Down’s most successful football clubs


WITH two All-Ireland titles, five Ulster titles and 14 county wins, Burren remain Down’s most decorated club at senior level even if Kilcoo have rapidly closed the gap.

They are the only club from the Mourne county to lift the Andy Merrigan Cup, and they did so twice in three years (1986 and ’88) as Shorty Trainor, the McKernans, Paddy O’Rourke and the McGoverns spear-headed an incredible side.

Their 2010 Down title was their first since ’97, and it’s somewhat surprising that they have only added two more Frank O’Hare Cups since then considering the talent they possess. Kilcoo have been the main reason for that, but with some incredible underage teams emerging, they will be confident of adding to their tally in the very near future.


KILCOO claimed their first-ever Ulster title in 2019 and came so close to a maiden All-Ireland title too as Corofin squeezed them out after extra-time.

It truly has been a golden period for the Magpies. They are now well clear in the Down roll of honour with 18 titles, four ahead of nearest challenger Burren. Half of that haul has come from 2009 onwards and, incredibly, they have won eight of the last nine Down Championships.

Kilcoo will be firm favourites once again when action resumes later this year, and that trophy count is likely to keep on rising over the next few years.


THE Ulster Club Championship was officially sanctioned in 1968 and Bryansford quickly moved to the top of the roll of honour with provincial triumphs in ’69 and ’70.

Master’ Sean Smith was the man that led the side to those victories and they followed it up with a period of great success in their own county in the ‘70s.

They have 11 county titles in all, and the last of those came in 2003 – their first since 1977.

The ‘Ford have had some brilliant talent in recent years, so people expected that tally to be added to, but the emergence of first Mayobridge and then Kilcoo stopped those ambitions.

Still, they are a real heavyweight of Down football, and will remain so for a long time.


MAYOBRIDGE probably deserved an Ulster title in the 2000s, but it wasn’t to be. They reached two finals but found getting past Ballinderry and Crossmaglen a step too far.

The ‘Bridge have lost a lot of Down finals too – nine – but the pain of that is eased by the fact that they now have 10 county titles to their name.

That’s quite the achievement when you consider that no titles arrived between 1919 and 1999. Then, like London buses, eight arrived in the space of 10 years.

Mickey Linden, Mickey Walsh, Benny Coulter, Ronan Sexton, Brendan Grant – it was a team laced with talent. No title since 2008 though.


LIKE Mayobridge, Castlewellan have racked up 10 county titles over the years along with a number of cherished provincial and All-Ireland Sevens titles.

From the 1920s until their last success in ’95, they won at least one title in every decade apart from the 1940s. The wait for success is at 26 years now, far too long for a club of their size.

Pat Rice, Barney McAleenan, Ciarán McCabe, Mickey McVeigh, Colm McAlarney, Martin Laverty – they have produced some incredible players over the years.

They also brought plenty of colour to the provincial series over the years, enjoying amazing battles with the likes of Carrickcruppen, but they never reached a final.


CLONDUFF have nine county titles to their name, and the 1957 success really demonstrated the talent available in the area.

The team had split into Clonduff (Hilltown) and Cabra at the time, and they actually met in that year’s county decider. Two years later they joined back together although they have only won two titles since, in 1980 and 2000.

In 1980 they just edged out a Glenn team that featured the likes of All-Star Paddy Kennedy while 20 years later the Yellas were back on top as they eased past Liatroim.


DOWNPATRICK have won six Down titles and three of those came between 1990 and ’93.

That was undoubtedly the golden team of the club’s history, and they managed to reach an Ulster final in that period too.

That was in ’93 but, unfortunately for them, Errigal Ciaran proved too strong in the decider as they claimed a 3-7 to 1-8 win at the Athletic Grounds.

The Hoops only had two scorers on the day, Gerard Deegan with their goal and Kyran Smyth with all eight points, and a certain Peter Canavan proved too hot to handle at the other end.


FAUGH-A-BALLAGH are not in existence any more, but they did have a big impact on Down football when they were playing with county titles arriving in 1903, 1906, 1907 and 1909.

The Newry-based club participated in the first county final ever as they defeated Liatroim, and they would defeat the Fontenoys for the first three of their four titles. In 1909, it was Ballyvarley who fell to them.

The 1916 Rising, the War of Independence and the years of conflict which following Partition meant that many clubs drifted away, and Faugh-a-Ballagh were one of those.


ANOTHER Newry side is sitting on four titles, and that is the famous Mitchel’s club.

Times are difficult right now for the club, but Shorty Trainor is in helping the seniors and there are signs of recovery as they try to get the numbers in to stay afloat.

Any threat to their existence is a real shame though because they were the team of the ‘60s as their star-studded side collected four county titles.

The first title in 1960 came just four years after their formation and was led up front by Down legend Seán O’Neill. Those sides were also notable for the sheer numbers of sets of brothers players with the McAteers, the Bannons, McCauls, Toals, McAleaveys, O’Neills, Hollywoods, Taveys, O’Rourkes, O’Halls, McParlands and Quinns all pulling on the red and white jersey.

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