Remembering the Clonmel Schoolboy League
The driving force behind the Clonmel Schoolboy League was a priest called Fr Nicholas Power. The year was 1970 and the GAA ‘ban’ rule was still in place. Fr Nicholas had been involved with Southend United in Waterford. He was a soccer man and had been sent to Clonmel to the parish of St. Mary’s.
It was in the summer of 1970 that a London man, Tony David, visited Clonmel on a business trip. During his stay, and after he became friendly with some of the locals, he became aware that many of the youngsters had great interest in teams in England. He provided a magnificent cup and trophies to be competed for by the local lads and games were played in the hockey pitch of the Presentation Convent in August of that year. Before returning home Mr David provided a sum of money to help and encourage the creation of an official club in Clonmel for schoolboy soccer.
One of the first to take up the cause locally was Willie Carey who enlisted the help of Fr Nicholas Power. The outcome of it all was that in November of the same year the adult clubs of the town came together and gave their support to the idea of a special schoolboy’s club up to the 16-age bracket. It was agreed that after that the boys would be free to join whichever senior club they wished, and for many years this arrangement worked very well.
The first Official Committee meeting was held on February 9th, 1971 and the very first committee consisted of Chairman, Rev Nicholas Power; vice-chairman. John Kenneally; Secretary Seamus Harte, Treasurer, John O ‘Mahoney, Registrar, Willie Carey; Committee: John Power, Oliver Matthews, Danny Scully and John Frieberg. Sometime later O. Matthews and D. Scully had to resign because of work commitments and on May 4th Liam Daly was co-opted as under-12 team manager.
In the first year the Club entered teams in the Waterford League but because the Club was a newcomer it had to play all its matches away from home in the first season. Nevertheless, the ability of the players shone through as the u-14 team won the Millea Cup. I’m sure it makes interesting reading to note some of the players in that u-14 squad as well as in the u-12 panel Clonmel Town defender Jimmy Delahunty scored 29 goals in 19 games for all u-14s while Cyril Murphy and Billy Lambe played for the u-12s. Clonmel Town’s Kenny Condon later came into the reckoning.
Three Street Leagues
Despite all the travelling that was involved in that first season the locals rallied round the flag and almost twenty parents volunteered to drive players to the matches. On the domestic scene Street leagues were organised – Baron United won the u-16 league. the Old Bridge carried off the u-14 title while Griffith Albion won the u-12 league with a one hundred per cent record.
In August ‘71 the club was catering for 250 boys from the ages of 10 to 16 years of age – in 1974 that figure reached 300 and in 1978 it had doubled to 600.
During the 1971/72 season the club’s success story in Waterford continued. The u-15 team won the Waterford area of the Evans Cup and eventually went out in national competition to Home Farm of Dublin after a very creditable performance. Although the u-12 Side were beaten in both the League and Cup finals they made amends in the Deise Cup. Also, in that year an u-10 league was introduced and Ards United defeated Old Bridge in the final to become the first holders of the Brady Cup.
In 1974 a group of about thirty or so spent five days in London during the month of August. An u-14 team gave an excellent account of themselves in the four matches they played, winning two, drawing one and losing one. But the highlight of that trip was a visit to Highbury, where the visiting party met with the great Arsenal team of that era. They met players such as Pat Rice, Alan Ball, Sammy Nelson and with who were then up and coming apprentices Liam Brady, David O’Leary and Frank Stapleton. One player who stood out for his friendliness was goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer, who won a League Championship medal with Aston Villa in 1980.
An u-12 team reached the Munster Finals of the Community Games in 1975 having beaten Cahir and Thurles to win the County Championship. However, they went out of the competition losing to a strong Kerry team from Tralee.