ROCKMOUNT AFC have been in business for 96 years.
In that period since their foundation in 1924 they have become one of the most successful and progressive clubs in the city.
Many people have helped the club grow in stature over the years both on and off the pitch. Many names slip off the tongue, John O’Shea, Billy Cronin, Jamesie Corcoran, Ted and Tony Barry, John and Vincent Cummins, Neilus Joyce, Tommy Hosford, Tom O’Callaghan, John Twomey, Greg Coleman and Jimmy Deasy.
But none have contributed more than John Delea who has given more than 60 years service to his beloved club.
John has done it all both on and off the pitch and continues to support the club anyway he can in his current position as vice-chairman.
And he has no intention of stopping any time soon.
“Rockmount means everything to me and I am proud to be part of such a fantastic club,” said Delea.
Starting out as a player in 1961, a playing career that was cut short due to injury, Delea then joined the committee in 1969 and has been involved ever since.
“I have held a lot of different positions within the club such as junior manager, chairman, vice chairman, president, vice president, schoolboys committee member, and I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed every role.”
No one can argue the commitment and love Delea has for the club and although he is always seen at Rockmount Park, he is also known for roaming the streets of Whitechurch as soon as there is any tension in a game.
“My nerves cannot handle it,” says Delea. “Once a game gets close I have to walk away. I can’t deal with the excitement or tension.”
With more than six decades of watching his beloved Rockmount, the Gurranabraher man has enjoyed so much success and here are some of his highlights:
“In 1972 we won our first schoolboys trophy and that is a great memory for me. It took us 48 years since we were founded to first win that trophy. There was a selection committee which consisted of myself, Tom O’Callaghan, Tony Barry, Neilus Joyce and Charlie Cronin. Some great players of that team were Harry Peglar, Aidan O’Mahony, Robert Stephens and captain Tony O’Brien.
“Another great moment was in 1968 when we won the AOH cup. It is the only time we won that cup. We beat Everton in a replay in Turner’s Cross. Jackie Peglar was the goalkeeper, Flossie Foley, John Twomey, John Cummins and captain Sonny Coughlan were all great players from that side.”
For many years Delea and his great friend, the late Tom O’Callaghan would say every year that once they finished above the relegation zone, they would be happy. For Delea, that all changed with the arrival of current senior manager Billy Cronin.
“Billy is an amazing man. When Billy came on board in 1999, we were able to relax a bit. He brought a professionalism and hunger for success to the set-up and in his first year he won the double, and the rest is history really. His success over the years tells the type of man he is.
“Billy, along with Kieran O’Sullivan and Derek Clarke are great Rockmount people who have been with the club for a very long time and we are all very grateful to the continued work they do for the club.”
To have such a successful senior side, you need to start at grassroots level and for Delea and his committee, it’s evident that there is a lot of gratitude for those involved in the underage structure. And taking away the limelight from himself, Delea is quick to praise so many others within the club.
“Firstly my committee of Barry (Kelleher), Decky (Courtney), Derek (Murphy), and Brian (Corcoran) are all fantastic club men. Secondly, for us, volunteers are everything. They do unbelievable work. My late brother in law Pat Hennessy who died in 2002 at the young age of 50 did tremendous work in the schoolboys section and now Jim O’Brien and Paul Philips have carried on that great work. There are so many coaches who are all giving great time which we appreciate so we are delighted the club is in good hands.
“Neil and John O’Brien were great men for the club also. Neil was in charge of all the ticket sales and John was our groundsman. Dave Anderson is now looking after the pitches and is doing a great job.
“Over the past few years unfortunately we have lost some great club men, all of whom will never be replaced, such was their hard work, dedication and commitment to the club. Jamsie Corcoran and Tom O’Callaghan are two of the most recent.
“At present though, John O’Shea for me is a man who gives so much to the club and goes about it quietly. He is deeply involved in the club and has given unbelievable service to the club. Although shy in his own way, his work cannot go unrecognised. He is a tremendous clubman who would do anything that is needed.”
For all of us the past few months have been a strange and surreal time and for Delea who had been cocooning, now being back in Rockmount Park this week for the first time in five months means the world to him.
“I’m known for always saying ‘I never saw Rockmount Park looking so well’. And nobody can argue with me now. The break did it good, it looks absolutely amazing and ready for the season ahead. I read 14 books while cocooning, mainly football biographies or stories of the troubles in Belfast, but I am delighted to get back watching football.
“My great friend Roy (Keane) was the last hand I shook back in March before I began cocooning, and although it was a tough few months, I am grateful to have such fantastic friends like Roy and all at my beloved Rockmount.”