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Ballymacnab is a town land at the centre of a small rural community in the middle of Co. Armagh. Its name in Irish “Baile Mhic an Aba,” (the town or town land of the son of the abbot) suggests an early monastic association, probably with the abbey in Armagh about four miles away.
There had from the beginning of the 20th century and probably before that a form of football played in the area. This was a rough and tumble affair with little or no rules and no organised competitions. Because it was at the centre of a community and with increasing number of clubs being affiliated into the GAA it was only natural that soon or later a team would be affiliated from Ballymacnab. In 1925 a team was affiliated to the Armagh Junior League. This team were known as “Brian Ogs,” but had little success and was disbanded after a couple of years. Those involved in this venture were, John O’Hare, Pat Clarke and Peter Devlin.
In the early 1930’s the local schoolmaster at Foley School Mr. Edward Halpin together with Fr. Edward O’Connor were instrumental in forming a parish league. Out of this league came eventually at different times over the next thirty years the three teams, which now represent the parish, Ballymacnab, Granemore and Clady.
In the 1940’s a new team from Ballymacnab “Shamrocks” (later to become “Round Towers”) was formed. This team continued to participate in the Mid Armagh Junior League and Championships until 1959. They contested some championship and league finals but their only success was the Mid Armagh Divisional Championship in 1946. One of the stars of this generation was Joe O’Hare who played on the Armagh team who reached the All-Ireland Final in 1953. In 1960 Ballymacnab had difficulty in fielding a team and they joined with Granemore to field a team known as Kilcluney. This team folded in a couple of years.
There was no football in Ballymacnab from 1962 until 1967 when “Round Towers” was reformed and competed in Division IV of the Armagh League. Galway were the All Ireland Champions at this time having just won three titles in a row. Ballymacnab took their colours and still wear the maroon today. Thomas O’Hare (nephew of John) and Joe Halpin (son of Edward) were the largely responsible for this revival. In these early years teams have relative success gaining promotion to Division II by 1969 but this was meet with defeats in the Final of the Junior Championship in 1969,1971 & 1972.
In the succeeding years Ballymacnab moved at various times between Division II and Division IV, winning Division IV in 1980 and Division III two years later. Disappointments were meet in form of defeats in the Junior Finals of 1984, 1993 and 1994 until The Junior Championship was finally won in 1999, the first by the club. Gary Donnelly had then honour of captaining that team. As a consequence of this win they were invited to play in the All Ireland seven a side competition for Junior clubs held on the eve of the 2000 All Ireland Football Final. They won the shield at this event. 2005 was another mile stone along the Ballymacnab way with Senior winning the Mid Armagh Shield and League Division III. In 2006 Ballymacnab stepped up to the mark once again when they won the Intermediate Championship (Captained by Paudi Beagan) for the first time when they defeated Madden 0-11 to 0-07 and reached the Ulster Intermediate Final only to be defeated by Coleraine Eoghan Roe’s after a replay. In 2009, Rory Grugan & Gavin McParland played on the successful Armagh minor team that won the All-Ireland. In 2010 the seniors won the ACL Division II and were promoted to Division I for the first time in the clubs history and also recorded their first victory in the Senior Championship with a win over Killeavy. In 2011 Ballymacnab maintained their Division I status in their maiden year and reached their first County Senior Final by defeating Clan na Gael and Granemore enroute, only to be defeated by Crossmaglen. Under the stewardship of former player John Kelly the Minors captured the first All County Underage Championship winning the Division II title. In 2012 the Seniors maintained their Senior status while the Under 14s collected the Division III Championship. In 2013 the Seniors once again maintained their Senior League status and reached the Semi-Final of the Championship losing by a point to St.Patrick’s after defeating Culloville and Granemore in the previous rounds.
Ballymacnab are also proud of our representation of players on the county at various levels. Those who have dawned the Armagh jersey include: Minor – Frank McCone (RIP), Peter Cosgrove (RIP), Joe O’Hare, Mickey O’Hare (RIP), Packie Nugent, Brendan McKee, Jimmy Murphy, Ciaran Toner, Paddy McGeown, Gary Donnelly, James Gray, Damian McGeown, Rory Grugan, Gavin McParland, Dominic McParland, Jack Grugan. Under 21 – Mickey O’Hare (RIP), Seamus Hughes, John Kelly, Gerard McClelland, Ciaran Toner, Philip McCone, Rory Grugan, Gavin McParland, Ryan Kennedy, Padraig Crilly, Jack Grugan. Senior and Junior – Mickey McCone (RIP), Patrick Toner (RIP), Joe O’Hare, Mickey O’Hare (RIP), Ciaran Toner, Brian McCone, Rory Grugan, Gavin McParland, Pauric Gribben, Sean Hughes.
Ballymacnab have from their formation played in the field behind the chapel. In 1975 they purchased the field and began an ambitious development programme. The field was officially opened in 1981 and named “Pairc na nGael”. This development has continued more or less since. We now have two floodlit pitches and modern changing facilities. In 2006 the construction of a stand commenced.
Ballymacnab are also proud to have tried to nature all the ideas of the Association and promote our culture through Irish language classes and participating in Scor Sinsear and Scor na nOg where the highlight was back to back All – Ireland wins in 1996 and 1997.