Sports nostalgia: Northside soccer club Maymount made their mark at all levels

Sports nostalgia: Northside soccer club Maymount made their mark at all levels
Maymount, the 1949 winners of Munster Junior Cup, AUL League, City Challenge Cup. Back: C Foley, A Allen, M Buckley, S O’Brien, W Hartnett, J Carroll, E Murphy, S Horgan, R Harris, M Feeney, J Murphy, T Flaherty. Sitting: C O’Connell, T Linehan, J Kenneally, S Twohig, C Murphy, T O’Connell, C Cronin. Front: J Fox, N Lynam. Insets: P O’Callaghan, D O’Donovan.

MAYMOUNT, better known as ‘the Gonkers’ were one of the original 10 clubs, which initially entered the Cork AUL when it was founded in 1947.

Despite their short career— they folded in 1963 — they will be remembered not just for trophies, but for their contribution to junior soccer folklore. In their brief history  they won all the major trophies including the Munster Junior Cup in 1949.

In four seasons their production line supplied Irish internationals at schoolboy, junior, and senior level, players who went on to win FAI Senior Cup medals and one, Don Donovan, who played at the highest level with top English club Everton.

It was a lucky day for Everton manager Cliff Britton that his First Division side were playing an end of season friendly in Cork in 1951 and that he paid a chance visit to Turner’s Cross to watch a local junior match. Cliff was greatly impressed by Don and the lad was whisked away to Goodison Park.

Britton rated Don as one of his best signings ever and his faith in the Corkman was repaid when Don was an inspirational figure for Everton when they promotion to Division 1 in 1954.

Don made his international debut in the 2-1 victory over Norway in 1954. This was followed by wins over Holland and Norway again, before he tasted defeat for the first time against West Germany in Hamburg in 1955.

Don gained his fifth and last cap against England in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley in 1957. The northsider was always a man for the big occasion and enjoyed great success against opposing stars such as Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews, Billy Bingham, and Jackie Berry.

Don Donovan, pictured here on the cover of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly was accidentally spotted by Everton manager Cliff Britton at Turner's Cross. 
Don Donovan, pictured here on the cover of Charles Buchan's Football Monthly was accidentally spotted by Everton manager Cliff Britton at Turner's Cross. 

In August 1958, after six seasons and 179 games with Everton, Don transferred to Grimsby for£10,000. He was soon appointed captain at Blundell Park and experienced the agony and the ecstasy.

He couldn’t prevent the Mariners from dropping into the Third Division in 1959 but led them back again to Division Two a couple of years later. After accumulating 238 appearances with Grimsby he left to become player-manager of Boston Utd in 1965 and was still playing with them at the age of 41 in 1970.

Don’s son Terry, an English schools international, followed in dad’s footsteps and won two caps with Ireland against Russia and West Germany n 1979. Terry was then with Aston Villa having commenced with Grimsby and later played with Burnley and Rotherham.

Incidentally, Don’s granddaughter is Keeley Donovan, an English journalist and broadcaster, currently working for the BBC as a weather presenter.

Maymount were known for wild celebrations after trophy successes and a cavalcade of wagonettes brought them home to their headquarters in Blarney Street for traditional hooleys.

One of their players, Jerry Kenneally is reputed to have scored 163 goals during the 1949 season! Hard to believe I’m afraid.

Controversy was never far from their doorstep as things, sometimes, got out of hand as happened in a second-round acrimonious battle in December 1950 between favourites Maymount and minnows Turner’s Cross Utd. Tim Collins Turner’s bustling centre-forward chased a through ball and clashed with Gonkers keeper Champ Cummins.

Champ displayed skills which won him fame inside the ropes on the British boxing circuit, where he was billed as Tommy O’Connor, by knocking Collins out. 

A free-for-all ensued and led to the Gonkers being suspended for the rest of the season while three players received suspensions of 10, three, and two years.

Three years later they resumed as a Munster Junior League team and continued on their winning ways. Is it any wonder they had a big following as anything could happen when the Gonkers were playing?

It was with disbelief that I recalled a story in the Evening Echo in May 1958, about a crazy match abandonment in Turner’s Cross. Unlike nowadays teams were then lucky to own just one or two balls.

Visitors to the Cross need no reminding of the number of times that balls are lost after being kicked over the perimeter walls and into gardens on Derrynane Road, Beaufort Park, and Curragh Road. This was, it seems, the case when Maymount met North End in the Foley Cup in 1958 and the teams were left with just the one football. 

And I will leave the Echo (26-4-58) finish the story.

“An extraordinary incident four minutes from time led to the abandonment of last night’s Foley Cup semi-final between Maymount and North End. A spectator, ‘Knock’ Murphy, rushed on to the field and seized the ball and would not return it. Referee Bernard Buckley, when he found that he could not secure the ball, abandoned the game.

“Five minutes prior to this, Buckley had sent a member of the Maymount team off the field. At the time of abandonment North End were leading by one goal scored by Roy Keane’s uncle Pat Lynch.”

It was obvious Mr Murphy was not happy with that decision and took the ball which he claimed was his property. The management committee of the MJL wasted little time in deliberation and awarded the match to North End who went on to defeat Crusaders after extra-time in the final.

Fifty years after the Gonkers were founded, a new team from the same area registered with the AUL as Maymount Celtic. Entering teams in AUL 3 and U17 they won cup and league doubles in both grades.

Just like their famed predecessors they won League 3 at the first attempt and success followed success resulted in them being promoted to the highest level in successive years.

Maymount AUL Juniors. Back: John F Murphy (manager), Mick Murphy, Damian Hamilton, Stephen Jones, Thomas O’Flynn, Niall McCarthy, Ray Murphy, Bertie O’Neill (coach). Front: Olan Braun, Damian Morey, T Leahy, Brian Lee, Stephen McAuliffe, M Sheehan. Picture: Billy Lyons
Maymount AUL Juniors. Back: John F Murphy (manager), Mick Murphy, Damian Hamilton, Stephen Jones, Thomas O’Flynn, Niall McCarthy, Ray Murphy, Bertie O’Neill (coach). Front: Olan Braun, Damian Morey, T Leahy, Brian Lee, Stephen McAuliffe, M Sheehan. Picture: Billy Lyons

There were similarities between the new kids on the block and the old Gonkers. The new team was founded by another Mr Murphy (not the guy who ran away with the ball in Turner’s Cross) and Willie O’Keeffe, from the remnants of boys who had graduated from schoolboy football with Blarney Street Athletic.

Murphy, better known as John Francis or even Chalkie, with help from willing volunteers including his son Ray who also entered a babes team in the U8 Southside League. The babes, christened the dream team, amazingly, won consecutive league titles throughout their underage days in every age group beginning with the U8 Southside competition in 1996 right through to U17 in the AUL in 2005.

In that squad’s first season (1999) in schoolboy soccer, at U11, they scored 86 goals while conceding only nine. Those, to then, feature most prominently for Maymount were Robert McCarthy, Alan Kearney, Garreth Cambridge, Alan King, Daniel Duggan, Jason Galway and Anthony Fenton.

In 1999, Maymount were the U11 AIB Premier League champions. Back: J O’Sullivan, G Walsh, P Horgan, A O’Callaghan, J Galway, A Fenton, C O’Rourke, B Byrd, A Kearney. Front: R McCarthy, D Duggan, A O’Callaghan, G Philpott, M Walsh, G Cambridge, P Looney, D Duggan, A King.
In 1999, Maymount were the U11 AIB Premier League champions. Back: J O’Sullivan, G Walsh, P Horgan, A O’Callaghan, J Galway, A Fenton, C O’Rourke, B Byrd, A Kearney. Front: R McCarthy, D Duggan, A O’Callaghan, G Philpott, M Walsh, G Cambridge, P Looney, D Duggan, A King.

They signed off that year with a unique triumph capturing the Munster Youth Cup for U18s with their U17s.

Just like their predecessors, they became a nursery for the supply of League of Ireland players. And, just like the old Gonkers, their products wore the green of Ireland. Another coincidence Don Donovan of the 1950 squad, after transferring from Everton, signed for Grimsby as did his son Terry in the eighties.

Grimsby was also a port of call for the Maymount millennium starlet Billy Clarke during his lengthy ongoing cross-channel career.

Billy left Maymount for Ipswich in 2005 and since then he has become the proverbial journeyman footballer assisting Colchester, Falkirk, Darlington, Northampton, Brentford, Blackpool, Sheff Utd, Crawley Town, Bradford City, Charlton, Bradford City (again) and Plymouth. He is currently a Grimsby player.

Billy was capped 20 times by the Republic of Ireland from U17 (twice), U19 (8), to U21 (11).

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