John O’Dowd was a Galway born printer who went to work in Kilkenny and became involved with the formation of a junior soccer league in the area. In 1931, his widowed sister, Mrs Brigid Mulryan from Woodquay, died and left four children. John gave up his Kilkenny job and returned to Galway to mind the children. He worked for a while in the Connacht Tribune and later in the Galway Printing Company.
He could not believe that there was no organised juvenile soccer being played in the area, it was regarded as a foreign game, and as there was only one soccer pitch in Galway, junior clubs felt juvenile clubs would take up too much pitch time. John went to the Galway Football Committee who were in charge of the game in the city at the time, and demanded that they set up a juvenile league. Thanks to the support of Jimmy Cahill, the secretary of the committee, he got his way and so began a new era in local soccer history in 1931/32. The only pitch available, the ‘swamp’, was used for adult matches at 12.30pm and 3.30pm which meant the juvenile games had to be played at 11am and 2.15pm each Sunday.
The same two sets of jerseys were used by all the teams in that first league, the striped ones being regarded as the lucky ones. The teams included Hotspurs, Reds United, Emmets, Unknowns, Crusaders, Bective Rangers, and Hibernians. The success of the competition prompted the organisers to set up a minor league in the 1932/33 season.
At this stage John O’Dowd decided that Galway should be represented in the national competition and so he set up Galway Bohemians AFC who made their debut in 1934. Jim Murphy was the first treasurer and Eugene Shaw the first secretary. They made an immediate major contribution to the game in the city, and by the end of the 1940s they had teams playing in all grades of football being organised by the Galway committee. They have won many trophies at various levels down through the years and continue to be influential in the game. They now play all of their games at Miller’s Lane.
Our photograph today is of the team that reached the final of the FAI Junior Cup, making them the first Galway club to do so. They are, back row: Jack O’Donnell (club captain ), Tommy Lee, ‘Pym’ Flynn, Gerry O’Loughlin, Pete Coyne, Paddy Hynes, and Patsy Glynn. Front row: Charlie Smith, Christy Badger, Joe Mullen, Noel Kennedy, Tony Beatty, and Frank Flattery. Charlie Smith, who went on to become chief engineer with the Dublin Port Authority, passed away recently, so we dedicate this column to his memory.
Our thanks to Paddy Kelly for this photograph.