Macroom 3 Ballincollig 1
The history of soccer in Macroom has reached a great milestone this year, as Macroom FC celebrate the 40th year since the foundation of the club in 1977. Years of hard work and dedication from a huge number of people have allowed the club to arrive in 2017 with no less than 20 teams from the ages of 7 all the way up to adult level and with outstanding facilities that can rival any club in Ireland.
To be fair, it must be acknowledged that organised soccer has been a part of Macroom life long before the current club was founded with Macroom Athletic beginning in 1965. This was mainly due to large interest in the Irish and English club game along with a great appetite for sport in the Mid Cork capital. This new club were soon up and running and entered into Division 3 of the Cork Athletic Union League (AUL). They survived for four seasons before mass emigration once again became prevalent across Ireland and Macroom was badly effected. Left with dwindling playing numbers, Macroom Athletic folded in 1969, but there can be no doubt that the seeds of Association football in the town were sown during this period.
Eight years then passed before a new club, Macroom International (subsequently Macroom FC) was formed. Willie O’ Riordan, Tim McSweeney, Denis James Murray, Damien Lacey, Gene O’ Callaghan, P O’ Callaghan and C Sheehan were some of the people who were instrumental in the forming of the club in 1977. Interestingly, 40 years on the link with the very beginning of the club remains. Willie O’ Riordan, who was there at the very start, is the current Life President and he has played such a huge part in the entire history of Macroom FC. His son William is the current secretary. Along with this, Chairman Denis Murray is the son of another founding member, Denis James. Links from generation to generation are great to have and really put the onus on current members to continue the work that began all those years ago.
Throughout those early years of the 70s/80s, a strong committee was vital, to ensure the roots put down would form a strong foundation for the future. Tom McSweeney, Ted O’ Leary, Nollaig O’ Mahony, Paul Kingston, Bob Renniger, Willie O’ Riordan, Joe and Barry Moloney, Tim and John Kelleher, Trevor Shine, Declan Allen, Jerry Kelleher, Declan Ring and Edward McGuinness were some of many volunteers who made an invaluable contribution.
The club entered the 3rd division of the Cork AUL and finished in third place in their opening season. In season 1979/80 promotion to division 2 was won. After consolidating this position for a few years, further promotion was gained and all of a sudden the club found itself in the first division at the conclusion of the 1983/84 season. First division soccer brought fierce competition and the relatively inexperienced side were relegated the following year. In fairness, the club reacted in the right way by forming U14 and U15 sides under the guidance of Michael Keenan, Ted O’ Leary and others. Giving players more exposure to the game at a younger age was becoming more important. Also, Youths (U18) teams began to be entered with Connie Foley and Damien Lacey among those in charge. The Youths have a fantastic history of success with league and cup titles regularly being won. So with these underage teams players arrived at adult level better equipped for the demands of the Cork AUL. These plans began to bear fruit in the following years. One of the most famous nights came at the conclusion of the 1987/88 season when Macroom and West End Utd met in a division 2 league playoff. A huge crowd attended the game at John A Woods’ ( Lakewood) grounds. Trailing 3-2 at half time, an outstanding second half saw Macroom triumph 5-3. Leo Goold, JJ Murphy, Paul Kingston, Colman O’ Riordan, Tony Sheehan, Barry Moloney, Frank Barrett and captain Noel O’ Riordan were part of an excellent team.
In the early 1980’s and during the summer ‘off’ season, the Street Leagues were born. This competition nowadays has changed somewhat and is known as the annual 7 a side. The Street Leagues were famously competitive with teams from New St, Cork St, Masseytown, Main St, Barrett’s Place/Coolcower and St. Colman’s Pk among those taking part. The games were without doubt a breeding ground for future Macroom FC players. It also gave more experienced or older players the opportunity to showcase their skills to the local public. Along with this, it was also an important part of the town’s sporting and social calendar.
The 90’s and Beyond
In cup competition, Turner’s Cross (where all AUL cup finals are played) was visited regularly during the 1990’s. In 1994, Macroom A were narrowly defeated by Hibernians in the St. Michael’s Cup final. The likes of David Kelleher, Liam Shine, Mike and Pa Murphy, TimTom Kelleher, David McSweeney and Kevin Sheehan were all fantastic players at that time. And it was this squad that won the Division 1 league the very next year after a great battle with Albert Rovers. By this time the Cork AUL had restructured their sections to feature Premier and Premier A as the top two divisions, followed by first, second and third. At that stage Macroom had two adult teams. The first team were now newcomers to the Premier A league and the second team (originally named Macroom United but nowadays Macroom B) competed in division 3. A runners up finish that season for Macroom A brought promotion and the highest level of Premier soccer in Cork to Macroom for the first time ever. In that same season Macrooom Youths won the league and were defeated on penalties in the Youths Cup Final.
The following year, 1996/97, the upward spiral continued as the first ever Premier competition was won. Macroom defeated Park Utd (Mitchelstown) 4-2 at Turner’s Cross in the Mossie Linnane League Cup Final. Willie O’ Riordan and Michael Lynch managed what was a very strong squad including John Ronan, JJ Murphy, Darragh Deasy, Darrin Ring, Brian Murphy, Kevin Sheehan, TimTom Kelleher, William O Riordan, Dan Kelleher, Noel Twomey, Cormac Lineman, Mike Murphy, Shane O’ Leary, James Fleming and Red Kirby. And once again the Youths were not to be denied as they triumphed over Ballincollig in the Youths Cup. Interestingly, that defeated Ballincollig team included Liam Miller and Colin Healy who both went on to play for the Republic of Ireland at senior level. This victorious Youths team featured Shane O’ Sullivan, Cathal Prendeville, Anthony O’ Donoghue, Paul Dunton, Brendan O’ Mahony, Alan Lynch and John Francis Lee while Connie Foley and Damien Lacey managed.
When referring to Macroom B it must be acknowledged the number of important functions this team carries out for the club. Firstly it is an ideal stepping stone for players who finish with the Youths. A season or two with the second team can set a player up nicely to break into the first team squad. Also, players who may have given service to the first team can join the second team and use their experiences gained to help the up and coming players. When this team were first entered back in the 1988/89 season, Liam Ahern, Michael Downey, Martin Sheehan, Colin O’ Mahony, Jerry Kelleher, Michael Riordan, Liam Goulding and Tim Kelleher were all prominent. Macroom B have seen considerable success in recent years. In 2007 the President’s Cup was won when Grattan Utd were defeated 3-1. Mark Twohig, Patrick Burns, Brian Horgan, Barry Fitzgerald, John Ronan, Mark O’ Callaghan and Robbie Kirby all played while Thomas O’ Regan took charge. This feat was repeated earlier on in 2017 with a 2-1 result over Temple Utd at Turners Cross when the likes of Andrew Boyle, Darren Cullinane, Jack Cronin, Jason O’ Donovan, Barry Kelleher (captain), Sean Quinn, Mark Corrigan, Matt O’ Leary and Gordon O’ Sullivan formed part of an excellent squad. Noel O’ Riordan, William O’ Riordan Jnr and Darragh Deasy were the management team. Both of those wins sandwiched what was probably the ultimate achievement in 2010 when the two adult teams won their respective leagues. This was an outstanding year with players and management from both sides putting in a remarkable effort. And it was a famous Sunday at Murrayfield when the Premier A league and Division 3 trophies were presented to Keith Holden (A captain) and Brian Bradley (B captain) by Denis O’ Driscoll from the Cork AUL. In fact, an open top double decker bus was required to facilitate the celebrations! The first team had Denis Murray, Pat O’ Riordan and Willie O’ Riordan at the helm while Anthony Crowley and Mike Murphy looked after the Bs.
Looking back to the latter part of the last century and to the turn of the Millenium, more and more underage sides were entered into competition. Initially, the schoolboy teams played in the West Cork league but after a few years the club reverted to the Cork Schoolboys league. Schoolboy teams from U12 to U16 were now able to pit themselves against the top traditional clubs from Cork City. Beginning in the lower grades, the teams gradually have made their way to the higher levels as league and cup wins as well as promotions have become a regular feature. As things stand in 2017, there are 17 underage teams, who represent Macroom FC in both competitive and non competitive football. These range from U7 all the way up to U16 and every age group at schoolboys level has at least one team. There are huge amounts of boys and girls playing soccer. Last season the U12 and U14 girls were promoted. In May 2017, the U12 girls played in the CWSSL Cup final in Turner’s Cross. Although defeated, it was amazing to see the huge support they had and the enthusiasm from the players and supporters was surely never envisaged way back in 1977. This season, a second U12 girls team has been entered such is the interest. Brian Murphy, Mick Goold, Tim Murphy and many parents are carrying out superb work at schoolgirls level. The very same committment from coaches and parents is evident across the many schoolboy teams with Rhys Hopkins, Gearoid Griffin, PJ Herlihy, Kevin Lucey, James Neville, Noel Leahy, Noel Lyons, Gerry Moss, Chris Brown and Stephen Buckley just some of many volunteers. There are three U12 boys teams, two U14 teams playing competitively and our U16 boys compete brilliantly in the Premier league. All in all, underage soccer is in an fantastic place at the club. The safety of all children is the top priority for Macroom FC. Child welfare officer Lelia Murphy does great work ensuring Garda Vetting and all other safety guidelines from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) are in place. The creation of an environment where all children can feel safe to enjoy and express themselves, regardless of ability, is of paramount importance. The outstanding work of all coaches and volunteers in the underage sections must be pointed out. Many have been involved for a good few years and many are relatively new to the club. New members are always sought after as Macroom FC is constantly looking for ways to improve and move forward. The arrival of new members with different skills and ideas helps greatly to keep a freshness throughout the club.
Pitch and clubhouse developments
Over the years, there have been many successes on the field but arguably the finest achievement of them all was the erection of the clubhouse at Murrayfield. Built in 1999, this was a huge step forward for the club and required much foresight and long term thinking from the then committee. At the time it was also a massive financial undertaking. The clubhouse contains 4 dressing rooms with showers, referees room, kitchenette, meeting room, ladies and gents toilets along with an equipment storage room. Today, it is a prized asset and receives regular positive comment from both visiting clubs and the local public.
The next phase of development was an upgrade to the Murrayfield pitch which took place in 2008/9. Once again, this was a massive job, with a complete overhaul and realignment of the playing surface taking place. Many will remember the old layout with the pitch running from west (Town end) to east (St. Colmans Park end). The new arrangement sees the main pitch run from south to north and is located adjacent to Macroom E Park. This has allowed the remaining area to be developed for the hosting of games for the younger age groups and also to facilitate training for all teams. Interestingly, an article on Macroom FC, published in 1990 in The Southern Star newspaper contained the following quote from the then P.R.O. Tim Kelleher “I would like to see Premier division football and the club acquiring its own pitch and complex. It will take time but that’s what we must aim for”. The fact that the pitch and clubhouse upgrades were planned and achieved is an example of the desire of members to improve the club. It should also be a source of great satisfaction to the many people who had that vision all those years ago to see such plans coming to fruition.
The top class pitch at the Town Park has been used by the club for competitive fixtures, with agreement from the Town Park trustees, since 1987. This is a fantastic place to play and has been vital for the hosting of home games over the years. With natural drainage alongside the banks of the River Sullane, the playing surface is outstanding. It is also a very scenic venue and walkers strolling along the river will regularly stop to take in some of the action. Away teams are always impressed by how well kept this pitch is and the credit for that is due to the grounds committee of Hughie Kelleher, Shane O’ Sullivan and Willie O’ Riordan who do a marvellous job. In addition to this Macroom Town Council workers were always available over the years to help with grass cutting and pitch upkeep. Their support down the years is very much appreciated.
Way back in 1977, home games were played at a pitch adjacent to the top of the Bowl Road. To explain the location, this is the road which nowadays connects Dan Corkery Place and St. Colman’s Park. One club member recently remembered the original pitch with equal fondness and humour noting “It was known locally as ‘Slaughter House Stadium”. Surely the name alone created much fear for visiting teams! As time passed, a move was made to an adjoining pitch, where Dan Corkery Place now stands. When housing began to be built in this area, a short move was necessary and this pitch was named Murrayfield. This ground remains as the home ground to this day.
In the following years, John Martin Fitzgerald of The Hooded Cloak was kind enough to allow the club to use a section of his premises for togging off and showering. Fitzi’s were always a great supporter of the club and many events like the annual dinner dance, club lotto, various meetings and after match refreshments were enjoyed in both the front and back bar. And one sure sign of an upcoming fixture in Murrayfield was the sound of metal studs on concrete as players made their way from Fitzi’s down past Neville’s Bakery (presently Dunnes Stores) just before kick off. With The Hooded Cloak sadly no longer in business, Murray’s Bar have filled the void and have been fantastic to the club. Monday night is the busiest night off the field as the club lotto (run by Catherine O’ Connor, David Shine, JJ Murphy, Connie Foley, Willie O’ Riordan and Noel O’ Riordan) along with committee and management meetings take place in Murray’s function room. With the amount of teams there is always a hectic agenda and in many ways is an unseen part of the club. The lotto, grounds and general club committee members do marvellous work behind the scenes dealing with various day to day issues and planning for the future. Murray’s is also an ideal location for the prompt distribution of lotto results and tickets throughout the town.
Over the decades the business community and general public have given massive support to the many fundraising activities that have been undertaken. Examples of such fundraisers are first scorer cards (during the 80s), Race Nights, Bag Packing and International ticket draws. Also, the sponsorship of jerseys and club gear is vital and most welcome. Furthermore, the many businesses and private individuals throughout the town who facilitate the selling of lotto tickets and all those who purchase them, have made a really positive impact. This is very much appreciated and has been critical in helping the club reach the 40 year milestone. Such support is coupled with the time given by each and every club member, both past and present, who contribute or have contributed their free time to help run the club. Without this Macroom FC simply would not exist. There have been many great players and members who have each played their part over four decades. All of this has combined to leave the club in a healthy, thriving position with a superb history and an even brighter future ahead.
Darragh Deasy P.R.O.