'I was in isolation for nine months with polio when I was young, it's why I still play soccer every week aged 66'

'I was in isolation for nine months with polio when I was young, it's why I still play soccer every week aged 66'
The veterans crew that play every Wednesday night. Back: John Corcoran, Sean Downey, Pat Connolly, Greg Coughlan, Stephen McMahon, Dave Swan, Ray O’Sullivan, Jimmy Buckley, Ian Ahern, Peter O’Keeffe, Larry O’Neill, Martin Cooney. Front: Jamesie Corcoran (RIP), Niall Duggan, Noel Connolly, Pat 'Canty' O’Sullivan, Pat Mahon, Ben O’Connell, Pat 'Tich' O’Sullivan, Ken Fogarty, Willie Magner, Liam Dennehy, Darren Long, Eddie O’Hare. 

PAT MAHON lives and breathes the beautiful game.

Growing up on Connolly Road, Ballyphehane, sandwiched between the roars from Turner’s Cross, Musgrave Park, and Ballyphehane Park, it was inevitable he would be sports-mad.

Although talented at both GAA and soccer, Pat’s passion was always and still is soccer.

“I signed for Crofton in 1962 at the age of eight and played underage, youth and senior with the club for 17 years before I left to join Tramore and had three very successful years there. I broke my nose and was out of football for two years.”

He then got the bug again to play and an opportunity with Avondale, first at junior and then in the Over 35 League, in its inaugural season in 1991.

“I was fortunate to have a lot of success but I appreciated the numerous of friendships and camaraderie more.”

Proud of his parish, he hails the contribution Ballyphehane made towards schoolboys soccer in Cork.

“In the 60s, Tramore, Crofton and Everton were the three clubs that catered for the young fellas in the area. Such was the surge of numbers, a new team was formed Casement Celtic in 1970, and Kilreen followed in the mid-70s. The contribution made by those clubs can never be underestimated.”

Pat Mahon, second from left in the front row, with his Crofton side that won the U16 Cup.
Pat Mahon, second from left in the front row, with his Crofton side that won the U16 Cup.

There was no shortage in terms of brilliant players, but Dave Barry stands out.

“Dave won underage trophies with Crofton as his contribution to any team was immense. He had great technical ability, visionary skills and a great eye for a pass while his drive and love for the game was pivotal in drawing the team together.

“People are well aware of Davy’s success in soccer and GAA. You’d wonder what he may have achieved with today’s opportunities.”

Unlike today’s youth who have many heroes playing in the English premiership, for Pat it was local heroes that drove him on wanting to play the game 24/7.

“We didn’t look across the water in the 70s for legends. My legends were Cork Celtic players. I always believe we should support our own first and even with my own grandkids I encourage them to wear the jersey of the club first, then the League of Ireland team, their country and their Premier League team last.

“Donie Leahy, Austin Noonan and Paul Donovan were legends. Austin because he was a rogue and Paul for his entertainment on the pitch. Donie while not scoring the goals, he spent most of his time preventing Paul and Austin from arguing, but all three were legends.”

Cork City suppporters Pat Mahon, Pat and Michael Brennan and Aidan and Daniel Brennan at the 2015 FAI Cup final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork City suppporters Pat Mahon, Pat and Michael Brennan and Aidan and Daniel Brennan at the 2015 FAI Cup final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Ben Hannigan was his Maradonna at the Cross.

“He travelled from Dublin by train for the matches and if any game went into extra time, the officials at Kent Station would hold the train to ensure he got for closing time to Ringsend.

“Timmy Murphy made the schools Irish U15 team. I thought Timmy could have played in any position.”

In the mid-50s the first Ballyphehane soccer team was formed: Sunvilla.

“They played their games in Neville’s Field, St Joseph’s Terrace in Derrynane Road. A few months later the name was changed to Ballyphehane United.

“That club only existed for a small while before a new team Blues United was formed on the back of a very successful street league in ’56.”

There were obstacles at the time, including the GAA ban, while he spent nine months in hospital.

“Soccer was considered a foreign game when I was in primary school in Sullivan’s Quay, CBS. I believe I was the only one from the school playing it.

“I went through some abuse playing soccer. It made life awkward for me.

“They delayed GAA training so I would be late for soccer or they would make me do extra laps so I would be wrecked for my match. I remember scoring a point from the ground and I got a clip in the head from one of the brothers for my soccer-style as opposed to picking up the ball and hitting over from my hands.”

He can relate to the current Covid-19 situation.

“Back in the 60s, I was in isolation in St Finbarr’s hospital for nine months with suspected polio. All these obstacles did just drove me on to play the game more and there are probably reasons why I am still playing today.”

Over 35 Floodlit League Winners 1997/98: Back : Owen McCarthy, Ger Glavin, Tony O'Reilly, Denis Leahy, Deccie Courtney, Ger Hayes, Gerry O'Callaghan, Joe Hayden. Front: Ger Foley, Timmy Singleton, Pat Mahon, Deccie Hannon, Stephen O'Mahony, Ger Keane.
Over 35 Floodlit League Winners 1997/98: Back : Owen McCarthy, Ger Glavin, Tony O'Reilly, Denis Leahy, Deccie Courtney, Ger Hayes, Gerry O'Callaghan, Joe Hayden. Front: Ger Foley, Timmy Singleton, Pat Mahon, Deccie Hannon, Stephen O'Mahony, Ger Keane.

At 66, he still plays every Wednesday night up the Dyke. As part of that group myself, I will be the first to say it’s not just a casual kick about.

It’s as competitive as you can get and a reason why Pat still enjoys the game.

“I came from a sporting family background so I suppose it was always competitive, but enjoyable. My brothers Dave and Clem both played for Crofton.

“Clem also played two seasons with Cork City and then finished with Avondale for a very successful period. He also captained the Ballyphehane Community Games team in 1975.

“Dave, who I always regarded as a fine player had opportunities to play League of Ireland but chose to remain with Crofton as a senior player and administrator. 

Dave’s son Kieran captained the Collingwood-winning UCC side in 2000 and to a Munster Senior League victory, and got a call up to the Irish Intervarsities and is currently playing a high standard in America where he lives now.

“I have enjoyed it all and I hope I have left my enemies on the pitch and gained more friends.”

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