Football teams representing Irymple were taking the field as early as the 1890s, but the town’s football club was not formally established until 1903, when it became a founder member of the Mildura Football League. Prior to world war one, Irymple was the most successful club in this competition, claiming half a dozen premierships. It added a seventh shortly after the war in 1920, but there then followed a prolonged period of disappointment which was not brought to an end until 1954, by which time the club was competing in the Sunraysia Football League, which was in effect was the MFL under another name.
The Swallows had been founder members of this competition in 1945, and the 1954 grand final was their third, following defeats to University in 1947 and Mildura in 1952. In 1954 they made no mistake, however, although opponents Mildura provided stern opposition. Irymple finally got home by a narrow 4 point margin, 9.12 (68) to 9.8 (62).
Over the ensuing eleven seasons the Swallows only qualified for one senior grade grand final, losing by 34 points to Imperials in 1956. Ten years on from that defeat Irymple finally claimed a second SFL premiership courtesy of an 11.8 (74) to 6.18 (54) grand final triumph against Robinvale. Twelve months later the Eagles achieved revenge when they overcame the Swallows on grand final day by 16 points. In 1968 Irymple made it three grand final appearances in succession only to go down by 9 goals to South Mildura.
The 1970s brought a fifty per cent success rate from four grand final appearances, with the Swallows downing Imperials in 1976 and South Mildura two years later, but losing to Wentworth Districts in 1973 and Merbein in 1975.
Following their 1976 grand final victory the Swallows endured the second extended premiership drought in their history. Indeed, they did not again contest a senior grade grand final until 2005, when they suffered the agony of a 1 point loss to Imperials. The drought was finally broken in spectacular fashion the following year when Irymple scored the what was probably most impressive grand final victory in its history, accounting for Robinvale by 61 points, 21.12 (138) to 12.5 (77).
Irymple’s seniors qualified for the finals again in 2007, ultimately finishing third, but in 2008 they suffered a decline in form and fortune, and slumped to sixth (of eight) after managing just 7 wins from their 18 home and away matches. After finishing fifth in 2009 the Swallows returned to the finals fray the following year and ultimately made it as far as the grand final, only to lose by a disconcerting margin of 62 points to Robinvale. The 2011 season saw Irymple achieve revenge against the Eagles by downing them in the grand final with scores of 13.10 (88) to 12.9 (81).
The Swallows have continued to be a force in the competition over subsequent seasons and they played off for the premiership in 2012 and 2013 only to lose. Finally, in 2017 they acquired a long overdue seventh SFL premiership thanks to a 9.15 (69) to 9.8 (62) grand final defeat of Ouyen United. A year later the same two teams contested the grand final but the Swallows fell short on this occasion by 5 points after having led at every change and indeed as late as twenty minutes into the final term.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications