CONNAUGHT JUNIOR ALLIANCE. By: Donal Killeen (Secretary)

The Connaught Junior Alliance was founded in Mountbellew in 1969. Frank Rushe, Honorary secretary of Mountbellew Golf Club sowed the seed. (Who better than a Horticultural Instructor to do this?) Frank contacted the more enthusiastic from the neighbouring clubs, plus the inimitable Jack O’Sullivan, the then Secretary of the Connacht Branch of the Golfing Union of Ireland.

The following is an extract of the report from the first meeting of the Connaught Junior Alliance.

“At a meeting in Mountbellew on November 29th 1969, it was decided to form a golf alliance with a view towards providing competitions during the Winter and Spring for golfers with handicaps of 9 to 16 inclusive. Mr Jack O’Sullivan, Athlone, presided, and the following committee was elected. Captain: Tom Fitzgerald (Mountbellew); Hon. Secretary/ Treasurer: Frank Rushe (Mountbellew); Committee: Tony O’Connor (Tuam), Jim Connell (Ballyhaunis), Michael Connolly (Ballinasloe), Gerry Dolan (Roscommon), Sean Dempsey (Athenry), Oliver Burke (Ballaghdereen), Rev. P.V. O’Brien (Claremorris).”
The captaincy was bestowed on players from different clubs.

Frank Rushe bore the burden of the secretary-ship until his appointment as Captain in 1977, at which time Tom Fitzgerald agreed to do the needful in 1977-1978.

This extract came from a booklet that was published in 1979 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Mountbellew Golf Club. Please bear with me as I try to bring you up to date.

Captains Roll of Honour since 1979

  • 1979-1980: Eamonn Hayes (Castlerea), 1980-1981: John Forde (Ballyhaunis),
  • 1981-1982: M.P. Ryder (Ballinrobe), 1982-1983: Paul Cunningham (Mountbellew),
  • 1983-1984: Sean Dempsey (Athenry), 1984-1985: John Scarry (Ballyhaunis),
  • 1985-1986: Martin B. Lenihan (Mountbellew), 1986-1987: John J. Joyce (Tuam),
  • 1987-1990: Donal Killeen (senior) Mountbellew, 1990-1996: Sean Dempsey (Athenry),
  • 1996-1998: Donal Killeen (junior) Mountbellew, 1998-2000: Declan Tierney (Tuam),
  • 2000-2002: Tom Sands (Galway Bay Golf Resort), 2002-2008: Willie O’Rourke (Ballinasloe),
  • 2008-2009: Tom Durkin (Oughterard), 2009-2010: Tom Cunningham (Mountbellew),
  • 2010-2011: Kevin Cunniffe (Ballinasloe), 2011-2012: Jim Byrne (Athenry),
  • 2012-2013: Noel Coen (Mountbellew), 2013-2014: Jim Byrne (Oughterard),
  • 2014-2015: Brian Mongan (Galway), 2015-2016: Joe Browne (Oughterard),
  • 2016-2017: Jimmy Flynn: (Ballinasloe).

In the late 1980s support for the alliance waned somewhat and talks were being held to disband the organisation by some members at that time. Frank Rushe however, the man responsible for founding the alliance and setting the wheels in motion on day one, intervened. He got a group together and within months all clubs in the South Connaught region were written to.

It was found that rumours of the alliance’s demise were unfounded. The response to the communications to clubs was to say the least, phenomenal. Thus, under the captaincy of John J. Joyce (Tuam) working closely with Bertie Gillard (also of Tuam), the alliance was reborn. Both men are deserving of a great deal of credit for their efforts.

At the end of John J. Joyce’s season as captain the search was put in motion for a successor. Discussions took place and finally, the NEW man in town, Donal Killeen (senior) was asked to be Captain for the 1987-1988 Season. Hence began the Killeen family connection with running the Connaught Junior Alliance that is still in place today.

Thankfully, a lot of help was forthcoming from Frank Rushe who, along with other loyal supporters of the alliance ensured a smoother transition actually took place than perhaps should have been expected.

Donal (senior) was captain from 1987 to 1990 and after some years of approaching individuals and coming up with the same replies i.e. “keep it going, you’re doing a great job” (in other words, don’t annoy me I’m enjoying my golf too much) he decided that a change was needed at the top if the alliance was to continue to flourish and keep the respect it had built up.

Sean Dempsey (Athenry Golf Club), a founding member of the alliance took over as captain in October 1990. His undoubted popularity both as a golfer and friend to those who played in the alliance ensured a very successful term as captain.
Sadly, Sean is no longer with us. His tireless efforts on behalf of the alliance and indeed Athenry Golf Club will however, long be remembered as will his fond association for Mountbellew Golf Club.

!n 1996 Sean asked me to take over as Captain. Hence for the first time in the alliance’s history, a father and son had become Captains. For the 1996-1997 Captain’s Prize the alliance visited Galway Bay Golf & Country Club. Here Willie Higgins of Athenry took the spoils with 37pts. In 1997-1998 we visited the newly built 18 holes course at Cloonacastle, Ballinrobe where Christy Small won the Captain’s Prize. My own term as captain finished in September 1998. I at that time was elected as Captain of Mountbellew Golf Club for which I was honoured to serve during 1999.

Declan Tierney of Tuam Golf Club and Connacht Tribune fame, took over as Captain in 1998. Declan was Captain from 1998 to 2000. Declan was a very popular Captain and the alliance enjoyed a successful 2 seasons during his captaincy. Tom Sands of Galway Bay Golf & Country Club took over as Captain in September 2000. Tom who is originally from Ballygar, was a very popular choice as Captain given his association with the Galway three in a row football teams of the 1960s. Tom was later honoured by Galway Bay Golf & Country Club by being elected by the members as Captain of that club.

In 2002 the alliance elected Willie O’Rourke (Ballinasloe) as Captain. As our records show Willie had been Captain previously. He was however delighted to be asked to serve as Captain and took on the role with great enthusiasm.

For those who are interested, Members are asked to pay a membership fee of €20 approx. They also pay a competition fee at each outing of €20 or €25 depending on the green fee charged by the club where the outing is being held. Members play off their current GUI handicap but not less than 8 (7.5). We allow players above 24 to play in our outings providing they play off 24. All members scores are returned to their HOME clubs after each outing. To help spread the prizes we operate a penalty shot system whereby those who win first and/or second prizes in NETT and/or GROSS have their scores reduced at the following outing.
The alliance awards a Golfer of Season in both Nett and Gross categories. These awards are given to the players who have a better aggregate score (not counting penalty shots) from 8 out of 10 outings or a quantity of outings, as determined by the committee.

All members must abide by the R&A Rules of Golf and the GUI handicapping rules (YOU ARE OBLIGED TO REPORT YOUR SCORES).

Sadly, a lot of those who started the organisation that we know today are no longer with us. I trust you will all agree however, that those who met in Mountbellew on that fateful evening, November 29th 1969, are deserving of tremendous praise and thanks for their foresight and willingness to set up an alliance that still gives us a great deal of enjoyment TODAY.