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So striking is the name of the club that the image of “Four Masters” is one of the first to come to mind when Donegal Town is mentioned. The club is dedicated to the memory of the 17th Century Tír Chonaill-based Franciscan monks who wrote the first comprehensive annals of Ireland.
On Friday, October 20th 1905, the “Ball Dearg Hurling and Football Club” was founded in Donegal Town. The new club got the name “Ball Dearg” to commemorate the famous birth-mark of the Clan O’ Donnell. Ironically, their maiden appearance was against the “Townawilly Four Masters” in a hurling match. But it was in football that they found their feet quickest as the “Ball Deargs” captured the 1906 County Senior Championship defeating Killygordon in the final.
The “Ball Dearg” club lasted only until 1907 when there was a break in G.A.A. activities from before World War One until about 1918. This coincided with the club being re-formed and re-named Donegal Gaelic Football Club. These were difficult times and G.A.A. programmes were completely disorganised. For example, Donegal G.F.C. won the 1922 County Senior Championship with the final against Dungloe not played until Whit Sunday, 1924.
This club was in existence until 1926 and then for a few years things were not so prosperous in G.A.A. circles in the town. Gradually, men like Charlie Harvey and Phil Timoney got things moving again and Four Masters G.A.A. Club was eventually formed in 1932. The following year the club supplied two defenders, Joe Lawne and Jimmy Mc Enhill to the Donegal Junior Championship team who swept into the All-Ireland Final but they were defeated by Mayo.
It is a story of struggle, but the fact that Four Masters G.A.A. Club continues to go from strength to strength is a tribute to the great men and women of vision and leadership since 1905.