|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2008)|
|Baile Uí Laighneáin|
|Club colours:||Green and Gold|
Ballylinan Gaelic Athletic Association Club has been a central part of village life since it was founded in 1926. The club is a senior club which provides gaelic football to all age groups from under six to adult. The club also competes in the Laois Junior Hurling Championship.
From U12 to U21 the club play with the Parish team Ballylinan/Glenmore
The Club Grounds are located at Aughanure, Ballylinan.
A History of Ballylinan GAA Club 1926 to 2009
Local tradition states that long before Ballylinan GAA Club was founded in 1926 and even before the association itself was founded on that historic day, 1 November 1884, the men of Ballylinan Village and surrounding area were involved in playing football games. Early games were played at Rahin which was part of the Estate of Sir Anthony Weldon on a pitch that was extensively used for cricket, but the local lads made good use of this field for games of football. The local men played with various teams in the locality in the early years of the association, Ballylinan men John Wynne, Din Carter Snr, Ned Vaughan and Marks Condron were involved with the Wolfhill team that claimed Laois Senior honours in 1896. It is recalled that Jimmy Wynne of Ballylinan used to walk to Graiguecullen three times a week to train with the Carlow border club. There was a Club at Drimroe, a townland a mile from the Village, which played in the Laois Championship and it was here that the Wynnes, Luke and John, The Hylands, The Caseys, Din Carter and Pat McDonald also plied their trade. John and Harry Hyland also played with Barrowhouse and helped them qualify for a junior final in which they were beaten by a Kellyville team which featured Mick McHugh.
Then came 1926 and the Ballylinan lads who were largely unorganised football enthusiasts came together, formed Ballylinan GAA Club and affiliated a team in the championship. The first Chairman was James Moore, Jim Hurley was Secretary, Din Murphy his assistant and Martin Dunne the treasurer. On the committee were Sam McBrien, Ed Doyle, Noel Lacey, John and Harry Hyland and a youthful Din Carter.
In our first year in competition we over came Ballypickas in the Junior semi-final to qualify for a Final meeting with The Hollow. The Final was played in Portlaoise and The Hollow won the decider by a point. The team that lined out that day was as follows :- Joe Maher, Jack Hickey, James Moore, Mick McHugh, Paddy Carter, Willie Lacey, Mick Moore, Ned Kelly, Din Carter, John Ryan, Peter Smith, Harry Hyland, Sam McBrien, Denis Houlihan, John Hyland. Subs: Eddie Daly, Christy Holligan, Peter Cahill, Din Murphy, Noel Lacey.
Success was not instant for the newly formed club but loyalty and commitment to the cause certainly paid off and in 1933 we won our first county title when we defeated Portlaoise in the Junior Football Final on the scoreline of 3-05 to 1-02. The team that brought that first title back to the Village was:- Din Murphy, Harry Hyland, Paddy Carter, Paddy Condron, Josie Lawler, Jim Vaughan, Mick McHugh, Din Carter, Jack McHugh (Capt), John Ryan, Mick Carter, Hugh Lawler, Mick Delaney, Willie Fleming, John Hyland. Subs: Eddie Condron, Ned Wynne, James Daly.
The Clubs next success was again in the Junior Grade when in 1937 we traveled to Portlaoise and defeated a Ballyfin College laden Mountrath side on a score line of 2-05 to 2-02. Mountrath got the dream start in this final and seemed to be well on their way to victory when they led by 2-02 to 0-01 at half time. Ballylinan however were not willing to give up on this game too easily and put in a magnificent performance in the second half and kept Mountrath scoreless as they stormed to victory.
Seven years later in 1944 we achieved our first success in the Intermediate Grade when we defeated a much heralded Portarlington side in the final which was played in Miltown (about two miles from Ballylinan). Very few people gave the boys from the village much hope but win we did and it was Walter Hovenden who broke the ball down to Ned Wynne who was flying in and he scored the decisive goal in the final few minutes to clinch a great victory. The team that secured our Clubs first entry into the Senior ranks that day was:- Paddy Vaughan, Billy Farrell, Paddy Carter, Frank Moran, Jimmy Dunne, Tim Vaughan, Chirsty Vaughan, Paddy (Casey) Dempsey, Paddy Conlon, Bobby Nutty, Ned Wynne, Mick Carter, Jimmy Farrell, Walter Hovenden, Ned Nolan. Subs Tommy Quinn, Pat Julian, John Vaughan, John Brennan.
In the Senior Championship in 1946 we were pitted against the mighty Graiguecullen who were at the height of their power at the time having won the 1944 and 1945 championships. Ballylinan battled hard in this game which was played at Arles but finally went under by a single point. By a twist of fate the afore mentioned Mick McHugh was the referee for this game. The rule for the 14 yard free had just been introduced and there was some confusion from the start as to whether or not all 14 yard frees were to be taken from in front of the goal. Cuchie Haughney was fouled in the corner just as full-time was approaching with the sides level. The resultant free was then brought in to in front of the goals and Graiguecullen scored the winner. Some measure of compensation was achieved by the lads from the village when we won the prestigious Feis Cup by defeating Stradbally in the final in Portarlington.
Back in the Intermediated Grade again in 1948, we won our second championship in the grade by beating Timahoe in the final in O'Moore Park. Ballylinan led at half time by 0-05 to 0-01 and won the game 0-06 to 0-01. This final was refereed by Bill Delaney. Our next Championship win came in 1955 when we won our first Minor title by defeating Annanough in the final at O'Moore Park by 2-05 to 2-02. This great win compensated for our defeat in the 1954 final at the hands of Portlaoise. This Minor victory was followed by two of the most successful years in the clubs history. In 1956 Ballylinan qualified for the Junior Championship final in which we were opposed by St. Fintans (Colt). After a thrilling game Ballylinan emerged victors on the scoreline of 1-05 to 0-07.
It was then on to the Intermediate Championship of 1957 and we reached the final at our first attempt where we came up against Barrowhouse who had been defeated by Portlaoise in the 1956 final. The match which was played at O'Moore Park found Ballylinan in arrears by 2-02 to 1-01 at the interval but an excellent second half saw us run out winners on a scoreline of 2-09 to 2-04.
The Clubs next success was back in the Intermediated Final again in 1961 when after a great display we defeated Kilcavan by 2-12 to 1-02. This game was a personal triumph for Tom Hannon who played at right half forward and scored all but 5 points of Ballylinans total. This win gave us our fourth victory in the Intermediate championship. 1961 also saw us reach the Junior Championship final where we were defeated by Crettyard who were winning their first ever Laois Championship, the score in the game was 2-07 to 2-03.
No further success followed in the sixties but the seventies opened on a bright note for us with victory in the 1971 Junior Championship after what became known as the Marathon final. It took four games to see off the challenge of Kilcavan, the final score in the fourth game being Ballylinan 2-11, Kilcavan 1-05. This proved to be the start of another very successful period for the club as in 1972 we again reached the minor final but were beaten by a fine Portlaoise team by two points, 1-06 to 0-07. Even more success was to follow in 1973 when we again qualified for the Intermediate Final in which we went on to defeat Mountmellick by 4-09 to 0-08 at O'Moore Park. This again promoted the club to the Senior Grade where we have remained ever since.
The highlight of our Clubs achievements in the eighties was reaching the County Senior Final in 1987. Having played some great football throughout the championship we faced Portlaoise in the final. Success was not to be our lot on the day against a team who then went on to win the Leinster Club Championship.
The nineties began with the opening of our redeveloped grounds at Aughanure on the 5th May 1991. The redeveloped consisted of levelling and lengthening the existing playing field as well as providing an extra playing/training field. A lot of credit must go to the Committee of the day for undertaking such a venture and successfully completing it. When our Club was formed in 1926 we played in a field at Sheffield and we later moved to Cranny’s field in the village where we hosted a number of big games including a Laois SFC Semi-Final. We then moved back to Rahin and from there to our present abode in Aughanure. In late 2008 we began the second phase of our redevelopment when we began construction on our new dressing room facility. This new facility which is nearing completion, contains four adult dressing rooms, two juvenile dressing rooms, a referees dressing room, office, club shop, meeting room and large hall/gym.
The nineties also saw Ballylinan GAA Club affiliating a Hurling team for the first time in our history. With long serving clubman Mattie Leonard at the helm of this new venture we needed a year or two to find our feet and in 1996 we contest our first Junior ‘C’ Final when we were defeated by St Fintans, Colt. We were back in Finals in 1998 and 1999 where we suffered defeats to Trumera and Ballyfin respectively. However in 2000 all Mattie’s hard work and perseverance paid off and Ballylinan, captained by JJ Brennan won our first Hurling title when we overcame Park Ratheniska in the Final in Stradbally. We also contested a county final in 2006 when a very strong Camross side defeated us in a game played in Ratheniska.
In the Junior ‘B’ grade we contested two County Finals in the nineties, in 1990 and 1996. We were defeated in both finals by Arles and St Fintans, Mountrath respectively. In 2007 we again qualified for the championship decider where we met an O’Dempseys team who had been defeated in the previous years final. The final which was played at Timahoe finished all square but Ballylinan won the replay on the score line of 1-09 to 0-08. The team was David Dobbyn; Adrian Casey, Niall Walsh, Mark Kelly; Eric Kenna, James Loughman, Alan Kehoe; Brendan Kealy (0-1), Ollie Walsh; Jimmy Rowan (0-1, 1f), Gary Walsh, John Sourke; Willie Murphy (0-6, 3f), Walter Hovenden (1-0), Laurence Kealy. Subs: Mickey Kelly for Kelly (33mins), Billy Ryan for L Kealy (45mins), Jamie Farrell (0-1) for Rowan (50mins), Gerry Mulhall for Sourke (51mins), John Sourke for Mickey Kelly (54mins).
Under the name St Michaels, Ballylinan GAA Club along with our neighbours Arles had considerable success in underage football down through the years and were the team to beat in most grades. With St Michaels we have won championships in Under 12, Under 14, Under 16 and Minor. In 1995 as Ballylinan/Arles we won an under/21 championship when we defeated Portlaoise in the final. In 1996 when Laois were winning our first All-Ireland title at Minor level, we won the County Minor Championship when we defeated a Portlaoise side with seven of the All-Ireland winning panel. Minor success was again achieved in 2004 when we claimed the title as Ballylinan/Gleannmór after defeating Stradbally Gaels in the final played at Ratheniska. At present we are providing coaching and games to children at all grades from Under/6 to Under/16 and to young adults at Minor and Under/21 level. We are indebted to our large team of juvenile coaches who work so hard in coaching our underage teams.
Down through the years Ballylinan have provided many great players to Laois county teams. When Laois won their first Leinster Minor Championship in 1932 Ballylinan’s Eddie Roche was a member of the successful side. Without doubt our most well known footballer is Fintan Walsh. He played for many years on the Laois Senior Football team in the forwards and was widely regarded as one of the outstanding players in Ireland of the 1950s and early 1960s. He was an outstanding colleges player winning Hogan Cup medals with Knockbeg College in 1954 and 1955. In 1956, Fintan won championship medals in two different counties. He assisted his home club Ballylinan to victory in the Laois Junior Football Championship while also helping Erins Hope win the Dublin Senior Football Championship. He also played for his province Leinster winning Railway Cup medals in 1959 and 1961. In 1999, as a testament to the true Laois Legend he is, he was selected at left half forward on the Laois Football Team of the Millennium, an honour all involved in Ballylinan GAA Club are very proud of.
In 1964 Laois were the winners of the first Leinster Under 21 Championship and were helped to do so by John Meenan of Ballylinan. Laois again secured Leinster Minor titles in 1966, ’67 and ’68 and Ballylinan were represented on these teams by Brendan McCarthy in 1966 and Enda Condron in 1967. In 1968 Laois won the Leinster Junior Championship and Ballylinan were represented on this panel by Mattie Leonard and Brendan Bryne. The next Laois win was at Senior level in the O’Bryne Cup in 1978 and 1991 and Ballylinan were represented by James Hovenden and Eamon Lacey respectively. Eamon Lacey was again involved when Laois won the All-Ireland Senior ‘B’ Championship in 1993. Ballylinan’s Donie Flanagan was a member of the Laois Under/21 Panel which won the Leinster Championship in 1994.
One of the proudest days for the Ballylinan Club was when Kieran Kelly captained the Laois Minors to their second All-Ireland Minor Football Championship title in 1997. Kieran was joined on this winning side by fellow Ballylinan players Mark Hovenden and Padraig Leonard. The following year Kieran and Padraig were again to the fore as Laois claimed a third Leinster Minor Championship in succession and were narrowly defeated in the All-Ireland Final by Tyrone. The club was again celebrating in 2003 when Laois were crowned Leinster Senior Football Championship winners and All-Ireland Minor Champions in 2003 when Ballylinan’s Kieran Kelly was a member of the Senior Panel and Niall Walsh was a member of the successful Minor panel. Again in 2005 Ballylinan provided the Laois Minor Captain on a successful team as Richie Ryan lifted the Leinster Cup as Laois over came Dublin. Richie when become the vice-captain of the Irish Under/17 team that toured Australia later that year. Another Leinster Minor medal made its way to the Village in 2007 when Ciaran Farrell was a member of yet another successful Laois Minor team.