Clare team Pat Purcell, captain of the Clare Oscar Traynor winning side, receives the commendation from Cllr Bill Chambers.

Clare soccer is alive and kicking, excuse the pun! Last week members of the victorious Oscar Traynor Cup winning team were extended a civic reception by Clare County Council, the highest honour which the local authority can confer on any individual or organisation. The accolade had been proposed earlier in the year by Cllr Gerry Flynn and
supported by his colleagues Pat McMahon, John Crowe, PJ Ryan, Ann Norton and Joe Cooney.

Extending a warm welcome to officials of the Clare District Soccer League the Cathaoirleach, Cllr Bill Chambers, noted that 2016 was a hugely successful year for their organisation that culminated in victory over the Leinster Senior League in May, when Clare ended a 12-year quest to reclaim the Oscar Traynor trophy.

Cllr Chambers congratulated team captain Pat Purcell and the players, as well as Donie Garrihy and his management team on making history. He pointed out that by raising the profile of Clare soccer, “and representing your county with distinction, this team is thoroughly deserving of the honour”.

The Cathaoirleach noted that the club scene in Clare is also thriving thanks to work of people like Oliver Fitzpatrick, Denis Hynes and all of the officials and coaches who preceded them. Singling out Newmarket Celtic, he remarked on the club’s historic runs in the Munster and FAI Junior Cups; Stephen Kelly’s call-up to the Republic of Ireland Junior squad and Eoin Hayes being drafted onto the Munster-Connacht Regional squad.

Cllr Chambers added, “It is great to see the likes of Shannon Town back playing and being successful in the Clare league. We need our biggest clubs and best players playing locally if we are to build on our recent successes”. Poignantly he recalled the late Jim Rocks and Frank Healy who, he said, contributed greatly to the development of the game in Clare. “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,” he said.

Acknowledging the improvements in coaching and facilities, Cllr Chambers recalled “a time when soccer pitches were lined out on the side of a windswept hill, or when corner flags were made out of brush handles. There was a time when you considered yourself fortunate when there were some trees under which you could tog out. Today, we have fantastic playing fields in Lees Road and impressive club facilities such as Tulla and the County Ground. We have accredited coaches and ongoing investment of time and resources in our young players”.

In conclusion he said, “from Connolly to Coole and from Cratloe to Kilrush, there are clubs making real positive change in relation to how they operate. I would hope that 2016 is the evidence all of us need to suggest that Clare soccer is getting a return on its collective investment. Congratulations to all of you.”

Huge achievement
Having proposed this singular honour, Cllr Gerry Flynn expressed his delight to be associated with the civic reception to honour the players, management, families and supporters of the victorious team that captured the Oscar Traynor trophy for the second time in May 2016. “This is a huge achievement for the Clare and District Soccer League and a fitting reward for all the hard work put in over the years. The Oscar Traynor is a national trophy and keenly contested by all the junior leagues in Ireland. Clare played six games to get to the final and had a convincing 5-2 victory against the Leinster League in Dublin. With the support of my colleagues, councillors John Crowe, PJ Ryan, Pat McMahon, Ann Norton and Joe Cooney, I requested this civic reception and the decision to honour the team and all associated with that huge achievement was unanimously supported by all councillors”.

Cllr Flynn also acknowledged the support of Cllr Joe Cooney, chairman of the Clare GAA County Board, for co-signing the proposal to request a civic reception. “ That wouldn’t have happened years ago,” he added. In congratulating the Oscar Traynor champions, he wished continued success to the Clare and District Soccer League and stated, “With the support of the council, the FAI and the generosity of the public, I know that soccer in Clare will only get stronger”.
Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Ann Norton also extended her best wishes for another very successful year in 2017. Deputy chief executive Ger Dollard reminded those present that Oscar Traynor had been a politician and a Government minister.
As such, he felt it was appropriate to acknowledge the presence of Minister of State Pat Breen, former Minister of Defence, Brendan Daly, and Deputy Joe Carey, saying there has always been a strong link between soccer and politics.

Legends

Oliver Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Clare and District Soccer League, said he was proud to be part of the organisation that brought a national trophy back to Clare for the second time. “Winning an All Ireland title in any sport takes hard work and dedication.”

Team manager Donie Garrihy rounded off a successful evening with a fulsome speech delivered off the cuff. Thanking the council for the prestigious civic honour, he said the players and league officials were humbled by the experience. Donie name-checked many familiar names of Clare soccer including Noel Bennett, Frankie Coote, Karl O’Neill, Paddy Dunne, the family of the late Frank Healy, Michael Leyden, Denis Hynes, David Russell and Jim Madden and said he was in the company of legendary figures. As manager, he said it was an emotional occasion and he paid tribute to the squad on their immaculate dress code out of respect for Clare County Council.