Fifty years of soccer in Mervue

In the mid fifties, the corporation began to build the houses that make up what we now know as Old Mervue. Many young families moved to the area, and for the children, the open green areas in from Plunkett Avenue, and between Clarke and McDonagh avenues, became their playgrounds. They played all kinds of games here… Gaelic football, athletics, and especially soccer. It was on these green spaces that many well-known footballers first developed and honed their skills.

Parents began to take a serious interest in the development of the game, and the idea of forming a soccer club to focus and foster the energies of their children eventually became a reality during the summer of 1960. A meeting was held in the house of Hyacinth Darcy in McDonagh Avenue, attended by Willie Kilkelly, Frank Kelly, Jimmy O’Connor, Joe Flaherty, and Tom Darcy. Also there to represent the underage section were two juvenile players, Jackie Keane and Declan McDonnell. And so, Mervue United AFC was formed. Tommy Darcy was elected chairman, Hyacinth Darcy was president, Jimmy O’Connor was the secretary, and Willie Kilkelly became treasurer. Joe Flaherty was made the club representative on the Galway FA.

Other men who were associated with the club from the early years were Colie Smyth, Terry McSweeney, Pat Sullivan, Andy Cullinane, and John Murphy. Colie gave an outstanding commitment to the club, particularly to the underage section. He became chairman and was responsible for the club colours, claret and blue. The first match featuring the club was an under-13 game played in the Sportsground in August 1960. Included on that team were Paddy Staunton in goal, Declan McDonnell, Jackie Keane, Ray Durnin, Tom McGillen, Seamus Gavigan, and Tony Cunningham. In those early days most games were played on the Redemptorist pitch, where Tara Grove is today. Two ideally situated trees acted as goalposts.

From the beginning the new club was on the lookout for a more suitable pitch, and eventually, with the help of Fr Jack O’Connor PP and Galway Corporation, a site was secured on the Monivea Road (later occupied by Crown Development ). This area was shared with the newly formed Mervue Athletic Club. Mick Halpin’s garage was just across the road and it provided dressing room facilities.

In their first year Mervue United reached the final of the Schweppes Cup, but lost to Bohemians by 7 – 2. In 1965 they won their first trophy, an under-13 Murphy Cup, and they repeated this feat for the following two years. In 1966 the junior team captured the Schweppes Cup, a famous victory that featured some of the club’s stalwarts including Pat Sullivan, Paddy Flanagan, Terry McSweeney, Willie Kilkelly, Christy O’Connor, Paddy Beatty, Finbarr Lillis, and Mick Halpin.

During the seventies and eighties Mervue grew into one of the most powerful clubs in the west of Ireland. They have an enviable record in championships at all levels. Their commitment to the wellbeing of the youth of the area is impressive and a great asset to all concerned, indeed their soccer academy provides professional training and coaching to juveniles. It is little wonder that their senior team plays in the First Division.

The list of people who have helped bring such success is very long, but they are not forgotten by the club. Willie Henry has been given the job of compiling a history of this 50-year-old club which supports 26 teams and is a major source of local pride. He needs all the help he can get, so if you have any old photographs, match programmes, news clippings, or funny stories, he would love to hear from you. Everything will be cared for and returned. He can be reached at (086 ) 870 7405 or at [email protected]

Our photograph today is of the team that won the Schweppes Cup in the 1965/66 season. They are, front row, from the left: Jimmy Brophy, Ollie McCormack, Paddy Beatty, Patsy Durnin, and Brian Parks. Back row: Jimmy Carr, Mick Halpin, Gerry Walsh, Terry McSweeney, Martin Scanlon, George Crean, and PJ Duffy who was the referee.

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