IN THE BEGINNING
How the club was formed and our first ever match
Through the years there had been several attempts to form a club in the Ashbourne area. In the 1960’s Jimmy Feeley formed a team in the AUL but they unfortunately broke up. In the 1970’s a team was entered in the North Dublin League (senior league) but only lasted two years despite the best efforts of Andy Cromwell, Andy Carroll and Paddy Mooney. A team was also entered into the Amateur League (AFL) by Mick and Tony O’Toole, but that too was short lived. The idea of forming a club was actually discussed in 1978 but it was too late to enter a league that year. It came about that in late 1978, over a few pints in Kellys, the “locals” challenged the “newly moved in” residents to a match. The game was keenly contested with the “locals” coming out on top – the real winner however was the community as Ashbourne United A.F.C. was formed and it was decided to enter a League the following September.
First Season as Ashbourne United
The club’s first season was the 1979/1980 season. We played our first competitive fixture on Sunday September 2nd 1979 in Division 3 Saturday on the Private Grounds of the Leinster Junior League (now Leinster Football League). That first fixture was against Stoneybatter and we won the game 6 v 2 .
We competed in the Leinster Junior League for the next six seasons before moving to the Athletic Union League in season 1986/1987. The Leinster Junior years did not yield any silverware, although the club did reach the latter stages of the Conway and Giffney Cups and almost won the league in our final year with the LJL, eventually finishing third.
33 YEARS IN THE MAKING
From the club’s first Schoolboy team to the latest!
The club entered its first schoolboy team into the DDSL in season 1986/87 with a team managed by Des Flanagan and Kevin Walker. The team performed well for their first season, especially considering most of the players were eligible to play U13 again the following season.
First Honour in Schoolboy Football
On 1st June 1988 the club won the DDSL U13F division after a 4 v 1 victory against Ayrfield. United, Ayrfield and Skerries finished the season exactly level and so there was a 3 team minileague to decide the winners. United and Ayrfield beat Skerries and so to the showdown on the community centre pitch. A hat-trick from Lee Walker and one from Glenn Duggan sealed the victory and the clubs’ first ever title.
The next league honours followed in season 1991/92 when the club won the DDSL U11B league. After this season there was a barren spell for trophies but the club was growing and the number of schoolboy teams competing was increasing all the time. A switch from the DDSL to the North Eastern Counties League also occured over these years and by season 1995/96 we no longer entered a team into the DDSL.
First Honours in North Eastern Counties League
Moving some of our sides from the DDSL to the NEC in season 1992/93 proved to be an immediate success as the U10s were Shield Runners up and the U16s were league runners up and NEC U16 Cup winners. They beat Carrick Rovers 1 v 0 in United Park, Drogheda, with captain Peter Kane picking up the trophy and the ‘man of the match’ award.
Over the following seasons the teams picked up 7 other awards in the NEC between winners and runners-up and we had several players make the league representative teams - Darren Ducie, Mick Beggy, Fergus Harmon, Philip Simpson and Trevor Macken to name but a few. With travelling becoming a serious issue for the club in the NEC - long distance journeys to matches and the expense and lack of resources to get to games - the club looked to the newly formed North Dublin Schoolboys League (NDSL).
In season 1996/97 we entered our first teams into the NDSL - three U14s sides managed by Eugene Larkin and an U18s side managed by Damien Jameson and Keith Warren. The following season these teams were joined by U8’s, U9s and U10s who had come through from the previous seasons Academy.
Start of a long history of awards in NDSL
Having had a very successful season in their coaching leagues the previous season, both U9 sides were in the hunt for honours in 1998/99 with the U9D side lifting the league and cup double.
More of our sides made the migration from NEC to NDSL and by season 1999/2000 all our sides were now in the NDSL. In fact, that season was the only season the club has not picked up some honour in the NDSL. Since 2000/2001 we have always had at least one side winning their league or cup and on many occasions we’ve had several teams lift trophies in the yellow of Ashbourne. The consecutive winning seasons of Brendan Fitzpatrick’s group of players, Paul Colgan’s group, Robbie Giles’ group, Johnny Broughan’s group, and more recently Phil Earley’s group deserve a special mention but we have had many, many teams win honours.
The changing face of Irish football
As the FAI continue to assess Irish football and the ‘needs’ of the International team, football in Ireland has gone through a radical change in the past 3 years. Thankfully in the early 2000’s schoolboys leagues had already moved from every child playing 11-a-side football from U10 and had created 5-a-side, 7-a-side and 9-a-side football (Small Sided Games) for younger age groups. But things have developed further with the FAI’s Player Development Plan (PDP) - twin games, new rules for the SSG’s, the introduction of non-trophy leagues up to U12 and calendar season football - have all benefited the game in Ireland and Ashbourne United has fully embraced these changes.
SCHOOLBOYS WITH BEARDS
The Highs and Lows of Junior football since 1979
‘Our schoolboys with beards’ is how a former Chairman and longtime player/coach/manager/club member, Greg McNamee, once described our adult section and over the years thankfully many of our schoolboys have gone on to play for our adult teams.
We first entered the AUL for the 1986/87 season in Division 2 Sunday and although we had three barren years, we should have won the league in 1988/1989, when we finished third after topping the table for the whole season, this team also reached the 5th round of the FAI Junior Cup.
First Honours in Junior Football
The honour’s did come in season 1990/1991 when the club competed in Division 3A Sunday. The team went on to do the league and cup double winning Division 3A Sunday and the Frank Roe Cup, under player manager Greg McNamee and assistant Aidan Conway.
The following season Greg lead, more or less, the same team to another title - winning Division 2A Sunday losing only three league games all season. Many of this ‘mature’ side would then go on to win the over 35’s Clifford Cup in season 1993/94 but the AUL section would go through many changes of players and managers over the next few seasons without adding to the trophy cabinet.
The appointment of Ger Dunne to oversee all senior team matters in 1996 would be the stabilising element that was needed and also saw a turn in fortune on the silverware front. A near miss by a Division 3 side managed by Phil Earley in 1998/99 was followed by the lifting of the Division 3 Saturday cup in 1999/2000 by a team made up of the previous seasons U18 side and some ‘wise old heads’.
In 2000/2001 the Premier C side gave Killester a good run in the promotion battle and made it to the final of the Calor Gas Cup where they were beaten in a penalty shoot out by St. John Bosco. The following season would be Ger’s last at the helm but he left the foundations of a good set-up and a good side. A few near misses followed over the next couple of years - most notably the Elastoplast Cup Final in 2002/2003 when the team were beaten in extra time by St. Marks Celtic.
2004/05 - Successful Season
Under the stewardship of Gay Goucher and with many talented players, in season 2004/05, after eight years of trying, our first team earned promotion from Premier C to Premier B. That same season our Division 3 Saturday side managed by Vinny Macken and Tony Carroll lifted their league trophy and went to the semi finals of the Frank Roe Cup, losing out to a strong Hardwick Celtic side. This was definitely our best season in the AUL so far but we could not build on this momentum as we lost many players and our management teams by the start of the following season. We will always wonder what might have been achieved by such a talented 1st team squad.
Football gives you very little time to dwell on such things and so for season 2005/06 Dermot Lambe and Mick Fox were appointed to lead our club into Premier B, our highest division ever and only one off the top. Considering the rebuilding that was needed the two lads truly stabilised the squads and our positions in the league. So much so that the Division 1A Saturday side under the stewardship of Dave Ryan and Bill Molloy made it to the Elastoplast Cup Final, only to fall at the ‘final’ hurdle.
2006/07 - League & Frank Roe double again
A tremendous season for our Division 3 Saturday side, that only fnished in mid June, with a league decider against Boot Road Celtic. In April this side was competing on four fronts; unlucky to be beaten on penalties in the semi fnal of the Leinster Junior Shield, the furthest the club have ever gone in any provincial competition. An unfortunate defeat in the Unidare Cup Final, when no player showed the form they had portrayed all season. One week later they faced Dingle Utd again, in the Frank Roe Cup Final and this time came out winners, 3 v 2, in an exciting game in the AUL complex.
In 2009/10 the management duo of Ger McCarthy and Mick McBride brought the Premier B team ever so close to promotion. With 7 games left, the side had to get a maximum 21 points to win the league. Unfortunately we could only accumulate 12 points but still finished in a very respectable third place, just one point behind second placed Seaview Celtic; the best finish since earning promotion to this division in season 2004/05. The proof that the players were quite capable of Premier A football was their quarter fnal placing in the Nivea for Men Cup, having accounted for two Premier A outfits on the way – Bellurgan and Corduff. That same season, the Division 3 Saturday side had a poor start, but their results from January saw them make it to the quarter finals of the Frank Roe Cup; runners up in the league and winners of the Unidare Cup – a tremendous season for the lads and long time United manager, Tony Carroll.
The Bad Times . . . but light up ahead!
In Season 2010/11 the AUL section was fielding 4 teams and although we were not winning trophies each of the teams was competitive in their respective divisions and for the frst time in a few years our Divison 3 Sunday team was made up of the previous seasons Under 18s. Within 2 seasons we were down to two teams and our Premier B side went the whole campaign without a win - earning a single point in the very last game of the season. The players were there, the ability unquestioned but the commitment left a lot to be desired. So after 6 seasons in Premier B the club would start season 2012/13 in Premier C. Paul Thorp was appointed 1st team manager and has been involved in the senior set-up in the club ever since, as manager, assistant manager and coach - joined over the years by Robbie Giles, Ger Dunne and more recently by Paul Colgan to keep two adult sides running and competitive over the years.
A New Beginning - Leinster Senior League
For season 2017/18 the club took the tough decision to move from the AUL (and a 30 year relationship) into the LSL (Leinster Senior League). With the clubs facilities ever improving and Friday night football on the clubs astro now the norm, it was felt that we needed to move to a league full of clubs with the same standards of facilities and ambitions. In August 2017 we played our first ever matches in the LSL - in Division 3A Saturday and Premier Sunday.
In our second season with the LSL (2018/19) our Premier Sunday team managed by Paul Colgan and Paul Thorp won their divisional cup - The Albert Walsh Cup - beating DAA 2 v 0 in the final at Fran Cooke Park. Our division 3A side also had a fantastic season making it to their league cup semi final and coming Runners Up in their division behind a strong Mid Sutton Sportslink side - this despite having lost only 2 league games all season. The team was managed by a quartet of former players making their first move into management - Jon Noctor, Jon McNally, Rory and Brian Rice. The four lads are this seasons first team management and our second side is managed by Peter Hendricks and Eoin Leahy and has many players from our U18 NDSL set up . . . the club aim of offering our players a pathway from an Academy youngster to adult football continues to grow.
HERE COME THE GIRLS!
Ashbourne United – A Long History with Girls/Ladies Football rekindled
In 1992/1993 Ashbourne United entered their first ever girls team into the North East Ladies League. The team was managed by Kevin Costello and Dessy Flanagan. The girls performed well that season and from then on the club’s girls/ladies teams continued to prosper. In Season 1994/95 two teams were entered into the North East Ladies League - U16’s girls and Senior Ladies - with a lot of players playing for both sides. That season six ladies were selected to represent their League in the Inter-League Bracken Tournament - Linda Farrelly was selected for the ‘A’ team and Gemma Lawless, Olive Prior, Kyra Butler, Wendy Boshell and Shelly Denham were selected for the ‘B’ team.
The following season, eight ladies from United were selected to represent the North Eastern Counties Ladies League in the Bracken Tournament in Limerick held in August 1996.
The ladies selected were Under 14: Anita Deegan, Sarah Keegan and Emma Caulfeld. Under 18: Paula McKenna, Joanne McCann, Shelly Denham, Olive Prior and Michelle Caulfeld. The representative team got to the quarter fnal stages with Anita Deegan scoring in the frst match.
First Honours in Ladies Football
In 1997/1998 the North Eastern Counties did not get enough interest for a ladies league and so United’s teams moved to the Dublin Women’s Soccer League. And in the Summer season of 1999 the ladies won the club’s first women’s title – Intermediate 6 DWSL – with just one defeat in fourteen games.
After the title winning season, Kevin moved on to ‘take up the whistle’ and there was a season without a side until Adam Scally stepped into the breach for the Summer of 2001, when the team finished third in their Division. Then John Hogan managed the side in the Summer of 2002, but there were not enough players to fIeld a side the following season and the ladies section fell dormant.
However, United did still have girl’s playing football – they were all involved in mixed teams, playing and ‘learning their trade’ successfully in the North Dublin Schoolboy’s/girl’s league. The girl’s were allowed to play in mixed teams up until the age of 14 but from then their options were limited and were unfortunately not with United. In an attempt to keep the girls within the club, in the Summer of 2007 Damien Jameson, Robbie Giles and Tom McGahan formed an U11 side to compete in the Dublin Women’s Soccer League 7-a-side Division.
Schoolgirls win League
On Sunday 2nd September 2007 that girls’ team played their last fixture of the season, a home game to Lourdes Celtic. They won the game 4 v 1 and it was their 10th victory of a 14 game season, with one draw and three losses. This kind of form would win most Divisions but unfortunately the team finished third – the league was won by a very strong Broadford Rovers team and in second were Greystones who topped United by a single point. The following Summer United fielded a girls’ team in the DWSL under 12 North division.
The team contained most of the girls from the previous year’s successful season, plus some welcome new editions. The season started well with two successive 7 v 1 wins, against Duleek and Peamount but, because of a small division, then the girls went weeks without games but kept up their interest with training and internal matches. When they did finally play their return fixtures they won both, giving maximum points from all games played and were crowned Champions.
The summer of 2009 saw the girl’s move to 11-a-side football but this put pressure on the squad numbers, especially during this holiday period and although it was a very enjoyable season it was obvious that the numbers were not there to continue for 2010. In July 2009, Meagan Byrne was selected for the NDSL Gaynor Cup team. In Limerick. Meagan was involved in every game and represented her League and Ashbourne United with distinction.
Having been without any girls/ladies side since 2009, under the stewardship of Damien Jameson, (and the persistence of Leonne McGrath) the club entered a team into the 2012/13 DWSL Winter League which was made up of many ladies returning to play with their first club. When the season started the team was only working off a panel of 14, but the ladies wanted to give it a go and so they did. However after Christmas there was not enough numbers to field a side and the team had to be withdrawn.
The ladies believed that the interest was more for a summer League team, and so in May 2013 the ladies were entered into DWSL Junior C and since then have fielded a team each summer since.
A New Beginning for Ladies & Schoolgirls Football
During those seasons between 2010 and 2013 when the club had no options for female players, many of the girls found a place in Ratoath Harps and friendships were formed then that will last forever. One friendship would have a profound effect on ladies and schoolgirls football in Ashbourne - Damien Jameson got to know Paul Graves, two like-minded people when it came to female football - both believed the game and players should be treated no different than boys/male teams. These two men were destined to work together - and at one stage it looked like Ratoath would be the beneficiaries of the duo - but it was Damien who convinced Paul to come to United in 2014 and since then Paul has become our Ladies Director of Football.
Move into Metropolitan Girls League (MGL)
Pauls remit was to get schoolgirls teams up and running in the club and for season 2015/16 we entered an U15 side into the MGL, managed by Yaji Acosta and Noelle Francis. The same season we formed an U8 girl’s team but since there was no MGL division for them, they had to join the NDSL and play against boys teams each week - this they did for two seasons under the management of Alannah Graves and Heather Jameson.
In 2016/17 that U15 MGL side moved into U16 but due to other commitments we lost Yaji and Noelle as managers and Paul had to step in to finish out the season. In 2017/18 the club truly made it's mark in the MGL - Paul was now the full time manager and many of the girls were eligible to play U16 again. In a tremendous season that started with winning the Stamullen Friendship Cup in pre-season, the girls went unbeaten for the entire campaign and lifted the U16A title and the U16 O'Neills Cup, beating Dundalk in the final 2 v 1.This season also saw the club enter our U10 team into the MGL - two teams and growing.
Season 2018/19 saw more growth when we formed U8/U9 squads to train and they entered some blitz weekends. Our U10s grew in numbers and played at U11 making it to their league cup semi final. Amazingly six of the previous season U16 girls were eligible to play U16 again - for Anna Seika and Victoria Brence this would be their third season at U16.However the numbers were low and worry was setting in until the club had an influx of up to 10 girls of varying ages - some as young as 12 years of age. The club had to make a tough decision but the parents had to make a 'brave' decision - to trust that the club could coach the girls well enough that this VERY young side could play at U16 level. 10 months later and people could ask what all the worry was about - this U16B team went on to win the league with just two defeats all season. A tremendous acheivement for the girls and testament to the work Paul put into the training and playing style.For season 2019/20 our MGL set up is growing yet again and we hope to enter 5 teams - U9, U11, U13, U16 and Youths (and of course these girls all have ladies football to look forward as part of our female pathway from Academy to adult football).
FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW
Ashbourne United Academy 1995 - 2019
In 1995 our frst ever Academy (or Kindergarten, as it was then called) was formed and run by Charlie McCorkrill in Ashbourne Community Centre. The Kindergarten catered for 25 - 30 children and the following year Gerry Snowe, Christy O’Brien, James Keogh and Paul O’Leary became involved. As these players all moved on to play in our schoolboy section by 1997 we had a new crop of players and this time Eugene Larkin took on the role of co-ordinator. And so the cycle of 5 to 7 year olds starting with the Academy and then moving on to play in the clubs small sided teams began and still continues to this day. In 2001 Paul Colgan was the Academy coordinator but when this crop of players moved on to play for the club by 2003, the Academy system came to a halt.
Thankfully the Academy structure was reformed in 2007 and for the next 3 years Dave Davis was the Academy co-ordinator. Dave moved the sessions to Donaghmore / Ashbourne GAA club which was a great success. In 2011 the Academy came under the stewardship of husband and wife duo, Marie and Johnny Broughan. The sessions continued in the GAA club on Monday nights and the FUN emphasis continued. Since 2013 the Academy has been renamed ‘Bourne Buddies and has been run by Academy Director, Paul Thorp and continued in the GAA club until 2015 when the switch to our own all weather facility was made. The Academy has been a tremendous success over the years and has given many children a love for the game and so provides the club with many players each season. The Academy membership averages 80 children each season, which is a credit to all involved.
With the continual growth within the club and the need for training space, the Academy moved to Saturday afternoons for season 2018 and onwards on the clubs all-weather pitch in Archerstown.
THE OVER 35's AND BEYOND
Ashbourne United Over 35's
In season 1991/1992 we entered our first ever Over 35s team into the Amateur Football League with a team managed by Maurice Swinburne and Con Farrell. The team was full of household names from within the club and the Ashbourne area: Andy Carroll, Tony Higgins, Joe Carthy, Noel Clarke, John McKeown Snr., Peter Gray and Jimmy Whelan to name but a few. The following season they side continued and added more players and then in season 1993/94 we won our first and only (to date) honours in Over 35s football.
On 28th May 1994 the club won the Amateur Leagues Clifford Cup, beating Rathfarnham in the final. Many of our 'mature' successful AUL side of the early '90s moved into Over 35s football and we had a very talented squad - Greg McNamee even earning representative honours with the AFL Over 35s panel. The title winning squad was: Eddie McNaney, Maurice Swinburne, Vinny Hanrathy, Don Foley, Clive McNamee, Jimmy Walsh, Jimmy Deegan, Billy Hughes, John McKeown Snr., Greg McNamee, Coleman Carroll, Johnny Broughan, Tony Carroll, John Fitzgerald, Gerry Fitzpatrick, Joe Carthy and Gay Goucher . . . many of these men still have strong connections to the club and have children and grand children playing for United.
Our Over 35s continued for one more season but by 1995 this section of the club ceased to exist. In the mid 2000's we entered the AFL Over 35s again with a team led by Robbie Giles and Mick Fennel but this attempt only lasted one season. In the early 2010's we had another attempt at Over 35 football and this side was made up of many former team mates from our AUL sections over the years - many having just turned 35 this team had true potential, but again this was short lived and only lasted the one season.In early 2019 Allan Williamson reformed our Over 35s section and on 23rd March 2019 we played our first game AFL Division 2 North.