Long hair and side burns were the order of the day with the odd moustache here and there. Loughinisland players were no different! On the field things were going well. Under Eamon O’Toole’s tutelage they won promotion to Senior B in their first season, beating Tullylish in the C final and the very talented minor team reached the county final following a tight match against Kilcoo.
The final against Newry was held over to 1971 and following a replay and extra time Loughinisland won their second county minor title with captain Gerry O’Prey lifting the cup. For the seniors finishing fourth in the B League in 1971 was enough for Loughinisland to be promoted following restructuring of the leagues, and participate in the top level of Down football for the first time. This was one of the most memorable periods in the club’s history. For three years in a row Loughinisland reached the Down senior final but on each occasion suffered defeats to Downpatrick in 1972 and then to Bryansford in 1973 and 1974.
For many teams that would have been too much but not for this group. In 1976 Donal Davey took over the reins and victories over Warrenpoint, Castlewellan and Leitrim took the blues to their fourth consecutive final. Their opponents were a strong Rostrevor side. In a pulsating game, Loughinisland edged their third one point victory in the championship. It was the left footed goal by super sub Gerry “Maxi” McLeigh which made the difference. There were jubilant scenes when Kevin Gordon collected the cup, ironically from Tony Williamson, County chairman, a Rostrevor native.
Winning panel: F Quinn, K Flynn, P Shields, J Valentine, S Brennan, E Shields, B Mageean, J Killen, J Gibney, G O’Prey, K Gordon, F Gordon, T McLeigh, V McGlew, D Killen, G McLeigh, D Gordon, P Flanagan, G Rogan, B Jennings, D Rooney, J Rogan, G Killen, P Gibney.
Loughinisland’s Ulster campaign was short-lived with Antrim champions St John’s proving too strong in the opening match.
During this period, the senior team were runners-up in the A League in 1974 and also won the East Down League Cup in 1972, ’73 and ’75.
Also in 1975 saw the U-14 schoolboys, managed by Pat Killen, pick up the club’s first schoolboy title since the early 60s with a campaign which saw victories over Downpatrick, Ballykinlar, Drumaness, Castlewellan and a strong Portaferry team in the final.
Whilst the rest of the decade did not see more final appearances, the senior team were consistently near the top of the league and picked up silverware with the East Down League Cup in 1976 and 1979 and the strength of the club in depth can be seen in winning reserve leagues in 1974, ’76, ’77 and ’78. Youth was also flourishing with the schoolboys team of 1975 winning the East Down Minor League in 1978, an amalgamation with Teconnaught.
Off the field fundraising was the key with the ambitious plan to develop new playing fields in Sevaghan. George Gordon could take a lot of credit for this and along with the rest of the committee the 240 Club and other ventures saw the club purchase land of Billy and Kitty McLeigh in the early 70s. By 1979 the hard work had been done and Macartan Park was ready. All roads led to Loughinisland on the August 5 when GAA President, Paddy Flynn, formally opened the pitch and clubrooms. The committee of the time included H Dornan, B McLeigh, E O’Toole, G Gordon, J Keenan, P Murdock, P Murray V Doran, F Gordon, D Gordon, D Quinn, T Rogan, V Rogan and A Killen.
On the county scene Donal Gordon and Donal Davey won Ulster senior medals in 1971. Donal also picked up a Junior Football Championship medal in ’71 along with his brother Fergus. Noel McCarthy picked up an Ulster U21 title in 1978 and Michael Madine won an Ulster minor medal in 1979. In hurling, dual player John Killen won two special Ulster minor hurling titles in 1971 and ’72 and going on to win the All-Ireland title in 1972.
With a vibrant youth club, fantastic grounds and a hardworking committee the club could look forward to the future with great hope.