From a football point of view the ’80s will be remembered as a decade of two halves. The early part saw the metamorphism of the championship winning team of 1975 go through a cycle of transition into the team of the late ’80s that would bring much honour and glory to the club.
The early 80s saw indifferent league form and the club skirted with relegation until it was unavoidable in the 1984 season. There was a glimmer of light with the club winning its second Senior Feis title in 1983, beating Glenn in the final and in 1984 a reserve team captained by a youthful Gary Mason and managed by a not so youthful Fergus Gordon annexing the reserve football championship, beating Saval. A talented group of younger players were coming through and allied with the more experienced hands of John Killen, Gerry O’Prey and Noel McCarthy gave much confidence to new manager Pat O’Hare for upcoming season of 1985 in Division 2. He wasn’t to be disappointed!
The club strolled through the division, playing attacking football — scoring 51 goals and 213 points in their 18 games. Chief destroyer was Brendan ‘Bundy’ Mason with 23 goals and 85 points to his credit.
The form continued in the championship and the Division Two team defeated Castlewellan, Rostrevor and Longstone on their way to a final meeting with Burren. However on this occasion the final proved to be a bridge too far with Burren winning on a 0-10 to 0-5 scoreline. There was further success at the Feis Sevens when a third title was picked up after beating Saval.
By this stage Bundy Mason was being recognised nationally. He won a National League with Down in 1983 and was receiving All-Star nominations on an annual basis. Along with Paul Rogan he picked up an Ulster U21 title in 1984. Following promotion, the club looked forward to the 1986 season with great optimism.
Following 15 victories the senior team annexed the clubs first Division One title. This was accompanied with another Feis Sevens title beating Longstone in the final. In the senior championship it took three fantastic games to separate the Blues and Burren. However, once again it was the men from South Down that progressed by two points and went on to win another All-Ireland club title.
Whilst Collie Mason picked up an All-Ireland minor medal in 1987 the club completed a hat trick of Feis Sevens titles beating Glenn this time. A narrow loss to Mountbellew in the final of Kilmacaud All-Ireland Sevens followed. In the 15-a–side games there was a semi-final defeat to Bryansford in the SFC and a top four finish in the league. Bundy’s great form was acknowledged with an All-Star replacement. The following year saw another SFC Final appearance — it was Burren again and unfortunately another defeat. There was some good news however with John Killen being awarded the man-of-the-match award. The late ’80s also saw success in Scor with the Ballad Group (’88/’89) and Ursula O’Prey (solo singing in ’87/’88) winning County titles.
The Committee with Vincent Doran in the Chair appointed Pat Gibney as senior manager in 1989 and with Liam McGreevy as trainer and Vincent McGlew as selector the club set off for a new season in optimistic mood. This optimism was further reinforced following early victories over Burren and Downpatrick. The good form carried through the season and culminated with the senior team annexing the coveted double — Senior League and Senior Football Championship titles. Bryansford were despatched in the final by a score of 3-10 to 0-5. A proud Noel McCarthy received a rousing reception from the Blues supporters when he lifted the O’Hare Cup. There was another loud cheer when John Trainor was awarded the man-of-the-match award. The Ulster club campaign started off with a fine win over Cavan’s Kingscourt. The semi-final turned out to be a step too far with Monaghan’s Scotstown advancing to the final by two points. Elsewhere, the reserves and U-14s won the East Down League. Indeed, it was a glittering top table of prizes for all to witness at the dinner dance on St Stephen’s Night in the Abbey Lodge Hotel, Downpatrick. It was a wonderful end to the decade following the inauspicious start to the ’80s.