Here are a selection of photos to bring us down memory lane and relive some glorious moments.
June 7th 1996 and the Shamrocks pictured in the gardens of The Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge at the Leinster Football League Awards with the Treble Trophies and L.F.L. Divisional Manager, Terry Farrell.
The club was also honoured with a Special Merit Award on the night in recognition of their achievements with such a small pool of players and limited resources. It was a defining moment in the club’s history.
The celebrations begin after Shamrocks had clinched the Double by beating Athy side, Bridge United 4-2 after extra time to win the cup having won the championship a week earlier. In one of the best finals ever seen in the counties, the Shamrocks had to dig deep to score two goals in extra-time having surrendered a two goal lead at the death with Bridge united equalising in the 3rd minute of injury time. It went down in history as a Mammoth performance by the Men from the Island.
The beer is flowing and the hordes are in good voice, as the Trophies are brought home to the Island in triumph after a remarkable fortnight of finals which saw the Shamrocks finally fulfill the potential that had promised to deliver so much.
The by now familiar tri-colour with the shamrocks loyal band of followers at the Giffney Cup Semi-final in 1998 against Longford United. The Rocks won 1-0 after a tough game to reach the final for the second year in sucession.
Colin Shortall and Ray Nolan, exhausted but exhilarated, after beating Cill Beara Rovers 2-0 in the Shield Final on a hot Summer’s evening to win the treble on May 25th 1996.
Noel Duffy (RIP), an ever present follower and committee member who for obvious reasons became known as ‘The man with the flag’. Tragically, Noel was to lose his life in a motorbike accident a few weeks after this photograph was taken. The Shamrocks now hold an annual memorial tournament in his honour.
I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane.
As part of their 20th anniversary year, Walsh Island Shamrocks take a nostalgic trip back in time and focus on the first ever soccer team to represent the village of Walsh Island.
While the club in its current guise traces its roots to 1992, the trail was blazed much earlier than that by the original ‘Island Shamrocks’.
In 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the surface of the moon, Woodstock, New York, attracts half a million open minded, rock and roll enthusiasts, AC Milan won the European cup and Shamrock Rovers claimed the FAI Cup.
It was also the year a small rural village in Offaly saw the formation of its very first soccer club, Island Shamrocks. Over the course of its existence from 1969 to 1976 they would go on to gain the respect and admiration of their peers and opponents from across the junior soccer scene in the midlands and beyond.
The founding fathers of this fledgling organisation were Sean Duffy, Patsy Bergin, William Carroll, Frank Williamson and Gustin Kavanagh. It’s important to note that during this period of Irish history the GAA imposed a nationwide ban on its members from participating in ‘foreign sports’. To form a soccer club in a village with such a rich and proud Gaelic football tradition was seen to be quiet the rebellious act indeed.
All committee meetings, where decisions were made affecting the club, were held at 13 Coolagarry, Walsh Island. Having met with initial problems securing a playing area, it was the Whittle family who generously donated a section of their land for the purpose of soccer.
With a pitch secured, each player gave a shilling for the purchase of footballs and equipment. Jerseys were borrowed from McDermott Barracks in the Curragh with the colours on those jerseys being- black and red.
Their first unofficial (challenge) match was against near neighbours Arlington FC and consisted a team of local and army players. The connection of the army players was through Patsy Bergin who was stationed at a barracks in the Curragh and this mix of talent would go on to form a potent and successful junior soccer team.
Training for the season ahead took place in the old school grounds and transport was provided to all away matches by well-known Portarlington man Con Coughlan who more than enjoyed the craic and revelry that ensued.
The club first entered a youth’s team in the midland section of the Leinster Junior League in ’69 and this team would go on to form the spine for their first trophy when they claimed the LJL Division 3 counties title in 1971/72.
The Midland section of the Leinster Junior Shield was also secured in this era and that same season (71/72) they reached the LJL Division 3 cup final where, after a titanic struggle, they were denied the trophy by Tipperary outfit Killavilla Utd.
Having succumbed to a first leg 3-1 away defeat, the shamrocks turned in a brilliant second leg performance to win 3-1 at home and leave the agg. score 4-4. The cup final went to a third match in Kildare town where Killavilla eventually emerged victorious on a score line of 2-0. At the end of that season, as league champions, the club received their trophy and winners plaques at a Leinster Junior League awards night in the Green Isle Hotel, Dublin. At their own awards function, a few weeks later, the Republic of Ireland soccer manager of the day Mick Meagan was on hand, as special guest, to present the cup on a never to be forgotten night in the Montague Hotel, Portlaoise.
The club continued on playing in the LJL until 1976, when work and family commitments of players and committee members eventually led to the cessation of soccer in Walsh Island until their re-emergence in 1992.
In honour of that historic team, when re-forming the club, it was decided to adopt the ‘Shamrocks’ title and the black and red colours that have become so synonymous with the success enjoyed by the present club over the last twenty years. To all those involved in ‘Island Shamrocks’ in those historic heady days, the current crop of Walsh Island Shamrocks salute you.
A full list of players from that era reads as follows – Mick Carroll, William Carroll, Lesley Ellis, Frank Williamson, Patsy Bergin, Tom Bradley, Murt Duhig, John and Gustin Kavanagh, Sean Duffy, Michael McCann, JJ Coy,Wilfie Cronin, Finbar O’Reilly, Jack Connolly, Frank Kelly, Colm Shields, John Anderson, John Cunneen, Willie Pierce, Noel Mahon, Murt O’Brien, Mick Slattery and Willie Bryan.
It started in a field of weeds in 1992 and peaked in a field of dreams in 1997. This is the story of the rapid rise to success of Walsh Island Shamrocks.
Walsh Island Shamrocks was reborn on the 26th day of June 1992. We say reborn because we took our name from the original Shamrocks team that was in existence in the early 1970’s. That team too, was very successful and it was both as a mark of respect to them, as well as continuing a tradition, that we decided to take red and black as our colours. They were the team that brought the first soccer trophies to the Island and also had a player that went on to play for League Of Ireland side, Bohemians, and Ireland.
The second coming was brought about by the desire of a few local lads to play competitive association football while they were still young enough to do so, but for a team that was their own and not one from an adjoining town that they had little or no allegiance to. After a lively meeting in Mahons lounge on that fateful evening it was the unanimous choice to reform the club under the auspices of the Leinster Football League and endeavour to make our mark on the local soccer scene. Little did we know that in the space of five years, we would surpass all expectations and find ourselves playing in the home of Irish Soccer, Dalymount Park.
Those first few years were predominantly a survival exercise, after a lot of hard work from a relatively small committee, got the club off the ground. However, the support of a helpful and co-operative landlord made it possible to look to the immediate future and beyond with a view to developing the playing and training facilities to the high standard they are at today. Referees and visiting teams alike have never been short of praise for the club grounds which now include an immaculately prepared pitch used exclusively for competitive games, a second pitch surrounded by 9000 watts of floodlight power to facilitate winter training, new spacious home and away dressing rooms equipped with showers and toilets, Ladies and Gents public toilets and a Referees changing room. Also, the erection of specially commissioned County Council signposts at all major junctions in the Walsh Island area in 1994, ensured that no-one has any problem locating the club grounds.
These developments were made possible by the Club Lotto, which was initiated in 1993 and which was the lifeblood of the club thanks to the tremenduous support of the locality and the committment and dedication of some outstanding ticket sellers. A major factor also has been the generosity of the business community in the local towns and villages, who have been very forthcoming with sponsorship. The off the field achievements have been matched by on field success. The inaugural season, 1992/93 was a success in itself, merely by the club’s participation and survival. It was essentially a feet-finding exercise, both on and off the field, to determine if Walsh Island Shamrocks could compete and live with the bigger and more established clubs. The answer to this was an emphatic ‘Yes’, and although finishing in mid-table, the seeds had been sown and the potential of what was yet to come, was becoming less of a dream and more of a reality.
1993/94 saw the club finish a very creditable fifth in the league and having also reached the quarter finals of the Division 3 Cup, it was deemed a satisfactory season. However, it was the 1994/95 season which suggested the little club would soon make a breakthrough. A tremenduous run in the Leinster Junior Shield, which included over 100 teams from all over Leinster, ended at the semi-final stage against North Dublin club, Verona FC, and then only after a brilliant goal four minutes from the end of extra-time which was worthy of winning the final itself. The club also reached the Division 3 Cup Final against the holders, St Mary’s Athy, but after a spirited performance, inexperience told and they succumbed 3-1.
Although the disappointment of being so near and yet so far was deeply felt, the 1995/96 season was greeted with an air of expectancy more so than hope. And what a season it turned out to be. Scoring over eighty goals, the Shamrocks stormed to an unprecedented treble of League Championship, Division 3 Cup and Division 3 Shield titles. The league was won in the hardest of fashions, with the Shamrocks winning five and drawing one, of their last six games, four of which were against the top three placed teams in the division. It culminated in a playoff decider against old rivals, Templeville in Dalton Park, Mullingar, and after a tight encounter fraught with tension and drama , the Shamrocks announce their arrival in the winner’s enclosure with a 1-0 victory.
The following Sunday, they returned to the grounds of Arlington FC for the Division 3 Cup Final , determined to avenge their defeat in the previous year’s decider. Another Athy side, Bridge United provided the opposition and after a final of classic proportions, the Islanders completed the Double with a 4-2 victory in extra-time. This had been a phenomenal cup run through seven games, in which they scored thirty goals and conceded only four. To round off an incredible fortnight, and season, the Shamrocks returned to Arlington six days later on a beautiful Summer’s evening for the Shield Final, where they disposed of Division 3A champions, Cill Beara Rovers by two goals to nil, to rubber stamp their Champions credentials. It was an acheivement which would deservedly put the Club on the football map. The icing on the cake was delivered at the Leinster Football league Awards in the Keadeen Hotel on June 7th, when the Shamrocks were presented with the ‘Special Merit Award’ to acknowledge the tremenduous success gleaned from such a small area with limited resources. It was a defining moment in the club’s history.
The 1996/97 season began with promotion to Division 2 and the knowledge that they were no longer an unknown quantity. Weighing heavier still, was the loss of a friend and colleague, Noel Duffy, who died tragically on July 6th but whose memory would be called upon many times during the season to boost morale. Coming off the back of such tremenduous success a few months earlier, it was difficult to see how it could be surpassed or even equalled, but the best was yet to come. Narrow single goal defeats in the FAI and Leinster Junior Cups to eventual Major Division Champions, Birr Town, gave proof, if any were needed, that Walsh Island were now among the heavyweights of the LFL. However, sometimes inconsistent form in the league resulted in the Shamrocks being pipped at the post for runner’s up spot and promotion to Division One, in a championship that they really could, and probably should, have won. March saw a disappointing exit on penalties in the quarter finals of the Division 2 Cup but with interest in the Giffney Cup still alive, their greatest day was beckoning. A superb semi-final victory over Longford Town, secured an outing to one of the most famous soccer grounds in the country, Dalymount Park, for the final of Tom Giffney Memorial Cup, one of the biggest cup competitions under the auspices of the Leinster Football league. A huge travelling support and the well wishes of a number of local clubs accompanied Walsh Island Shamrocks to the home of Bohemians Football Club on May 14th, 1997, for what was undoubtedly the biggest day in their short history.
The omens were good from the outset, with the Shamrocks being allocated the ‘Gypsies’ dressing room, whose club colours are the same as their own, and far from being overawed by the occasion, they gave the performance of their lives with a display of fast, fluid football that was a joy to watch. They hit their more illustrious oppenents from Finglas, Cardiff Inn, for six, after only eight minutes with a superbly crafted goal to take the lead. Throughout the final, the Dublin side never really threatened their Country counterparts and were fortunate not to be beaten by a bigger margin than the single goal which would ultimately prove to be enough. The final whistle brought emotional scenes of Jubilation and Joy at the realisation that the Dream had indeed become a reality, as the Shamrocks climbed the steps to lift the Tom Giffney Memorial Cup. It was a night that will live forever in the memory of every player and supporter that entered that famous ground to witness the club’s greatest moment, and the conclusion of an incredible journey, from dandelions to Dalymount in five short years.
The following season 1998/99 the club again went on to compete in the Tom Giffney cup final only to be beaten on penalties after a wonderful hard fought game v Longford Wanders. (Full time 0-0, penalties 4-2). We also failed to win the Div 2 league on the last day of the season losing 2-1 to Derry Rovers under the fine leadership of one John Minnock & Seamus Connor.
Season 1999/2000 was again to end in agony for the club as we ended up on the losing side in the Watkins cup final v Arlington FC. The result was again to be decided on penalties….. (Full time 0-0, penalties 4-3).
It was not long before the Shamrocks were back in the winning groove again and in some style creating history along the way, The went on to win the very first OWL league Division 2 title in the 2001-2002 season, the also went on to be defeated in the Challenge Cup final by local neighbors Arlington on penalties (Full time 0-0, penalties 4-3). Because the club made such a great impression on the OWL league they were awarded the coveted Club of the year award for outstand achievements throughout the season.
The following 6 years proved hard for the Shamrocks to achieve anything like the success of the previous years.
The 2008-09 season seemed to get the club back to the heady heights the were so accustom to over its 16 year history, The club went on to win the Division 3 league title and reached two cup finals along the way, losing both one to Kilcormac and the other to Clara town. As always the club was run to a very high standard which the CCFL league acknowledged with the award of the clubs second club of the year award, beating of such high profiled clubs such as willow park and Clara town.
The following 4 years were quite for the club in winning terms but they are planning a big celebration for there 20th anniversary with a dinner dance in the Bridge House, Tullamore. The club is also working in close conjunction with the Temple Street Children’s hospital on the night and proceeds from the raffle on the night will be donated to the hospital.
The club would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who played there part in the clubs history over the last 20 years, The club’s success is only possible because of the great team spirit and work ethic shown by the many people who support the club in so many different ways.
Thank you all.