By Des Glynn
Background to the establishment of a Football Club in Athenry in 1971- club formerly called Athenry Soccer Club
In the years prior to 1971, soccer was played in many areas in the vicinity of Athenry including Caheroyan, Abbeyrow, Carnaun, Mountain North, Prospect and Tiaquin. There was an increase in the popularity of soccer after the televising of the 1966 and 1970 World Cups. Many soccer clubs were established throughout the country around this time. At the end of this piece of writing there is a brief summary of some of the achievements of players from the Club. The purpose of this writing is provide a personal account of the formation of the Club in 1971.
Games in ‘Sweeney’s Field’, Caheroyan
Before a Club was formed in Athenry in 1971, soccer was played in ‘Sweeney’s field’ in Caheroyan (the presently the Presentation College Sports Field). The lads who played there regularly included Pat, Francis and Michael Kilkelly, Juno, Joe, Paul and Kieran Barrett, the Mulkerrins brothers, Joe, Seamus and Richard. The group also included Tony, Jimmy and Leo Coffey, Henry and Gerry Doherty, Patrick, Jimmy and Eugene Corley, Gerry Hall, Des, Vincent and Joe Glynn, Seán Monaghan, Michael Gill, Johnny Delaney, Stephen Burke, Tom Carr, and Anthony and Michael Higgins from Ballydavid. Eugene Corley was later to become the first player from the Athenry Soccer Club to play for a League of Ireland team when he played for the then Galway Rovers (now Galway United FC) in their first game in League of Ireland on the 28th August 1977 in the then named Terryland Park (now Eamonn Deacy Park) against St. Patrick’s Athletic.
Games in Abbey Row
When a game was played in Abbey Row in what was then known as ‘Morrissey’s Field’ (just adjacent to the Abbey Row houses), the players were from the town and Caheroyan lads joined in. The town lads included; Packie, Con and Michael ‘Middie’ Flannery, Séamus and Seán Staunton, Gerry Dempsey, Lester McNamara, the Quinn brothers; John, Eugene and Seamus, Michael Morrissey, Gerry Stack and the Quinton brothers, Andy, Tom and Pat. Caheroyan versus the Town games were hotly contested to say the least. These games were played in ‘Morrissey’s field’ beside what is now (2014) Rooney’s Memorials in Abbey Row.
Games in the ‘Convent field’
In the Spring of 1971 lads played soccer in the ‘convent field’, where PresentationCollege secondary school is now situated. Those playing soccer in the convent field, were mostly Caheroyan and ‘Town’ lads and included Henry and Gerry Doherty, Gearóid and Seán O’Dowd from Park, Seán King (from Mulpit ) and David Sweeney from Cross Street. Gearóid O’Dowd from Park joined the players from the town and Caheroyan who played there. Gearóid was a colleague of Joe Bernie, a musician with the Swingtime Aces Showband and from Castlebar. Joe played soccer in his hometown and had won a Connacht Junior Cup medal for soccer.
Games in Prospect, Carnaun and Mountain North
Soccer was also played in Prospect in ‘Holian’s field’ behind Gerry Holian’s house, where Gerry and Basil Holian, Stephen Murphy, Richie Walsh, Michael Harte and Stephen Gaughran played. Richie Walsh’s father, Dick Walsh, later brought teams representing Athenry Soccer club to matches in Galway and elsewhere.
In Carnaun, Paddy and Peter Gilhooley, Paddy and Tommy Forde, Tommy Fahy, P. J. Killeen, Willie Killeen, Mikey Joe Killeen, Michael (‘Mikey’) Mullins, and others played.
In Mountain North, Kevin Healy and his older brother as well as Gerry Connaughton and Seán Hynes played behind Healy’s house. In Tiaquin, the lads who played included Sean and Gerry Moran and Ossie O’Grady in Colemanstown.
Decision to form a soccer club in Athenry
The decision to form a soccer Club in Athenry was taken by the group playing a soccer game in the convent field, on St. Patrick’s day, Wednesday, 17th March 1971.They also expressed a wish to enter the Galway and District football league. They agreed to hold a meeting in the Canton Hall to formally establish a club.
Formal launch of the Athenry Soccer Club
The meeting took place in the Canton Hall in Athenry on Saturday night, April 3rd, 1971 at 8pm. Des Glynn remembers cycling to Carnaun to invite Peter Gilhooley, Tommy Fahy and the other lads playing in Carnaun to attend.
The following Officers and committee members were elected: President: Fr. Martin Gleeson C.C., Chairman: Tony Coffey, Vice-Chairman: Michael Morrissey, Secretary: David Sweeney, Assistant Secretary: Richard Mulkerrins, Treasurer: Henry Doherty, P.R.O: Francis Kennedy, Committee members: Seán Hynes, Francis Kilkelly, Leo Coffey, Seán King and Des Glynn, Team Trainer: Fr. Martin O’Grady, Junior Team Captain: Pat Kilkelly, Youth (under 18) team Captain: Gerry Doherty.
Decisions taken by new club committee
After the elections, among the decisions taken at the meeting were the following: a church-gate collection was organised for the next day, Sunday. A total of 61 pounds was collected at this collection and 12 pounds in membership. It was decided to organise an under 18 challenge game against West United in Galway for the following Saturday. The new Chairman, Tony Coffey, expressed the wish that the new club would work co-operatively with the local GAA club. Later, both clubs co-operated in running a dance marquee for raising funds for a few years. This proved very successful and a lot of work was done on the marquee committee by Henry Doherty (new Secretary of Marquee committee from 1972) and Leo Coffey.
First game played by a team from the new soccer club
The first game played by a club team was an under 18 game played against West United from Galway on the following Saturday, 10th April, 1971. It was played in SouthPark in the Claddagh. The result was 1-1 when West United scored with the last kick of the game to earn a draw. In the game, David Sweeney scored the very first goal for Athenry Soccer Club.
The squad of players who were the first to represent the Club were; Gerry Stack (Goalkeeper), Francis Kilkelly (centre-half), Des Glynn (right full back), Gerry Doherty (mid-field), Kieran Barrett, Patrick Flannery, John Quinn, Gearóid O’Dowd, Seán King, Kevin Healy, Peter Gilhooley, Gerry Connaughton, Leo Coffey, Michael Morrissey and David Sweeney.
Goalposts erected in Parish grounds Raheen
The following day, April 11th 1971, soccer goalposts were erected in the Raheen grounds after permission from the Parish Grounds Committee who were in charge of the Raheen sports ground. As a result, a section of the Raheen grounds was designated as a soccer pitch. Séamus Cullinane and Fr. Martin Gleeson were on the Parish grounds committee and Jimmy Kennedy was the Secretary.
First Junior (non-juvenile) game for the club
A junior game was played against Ballinasloe on Saturday, 17th April, in Raheen, Athenry. The game ended in a 1-1 draw with Michael Morrissey scoring for Athenry. On the 24th April, an under 15 juvenile challenge was played against West United in the Parish Grounds, Raheen. It ended in a 1-2 win for West United. John O’Donnell from Newcastle scored for Athenry. This game was followed by a junior challenge against Tuam. The game ended in a 4-4 draw. Noel Redmond (Caheroyan) did some coaching with juveniles in Raheen at the time.
First win by a club team in a juvenile competitive game
The first competitive win in juvenile competition came on 13th May, 1971 when Athenry overcame Claddagh Rangers by 5-2 in Ballyloughane, Galway. Scorers for Athenry were John O’Donnell (3), Joe Mulkerrins (1) and Gerry Dempsey (1). Des Glynn was Manager. Transport was in Dick Walshe’s bus. The Club colours adopted by Athenry at the start of the Club were the same blue colour that Chelsea wore at the time. They won the FA Cup in 1970, the year before the Club was established in Athenry, 1971.
First Club players to represent Galway District League at Under 18
Joseph Glynn, Joseph Mulkerrins and Eugene Corley, all from Caheroyan, were the first players from the Club to be chosen to play for the Galway District League at under 18 level. Amongst the teams that they played against was the Roscommon League in the early 1970s and a team managed by former Glasgow Celtic goalkeeper, Tommy Lally.
First title won by the Club
The Club had to wait until 1977 for its first title. This was won at Junior level when Athenry Soccer Club won the Pierce Cup, the old name for the then Galway District League Second Division. There was no Premier Division at that time, only a First and Second Division. The final game to win the league was against Galway Hibernians and it took place in WestPark, Renmore. The team trained in the Presentation Sports field in Caheroyan under lights. This was the first time that a club in Athenry used lights to light up a pitch. Power was from Frank Glynn’s house across the road. A generator was subsequently used to provide the power. The team had the distinction of being the only team to win all of its games in the league in the 1976/77 season.
The squad was: Patsy Lynch and P. J. Killeen (Goalkeepers), Leo Coffey, John Burke (The Lodge), Peter Gilhooley (Captain), Michael Morrissey, Paddy Forde, Tommy Fahy, Gerry Doherty, Frank Joyce, Pierce Coffey, Jody Connolly and Joe Greene (both from Craughwell), Michael Kilkelly, Pat Kilkelly and Michael Mullins. Des Glynn was Manager of the team.
The team won all eleven games in the league scoring 44 goals and conceding 18. Only 13 players were used in the campaign. Michael Kilkelly was the leading goalscorer with an excellent 26 goals in 11 games. Paddy Forde was Club Chairman, Peter Gilhooley, Secretary and Michael Morrissey was Treasurer at the time.
This achievement was repeated in the 1982/83 season but by then the division was the first division as there was a Premier division as well. It was then called the Young Cup. The team was managed by P. J. Killeen.
The squad was: Patsy Lynch (Goalkeeper), Peter Gilhooley, Michael Morrissey(Capt.), Paddy Forde, Tommy Fahy, Pierce Coffey, Joe Greene, Dermot Monaghan, P. J. King, Adrian Ruane, Niall Murphy, Willie Killeen, Timmy Holian, Alan Prendergast, Michael Dunleavy, Peter Hession, Tony Loughnane, Seán Monaghan, David Ward, Gabriel Glavin and Pat Hansberry. Six of the squad had survived from the previous cup-winning team from 1976/77. Some of these players later filled different roles at the Club; some became coaches (Timmy Holian, Michael Dunleavy and Gabriel Glavin) and Pat Hansberry became a referee. Others filled important roles as club officers and committee members (Peter Gilhooley).
The Club in modern times – A brief summary
The Club is now called Athenry Football Club (Athenry FC). The story of the Club from the eighties to the present day will, I hope, be dealt with more fully in other articles, or perhaps a future book written by someone. Many players represented the Club from 1984, and before, to the present day. I have not listed all the players or teams but have selected some of the more notable.
Treble Winning Team of 2007
In modern times the Club has had many great teams, no more so than the great Junior treble-winning team of 2007.The team, coached and managed by Timmy Holian, won the Connacht Junior Cup, Galway Premier league title and the Galway League Cup (Michael O’Byrne Cup). In other years, the team also won the Connacht Cup (2008, 2010 and 2011) and Premier titles (2008 and 2010).The coaching by Timmy Holian and the captaincy of Emmet Byrne was notable at this time. Ronan Killeen’s captaincy was notable too. The team reached the final of the FAI Junior Cup in 2006 when the team narrowly lost to Waterford Crystal in TerrylandPark. The attendance at TerrylandPark that day was the largest seen there for a Junior game.
Irish caps at Junior level have been awarded to Paddy Quinn, Cathal Fahy, Séamus Crowe, Johnny Mernagh and Jonathan Keane. Séamus Crowe was named the F.A.I. Junior International Player of the Year 2008 and Intermediate Player of the Year 2010. Numerous players were selected to play for the Galway and District League at Junior level. One of the earliest of these players was David Ward.
Other awards have been bestowed on many other players at Junior level. The Galway Sports Star of the Year for Soccer was awarded to Adrian Cronin (2006), Emmet Byrne (2007) and Alan O’Donovan (2008).
League of Ireland Players
Some players have played in the League of Ireland: Cathal Fahy, Johnny Mernagh, Alan O’Donovan, Benny Lawless, Jonathan Keane, Jamie O’Driscoll and Mark Cobey. Johnny Mernagh played for Oldham Athletic and Seamus Crowe played for Wolverhampton Wanderers in the English League. In 2013, Aaron Van Nikierk went to CoventryCity.
At juvenile level, Alan McNamara was selected for the Republic of Ireland under 15 squad and John Fahy was selected for an under 14 Trial.
Cathal Fahy and Fergus Farrell won Connacht caps. Numerous players, both boys and girls, have represented the Galway and District League at under 18 and younger age groups. Angela Dempsey, Lauren Whyte and Kate O’Hara have won Galway and District Football League caps.
Achievements off the field
The greatest achievements of the Club in addition to those listed above for individual players has been the provision, through hard working committees down through the years, of a floodlit all-weather pitch and ownership of its own grounds at Moanbaun. All of this work was done by volunteers; the various Chairpersons, committee members and team managers who gave their time, including all the present holders of these positions. Support of local sponsors has also being a key factor.
Special mention should go to the present committee and Peter Gilhooley who supported the club in many ways. He was helped by Tommy Fahy in doing great work for the club. Willie Killeen has also been a great help to the club in fundraising and as a team supporter.
40th Anniversary Celebration
At the fortieth anniversary celebration of the club in the Raheen Woods Hotel on Wednesday 28th December 2011, the club presented Lifetime Achievement Awards for outstanding service to Henry Doherty, Leo Coffey and Des Glynn in recognition of work done in the earliest years of the club in the1970s.
FAI Club of the Month Award
The club has been awarded a ‘Club of the Month’ award by the FAI in recognition of the wonderful work done in providing the great club facilities. These facilities have led to hundreds of young boys and girls been able to play football and develop skills to enjoy the sport. The Club has provided the youth of the area with the opportunity to play and enjoy one of the most popular team sports in the world.
All of this began as a wish by a group of lads playing football in the Convent field on St.Patrick’s Day 1971.