Whatever happened to the team of 1977

Whatever happened to the team of 1977?
As Galway United prepare for their entrance to the Premier Division of the League of
Ireland my thoughts drifted back to the first time I visited Terryland to see Galway
Rovers compete in the League Cup thirty years ago. This team was the precursor to
the club that entered the League of Ireland in 1977. Galway had never had a team in
the League and there was a certain sense of optimism when they fielded a team in the
old Bass league Cup all those years ago.
1977 was a very interesting year! Elvis had passed away unceremoniously on his
throne, Jack Lynch led Fianna Fail to a landslide victory, the last overall majority seen
in Ireland, Rocky won best picture at the Oscars (that’s two events that are unlikely to
recur), and Kevin Keegan inspired Liverpool to victory in the European Cup. Star
Wars hit the big screen and disco gripped the planet with Saturday Night Fever. In
England as Virginia Wade won Wimbledon in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee year, Sid
Vicious joined the Sex Pistols who were subsequently banned from topping the charts
with their irreverent rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’ (another topical song).
Skateboarding was the latest fad while flares battled it out with drainpipes, as a team
in maroon and white lined out in Terryland, under the banner of Galway Rovers.
Galway Rovers were founded in the Claddagh in 1937 but only participated at junior
level until they were given their chance to compete at senior level in the 1976-77 Bass
League Cup. There was great excitement for fans and players alike when Rovers took
on Athlone Town at Terryland. The local lads were managed by Amby Fogarty who
had played for Sunderland and Ireland (rumour has it that this north-eastern
connection may be re-enacted in August), who in fact made the odd appearance
during his time in the West of Ireland. The team drew with Athlone Town and Finn
Harps before losing to Sligo Rovers. Locals Joe Keating, Gerry Lynskey (captain),
James o Toole and Michael Flaherty (RIP) along with Declan Byrne and Eddie
Wallace featured in Rover’s inaugural league cup campaign but had moved on by the
time League of Ireland football came to Terryland at the start of the 1977-78 season.
Miko Nolan(RIP), Eamon ‘Chick’ Deacy, Tommy ‘Chopper’ Murphy, Jimmy Duffy,
Tony ‘Ginger’ Collins and Fran Brennan were joined for the League of Ireland
campaign by others who would go on to become club stalwarts such as Tommy Lally,
Gerry Daly, Kieran McDaid, Tony Murphy, Gerry ‘Fido’ Curran, Kieran Sciascia and
Mickey McLaughlin. Tommy Lally was a very experienced keeper who among other
teams had lined out for Celtic and St. Pats, in fact Tommy played for Athlone Town
in the 1976 tie against Rovers(That’s ok Tommy, we forgive you). After struggling
initially the club (who changed its name to Galway United in 1981) went on to win
two League Cups, the FAI Cup, finish as high as second in the League, participate in
the U.E.F.A. and Cup Winners Cup, experience relegation and promotion and are now
back where they belong in the Premier Division of The League of Ireland!
But what about the early days? What was it like when Galway first had a team in the
League of Ireland, pitting their wits against the best in the country? In a county
dominated by G.A.A. with successful Football and Hurling teams how would a
Soccer team do? ‘Chick’ Deacy was my first port of call to discover whatever
happened the team of 1977.Without a doubt he is one of the most modest sportsmen
around. Here is a guy who experienced the highs of winning the First Division Title
(now the Premiership) with Aston Villa, helped the team reach the European Cup
Final (now Champions League Final) the following season but chose to represent
Ireland on a tour of South America instead of being part of the European Cup winning
squad when the offer came from Eoin Hand. Eamon Deacy is definitely Galway
Rovers/United’s most famous player. His story is similar to that of Roy Keane, in that
he wrote letter after letter for trials with English clubs before getting his break with
Villa. He grasped his chance and achieved all he set out to do. He then returned to his
home town team to help them develop and you sense from talking to Eamon that he
got just as much a sense of pride lining out for ‘his team’ as he did in winning the
League and international caps for Ireland. I reminded him that he made his full debut
against Leeds and he retorted that he gave away the fastest penalty of the day in the
same match! In the 1980-81 championship-winning season Ron Saunders only used
14 players in the whole campaign and when you consider the calibre of Peter Withe,
Gary Shaw, Dennis Mortimer and Gordon Cowans, you can see how highly regarded
Deacy was. You were only allowed use one substitute in those days, so his versatility
at full back and midfield was important. When Saunders left Villa for Birmingham
City he tried to bring Deacy with him but Tony Barton hung on to a valuable asset. In
the League of Ireland he also played for Limerick and Sligo but he sums it all up by
admitting to being a season ticket holder and remembering the buzz from the crowd
when he went to take a corner. It was only fitting that ‘Chick’ should score Galway
Rovers first league goal and I’d say it was more of an explosion than a buzz! Looking
back on his International career I reminded him that Liam Brady had remarked that he
was the best Irish player during the 7-0 hammering by Brazil. “You must remember,”
he chuckled “That was the 1982 Brazil team of Zico, Socrates and Falcao.”(Many
critics reckoned they were the best team in the competition and the true successors to
the 1970 dream team, a Paulo Rossi inspired Italy thought different)Most Irish
internationals received perhaps one physical cap for every ten or twenty appearances
but a great source of pride to Eamon is that he has all four of his. “Joe Hanley was
friendly with Louis Kilcoyne in the F.A.I. and he made sure I got them,” announced a
true tribesman.
Army Cadet Kieran McDaid was a king-pin in the Galway Rovers defence from
1977-80. He joined Rovers from U.C.G. along with Mickey McLaughlin and Jimmy
Duffy. Whereas Mickey went on to play for the team until the late eighties, Duffy and
McDaid’s careers were shorter but equally well remembered. The Galway people
loved to bump into these guys on the street or round the college and it made it all part
of the football community. Duffy was a flying winger while McDaid was an energetic
left-back and sometimes centre-back. McDaid unfortunately for his League of Ireland
career was transferred to Ballina in 1980, having captained the team for the previous
season. He continued to pursue his other sporting love, rugby and went on to win a
Connacht B cap while playing for Ballina. His brother Fergus played with Roy Keane
at Cobh and he has fond memories himself of going head to head with Turlough o
Connor, Dave Wigginton and Johnny Walshe in his time at Rovers.
Kevin Cassidy or ‘Cas’ has been Galway Rovers/United’s longest serving stalwart.
He was with his local team from 1977-1994, man and boy as he might have put it
himself. For here is a player with some great stories of his time in League of Ireland
football. His career spans the hard men of Galway football from Miko Nolan and
Tommy Murphy to Billy Cleary. He felt that Miko was a far better footballer than his
hard man reputation led people to believe. The fact that this ‘cult hero’ played for his
local side from the 1976 League Cup Campaign right up to 1984 shows how vital he
was to Galway. Sadly Miko has passed on, but you can be sure that he will have
added a bit of steel to the first eleven above.( He is the guy with the big grin 2nd left
standing in the picture of the 1976-77 team) Tommy Murphy didn’t earn the
nickname ‘chopper’ for his cheffing skills. Home Farm striker Frank Devlin (who
played for Galway too) once remarked during a particularly gruelling encounter; “The
ball isn’t in my socks you know.” One time whilst returning from injury (you were
never dropped at Galway United, just out injured) ‘Cas’ partnered the young Billy
Cleary in a reserve match. After being kicked from pillar to post by the veteran
centre-back the opposing centre-forward decided to try his luck on the junior model.
“Talk about out of the frying pan into the fire,” smirked the long serving defender. I
guess Billy hasn’t changed much then! Kevin Cassidy made nearly four hundred
appearances for Galway and as well as being selected alongside John Mannion for a
trial for the Irish Olympic side under the management of Jim McLaughlin, won both
League Cup and FAI Cup winners medals with the club. This was doubly satisfying
for him as he had previously played in teams that had lost both finals.
All the players I spoke to have a terrific regard for the club still. They all feel that the
decision to go professional will benefit the team in the long run and they all feel that
the guidelines laid down by the FAI for selection of this season’s Premier Division
teams were correct. Kieran McDaid felt that getting the finances, pitch and
organisation correct are equally as important as what happens on the field for longterm sustainability. They all felt that Tommy Lally played a huge role in the
development of the club as player, manager on three occasions, and mentor to all the
players and staff and unofficial captain at all times. Of the early managers the best
stories concern Amby Fogarty and John Herrick. McDaid recounts the story of Amby
coming on as sub against Bohemians, racing across the pitch and nailing a player
from a throw in within thirty seconds. ‘Cas’ adds that “He didn’t even get his studs
dirty before he was shown a card.” The man who ‘Chick’ Deacy labelled ‘the best
looking player in the League of Ireland’ sums up the respect John Herrick is held in.
The former Irish International became more ‘a Galway man than the Galwegians
themselves, in his time as player – manager. One Saturday afternoon he spent two
hours with the players perfecting free-kicks. The next day they won a free-kick and as
the players moved to put their plan into action Herrick stepped forward. “Give me the
****** ball,” he roared and proceeded to drill the ball into the back of the net. That’s
what I call leading by example! Good luck to Galway United for the new season and
no doubt they will go on to create their own legend in the seasons to come!
Mike Geraghty
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