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Club History

Life Story of Garrymore GAA Club

The origins of the club

The first ever gaelic football match that can be recalled is a game between Lissatava and Garrymore (Known then however as Ballyglass) in the year 1918 in Killeenrevagh, Co Mayo. Matches were played in local farm fields, mostly in the heath. Other clubs that completed against Ballyglass at the time were Hollymount, Claremorris, Milltown and Kilcreevanty. The first set of jerseys were purchased in Claremorris by Paddy Coyne and were black in colour with a yellow hoop. A tournament used to be played in the Heath with money, rather than trophies, being the prize. Two long sticks were used as goal posts, which could be easily transported to which ever field it was they would play in. However, then the ‘Troubles’ broke out in the late ‘teens and early 1920’s the team was disbanded temporarily and when it was re-organised a number of years later, younger and more stylist players came into the scene.

When ‘Ballyglass’ became ‘Garrymore’

When people of today recall those early days in the history of out club, one name gets priority over all. And that is the name of the late Tom Murphy, father of the currenty club referee Tommy Murphy. He was a member of the Ballyglass team in the twenties and early thierties. The reason for changing the name to Garrymore was to make it possible to play all the roundfort parish players and it was tom and his namesake, Paddy Murphy, who came up with the name Garrymore. Tom was Garrymore’s first chairman, elected in1936, and remained as chairman for almost twenty years until 1954 when Jim Mannion of Frenchgrove took over. In their first year of affiliation, 1937, Garrymore had a good panel of players with the likes of Bertie Dolan of Pulbawn, Aloysius Heaney, Martin Lawless, Willie Varley, Paddy Murphy and Pete Coyne to name just some. Tom also served as selector and delegate to the south board. He used to always get a the field ready for matches. Marking the pitch with a bucket of lime and a white-wash brush were part of his gear. He was a good debater, honest and truthful. Tom without a doubt smiles today with pride on the success of the club he worked so hard to establish.

Early days of Garrymore GAA Club

Being a rural club in the southern tip of the county, where there was no employment, causing a young players to emigrate or move into towns or cities where the jobs were. The rule at the time was one had to play for the club where you resided, thus posing many problems for the mentors. But the spirit of Garrymore, being what it was, they overcame it and loyalty to the club has never been a problem. And when the rules were changed to allow players to declare for their home club, Garrymore men from all over the country availed of it and the pride of wearing the red and white of Garrymore resulted in the club today, being able to hold its own with the best in the country.

The magnificent Seven

However, training was a problem too, as only a few people allowed the club footballers to train and play football on their land. In 1941, seven of the Garrymore players spent Christmas in jail in Sligo. This all occurred when a rough corner of a field on a large farm the lads used to play their football on, changed ownership. After a number of warnings to stop playing football un this newly owned field were not adhered too, the youths found themselves in court. After failing to pay a set fine, ordered by the judge, they were brought away by Gardai from their homes, and spent five nights in Sligo prison before been released. Brave men to say the least.

First success at county level

Garrymore were winning a number of south titles in the 1940’s but a county title remained a long way off. In the early 1950’s, however, a new dawn was beginning to break. Underage football was introduced in Garrymore in the mid-fifties, when team was entered under the name Carras. Names like Bertie and jimmy McHugh, Joe Corcoran, Sean Tierney and the great Jarlath Tierney came on the stage and gave new hope. As it happened they brought the first county title to the club in 1956, an achievement that was honoured in late 2006 in the clubhouse on its 50th anniversary. The club repeated this marvellous achievement again just three years later in 1959 with new players coming on the scene such as Paul Heaney and the one and only Mr Ollie Killeen. All these were honoured in 2009.

Major break through

All these players progressed to the senior panel and the year 1961 will always be remembered as the “golden year” when Garrymore captured its first ever county junior title, defeating Crossmolina 3-7 to 1-8 in McHale Park. The captain on that day was none other than Paul Heaney. A massive “hoodoo” had been broken and history had been made. Garrymore, after years of fruitless effort, won their first-ever county junior title. The journey home that evening was unforgettable by all those who were present on that day. Garrymore went straight to compete at senior football for 1962 as their was no intermediate at the time. But on 1965 saw the intermediate championship introduced and Garrymore were regarded to intermediate where the experience they had gained at senior ranks stood to them. By the late “60” new talented faces started coming onto the team and Garrymore captured their first county intermediate title in 1969 defeating Ballintubber 1-6 to 0-8. The captain on the day was Brian Healy with Bertie Mchugh as team manager. Garrymore would be back in the senior grade once again for the start of the 1970’s and to this very day have competed at the top grade ever since. Thus, that victory over Ballintubber in 1969 was the launching pad for the glorious ‘seventies which the club experienced.

A New Home

Garrymore and its exact location always raised puzzling questions amongst people all over the county and country. Garrymore had no church, a Sergent, nor indeed a public house as a landmark. Then in the early 1970’s the first step was taken to provide a base for the club when six acres of land were purchased from the Land Commission. Home matches then moved to where the excellent clubhouse exists today. Due to the lack of money it was decided that work on the building would have to be done on a voluntary basis by club members and people of Garrymore. The first step began in January 1976 and the project launched. The building was completed by October 1980 and a new era had started in Garrymore with the club taking on new dimensions. During 1983 the pitch was fenced off, dug-outs and Press Box was built. Over the past 25years major further improvements have taking place to bring it up to the high standards it is today. Great credit is due to all the people who have put in so many public hours in developing the pitch area.

Thirteen Years of Glory

There need not much to be said about these years as many wil know already almost all they needed to know. Years that Garrymore GAA Club will probably never have the thrills of reliving through again, or at least to that caoacity. Six county titles came to the south Mayo club in these glorious days. Garrymore had won a south minor “A” title in the early seventies and this bleed the youth with the experienced which combined superbly throughout. The first of thse six came in 1974, defearing Aghamore and were quickly followed in ’75 and 76’. Garrymore still remain to this very day the last team to capture three-in- row county senior titles. The late TJ Farragher, former teacher in St Colmans college, Claremorris was the first Garrymore man to lift the moclaire Cup. The team had played outstanding football a man. Again the Fr Newell influence cannot be overstated in planning this fine display in the final indeed, timing of the preparation of the team to perfection. Celebrations were rife in  Garrymore for the next month, the team did a tour around various villages and centres in the area for a week with the cup. The club had its annual dinner dance in the welcome INN Hotel Castlebar over the following Christmas period and attracted over 400 people. They say nothing beats your first title but success of 1974 was only the beginning of an era that will probably never equalled again. The names like Mattie Joe Connollly, TJ Farragher, Danny Dolan, Billy Fitzpatrick, Vincent Nally, Ger Farragher were just some of the true hero’s at this time. Later came three further county senior titles in 1979.1981,1982. Younger players like Padraic Flannery, Johnny Monaghan, John Nally, Pat Dixon, Dominic Conway, Tom Walsh, Joe Mellette and Louis Dolan were making the break through and blended superbly with the experienced heads.

All-Ireland Final

There was no day out in Croke Park, but to reach an All Ireland final in 1982 was a great achievement, but for a team of Garrymore’s size, such as population and the fact that they are a rural club, made it all the more remarkable. The major victory was achieved in reaching the final and tremendous performance of the team against Ballinderry at Bellaghy in the ALL Ireland semi final. Even though Garrymore were well beaten by Nemo Rangers, who had in the region of a few thousand people to pick from compared to Garrymore’s few hundred, it was simply tremendous to get that far. So as we look back on the thirteen glorious years that went by, the older people of Garrymore have been privileged to have lived through the period. Winning six county titles at senior level, one Connacht club senior title, played in nine county finals and one All Ireland senior final in 1982 tells alone the outstanding achievements. When the history of Garrymore is put in context within mayo football folklore, the name Garrymore will reserve a special place as one of the great clubs of the GAA in Ireland.