Ballinasloe Football Club known then as St. Grellan's, was blessed in the 1970's with an abundance of young footballers who went on to win county titles in u-16 (1972), minor ('74), u-21 ('78) and senior in '79 and '80.
The late Mattie Gantly had been doing trojan work for many years coaching the boys of St. Grellan's National School in the skills of the game. The club wisely set up a juvenile committee in 1972, to ensure that these young lads were properly catered for. John Molloy, Chairperson, Tony Broderick, Secretary, and a very enthusiastic committee did terrific work in developing a very deep reservoir of footballing talent.
The 1974 successful minor team travelled to London in April 1975, winning both of their matches against strong opposition. The trip had a real bonding effect on the squad and played a key role in ensuring subsequent victories. Following the winning of the u-21 title in 1977, the club decided to embark on a trip to the United States in 1978, something few clubs in Ireland undertook at the time.
John had worked for four summers in San Francisco in the early '70s and really enjoyed the West Coast far more than his time working in New York. The original idea was that the club would play a game in New York on the way out west, a few games in San Francisco, and one on the way back in Boston. But the cost of flights proved prohibitive, so the club decided on a three-week trip to New York, Hartford, and Boston, with a visit to Washington proving exceedingly popular. A monthly draw was arranged, for shared expenses but each player financed their own trip.
Twenty-three players flew out of Shannon Airport in July 1978, a new experience for all of them as flying was neither popular nor affordable then 43 years ago.
The team played five games, winning four, and drawing one against the fabled Connemara Gaels, New York. Football was extremely strong in the States at that time as there was a lot of emigration.
John added: “The games were tough, and you fought for every score, there were no yellow or red cards then and crunching tackles were part of every game. The Ballinasloe lads were well prepared to take on all opposition and made Ballinasloe and Galway football proud.”
Among the Ballinasloe natives, who were so happy to welcome the team, were Sean Smyth and Packie Reynolds, who had played for Ballinasloe before being forced to emigrate, along with many more from the area, they ensured that the team wanted for nothing and that a wonderful time was enjoyed by all.
The footballers repaid the hosts' generosity by their excellent behaviour and making the Ballinasloe jersey proud on the pitch. An extremely happy, tired and, undoubtedly, wiser band of young men returned home in mid-August after an unforgettable experience.
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