The rise of Ballinahown FC to the top half of the Senior Division is one of the real fairy-tale stories in the Combined Counties Football League. The village team on the border of Westmeath and Offaly has made remarkable progress in recent times. A second team is also competing for honours in Division 3B while a fine underage set up sees both boys and girls teams in action.
The success of the first team has been remarkable considering they have to compete with such established clubs as Willow Park, Birr Town, and Monksland United. The 2018/19 season saw the Blues split their two great Athlone rivals on the final Senior Division League table. Willow were easy winners of the title but Ballinahown did well to claim second spot ahead of the then reigning champions Monksland. Just five defeats in a remarkable season was only bettered by Willow Park.
Prior to this, the club had a few snippets of success as they made steady progress from season to season. 2013 saw runners up medals gained in the Premier Division cup and the under 19 league and cup. Further highlights followed in 2015 when the Division One title was lifted with a club merit award also earned. More silverware followed in 2018 when the Division Four crown landed.
Many felt that the success in 2019 was a flash in the pan and that Ballinahown would struggle to maintain the momentum when action resumed last September. Noel Harris and Darren Greene remained in charge as they dared to dream of a first ever senior title. The opening fixture was a tough one as Tullamore were the visitors but a single score from Lee Scanlon had the village team off to a flying start. The team was very quickly brought down to earth though when they were thrashed by Birr in their next outing.
It was a major test of the teams desire to bounce back but Harris and Greene are experienced campaigners and refused to panic. The response was perfect as Mullingar Athletic were dispatched in the next outing. The FAI Junior Cup was next and once more Ballinahown won as Newbridge were knocked out. It was back to domestic action and the winning streak continued with an away win over Walsh Island Shamrocks with Terry Byrne, Kevin Lawless and Clive Harris all on target. Harris and David Harrington pull the strings in midfield with Byrne and Nenad Lazic other important players together with Sean Cloherty in defence.
Ballinahown were now tucked in behind Derry Rovers and a major test followed with a visit to the table toppers. The result was not the desired one as the hosts easily won a nine goal thriller. Once more, the response was superb with the team picking themselves up to win in Clara. The three points kept them in touch with Derry Rovers who had won all six of their games to date. Further progress was made in the FAI Junior Cup and revenge was gained when Birr were beaten in league action in November. The table toppers had lost for the first time and Ballinahown were now up to second, just three points behind the Offaly outfit.
There was a disappointing exit of the FAI Junior Cup at the hands of Mullingar Town but the league remained the priority. Action in the New Year saw the team share the spoils with Monksland in a six goal thriller and another win over Walsh Island kept the good run going. March started with a narrow defeat against reigning champions Willow Park in what proved to be their last game before the season drew to a premature halt. The table sees Ballinahown in fourth spot, six points behind Monksland but with a game in hand.
It has also been a successful campaign for the B team who are vying for honours in Division 3B with Kinnegad and East Galway.