2010 will go down in the annals as the most memorable year in the history of Ballintubber GAA Club. While writing the secretary’s report for the club’s recent Annual General Meeting, I remarked how even the finest of scriptwriters from Coronation Street or Eastenders would not have come up with the events that shaped our year.
The club celebrated its centenary by playing the All-Ireland club champions, St Gall’s of Antrim. That weekend in May also saw GAA President Christy Cooney visit the club as we opened our newly developed resource centre facility at Ballintubber.
We also got a chance on that enjoyable weekend to pay tribute to the surviving members of the teams from the 1950s and 1960s who brought glory to the club by winning many titles. Greats like Paddy Prendergast were there to meet the current crop of players who had reached the last eight in the senior championship for the last two seasons. Hopes were high that 2010 would be another stepping stone on the way to cementing our place in the upper echelons of Mayo senior football.
The group stages gave the boys belief that we were most definitely in the mix. A draw with favourites Crossmolina and victories over Claremorris and Garrymore meant we topped Group A. Ballintubber still had to beat one of the ‘big guns’ in the white heat of championship football, but that changed in the quarter-final against Ballina. It wasn’t pretty, but it was victory, by the narrowest of margins.
We were now in bonus territory. This group of players had gone as far as any other in the 100-year history of the club. The fear was gone, and that new found freedom manifested itself in the first half of the semi-final against Shrule/Glencorrib, when we played our best football of the year. The second half saw that fear of losing return, but the lead was big enough to withstand Shrule’s comeback.
The other semi-final had seen Knockmore (the only team to have beaten us in league or championship for two full seasons) pit themselves against our near neighbours Castlebar Mitchels. Mitchels’ narrow victory gave us the perfect fillip ahead of the Shrule tussle.
The final three months of 2010 brought a surreal mix of triumph and tragedy to everyone involved with the Mitchels and the ’Tubber. The tragic death of Ger Feeney just days before the final put footballing matters into perspective for everyone. Ger was the proudest man in McHale Park the day his native club and the club of his married life both booked their places in the final.
The teams captained by his son and his nephew would be going toe-to-toe for the title.
Ger’s death turned county final day into a celebration of his life. He is considered by many to be the best player to have ever worn the red of Ballintubber. In the end it was fitting that in the year of his passing, the Moclair Cup made its way out the Ballinrobe Road to rest in Ballintubber for the first time ever.
It most certainly was a year to remember for the Boys from the Tubber, who must now soldier on without the mastermind of their success, James Horan, who has taken over as Mayo manager. We look forward to 2011, a year we hope will be as successful, but hopefully less traumatic.