Different home venues

Photo: ballinastephenites.ie

One of the topics that came up on our first Mayo News football podcast episode of the year was that of home venues that Mayo have used in the Championship aside from MacHale Park. It’s a subject worthy of a bit more discussion.

First up I have to acknowledge that I made a right bags of the point I was endeavouring to make on the podcast, as I got my facts wrong about the most recent time we contested a Connacht SFC match on home soil away from Castlebar. The year this happened was 1988 alright and it was a match against Leitrim but the venue was Charlestown and not, as I asserted on the podcast, Crossmolina. The most recent time we played there in the Championship was, in fact, in 1980, also against Leitrim.

In my defence, I wasn’t at either game. I sat the Leaving Cert in 1980 and I’m not sure if I’d emerged from that particular rite of passage by the time the ball was thrown in at St Tiernan’s Park on 22nd June that year. Eight years later, I wasn’t in the country, having emigrated six weeks or so before that game at Fr O’Hara Park was played.

No matter. The point I was making on the podcast was that, although it’s been a while since we used a home venue other than MacHale Park for a Championship match at Senior level, we’ve played in a variety of home venues over the last century and more.

Charlestown was our most popular home from home in more recent times. Aside from that 1988 match against Leitrim, we also lined out there against the same opposition in 1976 and 1971, as well against Sligo in 1965, 1962, 1958 and 1952.

Other than Crossmolina, the only other home venue we used since 1950 was Ballina. Leitrim were the opposition when we played at James Stephens Park in 1978. Back in the Forties we played three Connacht SFC matches there in four years, with a 1947 meeting with Roscommon bookended by clashes with Sligo in both 1949 and 1946.

As you venture further back, other places start to get a look in. Gilmartin Park in Kiltimagh staged our sole Connacht SFC outing of 1943, as we went under to Galway by seven points.

Ballyhaunis – a frequent enough venue in modern times for pre-season FBD jousts – got its moment in the sun in 1928. Roscommon are usually the opposition for FBD games there and it was the Rossies we met there in the Championship 93 years ago too. We won as well.

June 1924 saw us take the field at Ballaghaderreen. Punters hadn’t a whole load of cheering to do that day as we drew two points each with Leitrim. We won the replay, though.

The same year we contested an even more thrilling drawn game at home in Connacht. That was in the final against Galway, which was played in Balla, which ended all square at a point apiece. We won the replay of that one too.

Swinford – where, at the amenity park pitch in the town the Mayo LGFA team play plenty of home games nowadays – hosted its one and only Connacht Championship tie back in 1918. Sligo were the opposition in that one.

The only other home venue we used was Claremorris. We played there seven times between 1902 and 1907, four times against Galway, twice against Roscommon and once against Sligo.

The most recent of those clashes with Galway, in the 1906 Connacht semi-final played in April 1907, saw us win by a mammoth 2-16 to 0-1. That was the game that GAA historians were scrambling for details of after we walloped Galway by 17 points at Salthill in 2013, as that encounter more than a century previously was the only time we’d beaten the Tribesmen by a bigger margin in the Championship.

Those seven matches played at Claremorris mean that it shares the honour of our most popular home away from home for Championship fixtures with both Ballina and Charlestown. That’s not bad going for a venue we last used in 1907.

Claremorris would, however, be the most used alternative home venue in its own right had the 1909 Connacht SFC match against Roscommon that was fixed for there in February 1911 gone ahead. That game was, though, postponed due to the lack of a guarantee of sufficient train services for the game.

As an aside, towns on rail lines were popular venues for big matches in Connacht up until the late Thirties. As well as Claremorris, Castlerea was the location of many such contests in those years, as was Tuam. Athlone was also called upon on occasion to host Connacht matches.

Back to that Roscommon match in 1911, though, which had an amusing finale. Athlone was chosen as the venue when the tie was refixed for July that year. Roscommon won the game by six points to five but we lodged an objection, setting out five grounds of appeal. These were: (1) the referee was from Roscommon; (2) the venue; (3) the first half lasted 20 minutes; (4) the second half lasted 40 minutes and (5) the pitch was too short.  

Who could argue with that weight of evidence? Our appeal was successful and we went on to defeat Galway in the 1909 Connacht final. I don’t know when that match was played but the records (such as they are) state it took place in Ballina. And we won.

That victory helps Ballina to claim the title of our happiest home away from home hunting ground in the Championship. We won six of the seven Connacht SFC ties we played down the years there, losing only to Roscommon, back in 1947. The record for Claremorris is five wins and two losses while for Charlestown it’s four wins, two draws and one defeat.

27 thoughts on “Different home venues

  1. Crazy not to consider moving games out of McHale Park this year. Pitch needs to be reparied/replaced. If it needs to be, it’s not good enough for us to play on. Why can’t they start the repairs as soon as restrictions allow and play pit games elsewhere? I would be happy to see us give away home advantage in our championship games this year. Our record on that pitch is very poor.

  2. Since the pitch is to be replaced in the autumn a goo heavy rolling after a few wet days will sort out the bumps for this year.

  3. Jr,
    “a goo heavy rolling after a few days of rain”
    With a heavy rolling after a few wet days what you will have will be lots of goo. There may be no bumps but it will not be a recipe for football either.
    It’s amazing how little some people know about football fields – or any other fields.

  4. Tommy Joe,
    Recent speculation has it that some crowds may be allowed attend championship matches by the time they roll around. If vaccination is to mean anything this seems logical. So moving away from MacHale Park, as the highest capacity ground in Connacht, would be daft. Some social distancing or capacity limits may still be required and MacHale is best placed to provide that. Probably a lot will depend on what happens after crowds come back to games in UK and Europe.

  5. Can’t agree with you Andy d. Sure it will compact the soil but it all going to be changed anyway. It must be rock hard now

  6. McHale Park had main drains put a cross the pitch and this was to be followed by mole drains filled with stone I metre apart between those drains. It is the only way to drain this type of soil. The soil is like putty. A very large amount of soil will have to be removed and replaced for the new surface

  7. Jr,
    If we are to play any football at all on MacHale after your rolling recipe we better pray for sunshine in the days prior to the match. Otherwise it will be practically unplayable – maybe deemed playable as there will be no option for postponements – but from a player’s perspective it will be unplayable. As well have a pitch with a few bumps as a pitch with absolutely no bounce for a ball.

  8. Andy we will agree to differ but if mole drains were put in in the first place it would have solved a lot of the problems but one could not expect the Mitchell’s to cover that expense. On a dry summer you can see the main drains.

  9. New Departure – you’re posting comments on here long enough to know that unsubstantiated claims based on ‘the word on the street’ aren’t allowed here. I’ve no problem with you raising the issue you want to bring up (although I’d prefer to keep the debate here to on-field topics) but to do this you’re going to have to be able to point to solid evidence – for example in the form of a published article – to support your claims.

  10. Andy D,
    You mention speculation and that’s exactly what it is – speculation. There’s zero chance of a crowd at a connacht championship game this year. Even if there was a chance (which there isn’t), that might amount to a few hundred people, which makes the “highest capacity in Connacht” argument null and void. Games could be played anywhere in Mayo and the pitch could be worked on as soon as is allowed. It’s a no brainer.

  11. Was at that 1988 match in Charlestown..my stand out memory of it was…a Leitrim player wearing a Rugby type head gear.. anyone else remember that..or who was the player in question..

  12. John E,
    The player was, and I am pretty certain of this, Seamus Mulhern who was suffering from a head injury.

    Re the possibility of attendances at championship matches by July. That there is no deal yet on finance to run the championship indicates to me that the government are hoping they will be able to allow some attendance and that this will remove the need for them to pay as they did last year. Also a large part of the population should be vaccinated by then but uncertainty on this is a reason why nothing is being said. But I’m sure that methods of allocating tickets to vaccinated people are being worked on behind the scenes and as the championship rolls on more people will become eligible. This will all help to overcome vaccine hesitancy which would be a large part of government/HSE thinking.

  13. Andy D
    Again, you’re talking about what ifs and maybes. There is no official recognition that this is being discussed at any level. In fact, Ireland lost the euro games due to be hosted here for the very reason that we wouldn’t be allowing fans by then. Leinster weren’t allowed have 2000 fans at a test event in late May. Again, if we are allowing fans (we won’t be but I’ll play along for a minute), the amount allowed will be miniscule and would be easily accommodated at most grounds in Mayo. Vaccinated or not, crowds aren’t happening at these games. You’re stating that these talks are happening behind the scenes but there’s zero evidence to back up your statement. It’s fantasy stuff. No crowds, therefore we should be working on this pitch now while we can.

  14. I’d say you’re right Tommy joe . What I dont understand is where the loss of income is going to be made up . Full house games in Ireland might never happen again . Personally I struggle to understand how its balanced in the books. Connacht council took a hit of 30 plus million last year ,I’m sure I read it somewhere, assuming that’s the same again this year and next year . How can GAA survive ?

    Pardon my ignorance as I just cant fathom it ,its the same as all these billions upon billions the govt are paying the people who are out of work and the massive Grant’s for businesses. Where the hell is all this money coming from, straight off the mint with nothing to back it up?

  15. Tommy – they are planning to trial larger crowds this summer. Jack chambers was talking about it in the last few days. The all Ireland semi-finals and finals will have crowds anyway, possibly the provincial finals too.

  16. I want to wish good luck to the Mayo Camogie team who are playing Roscommon on Saturday 15th May followed by Kildare on Saturday 22nd May and Louth on the 29th May in the 2021 Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Division 4 League. It’s not a sport that is mentioned too much anywhere

  17. Does anyone know how the “Wall of Tiles” is coming along.
    It drives me crazy that Mayo CB told us nothing about the success of the fund, raising money for the AI training, back in December, and now there is no feedback on how the “Wall” money is coming along.
    I might be wrong, but I have looked for information on this and cannot find it. The “Wall” is a good idea, but if momentum is to be maximised for this fund-raising effort … please let the punters know how the momentum is building. And further momentum will come from that. We might even end up in a position to build 2, 3, or 4 walls.
    Could the CB surprise me for once and do something in a truly professional manner

    Another point, it was on this blog I first heard about it. I have a feeling the same could be said for many others who have donated. Why did i not hear about it from the CB first. They have my email address. If it is the case that this blog was the main source of pointing people towards making donations, then it probably should be called the “Willie Joe Wall”.

  18. In my young days, 1960.and 1961, it seems to me that I saw Mayo.play a majority of their challenge matches in Claremorris. I have fond memories of chats with goalkeeper. Joe Foye, when the ball would be down the other end. Always a gentleman. Among the matches I watched in Claremorris included teams such as Meath, Kerry, and Galway. I remember, we also played Longford in the league. There was great excitement in the town that week with our own Johnny Farragher starring
    Claremorris was a gem of a pitch in those days.
    It hosted the Connacht Athletic Championships in both 1960 and 1961. Testamount to the quality of the pitch was the fact that my first cousin, Noel Dunne broke the Connacht record two years in a row on that pitch before departing on the foreign missions to Chile. He always told me it had a tremendous surface in comparison to other grounds around the county. He should know. He also played football for Claremorris.

  19. Claremorris 51 what is wrong with football in the town. Have they been in a county final since 1978?

  20. Did a Jack O’Shea managed Mayo team play a league game in Crossmolina, maybe autumn ’92?
    A Cork team v Mayo in the late 80’s at Moy Davitts in Shrahgarrow?
    Dublin v Mayo in Knockmore, early 80’s?
    Nearly sure I was at a NFL game in Ballinrobe as recently as early noughties?

  21. League games were played mainly outside Castlebar but the Mitchell’s still had to maintain McHale Park. Once the county board took control every thing is in McHale Park.

  22. The piece focused on Championship matches, Joet1480, but you’re right, of course, that we’ve also used a variety of home venues in the League.

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