Cobh Ramblers are immortalised in a new book

Thomas Stafford, an avid Cobh Ramblers fan, always felt the need for a book to be written about the club's history and so he decided to undertake this project during lockdown which proved to be a huge success and here he tells us about the process and the sense of achievement when completed.
Cobh Ramblers are immortalised in a new book

Conor Drinan, Cobh Ramblers, taking on Shane Griffin, Waterford, in an SSE Airtricity League First Division game at St Colman's Park. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

DURING lockdown many people picked up new hobbies. 

While for some it may have been a walk or a run, and for others it was adjusting to working from home, for one man it was an opportunity to do something he always longed to do but never had the time to do so.

Thomas Stafford, an avid Cobh Ramblers fan, always felt the need for a book to be written about the club's history and so he decided to undertake this project during lockdown which proved to be a huge success and here he tells us about the process and the sense of achievement when completed.

“I always felt that a book should be written on the club to remember the many great players and volunteers over the years, to ensure that they'll never be forgotten and I’m glad I got to do just that,” said Stafford.

“When the first Covid-19 lockdown started in 2020 I had a bit more free time and I thought it would be good to make a start on writing the club's history ahead of the centenary year in 2022. 

"I worked away on it in the background, pulling together sources and photographs from the last hundred years. Local Cobh people such as Michael Geasley, Paul O'Rourke and Damien Byrne were very accommodating in providing me with their own records and I had a huge amount to work with. 

Cobh Ramblers manager Darren Murphy and Beineon Whitmarsh O'Brien of Cobh Ramblers with the SSE Airtricity League First Division trophy at the launch. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Cobh Ramblers manager Darren Murphy and Beineon Whitmarsh O'Brien of Cobh Ramblers with the SSE Airtricity League First Division trophy at the launch. Picture: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

"I write regularly for the Ramblers website as well as helping to run the club's social media and produce the match programme but this was my first time writing a full book.

“The reaction was brilliant across the board. There was a real appetite for something like this, for people interested not just in football but local history as well. 

"The details from the 1920s and 30s in particular offer insights into life back then and how things have changed since. 

"There's one section that mentions how Ramblers players rowed themselves across to Passage West to catch a bus to the city for a game. 

"It's hard to imagine that now. My own grandmother who grew up in Cobh really enjoyed these type of stories and it's nice that she got to see it published before she passed away in February.” 

Stafford first started going to Ramblers games over two decades ago as a young fan, and since his involvement with the club has grown.

“I first started going to Ramblers games in the late 2000s and when they returned to League of Ireland football in 2013 I volunteered to help with social media, the club website and that type of thing. 

"I still do that today alongside the club's PRO James O'Donoghue, and I've been able to work with our other volunteers like Ian Ryan, Trevor Welch and Marc O'Driscoll in this area over the years. It's become a lot busier in that time, with more academy teams and the addition of women's football but it's important to run this side of the club professionally and match the effort put in by the players and the board in general. 

"We work with the press locally and nationally to try and get the club's name out there. Colm McDonagh has started photographing all our home games across the club and that's been a great help in terms of coverage.

“Speaking about the current first team, Stafford is optimistic but realistic of where the club will finish this season.

“We would all love to be flying high at the top of the First Division but we have to be realistic as well. The league has three very good professional teams in Cork, Waterford and Galway. 

"The First Division now is at a very high level and it's not easy for smaller clubs like Cobh to compete. The last few years were about putting the club on a solid footing in terms of finances, facilities etc and huge credit has to go to Bill O'Leary, Tony Flannigan, Kevin O'Riordan and everyone else for achieving that. 

"Hopefully now Darren and his squad can build on the last few weeks as there has definitely been a turnaround after a bad start. Beineón O’Brien Whitmarsh and Conor Drinan are scoring goals now which is a huge plus and Cobh are more than a match for the other sides pushing for play-off spots.

“The crowd at the local derby against Cork City was excellent but the games before that against Waterford, Bray and Treaty were also strong from a Cobh perspective so it wasn't just a once off. Small things such as our new outdoor bar, food truck and half-time games are making St Colman's Park a nice place to spend a Friday night, even if you're not hugely into League of Ireland football." 

It's about making matches an event and more than a game. 

"I think the league in general is growing in stature and it's slowly getting the respect from football people in Ireland that should have been there a long time ago. 

"There is still a lot more to do though. The clubs themselves do great work in terms of marketing and promotion. Given that most are volunteers I don't think you can ask for much more. 

"At an overall level however I think the league and the FAI need to do better to market domestic football. 

"For example, Rockmount are playing the Intermediate Cup final in Cork in a few weeks. That's a huge game, the biggest in Irish amateur football. Will it get the same promotion that the GAA give to their club championship finals? I don't think so. 

"Lots of people are yet to discover the LOI and Irish football in general. The standard and quality of players is as high as it's ever been across the divisions and hopefully the league's marketing going forward will reflect that.”

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