Pádraig Pearses was formed on the 23rd of February 1966, when two Junior hurling clubs in the parish of Ballymacward-Gurteen amalgamated. This merger was brought about by a new rule set by the County Board, allowing only one G.A.A. club per parish.
The amalgamation was an almost immediate success when the following year, in 1967, the Club’s hurlers (pictured above) beat Oranmore-Maree to win the County Junior Championship. This final had a second reward for the winners. Both clubs had been formed the previous year and as it was the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, both had chosen ‘Pádraig Pearses’ as their club name. Only the winner of this game got to keep their chosen name.
In 1969 the club’s Senior hurlers defeated our neighbours and former Galway hurling kingpins, Fohenagh, to claim the East Board Senior Championship, a first Senior title for the Club. A second title at Senior level did not arrive until 2019, when Pearses defeated the hot favourites Cappataggle, after extra-time in the delayed 2018 Senior League Final played at Duggan Park. Our adult Hurling team have competed at Senior level at various points since 1966 and have been hurling Senior now (2020) since 2010.
The club has won four intermediate Championship titles in 1979, 1991, 1995 and 2010. The 1979 game was a one-point win against Killimor, 2-6 to 2-5 in Duggan Park. Again in 1991, the opposition was Killimor and it took three memorable games to separate the sides. Pearses finally got over the line on a 2-6 to 1-5 scoreline, again in Duggan Park Ballinasloe. In 1995 Meelick-Eyrecourt were the opposition and Pearses came through, 0-14 to 1-8, in Kenny Park, Athenry. Yet again in 2010, Killimor and Pearses clashed to decide the Championship in Kenny Park. Similar to all of their previous meetings in finals, it was a low scoring affair and Pearses came through, 1-10 to 1-8.
Following their county cup win in 2010 our hurlers advanced to the Connacht Club Final, where they took on Ballyhaunis of Mayo in Athleague. After a tight struggle Pearses took the Club’s first Connacht Championship and advanced to the All-Ireland Semi-Final with a 1-14 to 1-10 win. Ballymartle of Cork were the opposition in the All-Ireland Semi-Final, played at Templetouhy, Co. Tipperary. The Cork men got off to a good start, going six points ahead, while a sending off seen Pearses reduced to 14 men. Our lads responded well and battled back to be within 3 points at the finish, but the Cork champions held on to advance to the final, 1-10 to 0-10.
Our underage hurlers have had success at various levels throughout the years, but one of the highlights was our Club’s sole County Minor ‘A’ Championship victory in 1977. The opposition were Gort in the Final, played at Duggan Park. At half-time Gort looked on course to win it, leading 2-6 to 1-2. However after a mighty second half comeback Pearses took the lead entering the closing stages. Gort levelled twice before PJ Connell hit the winning score. Pearses were Minor ‘A’ champions for the first time and the Fr. Michael Griffin Cup was back in his native parish.
A separate Gaelic Football club was formed in 1990, St Kerrill’s GFC, named after the Patron saint of Gurteen. The pinnacle of St Kerrill’s success came in 2008, defeating An Spidéal in the Final to capture the Junior A Championship. In 2013, St Kerrill’s GFC was disbanded and Pádraig Pearses GAA began fielding Football teams. The Club now fields a Junior football team and various underage teams.
Hurling has been played in the Parish of Ballymacward-Gurteen since the foundation of the GAA in 1884. One of the earliest records of hurling in the parish was a tournament played in Gurteen in 1885. Here is an excerpt from The Annals of the G.A.A. In Galway 1884-1901 Vol 1
“In September a magnificently organised tournament took place at Gurteen. The home side defeated Athenry by one point. ‘On an occasion that any Irishman having the interest of his country at heart would have been proud of being present’ wrote a local paper.”
As separate entities the Ballymacward and Gurteen Clubs had little success, with just two County titles between them before 1966. Gurteen’s County Junior Hurling title came in 1919. A member of that team, Tom Cogavin, went on to be part of the 1923 Galway All-Ireland winning panel. Gurteen were strongest in the 1920s and contested County Senior Semi-Finals in 1923 (v Galway City) and in 1925 (v Ardrahan) as North Board winners.
Ballymacward’s County Junior title was 1940, played in 1941 (v Loughrea). Many of the names on the Ballymacward team-sheet that day are still present on today’s Pádraig Pearses teams. Names like Ward, Raftery, Bellew, Kenny, Connell and Carr. On the same day, Castleblakeney were victorious in the Junior Football decider. Glentane, St Patrick’s were another team from the parish before 1966 and contested the 1943 Minor Hurling Final against Erin’s Hope (Galway City).
In the aftermath of the Second World War, sport was not a priority and it became more difficult for both clubs to field teams. Players from the parish sometimes fielded with neighbouring clubs. One of the parish’s most famous sons, Fr Nicholas Murray was one player who transferred to play Senior hurling with neighbouring Fohenagh and he was a driving force in their County Senior winning campaigns in 1959 and 1960. Players from both clubs in the parish often fielded for the other club and at times before 1966, Ballymacward and Gurteen did join to compete, before the official permanent amalgamation was finally arranged in 1966.