together trekked annually to Croke Park on All Ireland Football Final day. Maurice O’Connell from Abbeydorney in Kerry, Mick Wren from Dublin but also of Kerry stock and Tom Cosgrave from “the Holy Land of North Mayo” in Mayo had all moved into the expanding estates of Ballinteer. And when Sam Maguire had been presented and the three amigos stopped for a drink close to home, it struck them how little impact one of Ireland’s biggest sporting days had in their new community.
The GAA, supposedly at the heart of every parish in the land, hadn’t got its tentacles into Broadford and Ludford, Marlay and Lissadell, Woodpark and Pine Valley. In Lissadell alone, where Tom and Maurice were neighbours, there were over 400 children in 230 houses but hurling and football weren’t big on the agenda.
Their best playing days may have been in the rear view mirror but for Maurice, Mick and Tom, the love of Gaelic Games still burned bright. They’d dabbled without much satisfaction in golf but one spring morning in 1982, as they enjoyed a walk in Marlay Park, an idea took hold that would open up a huge, colourful and ongoing chapter in their lives and impact on the lives of thousands others from Ballinteer and surrounding areas in the thirty intervening years. “This,” said Tom, looking over the open expanse of Marlay, “would be a grand place to train a team of young footballers.”
Talk is cheap of course and many would have left it at that but these were men of action. Wedged between paragraphs on juvenile swimming and ladies basketball, the April 1982 Lissadell Residents Association newsletter called on all boys and girls in the estate interested in Gaelic Football and Hurling to make contact with Tom about joining the fledgling club. Ballinteer Gaels was the first proposed name and a lot happened very quickly from there.
Notices were read from the altar of local churches and placed on shop doors. By June of that year there were fifty boys attending training in Marlay with a view to playing in the official under-10, under-11 and under-12 leagues that would start in September. Sessions were at 7.30pm on Thursday’s and 10.30am on Saturday’s.
At the request of Mick Wren, the Club was formally registered as St Johns Ballinteer with the Dublin County Board on 19th July 1982. The request was dated 1st July 1982 and noted a meeting in May 1982 with the County Board and subsequent telephone conversations. In its correspondence on the matter, the Dublin County Board noted that “a group of eight people have come together and are prepared to get Gaelic games going in the area. They have formed a Club and called it St Johns Ballinteer”. This group were Mick Wren, Maurice O’Connell, Tom Cosgrave, Eamon Coleman, John Kelly, Michael Donlan, Ollie Quinlan and Jerry McEvoy.
There was a name change from St. Johns Ballinteer (after the Patron Saint of the parish) to Ballinteer St. Johns (for no better reason that to obtain a more favourable alphabetical listing in the Club Notes of the evening papers). Other pressing matters included securing use of pitches from the Council, fundraising and obtaining equipment and jerseys.
In fact, there was no home gear available for the first practice match which took place in July in Marlay Park. Visitors Thomas Davis supplied both sets of jerseys and by way of gratitude were beaten 5-2 to 4-1! Ballinteer registered the saffron and white of Antrim as their official colours and Tom (who was now Treasurer with Mick as Secretary and Maurice as Chairman) was charged with obtaining kit. Sports shop proprietor Gerry McDermott advised that there would be a lengthy wait to get such jerseys from O’Neills but, perhaps sensing the chance to offload some unwanted stock and the paucity of funds available, he offered a good deal on a leftover set of orange jerseys with black trim. Tom took the bargain and while the initial reaction of the other founders was none too favourable, the new gear gave the club a great identity which lasts to this day when the jerseys are finished off with the crest that combines an eagle (emblem of St. John the Evangelist) with the Celtic Cross (GAA emblem) and the Three Castles (Dublin crest). Crest designer – Mick Wren.
The jerseys weren’t the only equipment bought on the cheap. There was an early purchase of some imperfect (i.e. not quite spherical) footballs and club’s statement of income for August 1982 to November 1983 recorded the welcome donation of three, presumably spherical, footballs. Important sources of income included Flag Day collections, cake sales, registration fees, a GAA grant of £50 and proceeds of what became an annual dinner dance at Stackstown Golf Club. Tom literally called into commercial premises looking for donations but readily acknowledges the degree to which the community bought into the whole project with financial and other support.
Early club meetings were held in Beavers pub, now the Ballinteer House, and by October 1982 there were 100 playing members and 20 adult committee members. A second under-10 team was entered into the South East Board football competitions and there was also a favourable response to hurling with the first match against St. Kevin’s, Kilnamanagh in December 1982. By the end of the season, several parents had completed coaching courses in both codes, an internal competition similar to the “Mini All-Ireland’s” of today was held and playing numbers soared towards 200.
If it all sounds too good to be true, there were indeed many bumps along the way. When use of pitches at Broadford was secured, the Council gave a Portakabin to serve as a changing room. In a strong storm it was lifted over the railing and blown across the road! It was fixed up only for the same thing to happen again. It wasn’t unknown for Tom or Mick to dash home for the lawnmower after they’d shooed the cattle off Páirc O’Loinsigh in Woodpark ahead of a game. There were a few knowing grins when the aristocrats of Kilmacud arrived to play on the dung-pocked pitch. Then one day and without warning, that pitch was closed off for more house building.
The 1982 Squad Back Row: Eoin Richardson, Brian Lee, Dermot Kelly, Eddie Byrne, Colm Smith,
Ronan McGabhann, Maurice McCarthy, Timmy Kelly, Noel O Mahony, Declan Chatten, Stephen O Rourke.
Middle Row: Mark McEvoy, Alan Fagan, Graham Murtagh, George Walker, Michael Cosgrave,
Anthony Quinn (RIP), Geoffrey Davy, Art O Leary, Declan McCarthy, Enda McGrath.
Front Row: Patrick O Driscoll, Emmett Kirwan, Eamonn Wren, Paul Lynch, Ken O Toole, Garry Duff
But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and through thick and thin the club not only survived but prospered to become the big operation it is today with state-of-the-art all-weather playing facilities with clubhouses and changing rooms at both Broadford and Marlay that are in no danger of leaving the ground.
The vision, enthusiasm and hard graft of Maurice O’Connell, Mick Wren and Tom Cosgrave truly laid some serious foundations.
The Club is grateful to all members who helped establish the Club, Maurice Mick and Tom, the first Officers of the Club, and those involved prior to its formal registration on 19th July 1982. All are considered founding members of Ballinteer St Johns as all had an important part to play in the initial establishment and development of the Club.
Maurice, Mick and Tom were also keen to acknowledge the early mentors:
Under-10a Football – Paddy O’Rourke, Brian Goggins, Frank Maguire
Under-10b Football – Mick Wren, Tony Quinn, George Walker
Under-11 Football – Tom Cosgrave, Eamonn Coleman, Edan Cosgrave
Under-12 Football – John Kelly, Maurice O’Connell, Gerry McEvoy
Under-10a Hurling – Tony Quinn, Eamonn Hayes, Tom Mahony
Under-10b Hurling – Paddy Lawlor RIP, Ollie Quinlan RIP
Under-12 Hurling – Chris Grace, Pat Morris, Tom Kennedy RIP, Eamonn Mannion, Eamonn Lawlor, Henry Darcy RIP
Reaching the Promised Land
By Pat Smith
Sunday the 21st February 1999 will forever remain a red letter day for Ballinteer St. Johns. The prize at stake was not alone winning the Intermediate Championship for the first time in the Club’s brief history but equally important graduating to Senior Football status in Dublin. Having been unfortunate to have lost out to our final opponents in the previous year’s Semi-Final thriller in Parnell Park no stone was left unturned in our efforts not to come up short again . While the Club had enjoyed success at adult level since its foundation in 1982 this was far and away the most important occasion in the Club’s history at that point.
In the first round game of that year’s championship St. Johns had 2 points to spare over St. Brigids in Bohernabreena. This match was in the balance right up to the final moments and indeed Brigids were one of the strong favourites to win the championship that year. A relatively straight forward victory followed in the next round over Robert Emmets at O’Toole Park. The quarter final saw Johns emerge with a 4 point victory over St. Annes again in 0’Toole Park. The semi-final against Craobh Ciaran in O’Toole Park was a really close affair which saw Johns emerge victorious with the minimum to spare. The conditions were deplorable coming towards the end of that game and with backs literally to the wall and with unbelievable support from our supporters we held out for victory despite wave after wave of attacks from Craobh Ciaran as the clock counted down to the final whistle.
Preparations for the final were totally disrupted by events at the other Semi-Final between Naomh Fionnbarra and Kilmacud Crokes. Instead of looking forward to the final taking place in Sept/Oct of ‘98 , appeal and counter appeal followed from Fionnbarra and Crokes after their semi-final had to be abandoned by the referee following a pitch invasion by supporters. Eventually the game took place in early spring ’99 with Fionnbarra progressing to the final.
Great credit is due to the Johns players involved who had to patiently wait for the outcome of this semi-final while continuing to train in deplorable weather conditions right through the Christmas period. It must be remembered that at that stage the Club had limited training facilities. Out of a panel of 30 players a total of 21 players had participated in the championship up to and including the semi-final and competition for final places was intense.
The day itself was very cold and blustery and there were frequent downpours of sleet on our way to Parnell Park. While concentrating on the task in hand we were aware that despite the weather conditions almost 800 extremely loyal supporters were making their way from Ballinteer by specially organised buses. The week before the game had been incredible in the local area (The Parish) with the only topic of conversation being the fitness of the players and the final shape of the team for the big day. It has always been recognised in knowledgeable football circles that the Dublin Intermediate Football Championship is one of the most genuinely competitive club competitions in the country. The pre-match tension and speeches in the dressing-room before taking the field were incredible. People still talk of the inspirational speech by a nineteen year old James Oliver on that occasion. Pre-match nerves were definitely calmed by the huge wave of warm support from supporters which greeted the team onto the pitch.
St. Johns won the toss and maybe in hindsight this proved to be a very lucky omen for the team. Heroes emerged in every position on the park for Johns and it would be very difficult to match the display produced over the hour in terms of honesty, commitment and raw courage. Owing to weather conditions the football played was tough and intense and Parnell Park on that wintry February afternoon was certainly no place for the fainthearted. At half time having played with the strong breeze the scoreboard read St. Johns 2-5 to 1-0 for Naomh Fionnbarra, their goal coming from a penalty. Halftime in the dressing room was a time to draw breath from a pulsating first half display. Tactical switches were made to cope with the inevitable onslaught by Fionnbarra who were now going to be assisted by a near gale force wind which was strengthening by the minute. Coming towards the end of the game Fionnbarra literally threw the kitchen sink at Johns who showed fantastic resolve and refused to buckle under intense pressure. Some late points on the counter attack sealed the game for Johns, whose fans at that stage had gone totally wild with excitement.
When the final whistle came, with Johns ahead,2- 9 to 1-7,it was joy unconfined for the team, substitutes, management/coaching team led brilliantly as always by Kieran Brennan, Club Officials, those magnificent supporters present who braved the elements and for all those supporters both at home and abroad who were keeping in constant contact by mobile phone. When we look back now at the special video produced for the game the joyful scenes of supporters running onto the field at the end of the game to congratulate the players is especially heartwarming.
(Stay tuned for more video clips in future issues)
The core of this particular team were to go on to achieve great success at senior level for the club. Winning the Senior 2 League Title in 2002 was followed in 2003 by the Seniors reaching the Senior Championship Semi – Final , after a brilliant run of victories, only to lose out narrowly to Kilmacud Crokes. Coman Goggins and Johnny McNally went on to achieve great success at Senior Intercounty level with Dublin and what a proud day it was for the Club in 2002 on Leinster Final day with Coman captaining and Johnny contributing magnificently to Dublin’s first Leinster success in seven years. Many more honours followed including Coman’s All Star, and Blue Star and Intercounty representative honours for other members of that very talented group of footballers who lined out in that memorable final in ‘99.
It is also widely acknowledged that that success gave a tremendous impetus to the Club’s fundraising campaign for the major Clubhouse Development Project at the time. As we enjoy ourselves now in our beautiful clubhouse let us never forget the exploits of that February afternoon which will always hold a special place in the hearts of all those involved.
Ed: We will be including lots more photos and clips in future issues so stayed tuned.
Setting the Scene:1982
Author: Sean Mac Connell
THERE IS a great deal of truth in the saying that “you cannot go forward unless you look back to where you came from”. This is particularly true of not just life but of the history of this club.
Researching these articles, I was struck by the similarities between the conditions we are experiencing today in 2012 and thirty years ago when the founding fathers of St John’s Ballinteer, sat down and decided to set up the club.
1982 was a terrible year no matter how you look marked by a major snowstorm which caused widespread disruption and later flooding, across the nation which was then, as now, deeply in debt.
Inflation in the economy was running at just over 17 per cent and people were struggling hard to pay their mortgages which were costing over 12 per cent. The development of the area had been stalled.
It was just a few weeks after the foundation of St Johns that thousands of PAYE workers took to the streets to protest at tax and PRSI charges, a protest aimed at reducing the burden on them.
The cynical among you may feel the founding fathers wanted a cut of the election action which was going on at the time. The Fine Gael/Labour coalition had lost power in Feburary 1982 to Charles J Haughey.
By November that year we were back again at the polls when another coalition between Fine Gael and Labour led by the young Dick Spring, was back in power again.
In January, Charlie Mc Creevey, the former Finance Minister and later EU Commissioner, had been expelled from Fianna Fail for criticising CJ Haughey who won a vote of his parliamentary party when Mr Mc Creevy put forward a vote of no confidence in his leadership.
Here and in Britain the Troubles continued with two major explosions which still remain in public memory. In July, 10 British servicemen were killed by an IRA bomb in the Hyde and Regent’s Parks in London.
In Ballykelly, Co Derry, an INLA bombing of the Droppin Well pub led to the deaths of 17 people and the tit-for-tat killings continued at apace all over the North.
The International news headlines were being dominated by the Falklands War and just a week before the club was founded, the Government affirmed its neutral stance in the conflict and opposed EU economic sanctions against Argentinia.
One of the country’s greatest scandals emerged in August of 1982 when the double murderer, Malcolm Mc Arthur was arrested in the Dalkey home of the Irish Attorney General, Patrick Connolly, who was forced to resign from his post.
Mc Arthur, who was later convicted of the murder of a nurse, Bride Gargan in the Phoenix Park and of a Tullamore farmer, Seamus Dunne, who was murdered when he was lured into selling his shotgun to Mc Arthur, is still serving out his sentence.
However, there were some positive signs on the horizon signalling better times ahead. In April, work began on building the Cork/Dublin natural gas pipeline which had nothing at all to do with the official opening of our first crematorium, in Glasnevin, in March.
In December, probably because Ireland was sick of elections, Paddy Hillary was re-appointed President of Ireland for a second term.
In Gaelic sports there were some similarities between now and then too. Kerry which had dominated and broken the hearts of the other 31 counties for the previous four years, came a cropper to a superb Offaly side which denied the Kingdom five in a row.
The Kerry defeat and the Kilkenny win in the All Ireland Hurling final strengthen the links between the two years. Hurlers and footballers across the country in the month of September mourned the death of Mick Mackey, the famous Limerick Hurler who was the first recipient of the GAA’s All Star Awards in Hurling.
All in all it was a very mixed year for Irish people but for the people of this area it saw the foundation of a Club which now sits at the very heart of the community and is a shining light in sporting, cultural and the community life.