The 2000s started with Loughinisland man Eamon O’Toole as County chairman. His stewardship was significant as the GAA in Down celebrated its centenary and some of the GAA’s more contentious issues such as Rule 42.
The first year of the new centenary saw Loughinisland promoted after beating Ballymartin in a play-off. This was followed with the ladies doing the double, picking up the Intermediate league and junior championship. More success followed the following year with the underage players — the minors winning the league and Feis Sevens. The U-16s followed up by winning the league and the St Macartan’s PS eclipsed their previous success by doing the double and winning the football and hurling county titles in 2001.
Mother and daughter combination Hilary and Emma O’Reilly lined out for Down Ladies in Ulster Senior Football Championship in 2001. Following a relegation the previous year the ladies were back to winning ways, completing the Intermediate league and championship double. Downpatrick were the vanquished this time.
On the field of play Loughinisland spent a couple of seasons staving of relegation but their luck ran out in 2003 and we were relegated. Finishing fifth, they missed out in promotion in 2004 to Division One. An aside to this was the fact that they would now be absent from the Senior Football Championship in 2005, the first time since the late ’60s. They would participate in the Intermediate Football Championship for the first time.
After a season in the senior league the ladies returned to the Intermediate sections. Their return was fruitful with the ladies picking up the league and championship double. Clonduff were beaten in the final with Hilary and Emma O’Reilly and Lisa Toman the main scorers.
Joe Doran had joined Alan Molloy, Dan Gordon and Brendan Ward on the Down senior squad. Dan also picked up a prestigious Railway Cup medal playing for Ulster. Off the field Colleen Russell won Down Scor title in the Recitation section.
The up and down theme continued in 2005 with the club gaining promotion to Division One under the management of Bundy Mason. On the county front Ryan Stranney won an Ulster U 21 medal and Jamie O’Reilly collected an All-Ireland minor medal. In Scor na nOg Loughinisland won the Quiz section two years in a row in 06/07 and again a year later. The club was represented by Conor Corrigan, Rory King and James Grant (06/07) with Matthew Nugent joining the team in 2007/08.
Off the field the hardworking committee had been busy. With the growth in ladies’ football and increase in youth teams there was acknowledgement that the club’s current facilities could not facilitate the needs of the club for the 21st century. Plans were drawn for a new clubhouse incorporating dressing rooms, function room/bar, member’s lounges, kitchen etc. A variety of successful funding applications along with extensive fundraising enabled the project to become a reality. Planning permission was granted and Macartan Park had the green light for development.
Appropriately this redevelopment of the clubrooms was programmed to take place in the upcoming centenary year of the club. The club celebrated the year in fine style with a number of events. It kicked off with a balloon launch at “The Stick”, the place where it all started in 1906. This was followed by a display of club artefacts in St Macartan’s Primary School. Other events included a Centenary 10k Run and golf classic and the children in the school became involved making posters of their favourite players and writing short histories/fact sheets of the club. The highlight of the year was the centenary formal banquet held in the Slieve Donard Hotel, Newcastle, on October 14. With special guest former GAA President, the inspirational Peter Quinn in attendance, the 370-plus guests enjoyed a night of memories and reminisence. A variety of centenary awards were presented along with an overdue set of winners’ medals for the 1975 Senior Football Championship winners with plaques being awarded at the time.
Work on the new clubrooms carried on over the next year and the clubrooms were open for business in December 2007. Off the field the stock of the senior team was rising. The players from recently successful minor teams had embedded themselves in the senior squad and Loughinisland had established themselves in Division One. This form was replicated in the championship and the club had great runs to the finals in 2008 and 2009. Unfortunately, the ultimate prize eluded us on both occasions, with Mayobridge and Kilcoo respectively having the upper hand in the respective finals. There was some consolation with Alan Molloy being awarded the man-of-the-match award in the 2008 final. Jamie O’Reilly added further to his medal collection with an Ulster U-21 championship title.