VILLAGE United achieved the ultimate in Cork AUL soccer when they won the revered AOH Cup after a dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over City Wanderers at Turner’s Cross.
Anthony Keniry slotted home the all-important penalty to ensure celebrations in the Fob and Gill would continue right through the summer. Village United goalkeeper Thomas Butler made a crucial save in normal time and was the Man of the Match.
Butler is also the club secretary and he explained they’ve had rollercoaster season.
“Winning the AOH Cup is massive for Village United and the community. The AOH Cup is 68 years in existence and we are the first Mayfield club to hold it which is absolutely huge. We have a manager Stephen Long playing with us for over 20 years and that’s all he’s ever wanted.”
Long a well-known figure in local Cork soccer wasn’t just manager on the night he was also one of those who held his nerve in the shoot-out. Colin Hickey and Stephen Hackett slotted theirs, City Wanderers had a chance to win it but Butler made a brilliant save and Howie Coakley buried his effort to bring it to sudden death.
Mossy Kramer, Aaron A Smith, Long and Seamus Courtney all struck home their penalties with conviction and then the opportunity for glory arose when Wanderers put their 10th penalty over.
To hit the winning penalty was the stuff dreams are made of, but there was a poignant subplot. Anthony Keniry had lost his brother, best friend and teammate Anthony Martin a few weeks earlier in tragic circumstances. Despite the enormity of the occasion and the raw emotion, Keniry duly scored to win the AOH Cup for Village United.
“Not just based on winning the AOH Cup, essentially over the last 18 months I’ve been inundated with requests from teenagers looking to start a Youths team here, other players looking to start a second team and I’ve had numerous girls asking me to start a women’s team,” said Butler.
“Unfortunately we can’t commit to it because of a complete lack of facilities.”
Village are next celebrating their 30th anniversary but the club still doesn’t have proper changing facilities or access to showers. They are using a container that was given to the club in 1994. Without the generosity of local residents at the top of the hill, they wouldn’t have water for games.
Butler has strong views on the void that sport can fill in young people’s lives given the problems that exist in society today.
“We’ve had no assistance from politicians but I have asked. Throughout the years Ted Tynan has been involved in the club and has helped with sponsorships at the end of the year but the club has never received support from any local politicians.”
The potential of the club is enormous and with proper facilities, it could benefit the community hugely.
“A clubhouse would not just benefit our team it would benefit the greater community, having a facility for young people, young soccer teams would provide an alternative to lingering around the streets drinking cans.
“Too many young people are disillusioned and much of it is borne out of having an idle mind and having no parks to go to or simply having nothing to do.”
Butler is frustrated as he’s constantly forced to turn young people away despite the fact he could easily field at least a youth team. Losing Anthony Martin, who had featured in their 2016 AOH Cup final defeat to Park United, had a huge impact on everyone.
“We have to do something as a club and as a community. These young people are going around the streets unable to talk to anyone. They can’t bond with players but we can offer that support network.”
Neighbours Mayfield United have a very impressive set-up and the FAI previously suggested a possible amalgamation would be beneficial. ”We have a history of our own and hope to reflect that in our 30th-year celebrations.”
Thomas believes their field is big enough for a major redevelopment which could also cater for a youth centre.
Silverheights, Lotamore, Ashmount and the surrounding areas are all huge residential belts. He cites Mayfield Boxing Club as the template for what he’d like to achieve, going from humble beginnings to producing national champions.
Butler is calling on former members or any interested parties to get behind the club and help with fundraising. He’s also appealing to local politicians, councillors, TDs and MEPs to be more supportive and the hope is to shortly stage a major public meeting to highlight the plight.