The following feature was published in issue 52 of
The Gaelic Game newspaper on Friday 17th June

Aodh Ruadh Ballyshannon are developing on and off the field

Formed

The Aodh Ruadh club are just four years short from celebrating their centenary. The club was founded after a public meeting which was inspired by a call from the local branch of the Gaelic League: "to consider the advisability of having some Irish games started in the town." The club was founded on Sunday 24th October 1909 and today runs successful teams in Gaelic football, hurling, ladies football and camogie, although at present there is no functioning camogie team as underage member just integrate with their hurling counterparts

Roll of Honour

See the full Roll of Honour

Father Tierney Park

Father Tierney was born on 1st December 1871. He was ordained on 18th June 1899 and became a missionary priest traveling to places as far away as China to spread the word of Catholicism. He was taken in to captivity by the communist regime as the led a crackdown on the growth of the Church in China. He died in captivity on 5th March 1931. The development of Father Tierney Park culminated in the opening in 1954. In the 80s further progress was made with the erection of the first covered stand in the whole county of Donegal. As Father Tierney Park stands today it is regarded as 'the second county ground' behind Ballybofey. Other developments in recent years have seen the purchasing of Mundy's field (where the club played its first game) and the erection of modern changing rooms and a players tunnel on to the main pitch. Aodh Ruadh was also the first club in the county to have its very own club shop from which all the club's merchandise can be purchased

Development Plans

The people of the club in general have put a lot of effort in over the years into fundraising. Club Secretary, Alan Sweeny, says: "it takes a lot of hard work behind the scenes to keep any amateur group thriving, not just GAA clubs. We are particularly lucky to have a superb group of workers both in club developments and in helping out with the underage teams."

In the past eighteen months the bank balance of Aodh Ruadh has grown significantly. Alan states: "we have had a couple of significant fundraising events over the past couple of years. We ran a successful boxing card when players within the club took part in bouts against one another. There was a total of eight fights and it was a fantastic night

That event alone raised a total of €25,000. Add to this €100,000 grant aid and you can see why the club top brass are content with club coffers. This contentment must not be confused with happy and Alan stresses that they will not rest on their laurels. The committee will pursue perfection and plans are underway to improve the already training facilities and Tierney Park. "Our training grounds would be off a fairly high standard. We have an area of land that facilitates four fields and believe me it takes it all to cater for the volume of training that takes place." Part of the money used will go towards developing new training stations, flood lighting and a running track at the training ground as well as further developing Father Tierney Park."

Every good committee needs a leader and Pat Daly provides Aodh Ruadh with this. "Pat Daly, who is on the Ulster Council, is the chairman of the Park Committee, which deals with developments. He is a model of consistency and his dedication to the club knows no bounds," states Alan. At the head of the ship is Conal Gallagher who is the actual chairman of the whole club and has the mammoth task of keeping everything in order. Great credit must go to him for his foresight and ability to get the best out of the members.

One Field Development

Like all clubs, Aodh Ruadh has a highly committed group of men and women who help out with the development of their under age teams. Sylvester Maguire, who was a member of the Donegal squad that won the All-Ireland in 1992, is the director of coaching within the club. Sylvester jokes: "it's a very highly paid position." Everyone within the club holds Sylvester in high regard. Alan states: "Sylvester is a great worker. He is a teacher in the school here in Ballyshannon and is well respected within the area. His knowledge of the game is second to none although in this club he is not on his own." Alan points out that there are a lot of other people who put massive hours in to youth work. People such as Josie Boyle and Enda McGurn are lifetime workers. Some senior players add to their already hectic lifestyles by offering their services as coaches to under age teams. Philip O'Reilly and Andrew McShea would be two such examples. Betty McIntyre is the chairperson of Bord na nOg within the club. Alan states: "the likes of Jim Kane would put in a serious amount of work about the club. He trains the under 16s and the Reserves and there wouldn't be a player within the club that he would not know. There are to many names for me to mention them all, so no individual credit is being given, and probably more importantly none is ever looked about."

Hurling within the club is growing at a rapid rate. There is an emphasis being placed in expanding the interest in hurling in the Ballyshannon area. "Burt would set the benchmark within Donegal on the hurling front and it is up to the rest of us to catch up and try and emulate what they have achieved. Presently we have a number of county players so we feel that we are working hard to try and close this gap and be firing on all cylinders within in the GAA in general in Donegal," says Alan.

Last year was a particularly good year for ladies football at under age, but not at senior level. "We could not field a senior team so all the women who played senior football and were still interested, took up the mantel as under age coaches. This revitalised the club and has increased interest tenfold. Presently we are fulfilling our senior fixtures and have larger numbers than ever at training so hopefully the decision to pull out will prove to have been a sensible one in years to come.


In Profile - Sylvester Maguire

DOB
16 September 1965

Married?
Yes, to Bernie. We have three girls, Roisin Bridin and Grainne.

When did you start playing for Aodh Ruadh?
I played my first competitive game for the club in 1975 as an under 12.

Who was your manager at that time?
The great Jackie McDermott. He was a man ahead of his time.

Did you win much at under age level?
A little bit. We were ahead of the posse so to speak. I was an under 16 before I won anything. We won it in 1978 and 1979. Aodh Ruadh won four minor titles in a row between 1979 and 1982 and I was lucky enough to play in the first three of these. My under age collection was completed by two under 21 medals in 1981 and 1982.

When did you first play for the seniors?
I first played in 1980 as a 16 year old. It was away to Downings. We won the game, and as far as I remember we won the row as well!

What have you won at Senior level with Ballyshannon?
I am very privileged to have been part of teams that have won five championships. The years were 1986, 1987, 1994 as captain and 1997 and 1998 as player manager.

Did you find much difference being a player manager?
Not really that much although I must admit it was very time consuming. I was at the advantage as I was a part of the gang, while at the same time every single player know that I was the boss. I had a good man along with me in Brian Touhy and the players as well as myself trusted him fully.

Did you have any success in the Ulster Club series?
Not a bit. A perennial Donegal failure in the Ulster Club seems to be the flavour at the moment. Burren beat us convincingly at our place in 1986. 1987 was a massive disappointment. We were beating Burren by four points in Burren with time up. Michael Greenan was refereeing and he played five minutes injury allowing Shorty Trainor to equalise. Burren beat us by a point in Ballyshannon and went on and won the All-Ireland. In 1994 we defeated the defending champions Errigal Ciaran, before Bellaghy beat us by a point. In 1997 Saint Paul's beat us and Bellaghy eliminated us the following year.

What was the highlight of your club career?
Without doubt it would be captaining Aodh Ruadh to the Donegal Championship success in 1994. Being a winning manager was also special but it is hard to beat being player and being captain in the highest honour that can be bestowed upon a club player.

Would your club success beat your All-Ireland and Sigerson successess?
Those will always have a place close to my heart. I won a Sigerson and All-Ireland medal in the one season and that was a great year for me personally. However, while those winners medals will always be special, there is a difference in being close to the heart and being the single thing that makes the heart beat, and that is the club. When you are captain of your club team that wins something, there is nothing better in football, believe me.

Who are the main players on the Ballyshannon squad at present?
Barry Ward (Queen's Sigerson Cup Winner), Michael McGurn, Val Murray who is 37 or 38 at the minute, Brian Roper and Niall McCready

What young players should we look out for from Aodh Ruadh?
Pauric Buggy, who is a brother of former Donegal player, Donal. Donal incidentally has county championship medals in three counties. Wexford, Cavan and of course Donegal. He plays for the same club as Mattie Forde presently. Presently we are undergoing a bit of an under age renaissance. At under 10 and under 12 levels we are as good as anybody.

Who would you see as potential Donegal County Champions this year?
I feel that Saint Eunan's on paper should win, but you know what they say about football and paper! It is very hard to see Ardara having the hunger to repeat last year's success. The winners of Four Masters and ourselves will take a lot of beating, as will Gaoth Dobhair although I think that they have lost a yard in recent times.

What about Sylvester's tip for the All-Irelands?
Laois are the best value for money by far in the football and it looks like de ja vu for the hurling with Kilkenny emerging victorious on this occasion.

Acknowledgements

This article reproduced courtesy of the Gaelic Game Magazine. Visit their website at www.thegame.ie

Many thanks to all those who supported this feature in the Gaelic Game Magazine. These included