Although a rugby club did exist in Ballina for a short period in the 1920s,the modern club has its origins in August 1970 when Jack Hall,Benny O ’Grady and the McKeogh twins, Noel and Fergus, met in the old McKeogh ’s Bar and set the wheels in motion for the formation of Ballina RFC.
Five years later the club name was changed to Ballina-Killaloe RFC in response to the growing input from the Killaloe side of the bridge, although the club catchment has traditionally extended to Birdhill, Ogonnelloe, Broadford and other outlying parishes.
The club grounds for most of its history have been McKeogh’s Field on the road to the Lakeside Hotel, although from 1977 to 1981 home matches were played at Clarisford on the site of the current St. Anne ’s Community College.
Ballina-Killaloe competed at Junior 1 level throughout the seventies and early eighties,and subsequently at thirds level. The first significant trophy won was the Culligan Cup, the premier Clare competition,in 1976-7.
Many club members represented Clare in the annual inter-county tournaments and, through the county system, Michael Durack was capped for Munster Juniors in 1980.
In 1980-1 the club had its most successful season, culminating in a fourteen match unbeaten run during which the Culligan Cup, the Clare Lakelands Cup and the Webb Cup were captured. In that year also the club celebrated its tenth anniversary with a special match against Emus RFC from New South Wales, Australia. Irish internationals, Tony Ward, Colm Tucker, Brendan Foley and Pat Whelan lined out for the Ballina-Killaloe Invitation XV on that occasion.
During the previous season the club hosted Naval Lyceum of Buenos Aires,Argentina and St.John ’s University, New York, and made its first overseas excursion in January 1980 for a match against Ealing RFC in London. Ten years later the club hosted a team from Wilmington, Pennsylvania to celebrate its twentieth birthday.
Many Ballina-Killaloe players went on to achieve higher honours at senior level. These included David McKeogh (Munster Senior Cup with Shannon in 1977), Joe Kelly (Limerick Charity Cup with Old Crescent in 1976-7), Declan O ’Regan (Connacht Senior Cup and League with Corinthians in 1977-8 ) and Michael Coughlan (All- Ireland League with Garryowen in 1994).
The late Gordon Wood, capped 29 times for Ireland and a tourist with the Lions in New Zealand in 1959, coached the club XV on a number of occasions as did 11 times capped Brendan Foley who also lined out for Ballina-Killaloe in his last season as a player. Brendan, of course, is the current club president.
Keith Wood, son of Gordon and a legend with Ireland and the Lions, played on Ballina-Killaloe youth teams in the late 80s and so did the great Anthony Foley,captain of the Munster Heineken Cup winning team.
The club went into abeyance in 1997 but was revived in 2002 as a Mini Rugby club, based for a time near Garranboy, courtesy of Denis and Miriam Flynn, and later at Roulagh, Ballina and The Moys, Clarisford.
Some pictures from the club archives: