Founding of the Club
The Bantry Blues was established in 1887, when a group of young local men from the locality were looking to display their athletic abilities and believed through some short term training that they would be able to compete with other clubs in the area. The first chairman of Bantry G.A.A club was Daniel O'Donovan who built and lived in the premises now known as O'Connor's Seafood Restaurant.
1888 - 1921
Bantry's first game was against Doheney's which was played in Kilbarry in 1888. Bantry were losing by 2 points when the Bantry captain T.Scully withdrew the team objecting against the referees interpretation of the rules in those days the Bantry colours were green and gold. In 1890 Bantry affiliated to the Cork County Board under the name of Bantry Robert Emmets, and in 1908 won their first west Cork Championship defeating the Doheny's in the final by 4 points.
In the next year Bantry again met the Dohney's in the West Cork final. After an incident involving both sets of players and the crowd, Bantry were awarded the game and went forward for the County Championship. Bantry were beaten in the county final however by an outstanding Macroom team at the time. In 1912 Bantry entered a team for the County Intermediate Championship eventually winning by defeating a Cork Team "Young Mens" in the final by one point, the only score of the match. Bantry went Senior the following year. The Kelleher Shield was put up for competition for the first time. Bantry won it and therefore created history by being the first ever winners. Between the years 1915 to 1922 war in Ireland hindered the G.A.A games, and Irish men turned their training to another purpose.
1922 - 1941
Then in 1922 in a meeting of prominent gaels of Bantry and District met for the purpose of re-establishing Gaelic Sports in the area. It was decided at the meeting to affiliate fooball and hurling teams for the present season. Bantry G.A.A. were back in business. Forward on to November 1934 where Bantry contested the Intermediate Football Final against a much fancied St Nicks team. Bantry however took the honours by a single point on a scoreline of 1-1 to 3 points Bantry followed this up with another intermediate title in 1936 against Doheny's on a scoreline of 2 - 3 to 1 - 2. Two of the men in these teams were Tim Harrington and Tim Cotter who went on to play with Cork and Munster(no mean feat back in the 1930's). These men were the start of the great love - affairs between Bantry men and Cork football.
In 1938 Bantry again took Intermediate honours beating the Dohenys' 1 - 1 to 2 points. This was also the year where a Bantry Camoige Team made up mostly of St Caneras players beat a team from Ashwell in Cork by 8 points. In 1939 Bantry decided to join the Senior Ranks and in 1941 were both unfortunate and unlucky not to be the first Bantry team to win the County Senior Championship.
1953 - 1961
In 1953 Bantry had more success on the playing fields but this time it was the hurlers who brought back glory when they clinched a South West Junior Hurling Title defeating Clonakilty by 2-4 to 2-1. Not for many years were our local enthusiasts been as jubilant as they were over this wonderful win. It was aslo during this year that Bantry Town Commissioners started meeting about a propose Town Park at Newtown Bantry and it again was also the year that a new team, named St Finbarr's would be nominated to represent the locality. It was rebuffed in 1956.
In 1958, a new pitch at Newtown Bantry was opened, named PÃ¡irc Wolfe Tone in honour of the man who brought the ill-fated French fleet to Bantry Bay in 1796. Most of the crowd which brought the gate receipts within a few shillings of the â¬100 mark were delighted with the layout of the new park and the spirit of co - operation that made it possible.
In 1961 the Tim Harrington memorial cup was set up for the winners of the South West Minor football championship. Bantry contested the final against Clonakilty and won by 1-5 to 1-3. The new trophy was a fitting tribute to a great gael, and it was great that the first winners were wearers of the famous blue Jersey that he himself wore with such distinction.
1964 - 1976
In 1964 Bantry won the Schools Shield Football Championship and got to the final of the County. This according to many was seen as the way forward for the future of Bantry Blues and from then on a lot more emphasis was put on teams at schools and U12 Level. In 1968, after a lapse of some years, the West Cork Junior title came back to Bantry. Beating Ballinascarthy by 10 points a feature of the game was the performance of two brothers, Donal and John Hunt who scored 1-8 between them. Bantry Blues retainedthis title in 1969.
In the minor championship Bantry Blues reigned as champions also and won it again in 1970.
In 1972, Bantry Blues had a marvelous year winning the County Junior championship defeating Adrigole by 1 - 12 to 2 - 6 and also won the West Cork U21 Championship and the Junior 2 Hurling Championship. Two of the great men of the Junior success went on and won all-Ireland medals with Cork in 1973 and thus putting Bantry Blues back on the map. These men, Declan Barron and Donal Hunt would turn out to be two of the best FOOTBALLERS Gaelic Football had ever seen. Forward on to 1975 when Bantry had another great year on the playing fields when they won the West Cork U21 title and also after a gap of 38 years won the County Intermediate Championship beating Naomh Alan by 9 points to 7 points.
In their first year back senior ranks, Bantry Blues reached the 1976 County Championship semi - final where they lost to a St. Michaels' team on a scoreline of 4-8 to 7 points. The scoreline was not a true reflection of the game and the blues were gutted after such a gallant event throughout the year.
1979 - 1993
In 1979, Bantry Blues won the U 21 West Cork while the minor team won the County Title beating Youghal by 6-8 to 2-5. Expectations started to grow at an alarming rate around Bantry with all the success coming at underage level and many expected a Senior County Title was just around the corner.This opportunity came in 1981 when after beating a fancied Muskerry side by 1 - 6 to 6 points, reached the County Senior Final for the first time in their history. Injuries dealt a big blow when Nemo were at their best and the club sadly lost by 3 -11 to 6 points. Nemo went on to win the All - Ireland that year and looking back with a full compliment of players Bantry Blues could have had their name on that trophy.
The following year Bantry got their chance for revenge when they drew Nemo in the first round, but were pipped at the post by 2 -7 to 2- 5. Expectations were ripe again around the town that this team would bring further glory to the club but were dealt a huge blow in the upcoming years when a downturn in the economy caused many of the clubs best players uprooting and leaving these shores and finding work in U.K and America. It was estimated that eight of the senior panel had gone to the United States for work and combing this with injuries caused the club to drop to Intermediate level in 1987. One notable mention around this time was the work going on at underage level and after winning the 1985 West Cork U12 title, Bantry Blues won the county U12 title in 1986. Members of these teams were showing massive potential and it was hoped that if this bunch of lads stayed together success would surely follow.
Also in 1985 Bantry Blues won the "Little Norah" Senior1 Championship. This is always a difficult and memorable achievement for any team but for Bantry it was an unforgettable moment because of the fact that they were achieving this honour with these second string. For Donal Hunt and Declan Barron it must have been a dream come true because surely in the twilight of their careers they must have reckoned no further honours would adorn their sideboards.
1993 was a year that followers of Bantry Blues will never forget, when the the Intermediate team won the County Title beating Ballincollig in an epic final, thus regaining their status at Senior level. To add to this the blues won the county U21title and won the rural section of the minor championship. Many people hoped that this would be the start of something great at adult level and were it not for the the work put in by teachers at primary school level and mentors at under - age level, the success of 1993 would not have ever happened.
1994 - 1999
1994 was again a good year for the blues and although they bowed out of the Senior Championship at an early stage, prospects and hopes were high for this team as they were sticking together as one unit (ans as we now know this would pay off at a later stage). At Inter - county level Cork U 21 footballers reached the All - Ireland final where they defeated Mayo in Cusack Park Ennis. This victory was very meaningful for the blues with Damien O'Neill as captain, five players in total on the panel and also two selectors who played their part in this wonderful success.
In the year 1995 Bantry Blues created their own piece of history when they joined some of the great clubs in the G.A.A. history by winning the County Senior football title defeating a much fancied Muskerry team in PÃ¡irc UÃ Chaoimh. After over 100 years of trying in Vain, dreams finally came through for all involved in the club ans it was wonderful to see Damien O' Neill (nephew of the great Declan Barron) climb the steps of PÃ¡irc UÃ Caoimh to collect the Andy Scannell trophy. Bonfires burned from Innishannon to Bantry as the victorious team made their way triumphantly home to an unbelievable reception, the likes might never be again seen.
Forward to 1997 when Bantry Blues won the West Cork U21 Title defeating Dohenys' after a replay in Kealkil. Members of this team included the captain Andy O'Shea (All - Ireland minor winner wirh Cork in 1993), Philip Clifford and Graham Canty. In 1998 Bantry Blues again reached the county final where they faced Duhallow team containing some of the best footballers in the county. However Bantry again upset the form books and won on a scoreline of 0-17 to 2-6. To win a second county title in four years was a wonderful achievement and it was hoped that this team would now go all the way and win the All-Ireland Club title. After defeating Laune Rangers of Kerry in the Munster Quarter Final, Bantry Blues faced Moyle Rovers of Tipperary. After torrential rain on a black Sunday morning, Wolfe Tone Park was deemed unplayable and the game was switched to Dunmanway. This seemed to upset the Bantry team who never got out of second gear on the day and Moyle Rovers eventually won by 1-7 to 7 points.
However it was not all doom and gloom because in 1999, Bantry Blues had two players on the starting 15 with Cork. With Damien O'Neill as captain and Philip Clifford making the no 13 Jersey his own, hopes were raised that Cork would come good at Inter-County level and bring the Sam Maguire Cup home to West Cork and to Wolfe Tone Park in Bantry. With O'Neill getting injured Clifford took up the reins as captain and firstly brought the National League Cup home to Cork before leading the Cork team out on Croke Park for All - Ireland final against Meath in September. However Cork were beaten on the day but Philip gave his all, scoring 5 points and landing himself the Young Player of the year Award for 1999.