In ancient times, Galway was known as Streamstown because the lower Galway River divided into many streams, thus creating a system of islands. The area was known as ‘Tír Oileáin’, the land of islands. Two place names survive from that period, Tirellan and Terryland.
The first game played on Terryland Park, as you can see from the advertisement, was in the fourth round of the Free State Junior Cup between Athlone Town and a Galway team known as Macks, on February 3 1935. The lands belonged to Dean Flynn, who was Eamonn Deacy’s grandfather. He sold the field to the Galway FA for £250 in 1950. I remember being there many times in the early fifties. There was a bit of a slope on the pitch and there were no facilities apart from a shed (was it corrugated? ) that was used as a dressing room. Since then this pitch has hosted about 90 games per season including five under-21 Republic of Ireland internationals.
In 1977, Galway Rovers became the first Galway club to play in the League of Ireland and Terryland was their home ground. Their first home game was against St Patrick’s Athletic and ended in a 0 – 0 draw. They changed their name to Galway United in 1981. In 1993, this park was being redeveloped so United played in the Sportsground and in Crowley Park for that season. Four years later a 1700-seater stand was built on the north side of the pitch, and then in 2007, another stand seating 1500 was built bringing the seating capacity up to 3,300 and the overall capacity to 5,000. Development of the interior of the stand continued as new dressing rooms, medical rooms, showers, officials’ dressing rooms, a media and conference room for press conferences, and TV and radio facilities. The floodlights were relocated as a new camera platform was erected and all of the seats in the old stand were replaced. Noel Connolly was named as the ‘Groundsman of the Year’ by the FAI in 1997 for the work he had done on the pitch.
In 2012, the name of the stadium was changed to Eamonn Deacy Park in honour of ‘Chick’, who was arguably Galway’s greatest ever soccer player. No League of Ireland games were played there the following year but happily that situation has now been reversed.
Galway Rovers were founded in the Claddagh in 1937. As Galway United they came second in the league to Shamrock Rovers in the 1985/86 season and in 1981, they won the FA Cup against the same opposition, Johnny Glynn scoring a late winner. The club is now in private ownership. On Saturday evening next, September 19, the club under the management of Tommy Dunne, take on St Patrick’s Athletic in the EA Sports Cup final in Terryland. The kick-off is at 6.05pm so let’s give them as much support as we can, be loud and bring those maroon flags with you.
Our thanks to Shane Crotty for his help with this column.