Ballyboden St Enda’s celebrating 50 years in existence
Tuesday 22 January 2019
By Cian O’Connell
Six years ago when asked what advice he would give to young players the Ballyboden St Enda’s activist Gerry O’Sullivan replied that ‘there is no substitute for work‘.
That motto has served O’Sullivan and Ballyboden St Enda’s well throughout the decades and the Dublin club is now celebrating being around for 50 years.
While success has flowed in recent years the journey continues and a number of events are planned to take place throughout the coming weeks and months.
Having been involved in a plethora of roles for 30 years O’Sullivan is encouraged by Ballyboden’s emergence as a respected force both on and off the field of play.
O’Sullivan recently spoke with GAA.ie about his own involvement and how the club continues to serve a passionate community in south Dublin.
Q: You have served in many different roles through the years?
GO’S: Yes, I have, I suppose I’ve had 30 years in different roles in admininstration. Apart from initially being a player I would have been Chair of the Hurling Committee, that was my first administrative role. Then I managed and coached and mentored various teams from juvenile right up to Junior/Intermediate level. I was on the executive and then became Chairman for three years after being Vice-Chair for three years.
Q: In the 30 years significant change must have occurred with Ballyboden St Enda’s one of the biggest club operations in Ireland?
GO’S: It is one of the biggest now, it is a huge club. Initially when I joined the club it was much smaller, didn’t have as much success in the first 25 years. In the last 25 years we have won 30 Senior Championships across the four main sports. In the years before that up to 1994 we didn’t win a single Senior Championship in that period of time.
Q: Is that specifically a numbers thing or that the club became established in the area?
GO’S: It was a bit of everything, when the club formed in the earliest years it started out as a football and a hurling club – Intermediate Football and juvenile hurling. Adult hurling didn’t appear on the scene until 1971 or 1972, but very quickly in both we became Senior in both – 1971 in football and 1974 in hurling we won the Intermediate Championship. So by 1975 we were Senior in both. In the 90s we became a Senior Camogie and Ladies Football club. It is both the rapid expansion and the addition of Camogie and Ladies Football which accounts a large number of the Senior Championships. We have won three football and seven hurling. So two thirds of the Senior Championships have been won by Ladies Football and Camogie.
Q: That must be a source of great pride, the rapid growth, particularly in the 90s when things started to rocket?
GO’S: It was a massive investment in time and effort from people. The area was growing when the club started, it was establishing estates and National Schools on the perimeter. Even some of the churches were only opening up in the late 1960s and 1970s. So it was an area of great development in Dublin population wise. The people who in the earliest years of the club that were living in Dublin for a period of time they played in the club, but the real growth came in the 90s when children of those people began to come onto our teams. We became very successful in the 1990s bringing Under 15, 16s, Minor, and Under 21 Championships across the board.
Bit by bit we were creating the pool of talent which would enhance our adult capability. We always prided ourselves in being a Senior club, even though we mightn’t have been reaching County Finals. Often we were struggling to stay in the top Division, the idea of dropping down to Intermediate in order to win a Championship was never countenanced. So we stuck at maintaining Senior status so that the younger players would have that to aspire to. Success eventually came. We might have thought it would come a bit sooner because they a lot of good underage success, but you don’t always get what you wish for immediately. It took time. We were a strong and well organised club.
Without question it is a large population we have to pick or draw from, but the organisational talent within the club has been immense. It is a very strong feature of our development, managing not just proper coaching following best guidelines and best practice, but ensuring that with team success and growth in numbers that the physical infastructure of the club is improved. We are always looking for a new piece of land to build a pitch on or to put in floodlights, build synthetic surface things, gyms. The culture of the club has been ambitious and it remains so.
Q: The fact that so many people came into the locality when the club was starting off emphasises the importance of a GAA club and Ballyboden, in many ways, are a flagship of what can be achieved?
GO’S: Yes indeed. There was a tradition in the area. Ballyboden Wanderers had been there intermittently from 1910 so there was a Gaelic tradition. You had other smaller clubs like Brothers Pearse in the 1950s and 1960s, around 1966 Rathfarnham St Enda’s was formed. That came from people who were very Gaelic in their orientation with many of them from outside of Dublin. They would have had GAA backgrounds in their own youth and growing up. They wanted to bring that tradition into the area, especially now that they were families and wanted it for their children when they began to grow older getting on to the nursery and juvenile teams.
It would have taken a bit of inspiration from the 50th anniversary of 1916 events in 1966. The emphasis of the people at the time – a lot of them were involved in community activities through political parties or credit unions. They shared in that Gaelic ethos and one of the great successes in the club is that it has embedded a Gaelic tradition in an area that didn’t really exist in the sense that the population was never very big. A lot of people have said that they know nothing about the GAA, but that they admire its values.
The values and volunteer ethos and its willingness to be there week in, week out, year in, year out generating a good space for people – young and thereafter when you stop playing. There has been a good lot of social activities that the club maintains people’s involvement.
Q: What events are being planned throughout the year to mark the celebration?
GO’S: We are just into the New Year and we launched our programme before Christmas. The first event is on Wednesday a lecture by Dr Paul Rouse from UCD’s history department. Paul is going to look at Ballyboden as one of the exemplars as to how the GAA has changed the face of Dublin’s Gaelic Games.
He will also be talking about some of the challenges coming down the tracks for clubs in a large urban centre – one of the largest in the country and how these things might interface with the club and its future and the future of the GAA throughout the whole of Dublin. It will be a wide ranging lecture, it isn’t a lecture on the history of Ballyboden. That isn’t what it will be, but it is a lecture on the broader environment in which the club is amongst all the other clubs in Dublin and how that might change in the years to come.
Q: A number of other events will also take place during the coming months?
GO’S: Yes, at the moment I’m writing a history of the club which will hopefully be available in September. In November we have a gala event booked in the City West – a dinner dance type event. We will have an open air mass and all the sections will do their own individual things based around the games. The 50th anniversary will be the brand on it.
We have a theatre-drama group who will write a play with the emphasis on the more funny side of things that have gone on. Music will feature.
We are also putting a digital archive with all the documentary evidence associated with the club plus other things like jerseys and posters, things that would have been used throughout the past 50 years as part of the effort to promote the club. It will be good to have a documentary record from here on in. It is a relatively young club compared to a lot of others.
The recent history of Ballyboden has been in a good IT period of time so a lot of our stuff is available online and in PDFs and documents. We have kept very good AGM reports, we have them since the very first AGM 50 years ago. That goes back to the organisational capacity and expertise as a club. We recognise that in a big club you need to document, share, and record things. You need to have good constitutions, good systems in order for everything to work fairly and transparently.