History of Ballymartle GAA


Hurling, or, ‘goaling’ was played in the Ballymartle area from at least the early 19th Century. In 1821 a local magistrate called James Harnett wrote to the Chief Secretary’s Office in Dublin calling for goaling to be banned in the area as he believed that it was being used as an excuse by the lower classes to congregate and plot rebellion.

One of the earliest matches in living memory in which Ballymartle was involved took place in 1850. The late Maurice O’Donoghue, Riverstick recalled hearing regularly as a young lad of a famous match between Ballymartle and Ballinadee which took place on St. Patrick’s Day 1850 during which after a tremendous struggle Ballymartle were victorious.

As the GAA in Cork began to organise, by 1897 Ballymartle were taking part as a hurling club. At the GAA County Convention in March 1897, Ballymartle were represented by James Power and J. Coghlan. This convention was particularly stormy as claims were made that some club representatives who attended the meeting were not affiliated with the clubs that they claimed to represent. James Power of Ballymartle stated that if the representative carried a card signed by the secretary of the club then they were entitled to represent the club, even if they did not belong to it. The motion was put to a vote and the unaffiliated club representatives were allowed to remain.

In a hurling tournament hosted by Ballinhassig in April 1897, Ballymartle were among 30 teams which entered. The tournament begun in May and carried on through the summer. Ballymartle were drawn to play against St. Finbarrs. Unfortunately there is no record of how that game turned out.

In August 1897, Ballymartle played Aghada in Cork Park (later Pairc Ui Caoimh). Ballymartle played toward the Blackrock end in the first half, and play was rather tame to begin with, with the ball being kept in Ballymartle territory. They did make one good attack on the Aghada defence, but this was thwarted and Aghada followed up by scoring a point, followed very quickly by a goal. After a hard struggle, Ballymartle ended the first half with one point on the scoreboard. When play resumed in the second half, Aghada had the game all their own way. The final score was Aghada: 2-01, Ballymartle:0-1.

The team who lined out for Ballymartle on that day in August 1897 were:

M. Donoghue (Capt.); Wm Cronin (Vice Captain); T. Cronin; D. Cronin; E. Harrington; M. Harrington; J. Harrington; D. Drinan; J. Drinan; M. Kingston; D. Walsh; Wm. Walsh; Wm. Roche; J. Deasy; J. Forde; R. Kennefick; M. Barry.

In July 1898, Ballymartle played Blarney in the Cork County Championship at Cork Park. The game was described as skilful and well contested and held the attention of the spectators from start to finish. Ballymartle emerged victorious on a scoreline of 2-02 to 0-6. New additions to the Ballymartle team in 1898 included J. O’Neill; William McNamara, M. Walsh; W. Leahy; J. O’Reilly; M. McCarthy; M. Dennehy and B. Dempsey.

A match between Ballymartle’s 2nd team was played against Blarney’s 2nd team on the same day, where Blarney emerged the clear winners – winning 5-8 to 2-0.

Another match was played in the 1898 Championship that August, when Ballymartle played Carrigtwohill. Carrigtwohill were the stronger team in this game and the comment was made that only for the tenacity of the Ballymartle backs, the scoreline would have looked considerably worse than the 1-8 to 0-3 defeat which Ballymartle suffered.

In May 1899 Ballymartle got their hurling championship off to a great start with a strong victory over Castletownroche. For the first half, Ballymartle had things all their own way, and at half-time the score was 3-8 to 0-0. In the second half, Castletownroche showed more spirit, but their shooting was poor. The match ended 4-10 to 2-1.

1906 was a year of notable achievements when Ballymartle won the Senior League competition, by beating Passage West at a match played in Douglas, only to lose the gold medals on an objection. They were stripped of the victory when, at a meeting of the Cork County Board, Passage West complained that Ballymartle had fielded a player, Michael Barry, who was not entitled to play for Ballymartle, as he was a member of another club. Despite a proposal at the meeting that Michael Barry be called to account for himself at the next meeting, Passage West pressed ahead for a decision to be taken. The Board decided ultimately to award the match to Passage West.

The club reached the final of the 1906 hurling championship, in which they played against St. Finbarrs. The ‘Barrs were amongst the best clubs in Cork and Ballymartle were particularly impressive in the first half, the half ending with 2 points apiece. However, in the second half St. Finbarrs were by far the stronger team, holding Ballymartle scoreless. The game ended 1-08 to 0-2.

Despite Ballymartle’s success in 1906, the team seems to have become inactive from then up to 1918, with only occasional matches being played. Jer Deasy and Denis Barry of Ballymartle lined out with Blackrock during this period. In 1912, Ballymartle were listed as a ‘Middle’ skilled team.

Team listing for Ballymartle in County Championship Final 1906. (Southern Star)

In 1918 a new team was started, with the Cronins of Coolcorran being mainly responsible for putting this team together. Their jerseys were green, white and gold and were made by an Aunt of Bob Regan, Fartha. Tom, John, Arthur and Connie Cronin all played on this team. Other players included were Tom Kiely, J Landley from Tipperary, Douglas Hannon of Offaly, Sean Noonan, Philly Coleman, Dinny Kiely, Tom Daly, Christy Bogue, whose family played football for Belgooly and Kinsale. The team also consisted of Patsy O’Keeffe, Jack Harrington, Dan Keeffe, Neilus Aherne, Mike Donovan, Ned Kelleher, Bob Connell, Moss Walsh and Batt Barry. In 1920, during the War of Independence, a set of jerseys was confiscated by the British Military, as under the Defence of the Realm Act, hurling and football games were banned as it was believed by the British that it gave the IRA an opportunity to meet in public.

Ballymartle Hurling Team 1924 (Photo from Ballymartle GAA 1884-1984)Back Row: Neilus Aherne; Moss Walsh; Nick Daly; Christy Bogue; Johnny  Maloney; M. O’Mahony; David Aherne; Patsy O’Keeffe; Mattie Reilly;Middle Row: Batt Barry; Dick Johnston; John Cronin; Sean Noonan; Tom Cronin; Front Row: Arthur Cronin; Phil Coleman; Con Cronin.

Up to 1925 Ballymartle played in the South West division but returned to the South East Division in 1926. In that year they reached the final of the Championship. One of the games they played in 1926 was a benefit match against Knockavilla.

In 1927, Sean Noonan of Ballymartle played on the Cork team. However, the Ballymartle hurling team itself broke up in that year. Those that wanted to play hurling played with the Belgooly team, including Noonan himself.

In 1936, the club was reformed. Two men, Jimmy Tobin and Finbarr Kiely were mainly responsible for this new beginning. Finbarr was the Secretary and Ger Deasy was Chairman. Jimmy Tobin was the Captain that year when Ballymartle got off to a dream start winning the South East. Championship. The team reached the county final but lost to Blarney on a scoreline of 6 – 02 to 3 – 01.

For 1937 and 1938 Ballymartle were not as successful but in 1939 they completed the double League & Championship in the South East losing to Mayfield in the County Semi – Final after a memorable win over Cloughduv. In 1940 victory in the South East Championship was achieved, Ballymartle once more defeating Tracton in the final in Carrigaline. However, Newtownshandrum proved best in the county. Once again Tracton were defeated in the League Final. In 1943 Ballymartle were back on the county trail having overcame Passage in the South East Final.  Blarney fell by the wayside in the first round but Glen Rovers proved best in a tough County semi-final.

For the next three years Ballymartle lost out to Carrigaline in the championship. But in 1949 Ballymartle captured the League title defeating Passage 8 – 07 to 1 – 05 in the final.

Ballymartle Hurling Team 1952Back Row: John Walsh; Ger Crowley; Bob O'Regan; Billy Barry; Con Kelleher; Michael Cowhig; Raymond Scannell; Ted Walsh; Jimmy Murphy; Sean Kelleher; Mick Fitzgerald; Sonny O'Mahony; Paddy O'Donovan; Michael Conley; Mick Murphy; Pad-Joe Cronin; Jimmy Tobin.Front Row L-R:  John Coleman; Davy Walsh; Andy Murphy; Denny O'Reilly; Paddy Deasy; Dan O'Donoghue; Danny Walsh; Sonny Nyhan; Ger Hanlon; Paddy Walsh.

Although in 1950 defeated by Tracton in the Championship they overcame the same opposition to win the second league title in a row. Championship and League titles also came to Ballymartle in 1951 but Cloughduv proved best in the county championship.

The year 1952 will be etched forever in the annals of Ballymartle as in this year the club captured its first ever County Title and completed four league titles in a row in the South East. The campaign began on May 11th in Kinsale and ended on December 7th in Carrigaline. Initially Valley Rovers and Shamrocks were defeated and Ballymartle overcame Ballinhassig in the South East Final. In the county rounds Aghbullogue were defeated, Clonakilty were next in the semi-final and after a tough encounter Ballymartle were through to meet Lough Rovers in the County Final. The first game ended in a draw, Danny Walsh sending over the equaliser in the last puck of the game. After an exciting replay during which the lead exchanged hands on many occasions, Ballymartle were victorious on a scoreline of 2 – 10 to 3 –05.

The team consisted of:

Denny O’Reilly; Willie Barry; Tom Kelleher; Ger Hanlon; Paddy Walsh; Ted Walsh; Dan O’Donoghue; Sean Kelleher; Sonny O’Mahony (Capt.); Andy Murphy; Danny Walsh; Sonny Nyhan; Bob O’Regan; Con Kelleher; Paddy Deasy; The subs were: Sean Walsh; Denny O’Mahony; Christy Corkery; Johnny Dwyer.

In 1953 a new player joined the club, Michael Cowhig of Kilbrittain. He would die tragically in the Tuskar Rock Air Disaster on 24th March 1968.

50th Anniversary celebration of 1958 County Final Win.

In 1954, Ballymartle reached the Intermediate hurling final, but were beaten by Glen Rovers. By 1957 they had returned to Junior Grade and were beaten in the first game of the Championship by Tracton. However, they won the league in that year. In 1958, they won the South East Final of the Championships, beating Shamrocks on a scoreline of 4-3 to 4-1. In the County Semi Final that year, they played Cloyne, who were trained by the great Christy Ring. While it looked throughout this game that Cloyne would have the upper hand, in the dying minutes of the game Ballymartle were awarded a free. Sean Cosgrave scored a goal from this free, and no sooner had the ball been pucked out again when Con Kelleher scored a second goal. There followed a Ballymartle scoring spree, and they emerged easy victors 7-4 to 3-2. After the match, Christy Ring assured them that he believed they would win the County Final. In this he was correct, as they beat Grenagh in the Final 8-10 to 2-1.

The team consisted of:

Seanie Carroll (Goalkeeper); Denny Mahony; Willie Allen; Paddy Deasy; Sean Cosgrove; Sonny Mahony (Capt.); Seany Sheehan; Sean Kelleher; B Lordan; John Nyhan; Raymond Scannell; Sonny Nyhan; Con Kelleher; Dan Walsh; Denny Reilly; Subs: Jerry Murphy; Timmy Fitzpatrick; David Cronin; Seanie Donoghue.

Eight of the players had also played on the 1952 County Championship winning team.

From 1959 to 1968, the club continued to play at Intermediate level, but had never progressed beyond the second round of the championship, nor never won the league during that period. They did reach the League final in 1959 and 1967 and reached the semi-final in 1966. In the same year the U21 team won the South East Championship.  At the AGM in 1968, it was agreed that the club would return to Junior Level.

The 1970’s began well, when Ballymartle reached the 1970 South East Junior Hurling Championship Final, beating Valley Rovers and Tracton on their road to the Final. However, they lost the Final to Ballinhassig on a scoreline of 3-11 to 3-4. They were back in the Final again in 1971, and again facing Ballinhassig. This time the match ended in a draw but Ballinhassig were victorious in the replay.

Ballymartle made it third time lucky in 1972, when in the Final played against Tracton in atrocious weather, they were victorious, 5-6 to 2-7. However, they were beaten in the first round of the County Championship by Eire-Og.

In 1975, Ballymartle were again South East Final Champions, again beating Tracton, and this time they advanced all the way to the County Final, for the first time since 1958. At half time in this final, played against Inniscarra they were only a goal down. However, at full time they had lost 5-7 to 3-8. In that same year, the club reached the Carrigdhoun Cup Final, which went to two replays against Ballinhassig. The two games played were great sporting games. However, Ballinhassig wanted the second replay moved back to later in the Spring, which the County Board would not agree to, and awarded the Final to Ballymartle.

1976 saw Ballymartle triumph again in the South East Championship, but in the County Semi-Final they lost to the Glen by one point.

U21 South East Final Team 1966 50th Anniversary (Photo courtesy Alan Coleman)

From 1977-1979, the club were defeated in the first round of the South East Championship, although in 1979 they were successful in the Carrigdhoun Cup. In 1980, they lost the SE Final to Shamrocks, but were champions again in 1981, beating Parochial rivals Belgooly 5-15 to 0-5 on their route to the final, in which they beat Ballinhassig.

The history book of Ballymartle GAA, which ends in 1984 having discussed the 1958 final, expresses the hope that ‘this glorious honour will again be achieved by Ballymartle’. In truth, the authors of the 1984 publication did not have long to wait, as in 1986 Ballymartle again became County Hurling Champions, this time in the Junior Competition. The South East-Final of that year was described as ‘tame and unexciting’. Ballymartle beat Ballygarvan 1-12 to 0-6. However, in the County Semi-Final against Barryroe, played in Ballinspittle, despite a Ballymartle lead of 8 points within 13 minutes, Barryroe gradually came back to within one point, before Martin Fitzpatrick steadied the Ballymartle ship with a pointed free. However, on the stroke of half-time, Barryroe punished a Ballymartle error with a goal, depriving them of the lead. The second half was described as more grinding championship fare, as Ballymartle set about regaining the lead, and they eventually emerged victorious 0-17 to 1-10. In the County Final, played in Coachford against Meelin, Ballymartle paved their way to victory in the first ten minutes when they notched up 1-4 of their total score, using the wind in their favour. They were ahead at half-time 2-7 to 1-3 despite some pressure from Meelin, who kept in touch with scores in the second half. However, in the 28th minute Brendan Coleman was given the opportunity to wrap up the game with a goal, which he duly did. The game finished 3-8 to 2-4 and Ballymartle were again County Champions, after a gap of nearly 30 years.

The County Championship Winning Team of 1986 was:

John Webb; John O’Mahony; J. Daly; D. Murphy; B. Murphy; J. Butler; Pat O’Mahony; J. O’Mahony; E. McCarthy; J. McCarthy; Jimmy Webb; M. Fitzpatrick; T. Allen; Brendan Coleman; K. McCarthy; Subs: P. Dorney for J. McCarthy; P. Daly for J. O’Mahony.

Despite this County Championship Victory, the next 20 years, notwithstanding SE titles at U21 and Junior B hurling and football, was somewhat of a dry spell with the club, as the records show that they won no hurling championship with their 1st team until 2006. Despite this, some Ballymartle players featured on Carrigdhoun and victorious Cork Hurling teams in this period. These included J. O’Mahony; G. Cummins; C. Deasy, D McCarthy, R Dwyer, B Dwyer, P Dwyer and P. Deasy. Martin Fitzpatrick captained the Cork Junior hurling team to all –Ireland success in 1987 with Frank Cronin acting as selector.  

Action from 1986 County Final

In 2006 the club returned to winning ways. They won their first ever Intermediate A County title, beating Carrigaline in a high scoring final. In the South East Junior A Semi-Final of that year, their second team beat reigning Champions Shamrocks decisively 3-9 to 0-10. This team retained a link with the 1986 County winning team, in that Eddie McCarthy; John Butler and Patrick Dorney, all of whom had played in 1986, were now selectors for the 2006 team. The final was lost against Ballinhassig.

In 2009, the club reached the Intermediate Premier Grade Final, in which they played Douglas. They had many missed chances in this game and ended up being defeated on a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-16.

While the year 1952 is featured most heavily in the book ‘Ballymartle GAA 1884-1984’, it is likely that 2010-2011 will be remembered as the greatest in the history of the club to date. On the route to the County Premier Intermediate Final, they defeated Newcestown in the Quarter Final. In a tight game with a few minutes to go they held a 2 point advantage, 0-15 to 0-13, however they finished with a flurry of scores from Rory Dwyer, Seamus Corry, Brian Corry and Barry Dwyer to finish convincing winners. In the semi-final against Courcey Rovers, an early goal from Darren McCarthy gave then a strong start, and although Courceys kept up the fight, Ballymartle emerged victorious 1-17 to 3-08.  The Intermediate Premier County Final was played against old rivals Tracton. However, throughout this game Ballymartle were clearly the stronger team, heading in to half time ahead 2-04 to 0-08. They upped the tempo in the Second-Half, playing with an intensity which Tracton could never match and finished the day as County Champions yet again.

In the Munster Championship, they first beat Hospital-Herbertstown of Limerick and lined out in the Munster Final against Borrisokane of Tipperary. In this game, Dan Dwyer was the toast of Ballymartle after his two first-half goals ensured his side of victory in a lopsided decider at the Gaelic Grounds. Ballymartle had the benefit of the stiff breeze in the first half during which they racked up a worrying 10 wides. However, they chalked up 2-8 in the same period when all the Tipperary side could manage was a single point. Borrisokane made a better fist of matters in the second half, but their cause was lost having fallen so far behind before the break and the game ended 2-14 to 0-8.

The Ballymartle team who contested the Munster Final consisted of : D McCarthy; D Coleman, M Tobin, D Dwyer; D Edmonds, P O’Dwyer, N Sheehan; S Corry, G Webb; R Dwyer, B Corry, B Dwyer; P Coughlan, J Dwyer, D Dwyer. Subs: S O’Mahony for Coughlan, J Kelly for Sheehan, E Kelly for Webb, C Sheehan for S Corry.

In the semi-final Ballymartle survived a late comeback from 14-man Padraig Pearses to qualify for the All-Ireland intermediate hurling final. The team did enough to advance despite going scoreless for the last 17 minutes. A goal from Jamie Dwyer after 12 minutes proved crucial to the victory.

In the All-Ireland Final, played in Croke Park in February 2011, they pulled victory from the jaws of defeat against Kilkenny club, Dicksborough. With just twenty seconds remaining Ballymartle were trailing  Dicksborough by two points. Darren McCarthy faced up to a free under the Cusack Stand facing the Railway end or Hill Sixteen goal. He was close to fifty meters out. The ball had to land in the danger area around the square if their dream of All Ireland glory had any chance of being achieved. McCarthy bent, lifted and struck. Supporters from both sides held their collective breaths as the sliotar curving and dipping all the way from his hurl and to the sheer delight of the Ballymartle supporters finished up in the back of the net. Shortly after this sensational goal the full time whistle went, leaving Ballymartle with their first All-Ireland Club title. Weeshie Fogarty, the well-known Kerry GAA commentator, would later ascribe the victory to the fact that Club Chairman, Joe Hallissey, hailed from Kenmare, while the trainer, Eddie Murphy, was a school teacher in Tralee!

The 2010 season also finished with the club as Junior A and Junior B South East-Champions, as well as U21A and Junior B League Champions.

In  2013 and 2014 they were Runners-up in the South East Championship, before emerging victorious again in 2015 with a superb victory over near rivals Ballinhassig.

With hurling a strong as it ever was since the clubs foundation a decision was made to enter our 2nd team in the county Intermediate hurling championship for the time in 2016.

The past decade has seen our 1st team play at the highest level at Senior Hurling Championship, two semi finals and one league final appearance was the closest we have got to silver ware.

The 2010-2020 decade will all ways be remembered with the incredible feat of our 3rd team winning seven South East Junior B championship titles, 2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015,2019.

Anthony McCarthy played on the 7 winning teams and Patrick O’Donoghue was Manager/coach on 6 of winning titles.


While Ballymartle have predominantly been a hurling club, in 1972 they competed in the South East Football Championship for the first time. Before this, any Ballymartle players who wished to play football usually played with Kinsale. In 1980 and in 1982 they won the Junior B League. However in 2018 Ballymartle Junior A Footballers won the South East Championship and brought back the Pad Joe Cronin Cup, named for a Ballymartle man, to Ballymartle for the first time. Pad Joe Cronin was 19 years of age when he was first elected Secretary of Ballymartle GAA in 1951 and served for several years on the South East Board of the GAA.

Frank Cronin, with the Pad Joe Cronin Cup, 2018


While the bulk of this chapter has related the story of the Ballymartle men’s hurling team, Camogie has also had a place of prominence in the club. In the years 1941-42, a Ballymartle Camogie team known as the ‘Emerald Maids’ were prominent in the Junior Camogie League. Their first fixture, in April 1941, was a friendly match against Ballinora. In this game, the Ballymartle club had the advantage of a strong wind in the first half and developed a lead which Ballinora were unable to counter. Special mention in the report was made of the Misses McAvoy, Kelleher, O’Regan and Kirkby. The team emerged victorious on a scoreline of 8-01 to 0-01. Three days later they played a team from Kinsale School at the field in Belgooly. This game ended with a victory by 3 goals to no score for the Emerald Maids. The team consisted of:

S. Kelleher; B. Murphy; K. Collins; K. O’Regan; P. Murphy; P. Foley; N. Coughlan; P. Kelleher; E. McCarthy; E. Kelleher (Capt.); M. Collins; B. Cronin; K. Kelly.

In April Mr. J.F. Connolly, solicitor, obtained permission on behalf of the club to hold a Ceilidhe in O’Neill’s Hall, Belgooly (part of the old Distillery) on April 20th 1941 as a fundraiser.

In the first game of the 1941 Junior Camogie League, played in July, Emerald Maids met Ballinora again, and this time won on a scoreline of 3-03 to Nil. The scorers were Nan O’Sullivan (3 goals), Alice Meaney (2 points) and Daisy Meaney (1 point). However, in their next game against Old Aloysians they were beaten by one point: 3-00 to 3-01.

In August 1941, they played in the final of the Mid-Cork Camogie Championship against Lee Valley. A thrilling game ended in a draw when, in the last minute of added time a ‘25’ was awarded to Lee Valley, from which they scored a point. However, in the replay, Emerald Maids were easy victors 6-02 to 1-02. Despite the high score there were only three scorers for the Ballymartle team: S. Kelleher and the Misses McAvoy. In October 1941 a tournament game was played at Ballymartle against Douglas, which ended in a draw of 3 goals each. In November, at the County Junior Semi-Final, played in Bandon against St. Colmans of Bantry, experience proved the deciding factor when the game ended in victory for the Ballymartle club 4-02 to 0-00. However, in the final, played in Tivoli, Old Aloysians, the holders of the title, were again the stronger team and the Emerald Maids were defeated 3-00 to 1-00.

The club played some more matches in 1942 but never seem to have reached the heights of 1941. Nonetheless, they held a key position in the life and folklore of Clontead Parish. When Nora Coughlan in 1947, and Ellen Kelleher married in 1949, the key mention made of both brides in the marriage reports in the newspapers was that they were players with the Emerald Maids Camogie Club. Their tradition is now admirably maintained by the Sliabh Rua Camogie Club and so the future of the GAA, at all levels, looks bright in Ballymartle.

Emerald Maids Camogie Team (Photo courtesy of Jerry O’Regan)

Our thanks to Fergal Browne for his help on this edition.

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