AFTER representing Tramore Athletic at underage, Stephen Heaphy got the itch to return to the club last season and set up an over 35s team.
Heaphy's desire to get back to playing competitive football gave him the notice to approach Tramore about fielding a team in the Munster Senior League-Floodlit League.
As well as playing, Heaphy also managed the Tramore over 35s side. Tranmore had a very successful campaign by winning the cup last year and hope to build on that in the new season. The club welcomes any new addition that is keen to enjoy playing at an older age but also has the desire to be competitive when in action.
Heaphy is adamant that although it may be a more mature league, that the fitness levels of players are still high and that the standard of players is very good.
"I decided to start the over 35s team after a discussion with friends of similar age who would have played schoolboys and seniors with Tramore. We saw that Tramore hadn’t entered a team in the Floodlit League in years so I approached the club and offered to be player-manager of the team and sponsor it through my own business The Corner Flag bar in Turners Cross.
"We signed up friends of friends and a few lads from Nemo Rangers and just turned up to our first game against Corinthians up in Mayfield with 14 lads. We drew 1-1 and had a great hour up there, very enjoyable.
“Standard is very good. Teams like Douglas Hall, Mayfield, Riverstown, Rockmount have a great mixture of younger and older lads and their experience in the league was very evident. The no-offside rule takes time to get used to and some teams have it mastered.
"The key to winning in my eyes seems to be, to have players who can keep the ball and a few lads who are very fit and have pace. You have to keep the referees onside too as we are all cranky at our age up on a big pitch chasing a ball in Mayfield on cold Monday nights at 8pm and 9pm,” Heaphy jokingly said.
“Lads are very enthusiastic and keen to play but throughout the season you will lose lads to work commitments and injuries. We were very unlucky last year when we had four lads pick up long term injuries, two of them when training on their own.
"At times we struggled to get 11 or 12 players but we got there and competed when depleted. A panel of 18 lads is a minimum anyway I would say, even at looking at other teams nobody ever really had more than three or four subs on a given night. When lads turn up everyone is keen to win, all teams were very competitive and it’s a good laugh too, great camaraderie between opposition teams whilst maintaining the competitiveness.
“We had a great run in the Cup and we beat Douglas Hall on penalties in the final. Our captain, ‘Five Touch Thomas Morgan’, was over the moon, the first time he lifted a trophy with Tramore in 20 years as a captain.
"Brian O'Regan had an unbelievable night in goal that night but he cost us about three games after that then, even at 39 the confidence in the mind will overrule the body in some cases.
"We had a great night celebrating that win but unfortunately injuries and work commitments meant we dropped quite a few points in the league after that and we missed out on the playoffs. But, in our first season, we were delighted to win the cup.
“Heading into the new season, our aim is to reach the top 4 and make the playoffs. We are hoping to get a good run in the two cups as well. We have lost one or two lads to those long-term injuries but we have signed a few lads too, so we should be competitive.
"We are always on the lookout for lads who finish up in the MSL and AUL Senior/Junior leagues and lads who haven’t played in a while but fancy a run out on a Monday night. The league is great for a bit of fitness, a laugh and the competitive side of things. Once the whistle blows it gives lads something to look forward to.
"The facilities up in Mayfield are outstanding too, great for lads who like to get the ball down and play."