Founding of the Club
McQuillan GAC Ballycastle came into existence following extensive discussion and argument in O`Brien’s barbershop during the late autumn of 1907, this was some 22 years after the first Belfast clubs and 4 years after the first North Antrim clubs. The clubs first chairman was Edward Donnelly (great grandfather of Eddie) and the secretary was William Scally, John Jennings and Pat Duffin are also recorded as founder members. The name McQuillans originated from the ancient local clan McQuillan of whom Rory McQuillan who built Bunamargy Friary for the Franciscans and Julia McQuillan the Black Nun were members, their motto was death before dishonour.
Amongst the earliest hurlers to line out in the black and amber were John O`Brien (barber), James O`Mullan, Eneas Savage, David J O`Connor, John Jennings, John and Pat Barton, Pat Duffin, Paddy McHenry, Edward J (Joe) Donnelly (son of Edward), James and John Cairns, Daniel McNeill, John McClements, James Barton, Joseph McAlister, Bob Dillon and Hugh McGill (trainer), sadly all have now answered the final whistle.
Since its inception 100 years ago McQuillans has made a huge contribution to the tradition of hurling encouraging and nurturing the ancient art and providing a steady stream of hurlers to represent club, county and nation. The club won it s first title the North Antrim Senior Hurling Championship in 1909 and its first County Senior Hurling Championship in 1913.
McQuillans is the only Antrim club to have received two All Star Awards and club players were elected all star replacements on a further six occasions. Club players represented Ireland in various other capacities on six additional occasions. Fifteen club players have represented Antrim in All Ireland Finals; seven at senior grade and three were selected on the 1984 Team of the Century. McQuillans were the first Antrim team to complete two “hat tricks” of wins in 1952-1954, and 1978-1980. Eddie Donnelly’s eight championship medals is a club record and ranks highly in the County. In 1980 McQuillans were the first Antrim team to contest an All Ireland Club Final. In 1986 McQuillans made a clean sweep of County Senior and Senior Reserve Championships and League titles along with the Ulster Club Championship, sadly these were the club’s last senior successes.
The club continues to place a high priority on the development of its young players and history testifies to the benefits of previous similar policies. In the 1940s shortly after Seamus Clarke introduced Minor Hurling to North Antrim, McQuillan GAC claimed 6 Minor Titles and these players graduated to win 6 Senior Titles during the 1940s and 50s. A similar policy was with the Feile Na Gael Teams in the 1970s, one of which in 1975 contested the All Ireland Div 2 final, produced 3 Minor Titles and 8 Senior Titles during the 1970s and 80s.
During the 1990s the club reached the senior county final four times but unfortunately lost on each occasion. In 2015 the senior hurlers reached the county final for the first time since 2001 however narrowly lost out to Ruairi Og Cushendall.
McQuillan GAC compete in the Antrim Junior Football Championship, and in Division 3 of the All-County Football League. “The Town” have won the Antrim Junior Football Championship on one occasion, in 1934. The club also reached the Junior final in 1998 and 2002 but lost out on both occasions in close encounters.
The club also won the Antrim Senior Football League Division 6 title in 2008 and have won five North Antrim Junior Football Feis shields (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011) as well as the North Antrim Junior Football Championship six times (1932, 1933, 1934, 1974, 1977, 1979).