Park Development, Kiltimagh in Co. Mayo

The history of park development in Kiltimagh has been an eventful one, spanning almost 100 years. Through the early years trojan efforts to transform, what was once a cut-away bog to the playing field we know today were largely met by failure due to the level of the Pollagh River which frequently burst it's banks and made the football field unplayable.

The name of one man will forever be associated with the initial work done on park development in the early years of the century. Anxious to provide playing facilities for the young men of the parish, the dynamic parish priest, Fr Denis O'Hara, acquired the present park and through organised voluntary labour laid the foundations, which future generations were to improve and enjoy.

The Town Park as it was always called, was handed over to the Towns Improvement Committee as trustees for the parish. During this period two major developments were carried out, again by the voluntary labour of the men of the parish. A grandstand was erected and a cinder track was laid.

Although records for the period are non-existent and memories are now hazy, it is believed that Fr Denis was the driving force behind these efforts.

On June 29, St Peter and Paul Day, a sports day was held in the park and athletes from all over the country competed in cycling and track and field events. This was a regular feature fifty or more years ago.

The next major development was undertaken by the Kiltimagh Young Men's Society (KYMS) in the early 1940's. Drains were laid to try and relieve the problem of flooding which rendered the playing field unplayable in all but the very driest summers.

The cinder track, which had become overgrown, was cleared and fresh supplies of cinders from the sugar factory in Tuam were laid to provide the athletic facilities.

Fencing off the playing area, the provision of some seating and the effort in drainage resulted in Kiltimagh being awarded the 1943 Connacht semi-final between Mayo and Galway - a mixed blessing as it turned out. Torrential rain for days beforehand made conditions virtually impossible.

This downpour with its dire consequences 'dampened' the enthusiasm of the KYMS and it was concluded, rather belatedly, that further development was foolish until the drainage of the Moy and its tributaries was undertaken. The Town Park reverted to rushes although summer games were still possible.

Faced with a degree of uncertainty about the long promised Moy Drainage Scheme, the GAA made several attempts to acquire alternative grounds. Morrin's field - known as the convent field, King's - on the Balla road, Feeley's, Owen Hallions - site of Mack's Bakery and Lavans were all possible sites for development but for various reasons the attempts to purchase these all fell through.

The start of work on the Moy Drainage Scheme in the early 1960's opened new horizons for the GAA club's development dreams.

Finally in January, 1967, at the AGM, priority was given to a playing field. In October 1967 the officers of the club informed the members that the Town's Improvement Committee had agreed to transfer title of the park to the GAA for the sum of £100.

Plans were quickly made to get drainage started and through the Peatland Experimental Station, Glenamoy the necessary expert guidance was readily available. The Glenamoy team had previously advised the Crossmolina club on their very successful drainage scheme.

The wisdom of seeking out the best advice available and adhering strictly to recommendations has yielded just reward. The continuing efforts of the club led to the erection of new fencing, embankments and in 1973 the addition of dressing rooms with shower facilities.

The official opening of The Joseph Gilmartin Memorial Park took place on Easter Sunday, April 18 1976 and was marked by a challenge game between Mayo and Sligo, which Mayo won.