Ballycastle GAA Club in Co. Mayo

Ballycastle, with its small population, is a place where the footballing tradition goes back to 1892. The early teams, had many challenge games against other parishes. Sometimes they travelled by boat, often not returning until the next day.

On May 1st, 1898, one such armada invaded Belderrig. Included in this team were: P. Gilroy (captain), P. Winters, N. Madden, G. Langan, P. Langan, G. McDonnell, M. Langan, T. Winters, P. Finnerty, F. Langan, T. Madden, P. O'Connor, M. O'Connor and M. McDonnell. (P. Langan was the father of the late Tom Langan of '50/'51 fame). The early team was known as the "98's". The club won the County Junior Championship.

In 1917, a team consisting of nine Ballycastle men and six Lacken men challenged, and defeated a county selection. The Ballycastle/Lacken team was: D. Barren, T. Kneafsey, M. Doherty, G. Corcoran. M. Doherty, A. McHugh, P. McLean, P. Kelly, B. Farrell, P. Robinson, P. Golden, M. McNulty, G. McNulty and F. Forde. The team included the legendary Pat Robinson. The County selectors noticed that the Ballycastle men were fit for selection and so A. McHugh, P. McLean, P. Robinson, F. Forde and others became regulars in the Mayo teams of the 1920's.

From 1918 to 1931 the Senior team competed in the Championship without much success. In 1931 they reached the final but were beaten by Crossmolina. In 1932, '33, '34 they contested the final and lost. In 1935 they decided to play in the Intermediate Championship and won the County title. Michael Winters assisted the Mayo minors in that year to win their first ever All-Ireland title.

During the '30s they contested no less than seven county senior finals, winning three - 1936, '37 & '39. During that time Ballina and Castlebar teams included such giants of football as Paddy Moclair, Gerald Courell, Henry Kenny and Josie Munnelly. The Ballycastle greats included: J. Winters, F. Doherty, M. McLean, J. Tighe, D. McNamara, M. Langan, M. Grier, T. Grier (captain), T. McNamara, P. Tighe, Michael Winters, Michael Golden, J. Browne, J. Munnelly, M. McDonnell, T. Golden, C. O'Callaghan, J. Grier and J. Tighe.

The '40s were a turning point for the club, World War II when interest in football temporarily lessened, and emigration, both took their toll on Ballycastle. In 1942 they reached the County Final. The County Board minutes record the Chairman, Fr. Hugh Curley 'regretting having to declare Castlebar 1942 Senior Champions as Ballycastle through a misunderstanding did not play the final' (September 16th 1942 Board Meeting).

The '50s were lean years, as were the '60s. However, Ballycastle still played and enjoyed their football and rejoiced when local lads managed to make the county team. Noel Golden fielded for the Mayo Minors in 1962. In that same year a Sigerson Cup medal winner, Kevin Moyles, played for the County Seniors. P. J. Golden played for Mayo Minors and played on the U-21 team that won the All-Ireland Final in 1967. Donal O'Grady excelled as a Mayo Minor in 1960 and later in 1962 with his adopted County Cavan he became famous for his tussels with the great Sean O'Neill of Down.

During the '60s, for a time, there were just not enough locals to make up a team, so Ballycastle players, at first, amalgamated with Lacken. Then, when Lacken formed their own club, they played with Bangor, helping them to contest four North Mayo finals and win the North Mayo title in 1968.

In 1970, at a meeting in the Girls National School, the club was reformed. Newly elected officers were: Chairman - John Walsh; Secretary - Michael Forde; Treasurer - Liam Heverin. Since then the club has made steady progress and narrowly lost the County Junior Final in 1981. Off the field, the club has tried to foster the best of Irish traditions, hosting and competing in Club na mBliana. They have won an A.I.B. Certificate of Merit Award. Club officials have held numerous positions on the North Mayo Board.

They dropped from Intermediate to Junior in 1984 and lost the Exclusive Junior Cup Final and Munnelly Cup Final, the Winter League semi-final and Championship semi-final. In 1984, they opened the Tom Langan Park and Dressing Rooms. Tom Grier, in whose honour the clubhouse is named, had the distinction of being captain of the Mayo Junior Team that won the All-Ireland in 1933 and bringing the first All-Ireland medal to Mayo. He also played at centre half-forward on the Mayo 1936 team. The new stand was opened in 1994.

John Madden was a member of the U-21 Team that reached the All-Ireland Final in 1995 and he and Michael Gardiner were members of the Mayo Senior panel that reached the All-Ireland Finals in 1996 and 1997 with John playing in the '96 game.

Colm Kenny also played for the Mayo Minors and Aodhan Tighe and Paul Tighe played for the Mayo U-16's.

In 1995 the Minor team won the County League Title - the first County Title since the 1930's - and in 1996 they won the North Mayo Title. Colin Dunne was manager of the team on both occasions.

In 1999, the Juniors, Minors and U-16's all won North Mayo Titles. In 2002 the team won the North Mayo title for the third time since the club was reformed, after a replay with Lacken. A young Ballycastle team were victorious in 2009 for the first time in Comórtas Peil na Gaeltachta and went on to represent Mayo at the All Ireland Finals in Rosmuc.

Ballycastle GAA club also has the proud record of the late great Tom Langan being selected on the Irish Independent/An Post Football Team of the Millennium as the greatest full-forward in the history of Gaelic football. One of the best-known personalities in Gaelic football, Tom Langan was also named at full-forward in the '84 Team of the Century.

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