Ardglass GAC – Fifty Years Old  A Review of an historic first Season; 1971

Ardglass GAC – Fifty Years Old

  • A Review of an historic first Season; 1971

(This Article 1st appeared in Harvest of History from Dunsford and Ardglass 2021, Edited by Micheal Howland) 1st Match Report

Since the formation of the Gaelic Athletic Association in 1884 there have been several GAC clubs established in the Area, mostly based in the Dunsford end of the parish, however towards the end of 1960s and linked to the groundbreaking All Ireland successes of the Down team there was a concerted push to establish a team in Ardglass. 

Following consultation with the Down GAA board a public meeting was held in St Mary’s Hall on Sunday 16th August 1970 to gauge support for a new club. The minutes of the meeting show a healthy support of 51 people and saw the election of a committee to oversee the  formation of a new club 

Elected Committee 

Chairman: Thomas Cunnigham

Vice Chairman: Joseph Smyth 

Secretary: Patrick Irvine 

Assistant Secretary: Gerard Feenan

Treasurer: Gerard Rooney 

Additional Committee – Dermot Beattie, Emmett Lennon, Frank Murray, Declan Norris, John Rooney, Oliver Rooney, James Starkey, Dermot Curran, John Fitzsimmons.

Several further meetings were held within the club and with Down GAA County Board, regards playing membership, playing fields, schoolboy leagues and fundraising. At a meeting held in St Mary’s Hall on Friday November 20th the Secretary Pat Irvine read out a letter confirming Ardglass GACs Affiliation to the Gaelic Athletic Association. The Secretary also confirmed that Ardglass GAC were entered into the 1970/71 East Down League Cup which was an annual pre-season competition played over the winter months, and that there first game was to be played on Sunday 22nd November away to  Drumaroad GAC.

The Committee hastily arranged player registrations and transport to Drumaroad for players and supporters alike. A match report from the following week’s Down Recorder gave a score of Drumaroad 0-8 Ardglass 3-6 with Colm ‘Ted’ Feenan making history as the clubs first point scorer, quickly followed into the history books by Edmund Smyth with a brace of goals. A lively start to Ardglass as they looked to establish themselves in 1971. 

In their first full season Ardglass secured their first pieces of silverware, they won the East Down Junior League at their first attempt, dropping only two points throughout the season in two drawn games, they also secured their first tournament win with a victory in the Maguire Cup over a visiting Cookstown team. After a fine win over Portaferry in the Junior Championship they eventually fell to an experienced Glenn team in the quarter finals 

Throughout the 1971 season the Down Recorder reported on several matches and the following scores were recorded 

Annsborough 1-6 Ardglass 2-7 

Ardglass 0-9 Drumaroad 0-6 

Ardglass 4-11 Bangor 1-1 

Ballyhackamore 2-6 Ardglass 4-6 

Ardglass 6-6 Killyleagh 0-2 

Loughinisland 1-9 Ardglass 3-7

Unfortunately, the Match reports do not record full team sheets however reading the match reports the following players seemed most prominent throughout the season, P McEvoy (Team Captain) G Feenan, M Prior, Mark and Marcus Smyth, R Ross, C Milligan, J McGrath, G Lennon, P McCargo and minor player P Mulhall.

 At Juvenile level Ardglass combined with near neighbors Bright GAC in 1971 to compete in the East Down Minor League, the Down Recorder reported on several matches against Darragh Cross, Kilclief/Saul and Bangor, with the most prominent players being E McVickers, P Mulhall, G Ross, M Digney and F Kearney. On the Schoolboy front Ardglass organized a successful primary school tournament to give Ardglass a strong foundation for the next half century. 

At the end of the 1971 season, the club’s first dinner dance was held in Rea’s Hotel Downpatrick where the team were awarded their medals by East Down Chairman Harry McEvoy before being entertained by Greenham Folk.

The first full season was brought to a close on 12th December 1971 with the club’s first AGM again in St Mary’s Hall, the various reports recorded a successful year, and a healthy bank balance was presented to the gathered membership. The election of officers saw several changes from the initial meeting in 1970 and the following were elected 

Elected Committee, 

Chairman: Thomas Cunningham

Vice Chairman: Peter McEvoy

Secretary: Patrick Irvine 

Assistant Secretary: Leo Cunningham

Treasurer: Gerard Rooney 

Assistant Treasurer: Pat Magee

Team Captain – Tony O’Shea

Vice-Captain – Peter McEvoy 

Joint Team Managers – John Fitzsimmons, Oliver Rooney, Emmett Lennon

Additional Committee – Dermot Beattie, Joe McGrath, Frank Murray, Paul Bignell, James Starkey, David Molloy, John McGrath 

The foundations for a strong Gaelic Athletic Club were laid in the 1971 season and as the current members celebrate half a century of the club in 2021, they are all eternally grateful for those founding members who had the foresight to establish a club in the parish.

  • Thanks to Noel Teggart (Secretary 1975/76) for providing original minute books from 1971-76.
  • Thanks to Briege and the staff at Downpatrick library for the assistance in searching the Down Recorder Archive. 

Is Mise

Paul O’Shea

By treasurerardglass Tue 22nd Nov