Carrick United will try and become the 5th Waterford League team to lift the most famous trophy in Irish football on Sunday when they play the holders Killester United at the RSC on Sunday next, May 4th (kick-off 2.30pm).
They will strive to follow in the footsteps of Hibernians (1947), Evergreen (1953), Bohemians (1996) and Waterford Crystal (2006) – four famous local clubs who have had the joy of winning the FAI Junior Cup. Ever since that great victory of Hibernians, Waterford League clubs have suffered the heartbreak of losing finals, including Bohemians who lost three deciders before they eventually won it.
Waterford Crystal lost two finals before they won the cup by beating Athenry in Terryland Park. Hibernians did things in reverse fashion. Having been crowned champions in 1947 they duly went on to lose finals in 1960 and ’61. Carrick United reached the final in 2004 but they lost to the then holders Fairview Rangers, so this weekend they have a glorious chance to bury that ghost.
The Carrick panel for Sunday’s game is as follows: Adrian Walsh, James Walsh, Brian Barry, John Walsh, Keith Walsh, Anthony Power, Wayne Fitzgerald, Glen Keane, Ian Cleary, Richie Lawrence, Owen Burke, Alan Redmond, Stephen Hahessy, Barry Murphy, Anthony O’Donnell and Thomas Fitzgerald.
Many of those players still feel the hurt of losing to the Limerick-based side in 2004 and now four years later they have a great chance to put things right.
Carrick United were founded following the high profile of the 1966 World Cup, and the club became registered with the Waterford Junior League in 1968. Beginning with two adult teams, the club quickly developed, emerging as a strong force in the 1970s with Schoolboy and Youth football becoming very strong.
Down through the years they won many honours in those grades but the big breakthrough came in season 1999-2000 when they won the Waterford Premier League for the first time. They had won the Ardagh Premier Cup in season 1987-88 but it was the Premier League that they wanted so badly.
Before they won the Premier League they had finished runners-up the previous season (1998-99) to Bohemians and they also lost to Waterford Crystal in the Ardagh Premier Cup final. The manager of that team was PJ Torpey and he said at the time that honours “will not be long delayed”.
How right he was. They won the Premier League again in season 2000-2001 before Tramore relieved them of their crown in 2001-02. Back came Carrick United they reeled off five titles in a row from 2002-03 right up until 2006-2007. Seven league titles in eight seasons, remarkable to say the very least.
They won the Ardagh Premier Cup in seasons 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 and then made it three-in-a-row from 2005 up to 2007. Their greatest moment to date however came in 2004 when they defeated near neighbours Clonmel Town from the South Tipperary League in the final of the Munster Junior Cup in Ozier Park.
The game was played on Sunday, May 2 and the manager was Gerry “Sam” Walsh who described the moment as the best day of his life. It was a nail-biting affair and it took a wonderful extra-time goal scored by Barry Murphy to win it.
The following year Clonmel Town got their revenge by defeating Carrick in the semi-final of the same competition 2-1 and the season after that another Tipperary League outfit, St Michael’s beat Carrick, also in the last four of the Munster Junior Cup.
Back in the FAI Junior Cup many pundits felt that Carrick United would win the famous cup last season but they lost at home to a very ordinary St John Bosco team in Ton Drohan Park at the quarter-final stage. It was a disappointing result for two reasons. Not only did the Waterford champions blow their chance of winning the trophy but it also put paid to a unique all-Waterford League pairing in the semi-final as St John Bosco were paired with the Villa in the semi’s.
The Dubliners defeated Villa after extra-time so it was St John Bosco who went on to play Killester United in the final. Killester won the decider pretty easily in Dalymount Park.
All of those games are now in the past and surely the time has now come for Carrick United to win what their manager Liam Wells describes as ‘The Holy Grail’. His players have been training three nights a week and all of them are on personal diets, such is their desire to win the FAI Junior Cup.
They have also progressed this season in the Ford FAI Senior Cup, having recorded a brilliant 3-2 victory over St James’s Gate at The Iveagh Grounds two weeks ago. St James’s Gate are a famous old Dublin club and they were the first ever winners of that competition back in 1932. Waterford FC defeated them in the FAI Cup final of 1937.
Three goals in four second half minutes gave them passage into Round 3 of that cup, the only junior club to make into the hat with all of the League of Ireland clubs, including Waterford United. But alas it is the FAI Junior Cup that they want most of all, and now the time has almost come for Carrick United to fulfil a dream that has been with them since 1968.
Hopefully come 4.15pm the famous trophy will be on its way to Tom Drohan Park in Coolnamuck. I think it will.