THE Clare and District side that won this year’s Oscar Traynor was granted a civic reception by Clare County Council this week, which manager Donie Garrihy said was one of the highlights of his life.
The civic reception took place on Monday evening and Garrihy said he was extremely grateful to the local authority.
“We are so humbled as a group of players; we are so humbled as a league. It is spectacular to be here.”
He said he was delighted that many figures from Clare soccer were in attendance, saying he was in “super company”.
Garrihy added, “It’s an emotional time for me as manager. I see the squad here and they are dressed immaculately. They are dressed immaculately in respect of the people who are giving us this opportunity here in the county council chamber. I always said they were men; they are real men. I love every one of them to bits. The league has always supported me and David [Russell] and Denis [Hynes]. I’m old school, Denis is new school and David is in the middle. As Newmarket found out yesterday [Sunday], he is still playing and scoring.”
He also paid tribute to the deceased father of goalkeeper Barry Ryan.
“I want to remember Barry’s late dad, Noel. He was a brilliant footballer, a brilliant hurler, a brilliant soccer player. He will never be forgotten, Barry.”
The manager also paid tribute to David McCarthy, who scored four goals in the Oscar Traynor final.
“We went and played the final in Dublin against a Leinster Senior League team that had pushed everyone aside on the way to the final. Can anyone find someone in the records who scored four goals in an All-Ireland soccer final besides Dave McCarthy? Dave, you are absolutely brilliant.”
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council Bill Chambers paid tribute to the team and said that the game is on the up in Clare.
“The club scene in Clare is thriving and it’s thanks to Oliver Fitzpatrick and Denis Hynes and all of the officials and coaches who preceded them.”
He also remembered the late Jimmy Rocks and Frank Healy.
“They would have been on the sideline in Dublin watching the final and no doubt they would be here with you this evening.”
Councillor Chambers said that facilities for soccer have improved since his playing days.
“We would have considered ourselves fortunate if we had some trees under which we could tog out,” he commented, contrasting that with current facilities such as Lees Road, Tulla and the county grounds.
One of the councillors to propose the civic reception was Independent Gerry Flynn and he paid tribute to all involved in the success.
“I’m delighted to be associated with this civic reception to honour the players, management, families and supporters of the victorious team, which captured the Oscar Traynor trophy for the second time in May. This is a huge achievement for the Clare and District Soccer League and it’s a fitting reward for all the hard work put in over the years by all concerned.”
He said he had played soccer at a time when GAA members were banned from doing so, while he said he was delighted that Joe Cooney, the current chairman of Clare County GAA Board, had supported the reception.
“That, to me, was the icing on the cake, that the chairman of the county board was prepared to sign something for soccer. It wouldn’t have happened years ago but it is happening now.”
Councillor Cooney paid tribute to all involved in the successful side.
“We all know this is a national trophy competed for by all junior leagues in Ireland. It is a major achievement and it wouldn’t have happened without a lot of work by the board, the management, the players themselves and, most important of all, the clubs. Without the clubs, we wouldn’t have a county team.”
He acknowledged that his own soccer career had been brief. “I did get a call-up late one Sunday morning for a soccer match but unfortunately I never got called back,” the East Clare man joked.
In place of county council chief executive Pat Dowling, Ger Dollard acknowledged the team on their success. He also provoked some laughter when he spoke about the similarities between soccer and the political arena that the reception was being held in.
“There is certainly a link between politics and football and maybe we can debate afterwards whether phrases like fancy footwork and own goal come from the political side or the football side.”
A long-standing member of Newmarket Celtic, which supplied several members of the team, Councillor Pat McMahon said it had been a fantastic achievement.
“Oscar Traynor has been dominated by teams from Cork, Dublin, Waterford and Limerick to a certain extent. For a team from Clare, traditionally a hurling county, to beat all those giants was most remarkable and the future for football in Clare has improved tremendously,” he said.
By Owen Ryan