History - Back to the Future

 Back to the Future

Michael Wilson, November 2011

Unlike the well planned 40th anniversary celebration the emergence of Bredagh was a fairly low key event.

The first meeting which was coordinated by Fr Matt Wallace the curate in the Holy Rosary parish took place in the Conference Room of St Bernadette’s church which at that time was part of the Holy Rosary parish.

My attendance at the meeting was more by accident than design. All of the others present had GAA blood pulsing in their veins and some had represented their county at the highest level. I was friendly with Fr Matt having been an altar boy seconded from the Holy Rosary to St Bernadette’s when it opened in 1967. I came along more out of interest than anything else, although I played Gaelic football at St Malachy’s and remember the success of Martin O’Neill and his brothers in helping the College win the MacRory Cup in 1968 but narrowly losing the Hógan Cup final to Coláiste Chroíst Rí.

I can recall little of that evening other than the names of some of those who were present including Seamus Sammon, Jim O’Keefe, Eamon Gilmore and Frank McMullan, but it quickly led on to the creation of a club with its own distinct ethos and colour. As a Wexford man Fr Matt had perhaps harboured thoughts that Bredagh’s colours would be purple and gold of his native county but Galway were a great team at that time that influenced the choice of maroon.

Growing up in Ballynafeigh Gaelic sports were something of a latent pastime and although Down had made history in the 1960’s these were things more read or spoken about than acted out on the field of play. Indeed, the common sight today of a GAA jersey or a hurl on the Ravenhill Road is a much more recent phenomenon. Before the Bredagh club was set up Cherryvale was owned by Queen’s University and soccer, rugby and cricket were to the fore.

The opportunity to use and develop the pitch behind the Nazareth Home offered a secure and somewhat secluded location which was fortuitous as this was a dangerous period during the Troubles especially for a ‘minority’ population in South Belfast. The changing rooms were in what used to be the Rosario Tennis club and were covered and dry; something that not every other club in the county could boast.

To have prospered in spite of the loss of that pitch has been another of Bredagh’s great achievements.

To establish a new GAA club required courage at a time when it was often necessary to keep the head down. That the club has not only survived but also prospered is an enduring legacy to its founders. Not only did Bredagh field with some success but it also embraced the cultural side of the GAA and participated in the Scór competition with equal vigour. I particularly remember the wonderful tin whistle playing of Gerry O’Donnell who won the Down Senior title in 1973.

Although I transferred from Bredagh to another Down club in 1976 I am happy to have completed the circle and to have been back in Bredagh as a Ladies Football coach for the last few years.

I was privileged to have been at that first meeting in October 1971.  Those who attended have left an enduring legacy. Starting any club from scratch took a lot of passion and commitment and the success of Bredagh is an enduring legacy to their efforts. Their commitment to sport gave no thought to the politics of the time but by a strange coincidence Bredagh will share its 40th anniversary with the DUP.  Maybe the next big celebration will be a joint one!