A lifetime spent in football has taught Joey Malone many lessons. More than three decades after guiding Galway United to a cherished FAI Cup success in 1991, Malone is well aware of the importance of that achievement.
The squad – with a cocktail of Galwegians and experienced players from elsewhere in the country – delivered throughout a memorable run to secure silverware.
“It was a fantastic blend,” Malone says. “In relation to the Galway team it was weighted with local players which was great. To bring the cup to Galway, out of the panel of 20, I think 13 of them were from Galway. It was a fantastic achievement with really, really good local players.”
Remaining self sufficient and sustaining a high level of performance remains a demanding challenge for clubs. It is part of the Galway United story that disaster frequently follows the rare moments of delight. Within 12 months United were relegated and forced to rebuild again.
“At the time I don't think the club appreciated how good they were,” Malone reflects. “If that team had been able to stick together and not lost a few players after winning the cup it could have gone on to do even better things.
“That was a little bit of a disappointing aspect, that we weren't able to keep the team together the following season.”
Declan McIntyre, Johnny Morris-Burke, John Cleary, Larry Wyse, and Paul Campbell’s relevance to that United cause isn’t forgotten by Malone.
“You had fantastic local players, bringing in the likes of Larry Wyse and John Cleary brought a bit of experience in,” he recalls. “It was great to get two such great players, Soupy Campbell did his job as an outside player, Johnny Morris-Burke, and Deco - they were great players in positions that we needed.
“Then you look at Peter Carpenter, Noel Mernagh, Johnny Glynn, Tommy Keane, Jimmy Nolan, Stephen Lally, even Eamonn Deacy. He was coming towards the end of his career as a player, but he was fantastic, Kevin Cass too, really fantastic players.
“I was lucky in a sense for my first job as a player-manager - I was only 33 when I took the job, but going in as a player-manager to be able to work with such great players was fantastic.”
Within a few months of the cup success United lost to Odense in Europe, and Malone is disappointed that United didn’t build on the solid foundation established. “I felt that we needed three players to bring in,” he says.
“I had spoken to Pat Morley, who was a top goalscorer in the League of Ireland, Derek Carroll, and Robbie Best. They were the three players down the centre - Robbie Best centre back, Derek Carroll central midfield, and Pat Morley centre forward. They were the three players I had lined up to come in, they really would have strengthened the squad of players.”
The fact that several Galway natives subsequently sampled glory elsewhere illustrates the missed opportunity. “I knew myself - I played in Dundalk teams that had success, we won the double - but you always need to bring in two or three players to freshen things up,” Malone adds. “I felt that was needed, but unfortunately the club didn't. I don't think they had the resources for it, the new lads had their own way of thinking, and fair enough.
“I felt those players would have complemented what we had. As everyone knows the likes of Johnny Glynn, Tommy Keane, Noel Mernagh, and Peter Carpenter all went on to join different clubs - winning leagues and having very successful careers. It was great for them.
“That was probably the disappointing aspect, but there is nothing taken away from what they achieved - winning the cup, bringing the FAI Cup across the Shannon, the only team to win a major trophy for the club to the present day. I hope the supporters really give them a really good reception on Friday night because they deserve it.”
Medals and memories matter deeply. So this gathering and celebration will be valuable for all of those involved. “I know we were trying to get this up and running last year, but because of the pandemic it just took an extra year,” Malone says.
“We are really looking forward to celebrating the 30 year anniversary of us winning the cup. It was a fantastic achievement. As everyone knows we were the big underdogs on the day, but we had been impressive right throughout the competition. The celebration we are going to have on Friday is terrific.”
Ironically Malone is now assistant to Noel King, who was in charge of the Hoops in 1991, with an accomplished Shelbourne outfit in the WNL. Shels dramatically won the title in 2021 and Malone thoroughly enjoys coaching still.
“Obviously Noel was the player-manager of Shamrock Rovers that day,” Malone says. “It is fantastic being back at that level with a bunch of professional players, who give their all in training and go out on Saturdays putting on fantastic displays the way football should be played.
“They really are a good side. To be fair to Galway, we have played Galway Women's team this year, they are good and strong. The national league is getting better and better.”
Malone’s passion for coaching and football endures.
**Listen to the full interview with Galway United’s 1991 FAI Cup winning manager Joey Malone on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.