More than just matching hairdos
Published by Anthony McNamee on 15th December 2001.
BALLYHOLLAND Harps will start the 2002 GAA season with a new manager after the retirement of Brendan Loughran and Art Ruddy.
Last term the Harps were relegated but thats not the reason the hard-working pair have called it a day. When they took over the job from Pat Murtagh, Brendan and Art said they would take charge for three years.
Those years have now elapsed.
But the duo created a little bit of history when in their first season they led the team to senior football. And they added to that a year later when they guided Ballyholland to the semi-final of the Senior Championship. Unfortunately in their third season that successful run didnt continue and now in 2002 the team will play their football in Division Two.
But whoever inherits the team one thing is certain the new boss or bosses will not display any more fervour or enthusiasm than Brendan and Art. They cannot give more. They cannot immerse themselves in the job to a greater degree. Nor can they eat, sleep or drink the job more.
Brendan is unsure just how he will feel as the new season gets underway. For the first time in 28 years he will not be involved.
He says: “We said ‘three years’ no matter what way things were going”.
Brendan goes on: “I’m looking forward to watching the team. Perhaps Ill enjoy it more without the managerial pressure”.
Since he began as a 14 year-old in the yellow and green the skilful Loughran has been Ballyholland to his backbone. Though he did win honours with the county: In 1977 Brendan was an important cog as Down won the All Ireland Minor Championship, beating a strong Meath team in the final.
That same year Brendan played for Down under 21s who lost by four points to Kerry in the final, incidentally a Kerry team that contained some of the greats: Bomber Liston, Charlie Nelligan , Ogie Moran and Seanie Walsh etc..
Also Brendan was a member of 1979 All Ireland-winning Down U21 panel and he played in the 1983 Down squad that carried off the National League. For Ballyholland he played in the 1977 team that lost in the Championship semi-final to Burren. But Brendan says: “I was too young to appreciate it then”.
The clock meanwhile spins onward to 1993 when Harps lost in the Intermediate final to Ballymartin but the next year they were back with a vengeance. And they made no mistake this time, Brendan Loughran playing a starring role as his Ballyholland team beat Annaclone in the final and the Harps took the Division Three championship as well. Manager that memorable year was Pat Murtagh with Sean Mulholland his assistant, while Sean McGuigan trained the team.
Meanwhile Art, one of the most intelligent players ever to wear a Harps jersey, played a lot of his football with Newry Mitchels, there winning almost everything as a Minor and Junior. He came to Ballyholland after a year in America. Art too was part of the double-winning 1994 team. Though the championship final against Annaclone was a bitter/sweet experience. A savage blow from a ‘Clone player broke his jaw. Art grittily played on for 18 minutes before being forced off to receive hospital treatment.
However, he signed himself out of Daisy Hill that night so that he could take part in the celebrations. Though the next day he was admitted to the Ulster Hospital.
Art says: “The current Harps are a good bunch of lads and if they apply themselves theyll do well”.
“Im going to sit back and relax now: though I will miss the involvement. Still Ill help the club in any way I can”.
Meanwhile Sean Mulholland, who was assistant manager before Art and Brendan took over and was Chairman of the club during the pair’s reign, says: “The boys did a good job and raised the standard over their three years. They pushed it as far as they could. Brendan and Art brought discipline to the side and introduced a new approach to training”.
Sean went on: “Their commitment was first class and they could do a great job for any first division club. Maybe when they have taken a break for a couple of years theyll be back”.
But who will take over and join a long list of Ballyholland managers – men such as: John Keenan, Collie Rooney and Patsy McShane, John McGovern, Father Davies, Dickie Campbell, Pat Murtagh and Sean Mulholland, Val Kane etc. It certainly looks like it will be an outsider – someone not from Ballyholland. Names that have been bandied about are: Paddy ORourke, Shorty Treanor, Johnny McComiskey, amongst others.
Anyway hopefully before March the new manager will be installed and will have the Harps leaping from the blocks and heading back towards Division One.
Article written by Tony Bagnall for the Newry Democrat, December 2001