The first official record of Askeaton GAA club is when Askeaton Desmonds were represented at the second County convention in Limerick in 1887. Since then, the GAA has had a continuous presence in the Askeaton /Ballysteen parish. There was obviously a huge appetite for Gaelic games at that time and that tradition has been carried through to today. To keep the clubs alive for that long is an extraordinary achievement, the enthusiasm been shown at the moment by our youngest members is a fitting reward for that effort. There have been huge changes in that 130 years but the same principles still apply. Volunteerism, determination, loyalty, generosity and genuine hard work, these qualities are as evident today as they were in the 1890’s.
Even though teams from the parish took part in various tournaments in the early years after the foundation of the GAA, success was to be hard earned. Askeaton football team contested the County final in 1905 against the famed Commercials team but were beaten by 7 points. A few years would pass before that dedication and love of the games would eventually be rewarded. Ballysteen won their first West Junior Football championship in 1932 and the hurling team as Askeaton, won the County Junior Hurling championship in 1935. Centre back on the hurling team was Denis Jones T.D who would go on to represent West Limerick in the Dail for over 20 years.
The 1940’s would deliver more success in both codes. At the time hurling was the dominant game in Askeaton while Ballysteen were seen as the football specialists. Similar to today, players would play with both teams. 1946 saw Ballysteen win their first County Junior Football championship. A West Premier Minor football and hurling championship double was also secured that year. Askeaton would win 3 consecutive West Premier Minor Hurling championships in 1945, 1946 & 1947. The team included 3 young hurlers from Adare who didn’t have a minor hurling team at the time. Paddy Fitzgerald from Askeaton was a regular on the County Senior hurling team at this time.
The success on the playing fields would take a downturn in the 1950’s. Like the rest of rural Ireland, economic stagnation and emigration would greatly affect this region. But Askeaton won the 1959 Minor Premier Football County title and this was the spark that ignited the golden era of the sixties. Two more Minor titles were won before Ballysteen won the 1961 Junior Football County final. The good times were only starting. Ballysteen won the Senior Football County Championship for the first time in 1964. The same bunch of players would go on to win the three in a row, a remarkable feat in a very tough and hard-fought championship. Players like Tony Fitzgerald, Basil Fitzgibbon, Donie Nestor, Minie Allen, Tommy Carrig and Francie Kenny were the backbone of the team which was admired not only in Limerick but all over Munster. Many of these players were still involved in August 1973 when Askeaton won the 1972 County Senior Football Championship. The final had been delayed because of a number of technicalities. This remains the last time the Senior football title has resided in the parish. Two more Minor football titles would be claimed in 1975 & 1976. This exceptional minor team would provide some of the best footballers ever to represent Askeaton and Ballysteen. It was not unusual for 9 or 10 players from the locality to be training with Limerick during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Players like Finty Ryan, Donal & Anthony Moran, Paddy Ivess, Enda McDaid and Paddy Barrett would play with Limerick for many years.
While the football was going through a remarkable purple patch the hurling had taken a back seat and had gradually faded away. But in 1984 a group led by the late great Michael D. Ryan succeeded in reviving the hurling in the area. An enthusiastic group of people got a team together and success followed very quickly. The team won the 1984 West Novice Hurling Championship. Ballysteen also had a hurling team for that centenary year. An amalgamation in 1988 with Kilcornan and the creation of Cois Sionna led to the winning of the County Junior B Hurling Championship in 1989. In 1992 Askeaton went back to competing on their own. The West Junior B Hurling was won in 1993 & 1994 before the club voluntarily decided to move up a grade to Junior A in 1995. This brave move was instantly rewarded as the team bridged a gap of 60 years to win the West Junior A Championship beating Knockaderry after a replay. Junior hurling titles followed in 2006 & 2010 and the club now has two teams competing at both Junior A & Junior B.
In 1965 Askeaton GAA club had a very unique committee member, the late Mrs. Mai Sweeney nee Collins was the only woman serving on an executive GAA committee in the country. Today we are quite fortunate to have a number of hard-working ladies involved across the club. Ladies football is also set to return soon after a gap of 25 years and hopefully the ladies will get all the help and encouragement that they need to make this a success.
Askeaton/Ballysteen Bord Na nÓg was setup in 1995 and has grown to be the foundation of our Senior clubs. Within 3 years of being setup the U14’s won both the County Feile Na nGael hurling and football Peil na nÓg finals. These teams represented Limerick in the finals in Wexford and Donegal. This group of players were hugely talented but also very well coached. They had unprecedented success at underage and the majority went on to play with our Senior clubs up to the present day. Many of these players were on the victorious Ballysteen team who won the County Intermediate Football Championship in 2008. This is a great example of the healthy relationship that has existed between the Bord Na nÓg and Askeaton and Ballysteen GAA clubs. Kilcornan joined up in the last few years and have greatly enhanced the numbers and quality of players and coaches. Askeaton/Ballysteen/Kilcornan Bord Na nÓg is growing very strongly as evidenced by the increasing numbers participating in training sessions and games.
All of these activities, games and training would not be able to take place without the proper facilities. In Askeaton we are very lucky to have one of the finest sporting fields in the county. We will be forever grateful to the inspired committee who put a plan together to purchase the sporting field in 1958 which they had rented for years. Hard work and improvisation by lots of volunteers helped to develop the field into the modern facility that is there today. Some of the initiatives taken on and completed over the last 62 years include:
None of this would have happened without the huge dedication of hundreds of people who gave their time and knowledge freely. It is up to us to continue to carry the flame and to further enhance those incredible facilities. Ballysteen and Kilcornan have recently opened and developed two superb community fields. The astroturf pitch in Kilcornan is a brilliant resource for our young teams during the winter. We are lucky to be well served with such modern, well maintained facilities in the two parishes.
We owe it to the hundreds of people who have contributed to the history of our clubs to continue the hard work and to make our own history in the coming years. The pillars that have made the GAA great have not changed in 136 years. It is now our responsibility to pass on these ideals to the next generation.