Kieran O'Regan and Tramore Athletic celebrate special success 40 years on

A gifted team including O'Regan, who played for Ireland and Brighton after, swept all before them in 1982 peaking with an FAI Youths Cup victory over Athlone
Kieran O'Regan and Tramore Athletic celebrate special success 40 years on

The FAI Youth Cup winning Tramore Athletic team from 1982.

IT'S almost 40 years since Tramore Athletic won the FAI Youths Cup when they defeated Athone 3-0. 

Recently I caught up with one of the goalscorers from that day, former international Kieran O’Regan, who is looking forward to their reunion having not seen some of those teammates in four decades.

The 58-year-old Capwell Road native now resides in Honley, a village in Holmfirth West Yorkshire, and was just one of the many great players from that superb Tramore side.

O’Regan along with Micky Sullivan and Dave O’Connor hit the net on that rainswept day at St Mel's Park. He reflects on that special occasion with fond memories of his time with the Douglas-based club before his move to the UK to play professionally.

"My time with Tramore was unbelievable. They are without a doubt a special club with amazing people involved. During my time they had remarkable success under the greats of Denis Galvin, the late John O’Sullivan, Philly Burke and John Walsh. 

"For a club like Tramore, based where they are, and to win National Cups, is very special and I will always be proud to have played for them." 

In 1982, O’Regan was part of that talented Tramore outfit that enjoyed a lot of success including a Cork league victory, the Murphy’s Youth Cup, the Munster Youths Cup, as well as FAI silverware.  At the time he had already hit the headlines as a 17-year-old when netted the winner in the Intermediate Cup final in the replay at Turner's Cross against Ballyfermot.

The Tramore Athletic squad, winners of FAI Youths Cup, Munster Cup, AUL League & League Cup in 1980. Back: Vincie White, Dave Barry, Ger Cunningham, Eddie Hennebry, Keith Anthony, Mark Smith. Middle: John Walsh, Kieran Murphy, Sean Madden, Tony Mullins, Mattie Murphy, Donal O'Callaghan, Pat Lane. Front: Tony Leahy, Brian Fleming, Paul Waters, Terry O'Donovan, Kieran O'Regan, Neil Dineen, Michael O'Rourke.
The Tramore Athletic squad, winners of FAI Youths Cup, Munster Cup, AUL League & League Cup in 1980. Back: Vincie White, Dave Barry, Ger Cunningham, Eddie Hennebry, Keith Anthony, Mark Smith. Middle: John Walsh, Kieran Murphy, Sean Madden, Tony Mullins, Mattie Murphy, Donal O'Callaghan, Pat Lane. Front: Tony Leahy, Brian Fleming, Paul Waters, Terry O'Donovan, Kieran O'Regan, Neil Dineen, Michael O'Rourke.

“It was the worst goal I had ever scored in my life," laughs O’Regan. "I took a free-kick, which went through the wall hitting one of the players. The keeper went one way and the ball went the other. It was a great feeling nonetheless.” 

GIFTED

Both O’Regan and Dave O’Connor met with the youths squad for the final up in Athlone having come off a plane from Wales with the Irish team. And while they were exceptional players, O’Regan was quick to praise the entire squad.

“We didn’t realise back then just how good of a team we were. I certainly wasn’t the best player on the team. There was exceptional talent right through the squad. Dave O’Connor was excellent up top, Micky Sull on the wing with Greg Cleary and Ger Bickerstaffe in midfield, all superb players amongst others. 

"Even the two younger lads that were on the bench Pat Jackson and Laurence Neville were two great players who would have started with any other team in the league.

“There were some great teams in Cork at the time. St Mary’s, Shandon View, Springfield and Glasheen were all great sides. Ginger Healy was with Glasheen, Patsy Freyne and Bob Donovan were with Shandon View which gives you an idea of the calibre of players around at the time so for us to achieve what we did that year is something we will always look back and be proud of.” 

O’Regan will get the chance to relive those special times when the team meets for their 40th reunion later this month in the South County bar where he hopes to see players he hasn’t seen since he departed for the UK in 1982.

“I am really looking forward to the reunion. It will be great to catch up with the lads after all these years. The majority of the lads I haven't seen since our 20-year reunion but apart from my buddies Kieran and Alan Murphy and Laurence Neville, there are some lads I haven't seen for 40 years. 

"Eddie Hennerby will come from Dublin, Ger Bickerstaffe from Carlow and the rest are local so it will be great. It will be great to reminisce about the great days playing under a great Manager like Denis Galvin.

“Denis was a fabulous manager and gentleman. He had managed Tramore seniors the previous year to intermediate cup victory and then he took over us and he was great. I supposed it helped that everyone on the team could play football. We weren’t carrying anybody."

His first club was actually Nemo Rangers. 

"I am a great friend of Billy Morgan. My dad worked for the Gas company and Philly Burke asked him would I play with Tramore so a few of us, Kieran Murphy, Alan Murphy, Eddie Hennerby headed out there and although Nemo was always our first club I think we all decided to focus more on the soccer and thankfully we did."

After the youth success, O’Regan was due to sign for Eóin Hand's Limerick senior side however his trial at Brighton was a success and off he went to enjoy a fine career. 

Corkmen and former internationals Denis Irwin, Frank O'Farrell, Miah Dennehy and Kieran O'Regan at Croke Park when Ireland played Wales. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Corkmen and former internationals Denis Irwin, Frank O'Farrell, Miah Dennehy and Kieran O'Regan at Croke Park when Ireland played Wales. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

I also caught up with one of Tramore’s great players and servants Greg Cleary and here he describes how special those times were and the influence O’Regan had on the team.

We had three internationals in that really special team, Kieran O’Regan, Dave O'Connor and Ger Bickerstaffe. However there wasn’t any arrogance or sense of superiority about any of them. 

"We were a very tight-knit group that happened to come together as a very special team.

“A couple of things stand out about Kieran for me. He was passionate about soccer and was determined to get a move over to England. There was never any doubt that it was going to happen. His determination and passion was always going to make that happen.

"Kieran had a very experienced head on very young shoulders. He was our captain but also our on-field manager. His reading of the game was amazing, he had the knack of being in the right place at the right time to either create or score a goal.

“Between our great manager Denis and Kieran, Denis off the pitch and Kieran on it, we had everything going for us. Bear in mind that overall it was a very young Youths Team, six were 18, six were 17 and Laurence Neville was only 16. So over half the team were also playing Youths the following season which makes it more remarkable.

“They were great times and I look forward to meeting up with all the lads.” 

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