Saturday, March 25 will be a day for GAA fans far and near not to miss, as Ballina’s legendary Shannon Medals Football Tournament is revived after a three-decade absence.
As part of the Ballina 2023 celebrations, and in what is a unique collaboration, Ballina Stephenites, Ardnaree Sarsfields and Knockmore GAA clubs, together with Kilmoremoy LGFA, will welcome visiting teams from St Eunan’s of Letterkenny, An Charraig Mhór Naomh Colmcille of Tyrone and Roscommon Gaels, for a one-day series of games at senior and intermediate level.
The first games throw in at 1pm and the event will run until 6pm that evening, using pitches throughout the town, with an evening of entertainment planned afterwards. On Sunday, Kilmoremoy LGFA will host an underage blitz.
The tournament will be supported throughout by volunteers from the local clubs and Ballina 2023, and GAA supporters are invited to come along to the venues and enjoy the action for free. A full schedule of games will be released shortly.
The revival of the Shannon Medal Tournament represents Ballina 2023’s aims of honouring the past and inspiring hope for the future. The first games throw-in at 1pm and will run until 6pm using pitches throughout the town.
Organiser of the event, former Mayo GAA and current Ballina Stephenites footballer Ger Cafferkey, said: “The Shannon Medals Tournament is a legendary competition around Ballina. I’ve really enjoyed talking to former Ballina Stephenites players and players from other clubs who participated in the past about the battles on the pitch and the antics in the clubhouse afterwards, and we’re excited to see where the revival of the tournament takes us this year.”
Former Ballina Stephenites legend, Denis Coen, is in his third year as the full-time High Performance and Mental Conditioning Coach with the visiting An Charraig Mhór Naomh Colmcille from Carrickmore in Tyrone.
“We, the management, players, backroom team and officers of the club are really excited about the Shannon Medals Tournament and see it as an opportunity to compete and showcase the quality, brand and philosophy of football we play,” said Coen.
“I see many similarities in the style, youth, vibrance, talent, pride and tradition of both my home club Ballina Stephenites and An Charraig Mhór Naomh Colmcille.”
Current Ballina Stephenites manager, Niall Heffernan is exiled in Claremorris but played in the Shannon Medals Tournament from 1977 to 1981 and has fond memories: “This was the tournament we looked forward to every year. There was always a great mix of teams, top-class competition and great camaraderie in the evenings.”
The original Shannon Medals tournament was initiated back in 1960 as a fundraiser for improvements to James Stephens’ Park, and visiting clubs at the time included Tuam Stars, Dunmore MacHales, Castlebar Mitchels, Clerical Students, Western Command and Claremorris. Over the years, the event became a much-beloved highlight in the West of Ireland GAA social calendar, as well as offering good competitive games for the participating clubs. The tournament is named after Ballina native and donor of the competition’s original gold medals, Dick Shannon. Dick lined out for Ballina Stephenites and New York GAA, where he eventually settled.
The revival of the tournament brings with it the question – where are the Shannon Medals today? Are there former players or family members out there with a rare Shannon Medal in their possession? If so, they are warmly invited to get in touch with Ballina 2023 via email to [email protected], so they can be acknowledged on the day.
For event updates, visit www.Ballina2023.ie and Ballina 2023’s social media channels.