History – 1984: New Grounds, New Beginnings

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Fr John Lynch Park opened in 1984, and slowly but surely the club began to move up a level.

History – 1984: New Grounds, New Beginnings

The opening of Fr. Lynch Park (Páirc uí Loingsigh), proved to be a giant step in the right direction for Ballyholland. A problem for the club prior to this had been attracting players, as there were no real housing developments nearby. But the new grounds were located close to the recent housing development at Innisfree Park, which is still growing today.

Added to this the grounds are also close enough to Newry to attract new players from this area, which has been a great bonus. Since moving to Fr Lynch Park, the club has successfully fielded teams at every age level in South Down Leagues, and has been known to field two teams at under-12 level, ensuring a constant stream of talent coming through the club.

The benefits of the move could be seen immediately when Ballyholland secured their first All Ireland Football success, winning the Under 14 Scor Na N’og title in 1986.

The most successful under-age side in the club’s history came together around the same time, under the stewardship of the late Kieran Sands and Sean Mulholland. This team won league and County Championship doubles at under-14, under-16 and minor levels, and produced five players who represented County Down at Minor & under-21 level; Terry McGivern, Sean O’Hare, Cathal Rushe, Ciaran Hartigan and Shane Mulholland. Along with colleague Matty Shields, Terry McGivern and Shane Mulholland would also wear the red and black of Down at senior level too.

This group of players quickly made the step up to senior level and success wasn’t long in the making. Although the 1993 season was unfortunate to end in defeat in the IFC final, they bounced back a year later and completed an IFC and ACFL III double in 1994. Throughout these years, the senior team was successfully steered by Ballyholland stalwart Pat Murtagh.

During these times work at Fr. Lynch Park was ongoing, and new changing rooms, floodlights, ball-stops and a training pitch were added to the impressive facilities at the grounds. The efforts of the club to have one of the finest set-ups in the country have been rewarded with Down Camogie team using Fr. Lynch Park as their home ground, Down Senior footballers using it for training, and it has hosted many an under-age final, and senior championship game.

After reaching the second division in 1995 it was expected that the Harps would progress through to the first division and establish themselves as a force within the county. At first things went well, but injuries to key players and players moving away from the area proved too much for a small squad.

With a couple of underage titles being lifted towards the end of the 1990s, there were clear signs that the talent was coming through the underage ranks to make the next step. By 1998 a new wave of players were knocking on the senior team door, and that year a host of them played a full part a reserve league and championship double.

The best of them, such as Damien Campbell, a county minor that year, were already fixtures in the side.