FOR their first game they had just 12 players to pick from and only 10 left on the field by half-time. They even had a penalty saved but somehow managed to win the match that would set them on the road to the 1992 Carlow section FAI Junior Cup final.
“After that we said to ourselves that we’d give this a right go,” recalls manager Joe Keating, the man who guided Moone Celtic that year.
“As it went on we started getting a bit more interested in it. When we got to the semi-finals we played Parkville Utd which was my home team. It was great to go back and play them on their home patch.
“We drew a team called Walkerstown Utd in the final. They were basically a team made up of Manchester Utd supporters but these guys were the cream of the crop in the Carlow league, they were all exceptionally good players. We went to the final and we were sort of in awe of them but at the same time we said: F*** it, we’ll give it a lash.
“We decided to play our own style of football which meant if the ball had to go up the field, it had to go up the field; if it had to go into the back garden, it had to go into the back garden. But we could play football too and we more than matched them playing soccer, particularly in the first half. We had half chances, they had two good chances but put them over the bar. We were the dominant team, possession-wise, and after 25 minutes we got a free near the sideline. John Brennan took it and let it rip in on top of the goalkeeper. The Walkerstown defenders didn’t move, the goalkeeper saw three of our lads coming in on top of him and panicked. Instead of catching it, he slapped it down and one of our lads headed the ball into the net. We went ballistic but we were half shocked as well, we couldn’t believe it.”
The shock of going ahead left them paralysed and instead of pushing forward, they retreated, inviting their illustrious opponents to take over. It meant that Moone’s game plan went out the window and inevitably they paid the price.
“They started to dominate but when they got the equaliser, instead of them pushing on, they sat back and we took over,” Keating recalls.
“When it came to extra-time, the ball spent the whole time in midfield. Both defences were afraid to make a mistake so it went to penalties. The penalties were absolutely brilliant but their fourth penalty – Anthony Proctor saved it, it was a great save. There were 34 penalties in my 12 years with Moone and Anthony saved 26 of them.”
With Proctor between the posts, Keating had been upbeat before the shoot-out but his confidence was nothing compared with Neil O’Meara’s – the man who would get the chance to win it for Celtic.
“Neil – he’s a garda now above in Store Street – he had come on as a sub but was calm as he walked up. The referee made him place the ball two or three times, I was getting agitated myself because I thought the referee was going to put him off but he just walked up and rolled it into the corner. I could have killed him. He was so cool he could have pissed ice cubes.”
The win meant that Moone went forward to represent the Carlow league in the FAI Junior Cup but they met their match in their next game against crack Dublin outfit Kinvara Boys.
“I think we competed with them getting off the bus. We were asking them could we go for a pint by half-time, it finished 7-0,” says Keating. Thankfully the characters involved with the team bring back happier memories.
“Anthony Proctor, our goalkeeper, was exceptionally good. Our captain was Jimmy Smith, he used to drive from Wexford for every training and game, that was a big commitment from him. Mickey Sullivan, who played GAA for St Laurence’s, was an exceptional player, he played centre-half along with John Brennan. Then we had probably one of the finest young players I had seen in my time between a player and a coach, David O’Gorman from Castledermot. He played in the middle of midfield but got a very bad knee injury and it curtailed his playing career. He’s back playing over-35s football know with Castle Villa. In general, the squad was very even and what we had on the line was as good as was on the pitch. The younger fellas we had with Moone at the time, Conor Swain, John Hegarty, they stayed there 12, 14 years playing with the club and that was great to see.”
It was a different time back then and the relaxed drink-driving laws meant every game was a big day out.
“We had two pick up points, in Moone and Castledermot because we were playing in Carlow all the time. Not alone was a young lad going as a player but in the car behind him was his mother and father, or maybe his girlfriends and kids. It was a day out for the parish for every game. There was no guarantee that you would be home by eight or nine that evening. Everywhere you went, you went into their place and got soup and sandwiches and a couple of pints. It was a great time, it was a family club and there was a great bond there.”
To mark the 20th anniversary of their Junior Cup final triumph, the squad held a reunion in Paddy O’Brien’s pub in Timolin on Saturday, 8 December. It was a night for sharing old memories and stories and Keating was in the middle of it all. He was one of the men who helped get the club off the ground in 1989 and just three years later, his team recorded a famous victory after a day that is still fondly remembered.
“It’s a bit of a shock to think it’s 20 years ago,” says Keating. “Years go by and lads go their separate ways but it was great to see them and go back and listen to the things that happened.”
Keating had just retired the season before Celtic won the Junior Cup but he has been involved with many teams in the intervening years and is currently helping out with the KDUL under-16 where his son Gavin plays. The reunion in Paddy O’Brien’s allowed the memories from that ’92 win to come flooding back and 20 years later, reminiscing was almost as memorable as the game itself.