The parish of Saval was founded in 1920 by the Most Rev. Dr. Mulhern, Bishop of the Diocese of Dromore. Saval, from the Irish Sabhall or Saul which means barn. The parish of Saval is situated in the south-west of County Down and is laid out in twenty-three townlands. Saval extends eastwards within a half-mile of Mayobridge and westwards to Sheepbridge and from Derryleckagh Lake in the south, the parish stretches northwards almost to Glasker.
In 1949, following the appointment of Fr. Pettit as Curate of Saval, the creation of an all-parish team has become a landmark in the history of Saval. Saval became a fully affiliated club on 24th November 1949. Fr. Pettit had overseen the birth and weaning of the Saval Club; a name the Club has since carried proudly throughout Down. Saval began their footballing days as St. Colmans playing in green and gold – the Kerry colours, and John McCarthy field was the venue for Savals home games until November 1950.
The long search for suitable playing fields was finally resolved with the opening of Nan Sands Park in 1986. Local Councillor, Mrs Nan Sands, had done all in her power to persuade colleagues in the Council chamber to make the provision of playing facilities in Saval a priority, and they responded by buying land in Savalmore. This is the home ground of the Saval team today, who play in the club colours green and white. Saval currently hold three All-Ireland Minor medals within the Club; Cathal Digney and Johnny Murtagh in 1977 and Gary Digney in 1999.
In 1989 the Club turned its attention to the development of leisure and social facilities, and the next few years saw the voluntary construction of the Saval Sports and Leisure Complex. On 10th June 1994 the complex was officially opened by An tUachtaran Cumann Luthchleas Gael 1994, Mr Jack Boothman. Further development work saw the opening of 2 new handball courts, changing facilities and stage in 1999. The club continues to service many different groups and the premises are being fully used night and day by all ages; the Cara Club for senior citizens, the Strawberry Tree playgroup, Irish Dancing, indoor football, handball, darts and 45 card drives.
Scor teams achieved continual success at both adult and junior level over the years. Savals Junior Novelty Act casts collected many County titles, and were Ulster finalists in 1994. In the Recitation section, Saval collected County titles in 1990, 1991 and 1992. But the greatest success was when the Saval Junior Ceili Dancers represented their club, county and province in the All-Ireland Finals both in 1994 and again in 1996. Quiz teams have also had great success, winning several County titles in recent years.
The Saval Logo was created in September 1991 at the beginning of the Development project. The design symbolically encompasses The Crown Bridges and Clanrye River with Finnard Fourth in the background. There are ploughed fields, birds and a cottage which illustrate rural life. The bunch of raspberries in the foreground are a reminder that Saval Sports and Leisure Complex is built on land previously used to grow raspberries and strawberries for jam-making by the Fruitfield Company of Richill.
The Handball Courts were officially opened by Kilkenny’s DJ Carey, in 1999 and since then there has been phenomenal growth in this sport at Saval. Currently Saval organises its own League, which has five divisions, Club Championships and has two teams participating in the Ulster Leagues. At present the Club has a particularly strong juvenile section with an ever increasing number of boys and girls playing handball within the Club and also at County level.
Rachel Havern and Anna Madine have three Ulster medals for doubles.
Lorraine Havern has four Ulster medals for singles and an All Ireland medal representing St Mary’s High School in the Colleges All-Ireland.
Derrick and Jarlath McCarthy are not only Ulster medallists, but they also made it through to the All Ireland Finals in 2006, as did Michael O’Hare and Gary Bagnall.
Starting in 1998 as a way of passing a winter’s evening, indoor Bowls at Saval has proved to be one of the success stories within the club. The popularity of the sport brings all ages from the community to enjoy an evening of not only competitive bowls but also a bit of craic and entertainment.
The Club has two teams that participate in the Newry and Mourne Bowling League. Several of the members continue playing during the summer months in the Outdoor League. Two of those members, Bridie Dobbin and Roisin Campbell have been Presidents of Newry Bowling Club in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
The Bowls Club holds two Bowling Tournaments each year for Club members. The Danny Turley Singles Tournament and the Edward Quinn Team Tournament are held in recognition of the contribution made by both of these men to Saval GAC over the years.
The first playing field was in John McCarthy’s field in 1949 until the Carmelite sisters allowed the Meadow at Glenvale to be used. This continued to 1965 when the club moved to John Digney’s Meadow and remained there until 1982. As a result of her Trojan work, her efforts were rewarded when the Council purchased the lands at Savalmore. This remains the current home of Saval, which was named Nan Sands Park, after the Councillor who had worked to ensure that the project was complete by 1986.
During the years between 1982 and 1986, the Club availed of facilities at neighbouring Clubs such as Glenn, Ballyholland and Newry Rugby Club, for which they are eternally grateful. Local Councillor, Nan Sands did all in her power to persuade her collegues on the Newry District Council, to invest in the facilities on the Coalpit Road for the benefit of the Club.
Sports and Leisure Complex
The move to Nan Sands Park gave the Club the firm basis from which to look forward. A Sports and Leisure Complex was planned and mainly through voluntary labour was completed in 1994. The Complex was officially opened on June 10th 1994 by Jack Boothman, President of the GAA.
This in turn saw an enormous increase in all kinds of club and community activities and encouraged the revitalisation of some existing activities. So great was the demand, that an extension to the existing complex was added. This included handball courts, further changing facilities, committee rooms and office accommodation all of which was completed in 1999.
The further purchase and build of the New Gaelic playing field was completed and officially opened on 29th April 2007. Down and Louth Men and Ladies teams played the first official games with guests former GAA President Jack Boothman, Ladies President Geraldine Giles, Ulster GAA Secretary Danny Murphy, as well as several local councillors, Down GAA representatives and Saval Honorary members. The Field has played host to several inter and intra-county matches, most recently hosted all of Down Senior Ladies team league matches this year.
Saval must be one of the few clubs in Ireland to invest in a renewable energy source. The wind turbine which was completed in 2007 stands at the top of Saval’s new field and is certainly a useful land mark for giving first time visitors directions for getting to the Sports and Leisure Complex. The turbine was grant aided by Clear Skies and Northern Ireland Electricity