History of Mount Merrion Football Club

Football in the Mount Merrion area began in 1974. As new roads and new houses were added to the Mount Merrion area in the 1950s, consecutive children growing up found that there was no football pitch in the area and it was not until 1974 that the schoolboys club there commenced. It began playing football on the pitch, which is now nearest to the tennis court, and the park extended as far as the path just behind the far goals. Behind the pitch were the grounds of Mount Anville Convent, which were ringed by a high wall.

Two events occurred in early 1981, which were to change the course of football in Mount Merrion. Firstly, three childhood friends, all of them managers in the schoolboy section of the club, namely Maurice Lyons, Dermot Nolan and Jim Langton hit upon the idea of forming a senior section. The second event, which occurred, was that it became known that the Dublin County Council had purchased lands from Mount Anville Convent and it intended developing a second Gaelic pitch and a second soccer pitch in Mount Merrion. It had been suggested that if there were a Senior Section in the Club, its applications for the use of the second soccer pitch would be favourably considered for the season 1982-1983. It was therefore imperative that a Club was already in being in order to apply for the pitch for that season.

Consequently, a Senior Team was entered for the 1981-1982 season in the Amateur League Division 3A Sunday. The first team was managed by Dermot Nolan and captained by Maurice Lyons. The Secretary of the Club was Maurice Lyons, who held this post from 1981 to 1994 and again from 1996 to 1999. Having no home ground, it played out of Marley Park where each side had a different home ground each week.

The teams first ever match was against Quinnsworth in Marley Park and is famous because each side turned up in light blue tops, white shorts and white socks. As events turned out, it was quite a nice day and it was agreed that Mount Merrion would play the first half in their “skins” while the opposition would play the second half in their skins. For the record, we lost the match 1-0 with an own goal in injury time in the second half. The first team, which took the field, was as follows:

Alan Jones; Dermot Nolan, David Smith, Brendan McCudden, Phil Chambers; Maurice Lyons, Jimmy Byrne, Declan Keogh, Jim Langton; Paul Delaney and Mick Dunne.

As the season progressed, the team picked up some excellent footballers, notably big Phil Brennan, Alan O’Grady and the soon to be legendary Mark Quinn. This side finished second last in the league and was relegated to Division 3B Sunday for the following season. The application was duly made for the new pitch in Mount Merrion and granted. The following season was probably one of the greatest in the history of Mount Merrion Football Club. It began with several members of the previous years under 18s Schoolboy side joining the Club, and culminated in the team winning Division 3B Sunday (losing two matches only - the first match of the season and the last match of the season!) as well as capturing the coveted Clare Manor Cup, defeating Home Farm 3-2 in the Final. This was the only match that the Home Farm side lost that season, having won every other trophy available to it. That Home Farm side contained six players who by the end of the season had played League of Ireland football. The panel, which did the double, was:

Mick Benson, Tony Byrne, Phil Brennan, Dave Farrell, Dave Curtis, Mick Brennan, Paul Nolan, Alan Kane, Kevin Meehan, Finbar Murphy, Shane Crawford, Mark Quinn, Jim Nix, Eamon Canavan, Brendan McCudden and Jim Langton.

In the following season the side was promoted to Division 2A Sunday of the Amateur league and also started a Saturday team, which played in Division 1C Saturday. Dermot Nolan continued as manager of the Sunday side and also ran the Saturday team. The Sunday team won Division 2A beating NCR United 2-1 in a playoff. The Saturday side finished as runners up in Division 1C. The panel that won Division 2A Sunday was:

Pat Browne, Finbar Murphy, Tony Byrne, Phil Brennan, Barry Nangle, Dave Curtis, Mick Brennan, Alan Kane, Shane Crawford, Glen Pierce, Mick Allen, Mark Quinn, Jim Langton and Brendan McCudden.

The following season saw another leap up the divisions of the Amateur League, the first team rising to Division 1C Sunday, while the Saturday team was promoted to 1B Saturday. We also fielded an U-19 side in the Amateur League U-19 Division for the first time, which was managed by Bobby O'Connor. The Sunday team continued its story of success and finished as runners up in Division 1C losing just two games all seasons.

The following season saw the first team arrive in Division 1A Sunday with Dermot Nolan in charge at the start of the season. The Division 1B Saturday side was taken over by John Hunt, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The first team appeared to lose some of its appetite for the game at the start of the season and struggled for a time in the higher division. Two excellent new players were acquired however during the season namely Barry McGrane and Ally Smyth (who went on to play over ten years in League of Ireland with Bray Wanderers). Maurice Lyons and Alan Kane took over as joint managers of the first eleven mid-season and the side safely avoided relegation. The Saturday team finished safely in the middle of the table.

In the following season 1986/1987, John Hunt took over the reins of the first team in Division 1A Sunday. He brought a number of players through from the Saturday side and added other quality players such as Derek Smyth (who went on to play League of Ireland with Monaghan United and Bray Wanderers), former Junior International goalkeeper Pat O'Sullivan and ex-TEK United defender Derek 'Rosie' Lester. Alongside them, club stalwarts such as Brendan O'Reilly, Peter Leech, Alan Kane, Pat Maher and Shane Crawford as well as promising young players Des Fox and Robbie Hunt, combined to form one of the best teams the Club has ever had. The side finished as runners up in Division 1A losing a play off for the league on penalties after extra time.

The following season saw the 1st eleven in Division 1 Sunday of the Amateur league with Dermot Nolan back at the helm. The Saturday team remained in Division 1A Saturday this time under the reins of Mick Allen and Jim Langton. A new third team was formed which played in Division 3A Sunday under the guidance of Jimmy Harrison. This side finished as runners up in Division 3A Sunday. It is perhaps fair to say that one player stood out above all others that season namely the tall elegant Paul Osam, who transferred the following season to St. Patrick's Athletic with whom (along with Shamrock Rovers) he spent the next twelve seasons playing League of Ireland football. His successful career culminated in his being awarded the Footballer of the Year award in the League of Ireland in 1999.

The following season saw the first and second team of managers reversing their roles while Jimmy Harrison continued in Division 3 Sunday. The Sunday side had a most successful season with the likes of Gerry Hunt and Colm O’Snodaigh (now a hugely successful musician with Kila) enjoying excellent seasons. At the end of the season, the first eleven had earned its place in the newly constituted and expanded Major Division Sunday of the Amateur League, the top division in the League, an U-19 side also was added, managed by Dermot Nolan. The Club then decided that, having reached the top division in the League, it was an opportune time to recruit a top manager to run the side.

The then Irish Ladies International manager Fran Rooney was approached and he took up the reins as manager of the first & second teams. Fran is, of course, the same Fran Rooney of Baltimore Technology, now one of the richest men in Ireland. Fran brought with him excellent training techniques and his side was technically well organised, disciplined and very fit. Before the season started many tipped the Club for immediate relegation, as we were complete novices to the top level. This was soon proven to be totally unfounded as with the front line of Derek Smyth, Barry McGrane and Mickey O’Loughlin destroying defences throughout the league, the side finished well up the table while other famous names in Amateur League history namely Clover United, and Fairview CYMS were relegated.

The team went from strength to strength and in the following season 1990/1991, it maintained its league position and also finished as runners up in the prestigious Matt O’Leary Trophy. By this time, the club had added players such as Donnough Shaffrey (ex-UCD) and Steven Higgins (ex Home Farm and Bray Wanderers League of Ireland). Others to have good seasons were Liam Moulton, Gerry Hunt and Declan Flynn. Throughout these seasons from 1982 until the end of 1991, the team played out of Deerpark on the Senior Soccer pitch there.

At the end of the 1991 season however the Schoolboys indicated that they wished to expand their membership and wished to double the number of teams they were entering in competition. The arrangement made between the seniors and the schoolboys was that, if Dublin County Council were to allocate to the senior side alternative senior pitch accommodation, they would agree to allow the schoolboys take over the use of the senior soccer pitch. As it transpired, the Dublin County Council made an allocation of Brewery Road (which was used for Leinster Senior league football at the time) and with a formal letter to that effect from the Dublin County Council, the senior side agreed to vacate the senior pitch in Deerpark. What then happened is that the then occupants of Brewery Road objected to Mount Merrion being given a letting on that pitch and ultimately the Senior Club was left without a pitch. The schoolboys had by this time doubled their teams which had been entered in the league and had commenced playing on the Senior Pitch in Deerpark. The Council then withdrew, purely by reason of pressure, the letting to the Seniors of Brewery Road and the end result was that the senior side played its home matches in various locations for a 5 month period namely Leopardstown Park, Cabinteely Park and finally Ballyogan Road.

During that time, the team, due to uncertainty as regards pitches, had to forfeit home advantage in a number of matches. One famous match was the Leinster Junior Cup match against Cherry Orchard’s first eleven. This match was switched to the Cherry Orchard ground and Mount Merrion caused a major sensation in defeating Cherry Orchard 2-0 with goals by Mick Joyce and Paddy Joyce. We also fielded an U-19 side again that season, the side once more managed by Dermot Nolan.

The following season saw Phil Fitzgerald (the former captain of the Irish schoolboy's international side and ex-Arsenal player now managing Terenure CYM) take over as manager of the team. The side had applied for private ground accommodation at the Dublin Maccabi Club in Terenure and a deal was struck with them. Many top players were attracted to the club including Kenny Lynch (who went on to become a top Junior International star) Dermot Gaskin (ex-Bray Wanderers), Tim O’Driscoll (former Dublin Gaelic star and ex-League of Ireland player) along with other well known local stalwarts in Paul “Pablo” Boyle, Declan Daly, Gary “Slotsie” Ryan (ex- Junior International) and Colm Kelly and for a while the side lead the Amateur League Major Division. It eventually finished just outside the honours but the Saturday team finished joint second in Division 1 Saturday and also won the Ned Maher Cup courtesy of a goal by Alan Byrne. The team that won the Ned Maher Cup was as follows: -

Des Fitzgerald; Ray MacAufield, Paul Boyle, Dermot Gaskin, Colm Kelly; Kevin Windle, Pat Maher, Paddy Joyce, Alan Byrne; Tommy Hanrahan and Mick Joyce; Declan Daly, Liam Moulton

The side continued in Dublin Maccabi in the following season (1993 – 1994) with Mick Allen taking over the reins of the Major Sunday side. Maurice Lyons was manager of the Premier Saturday side and TJ Maher was the manager of the Division 3 Sunday side. All three sides had reasonably successful seasons with both the Major Sunday and Premier Saturday teams finishing well up in their Divisions. In addition, the Division 3 Sunday side, while in the running for the league for a long time, reached the Quarter Finals of the Leinster Junior Shield.

The cost of remaining in Dublin Macabbi was proving extremely expensive and the club therefore decided to return to Ballyogan Park, which was the only County Council ground available to them at that time. A proposal was put forward by TJ Maher that the club should merge with Sandyford F.C., with whom it shared the same pitch in Ballyogan Park. A series of meetings were held and this merger was agreed. Sandyford played their football in the Leinster Senior League and it was decided to switch to the Leinster Senior League, where the side took up a position in Premier Sunday. They also fielded a Saturday team in Premier 1C Saturday (also managed by Phil Fitzgerald) and a third team in Division 3 Sunday, which was managed by Dermot Nolan. The 1994-1995 season was one of the most successful in the Club’s history and it won Premier Sunday, came runners up in the Arthur Lynch Cup, were defeated Semi Finalists in the Polikoff Cup and were defeated Quarter Finalists in the Leinster Junior Cup. Among its notable scalps that season in the Leinster Junior Cup were Adare United and Tolka Rovers. In particular, they caused a major surprise by Tolka Rovers 2-0 on their home soil.

The amalgamation with Sandyford lasted for one more season and in 1996-1997, Pat Maher, who had played for the Club since 1982, approached Maurice Lyons to reform Mount Merrion FC. The Club obtained an allocation from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County for Leopardstown Park and re-entered the Leinster Senior League at Division 3 level. The return of the Club was an immediate success in winning Division 3 Sunday together with the Vere Deane Cup with an impressive display in the final (beating Alpine Express 4 - 1) with Pat Maher as player manager.

The squad, which won the double on our return, was as follows: -

Des Donohoe; Declan Daly, Sean O'Shea (Capt.), Declan Flynn, Liam Moulton; Cosmo Flood, Pat Maher, Paul Higgins, Kevin Harty; Tommy Hanrahan, Mick Joyce. Donal Malin, T J Maher, Brendan Sweeney, Alan Byrne, Kevin Meehan.

In 1997, a Saturday team was added with Pat Maher running both sides. The Sunday team finished second to Cuckoos Nest in Division 2B Sunday with the Saturday team mid-table in Division 2. At this time the Sunday team played in Leopardstown Park with the Saturday team playing in Ballyogan Road. In 1998 Pat Maher 'moved upstairs' and Declan Flynn, along with Noel Mulhall, took over the reins of both teams. The club secured the use of Leopardstown Park for both teams. The 1st eleven finished runners up in Division 2A Sunday and also finished runners up in both the Barry Desmond Cup & Lillis Webb Cup.

Pat Maher returned to the helm for the 1999-2000 season and Dave Kennedy joined the club as trainer, bringing with him outstanding quality in training sessions. A major step was taken in relation to upgrading our facilities in Leopardstown Park with work beginning on improving the dressing room facilities. The side finished third in Division 2 Sunday and won the Tommy Cullen Cup (winning 1 - 0 against Castlerothery). The squad, which won the Cup, was as follows: -

Dave Horkan; Liam Moulton, Sean O'Shea, Alan Leonard, Kent Clarke; Stephen Phillips, Niall McNiff, Tim Bennett (Capt.), Des Hanrahan; Declan McNiff, Ruairi O'Shaughnessy; Robbie McCaul, Niall Corbett, Andrew Corbett, Cosmo Flood, Brian Fagan.
Des Roche was appointed as first team manager for the year 2000-2001 with Pat Maher remaining at the helm as manager of the Premier 1 Saturday side. The new pavilion was formally opened on 9th August by Olivia Mitchell TD and followed with a game against TEK United. To complete this project, both Paul Higgins & Pat Maher put in a tremendous amount of work and acknowledgement should also be given to John Higgins of Southside Building & Carpentry for his co-operation and financial support.

In addition, high praise must be given to the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, for all their help and assistance in making this project work – their assistance has been invaluable since they took over from the Dublin County Council as the local authority. In particular, the club wishes to thank Willie Connor and Jim Ellis of the Councils Parks Department.

Over the last number of years, the Club has focused it's efforts on recruiting young players to the Club, with special emphasis on players who have come up through Mount Merrion Youths schoolboys ranks. The current side managed by Des Roche and trained by Dave Kennedy, could be one of the best sides ever to turn out for the club. The Club has, over the years, tended to field young sides with high fitness levels and a brand of attacking football. The current side is no different from those that have gone before and it aims this seasons are to gain promotion out of Premier 1 Sunday and hopefully to win the League itself.

The ultimate aim of the club is to progress to the Intermediate Divisions of the Leinster Senior League (for which a great many of the sides that we previously played with in the Amateur League (and indeed finished well above) now ply their trade in.

It is essential for Intermediate Division football that clubs have a proper structure and framework in position, together with having a suitable pitch and suitable dressing room accommodation. It is the considered view of the committee that the Club has made huge strides over the past number of years to improve the pitch and the dressing room facilities. The Club has also striven to set up the internal structures within the Club necessary to allow the Club to succeed at a higher level.

The Club continues to have strong links with the schoolboy club, with whom the majority of players playing with the Club have played their schoolboy football. With the continuing flow of quality young players from the schoolboys club to the senior Club, the committee would like to think that the future of Mount Merrion Football Club is assured.