Sarsfields Ballerin was founded in 1944 by Paddy Deighan, Barney NcNicholl and Harry Mullan. Ballerin GAC provides a range of Gaelic Games (including Gaelic Football, Camogie & Ladies Football) for our local community of approximately 1,200 people and the wider catchment area. Our Club, which is located 4 miles from Garvagh, currently has over 400 members at underage and adult level.
In 1944 three local men were inspired to start a Gaelic Football team in the area following the growth of the Derry County team in the early 1940’s.
After holding a number of successful fundraising events, the Club leased land at Coolnasillagh Road from Jim McIntyre on 21 January 1945. This original pitch remains as our Club’s main playing field since the club was established in 1944. On Sunday 25th March 1945, Ballerin GAC played its first official match in Faughanvale, however it was in April 1945 that Ballerin played its first home match at Shamrock Park. The Club continued to rent the field for a number of years however eventually purchased the land and proceeded to build a hall alongside the pitch. At the Annual General Meeting in 1969, a field committee was established to implement a 10 year action plan to develop a new state of the art Gaelic Park. The work, which cost £14,000, was completed within 18 months and the park was officially opened on 2 August 1970.
Our club has had a number of successes since its establishment in 1944 both at a local level and in terms of representation to our county and province. Key successes and milestones in our playing history are as follows:
- Inside a few years of establishment, Ballerin GAC was a major force in Derry football winning the County Under 18 Championship in 1947. This was followed by a North Derry senior title in 1952 and the Derry senior title in 1957.
- In 1958 the first ever Gaelic football game was played at Wembley Stadium. This was Derry v Galway in an exhibition game watched by over 40,000 fans. Four Ballerin players Sean O’Connell, Michael Mullan, Seoirse McKinney and Brian Mullan played in the forward line. In the same year Derry reached their first ever All Ireland final and the club was represented by Brian Mullan, Sean O’Connell and Brendan Murray. Derry won their first All Ireland minor title in 1965 and on the team from our club were Colm Mullan, Brendan Mullan and Malachy McAfee.
- 1976 was a historic year with the club reaching the All Ireland senior club final, being the first ever rural club to do so. Ballerin GAC lost narrowly to Kerry champions Austin Stack’s, a team that featured five All Stars. In 1977 there was a fourth county minor title won – 1965 and 1975 had also been successful in this grade. Between 1965 and 1975 the senior team played in eleven successive Dr. Kerlin Cup finals winning eight, a record that has never been surpassed in the 70 years of this senior competition.
- Despite being a small rural club Ballerin GAC provided many players to various Derry teams and indeed Ulster as well. Sean O’Connell, Peter Stevenson, Malachy McAfee and James McAfee all represented our province with distinction. The late Sean O’Connell twice finished the top scorer in Ireland and won four provincial titles with Ulster. In 1989 Roderick Skelly and Eugene Lynch won the All Ireland Minor Football Championsip with Derry. In 2002, our club won the junior county championship and were narrowly defeated in the Ulster final. Two of our members, Sean Mullan and Damien Cassidy won All Ireland County Minor Championship medals with Derry in 2002.
- In addition to the above, our club also won the North Derry Club of the Year award in 2002 which is awarded to the club in recognition of overall achievement on and off the field during that year.