THERE are some great characters in soccer circles today.
Tony Murray, better known as Cuddles, is certainly one of them with his larger-than-life wit and fun personality.
Tony and his sons Shaun and Terence, known as Bommer, have been the heartbeat of the northside AUL club Blackpool Celtic for many years and are still heavily involved today with Tony acting as treasurer, and groundsman, Shaun as chairman and Bommer helping his father getting the pitch in Popham’s Field ready before games.
Tony has been involved with Blackpool for over 40 years and held many committee positions over the years.
However, it’s his work with the different pitches over the years that brings him so much satisfaction, as they are always in pristine order.
Tony grew up in Gurranabraher Avenue with his only sibling Briddy (RIP), where his late father Billy, and late mother Nora grew and sold vegetables in the house that was known for it’s monkey tree in the front garden.
Tony’s first taste of soccer came with the local team from his road, Model Celtic, in the early sixties.
“The first team I played for was a team set up from Gurranabraher Avenue as a young boy,” Tony said. “I played with them for a couple of years, and we had some handy players with Paddy Barry playing on goal, Pat Cunningham, Dommie Murphy, and Mickey Walsh.
We had some great days, as there is always something special playing with your friends that you grew up with.
“I then got a job in the Sunbeam so I played in the Shipping League with them.
“Again we had some great players, and characters on that team with Pat Ahern, Blondy Ahern, Jamie and John Buckley, and Peter Halloran among the lads the team over the years.
”One funny story comes to mind when I remember playing at Flower Lodge in 1966 with the Sunbeam, Cedric McGregor was the referee, and he had to speak to Peter Halloran after a foul on one of our opponents’ players.
“Peter didn’t take too kindly to what Cedric said, and chased him around the pitch to howls of laughter from both sides.
“Needless to say he was sent off, and when I would meet him in Blackpool I always has a good laugh about it.”
Tony married his late wife Carmel the following year and were blessed with six wonderful children, sons Anthony, Paul, Terrence, Shaun, and daughters, Jacqueline and Linda.
Three of the boys all followed in their father’s footsteps by joining Blackpool Celtic, with Anthony, and Shaun being very accomplished goalkeepers. Bommer was like his father, always there to help out, whatever job was needed to be done.
“I first started following Blackpool over 40 years ago, and have done every job in the club whatever big or small over the years.
“I am a committee member now for over 30 years, however we had some excellent people over the years at committee level with Kieran Murray, Jimmy Howard, Donal Cronin, my son Shaun, Micky Shaughnessy (RIP), and Kieran Doherty all doing their fair share of work over the years.
“We also had some great players in the early nineties with likes of Willie Scannell, Pat Goggin, Kieran Murray, Jimmy Howard, and were managed by the late Dessie Donnelly.
“We first played in a pitch in Kilbarry where we built a small dressing room which still is there today.
“We then moved to a pitch behind St Mary’s Park for the next 20 years, and that became my pastime as I would be up there three or four times a week, cutting, rolling, and lining that pitch.
“There was wonderful work done on the grounds by all the club members as we had a container used as the home dressing room with electricity, a training area with floodlights, and a visitors dressing room with showers, however, the showers were very temperamental at times,” Tony said with a smile.
Blackpool always had a great following in that era, although you wonder were they only there for my oxtail soup and sausage sandwiches as some would disappear after half-time once fed.
”My son Bommer is as passionate as me when it came to the pitch maintenance, and one morning Ken Landon scored a screamer of a goal, however, the ball slipped out of the net moving the peg with the force of the shot.
“The referee refused to award the goal to us, much to Bommer’s displeasure, and he told him in no uncertain terms.
“The result was Bommer was put out of the pitch, so he moved to the ditch behind the goal.
“It worked out well for us, as we didn’t lose any more footballs that day, and we went on to win the game anyway,” Tony remembers fondly.
“We had so many good players in the last 20 years but the standout players for me were Liam Foley, Kieran O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connor, Derek Power, Kenny Hendrix (RIP), and Kieran O’Donovan.
“The Bowler’s Bar was our main sponsor, with the late Denis Murphy very good to us, before it closed to make way for the Blackpool shopping center.
“The Bowler, as Denis was known, was a great man there was nothing he wouldn’t do for you, and it was a great day for us all when the bar won both the Cork inter-pub and Munster inter-pub soccer competitions, beating Limerick side the Railway Bar 5-3 at the ESB grounds. Great days indeed.”