Carrick Rovers - The History
In the early part of this century, Jimmy Brady was coming back up the Convent Hill having taken his evening constitutional. As he came up the hill he was intrigued by a steady rhythmic thump that he could hear coming from behind the building where Tricia's Accessories is now.
Curiosity got the better of him and he stopped and peered through the hedge to get a better look. Then he saw a young man kicking a ball into a half barrel or large wooden tub (he couldn’t be quite sure) from about ten or twelve yards. In twenty attempts he missed once. The barrel was so positioned that, if he did miss, the football went sailing down the steep slope to where the Prowles River is. The punishment for missing was severe. That young man’s name was Ignatius Mc Caffrey, better known as Nig, and was in the confident opinion of the old folk the most skilful footballer Carrick ever produced. He was an ‘oul Emmet’ stalwart but in June 1905 he emigrated to Sheffield and though it cannot be verified it is almost certain he trained with Sheffield United but he did not make the first team as the secretary of ‘The Blades’ informed me in a response to my inquiry. However he was back in Carrick in 1907 and with his older brother Tom continued to play Gaelic Football.
Soccer was not organised on any significant basis in those early days but challenge matches were played on Saturday and on summer evenings. Brian Hanratty who lives in Cuchullain Terrace tells us that his father saw soccer played in Cooper’s field on the Ardee Road. The Haley Costello, Jess Connolly and Jimmy Downey took part in these matches even though it was seriously frowned on to play soccer if you were also playing Gaelic.
One interesting story that has come my way concerns a disappointment over a soccer match. A team from Carrick went one Saturday by train to Dundalk to play a local team, probably from the Railway or the Grammar School early in 1918. Apparently the train was late and no one conveyed this to the awaiting Dundalk team. When the Carrick team arrived they were told by a local that the other side had gone home because Carrick didn’t turn up. Bitterly disappointed they set off home and in a discussion on the train they decided to concentrate on Gaelic Football from then on. The satisfactory end for them was that a team from Carrick won the Monaghan Senior Championship in 1918 and retained it in 1919.
This story is somewhat at odds with the truth. Pat Kiernan in his wonderfully detailed history of Carrick Emmets tells us that the Emmets lost their football field when a new owner ploughed and sowed it. The famous old club disbanded but another Gaelic club called Carrick Rovers was formed. This team played Gaelic football and efforts behind the scenes to reform the Emmets were not allowed as long as another senior club was in the town. The Emmets amalgamated with the Rovers and this team won the 1918 Championship and held it the next year when they were officially known as Carrick Emmets. This was a time of political divisions and there was a Carrick Redmonds on the go around 1917-1918 but wise heads took over and by the summer of 1918 matters were sorted out.
In 1923 rugby and soccer were played in the town, rugby in Withrington's land on the Ballybay Road. JJ Quigley in his memoirs ‘Letters to the Editor’ takes up the story, ‘I played soccer for a few years and I enjoyed it. The field was where the technical school is now situated. I played centre half. At one match we had a good Gaelic player, the late Johnny Logan, at right half, marking Joey Donnelly, a famous Dundalk winger. The Gaelic player was not used to the rules or technique of soccer so I just told him to keep close to Donnelly and leave the ball to me. He stuck so close to Donnelly that the winger transferred to the opposite wing in disgust. I transferred Johnny Logan to the other side with the same instructions. Donnelly never got a kick of the ball! Jess Connolly and ‘Haley’ Costello were noted Gaelic players who were also on the team and they played havoc with the soccer teams we met’.
They felt confident enough to organise officially and enter a team in the Dundalk and District League in July 30th 1927. Quidnunc, the Carrick correspondent wrote in The Democrat ‘There is no doubt that the Association Football Club are fortunate in having the Cloughvalley Ground as their own special preserve’. The team was strengthened by players from Newry who came over by train and were fed in Mohan’s Café in O’Neill St. they finished an excellent 6th in the league playing eighteen games, winning seven, drawing two and losing nine. One disappointment was, that because they were a Monaghan team, they were not allowed enter The Leinster Junior Cup. I am indebted to The Dundalk Democrat to be able to include photocopied reports of some matches. The games against Norton Villa were epics in their time. Rovers surprised the best junior team of that era by drawing 3-3 in Dundalk and the Villa were anxious to beat Rovers in Carrick. As you can see from the report it was a ding-dong affair and if Norton Villa were displeased with the referee in Dundalk, Rovers were more than annoyed in Carrick and refused to finish the match in protest. JJ Quigley in his anecdote, comments on his successful tactics in countering Joey Donnelly. However in these two games Donnelly scored seven goals. This is no surprise really because the Dundalk greengrocer went on to play ten times for Ireland and played almost continuously for The Lilywhites from 1923-1943.
The expense of bringing players from Newry was too great and for the 1928-29 season the committee decided to rely on an all local set up. This was not a success and though the players did their best they did not have the experience necessary. The Rovers were well served by JJ Quigley, Josie and Packie Cusnahan, Peter Coyle and Paddy Quinn, who worked on the railway and stayed in Mohan’s. One terrific prospect was Jim Byrne, Mullinary, an outstanding natural left winger, who at the age of sixteen fell victim to T.B. Joey Murphy of Monaghan St played in goals. He modelled himself on the tragic John Thompson of Celtic and he loved rushing out to dive at the incoming forwards feet. Eugene Magee, Pearse Avenue, was the secretary of the club.
More to follow in the coming weeks. Next up ''The Early Forties''