Bill Chambers & Gerry Flynn raise the Oscar Traynor surrounded by members of the victorious Clare squad. Pic: Martin Connolly
Clare’s Oscar Traynor winning team were honoured by Clare County Council with a civic reception.
By Páraic McMahon
On May 8th of this year, the Donie Garrihy managed Banner outfit won the national title for only the second time in the county’s history. They defeated the Leinster Senior League 5-2 with David McCarthy scoring four times and his Newmarket Celtic clubmate Eoin Hayes also chipped in with a goal on a memorable day for soccer in Clare.
A motion proposed in July by Cllr Gerry Flynn, Cllr Pat McMahon, Cllr Ann Norton, Cllr Joe Cooney, Cllr John Crowe and Cllr PJ Ryan seeking a civic reception for the squad and management was unanimously passed by all elected members of Clare County Council.
Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, Bill Chambers welcomed all present to the chambers. He spoke of the “thriving club scene in Clare” and congratulated all involved with the Clare District Soccer League (CDSL) on a hugely successful year. Chambers also took the opportunity to remember the late Frank Healy and Jimmy Rocks, two men that were influential in the promotion of soccer in the county for generations.
“Jimmy Rocks and Frank Healy were shining lights of Clare soccer and their loss has left a huge void. Like in all sports and walks of life, the passing of such hugely influential characters has been keenly felt. Players and officials have regrouped however, and they have delivered the kind of success in 2016 that would have made Jimmy and Frankie very proud. They would have been on the sideline in Dublin watching you win the final earlier this year and I have no doubt that they would have been with you for this evening’s celebration”.
Cllr Gerry Flynn spoke of his delight at being associated with the motion, the origins of which he said lay with CDSL PRO Jim Madden. The Miltown Malbay native recounted his time playing the sport during the ban “soccer was more attractive because it was banned”. He expressed the view that a history of Clare soccer needs to be put together which will remember “dedicated people who kept the show on the road”.
“Soccer can now take its place at the top table and be recognised as a major sport in Clare” Flynn added. The Shannon councillor paid special tribute to Cllr Joe Cooney who is also Clare GAA Chairperson, he said Cooney’s signature on the motion is a sign of how the sport has come. “Tonight is an opportunity to impress on the council, I know the league in Clare has visions of greatness and I know ye will achieve. Soccer in Clare I believe will get stronger” he concluded.
Independent Cllr Ann Norton was very impressed to see the amount of support for the players and management in the public gallery. In her view their Oscar Traynor success was “an achievement that they could be proud of for the rest of their lives”.
Director of Service with the local authority, Ger Dollard stated that the final “was widely regarded as an excellent game for the Clare league”. He added that it was fitting to have Brendan Daly, Pat Breen and Michael Guilfoyle present. Dollard maintained that there has always been a strong link with soccer and politics and quipped that he was unsure whether the phrase “own goal came from politics or soccer”.
Chairman of the CDSL Oliver Fitzpatrick admitted it was a great honour to be acknowledged by the local authority. “Winning an All-Ireland title in any sport takes hard work and dedication”. Fitzpatrick highlighted that the CDSL was going from strength to strength and the standard of club football is increasing. He said he was looking forward to working with the council on future developments.
Manager of the victorious side, Donie Garrihy then took to the floor where he impressed each and every one individual gathered in the Council Chambers with what he had to say. It was “humbling” and “spectacular” to be honoured with a civic reception in his view. As he looked around the room Garrihy stated ““I won’t use the word lightly I’m in the company of legendary figures of Clare people”.
With all representatives of the league and the squad dressed in suits, Donie said their immaculate style was a sign of their character. He singled out captain Paddy Purcell, the brave netminder Barry Ryan, the “record-breaker” David McCarthy plus Irish internationals Stephen Kelly and Eoin Hayes for their contributions to the success. To be speaking “here with the tricolour before Christmas” was a special moment for the Doolin man “The birth of my children, my wedding day and then this is one of the greatest days of my life” he concluded to rapturous applause.
Although she felt their “thunder was stolen” because of Clare’s National Hurling League success on the same day, Fine Gael Cllr Mary Howard admitted “it was a real honour to be here”.
One of the proposers of the motion, Pat McMahon a lifelong soccer supporter and current President of Newmarket Celtic stated that he never imagined to be sitting at the top table for an event like this. He paid special tribute to his fellow club members on the side. “The team was backboned by Newmarket-on-Fergus, forgive me if I’m parochial”. McMahon believes the future for soccer in the county has improved tremendously.
Sixmilebridge Cllr’s John Crowe and PJ Ryan spoke of their delight at seeing the great facilities across the country and the plans in place for Bridge Utd. Ryan maintained that the sport has a big role in keeping people off the streets.
Cllr James Breen congratulated all involved for “the great honour brought to the county” while Fianna Fáil’s Pat Daly added “Anytime you win a national title is a fantastic achievement to do so in Dublin against a Dublin team is brilliant”.
It was fitting that Clare GAA Chairperson and East Clare Cllr Joe Cooney was the last elected member to speak. He urged the players to go on and try to win back to back titles. He acknowledged the contribution of the CDSL and the management in making the success a reality.
Members of the CDSL presented Clare County Council with a framed jersey in appreciation while representatives of the Healy family handed over a painting of Frank Healy Park to the Council. The local authority made a monetary contribution to the CDSL in light of their historic achievement.
All photos by Martin Connolly