The club and community carried great hopes that the wonderful success of 1989 would be replicated in the 1990s. Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. Burren gained revenge in 1990, knocking out the champions by one point in the SFC. Whilst the team were runners-up in the league in 1991 and reached the semi-final of the SFC in 1991 and ’92, that proved to be the final swansong of the great 80s team — injuries, retirements and emigration all contributed to this but, as they say, football moves in cycles. However, there was success elsewhere. In 1991 captain Cary O’Prey led the reserves to the County double, beating Leitrim in the final and in the small-sided game the Castlewellan All Ireland Sevens was annexed in 1994.
In the early 1990s it was Gary Mason who was making the news. He starred in the forward line for both of Down’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship victories in 1991 and ’94. He was a popular man when the team visited Brennan’s Corner in September 1991. Gerard Colgan (then An Riocht) was also part of the 1991 squad and made an appearance in the final from the bench in ’94.
Unfortunately, Down’s success in 1994 will always be remembered synonymously with the tragedy at O’Toole’s Bar on the eve of Down’s Ulster Senior Football Championship final appearance on June 18, 1994, when six men tragically lost their lives. I measc aingil na bhflaithis go raibh said.
As mentioned earlier, football is cyclical and inconsistent displays saw the senior team dicing with relegation in the mid to late 90s facing relegation play-offs in several instances. Regrettably, after 15 years in Division One, Longstone defeated Loughinisland in the ’98 relegation play-off. That disappointment was somewhat tempered with another fine Feis Sevens win with Rostrevor being defeated in the final. East Down minor and reserve titles were also won in 1996.
Whilst the stock of the men’s football was on the wane, the same could not be said of the ladies. Under the supervision of Orla O’Toole and Helen Rice a new team was formed in 1995. Success came quickly — the Down Junior League was won in 1996 and while the Blues were forced to make the step up to senior in the championship, there were unlucky to be defeated by a couple of points in the semi-final. Helen Rice was honoured by being selected as the Ulster goalkeeper in the Interprovincial tournament in Castlebar, Co Mayo.
The end of the 90s saw more success with the ladies picking up the Junior League and Championship double in 1998. They defeated Kilclief in the final with Hilary O’Reilly and Lisa Toman scoring the goals in a seven-point win.
The last year of the century saw John Turley (then Killyleagh) win an All-Ireland minor medal with Down. St Macartan’s Primary School also brought great honour to the community, winning the 1999 Cumman na mBunscol hurling title.