Against the Odds

From talking with stalwarts involved from the beginning, the early days of soccer in Rearcross were difficult to say the least, as some sections of the community were not in favour of the new game which was gaining popularity in the locality. Some traditionalists voiced strong opposition at that time, through a number of different fora with some of the Club stalwarts coming in for harsh criticism.

The tone started to change when Fr Tom Hayes was appointed Parish Priest circa 1970. Fr Hayes facilitated the Club in holding meetings at Rearcross School, in addition to the holding of Church Gate collections. He sponsored the Club’s first 11 a-side Tournament which was won by Crough Rovers with victory over Murroe in 1972. Newport and Rearcross had met in a 7 a-side Tournament final which was played in Rearcross the previous year with the visitors claiming the honours on a 2-1 scoreline, Nicky English netted twice for Newport while Liam Armshaw replied for the host team.

Rearcross Tournament 7 a-side Winners 1971 Back Row (L to R): Gerry Quigley, Donal O’Brien, Patsy O’Brien(RIP), Seamus O’Toole, Liam Armshaw, Martin Armshaw. Front Row (L to R): Johnny Duggan (RIP), PJ Caplis, Gerry O’Toole

Early Club meetings took place in Ryan Vora’s premises, the Club also held meetings in the Dispensary (which was) across the road from where Mulcair Credit Union is now located, before Fr Hayes granted permission to hold meetings in the school.

John Ryan Vora facilitated the Club by levelling the dividing ditches of three small paddocks to form one pitch. This was done at his own expense to produce the venue where many of us have our first memories of playing soccer in Rea and where the spirit and legacy of the Club was engrained from the onset.

A number of fundraising Dances were held in Kilcommon Hall which facilitated the Club to purchase the first set up jerseys, in addition to organizing bus tours to destinations such as Ballybunion and Salthill which were memorable trips for the Youth of the area at that time.

The GAA ban was a stumbling block in the early days, but players were able to find workarounds in an unofficial way to play both soccer and hurling and over time the playing of both codes became the norm.

A memory of early visits to Vora’s field was arriving in Rea to see if cars were parked outside the gate to signify that action lay ahead. A left hand turn to the “changing area” which included an open shed which may have been a garage for Guard Cafferty’s car at one point or alternatively a right hand turn to a much smaller open shed which was previously used as a lime kiln. Following a quick tog out and run up on to the field, your place on a team was usually dictated by the scoreline at the time, rather than the numerical sizing of the teams.

An unusual field in many respects which holds happy memories, meant that a place in goal at the School side presented a different set of challenges as the ground was typically hard especially in dry weather with the odd stone protruding making a goalkeeper’s diving task more onerous. While at the other end of the field, the going was soft or so to speak, with a fall of ground in two directions in to the goals making ball stopping more challenging and swarms of midgets from time to time were another unwelcome distraction.

Exact timekeeping never seemed to be on the agenda and full time was usually decided in a number of ways and sometimes “a next goal win” methodology was applied, nevertheless we all went home happy at the end of the encounter. Going back to the early days, Club stalwarts had the task of heading to nearby groves to identify suitable trees to be cut for goal posts and then lining the pitch by dabbing lime with a whitewashing brush, a far cry from today’s aluminium goalposts and modernized pitch liners.

Another story recollected when talking with Club members from the earlier years was the turn of events which emanated when Danny Duggan formerly of Reabeg donated a set of medals to be used for a local hurling tournament for the youth of Rearcross. Danny passed the medals to his brother John and following some to-ing and fro-ing including behind the scenes discussions, a soccer Tournament was organized against the odds.

Written by Ger Kennedy (July 2016)

An extract from the Nenagh Guardian – April 1972
Now that the Camogie Congress has lifted the Ban too, there should be even more interest in the ladies’ soccer tournament being sponsored by the Rearcross club and for which valuable prizes will be presented. Groups or clubs wishing to participate are requested to contact the club secretary, John Gleeson, at Rearcross, and he will do the rest. The game is becoming very popular in Rearcross and this week a standard size pitch will be available as some trees which were confining the pitch there are being moved away. Those in charge of the club are: President: Michael Meehan – Chairman: John Duggan – Secretary: John Gleeson – Treasurer, Jim O’Toole – Committee: Gerry O’Toole, Pius Armshaw, Pat O’Toole, Gerry Duggan.