Born in 1937, Chris Sands is a life-long supporter of Shels. He talks about the early history of Shels from its foundation in 1895 as a “Dockers team”, club rivalry with Shamrock Rovers in the 1940’s, the failure to purchase Shelbourne Park, and attending the Olympic Dancehall after matches. He also talks about his involvement with Shelbourne Supporters Development Group in recent years and his views on Ollie Byrne.
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Duration: 01:05:46 hrs
Project Name: Shelbourne FC Oral History Project: Phase 1
Track Number: 08
Name of the Interviewee: Chris Sands (CS)
Name of Interviewer: Marc Redmond (MR) on behalf of Dublin City Library and Archive (DCLA)
Place of Interview: Conference Room, The Lab, Dublin City Arts Office, Foley Street, Dublin 1
Date of Interview: 22 March 2011
Name of Transcriber: E–quip Business Solutions, amended by Ellen Murphy, DCLA
MR: This interview is taking place in the lab on Foley Street on the 22nd of March 2011 for the Shelbourne Football Club Oral History Project [Phase 1] with Mark Redmond present making the recording for Dublin City Archive and with me is Chris Sands. Could I ask you for your full name, your date of birth and your occupation?
CS: Right, my full name, as you say official, Noel Christopher Sands, now over the years for some reason Noel wasn’t used very much but it’s the official name, Noel Christopher Sands, born 17th of November 1937 in the family flat off Pearse Street, Lower Erne Street. I was the last of 12 children – the last of 12 children – but by the time I was born as was fairly usual at that time 4 had died so in my time as it happens the sexes were split, it was 6 and 6, and when they died it was 4 and 4 as well.
CS: But my father was a Docker, William Sands, born in Windmill Lane near the famous U2 studios etc.
MR: The studios there.
CS: My mother was born on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in a house beside the Sailor’s Home. The Sailors’ Home, a very famous place – both, Windmill Lane, are mentioned by Joyce in Ulysses so an historic area.
CS: Anyway that was me and then as happened at the time my brothers had gone to City Quay school. Now there was another school actually nearer but it was like the family history, my mother would say we’re Quay people, City Quay people, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay people, there was a big difference. So I went to school. I reckon I was at school shortly after my third birthday.
CS: Not that I was brilliant or whatever but the area was being depopulated, the lads were asked to bring in their younger brothers to keep up the numbers, I was brought in and I sat beside my brother Bill who was approximately 8 years older than me and he was my minder.
MR: And how long have you been a supporter of Shels?
CS: Well I was born into it.
CS: My family, my father being a Docker, Shelbourne were often referred to as the docker’s team.
CS: A lot of the players were dockers including the greatest of all Val Harris. It was the docker’s team and my father and his brothers, he had 3 brothers, I could leave one out I think because he didn’t seem to show much interest but the others were and they would have been the sort of people who travelled as Shelbourne had been founded in 1895 …
CS: … but by 1906 they were in the Irish League which was a huge achievement, inside, and they had reached the IFA Cup Final, that is the All-Ireland Cup Final.
MR: They beat Belfast that year is that right?
CS: No the first one they lost. The first one they lost then the next one they came back and they beat Belfast Celtic.
MR: Ah that’s right, yes.
CS: That was huge, to beat Belfast Celtic. But the first team and what we now call the Southern Park of Ireland in fact possibly the first team from outside of Belfast because the stronghold was Belfast and Peter Byrne records in the history of the FAI, 75 years in the FAI, he records where the newspapers reported that there were tar barrels lit along Sandymount Beach all the way into Irishtown/Ringsend. Although the team started in … was founded by people from Bath Avenue …
CS: … Bath Avenue was the centre. Seemingly there were a few young lads around there, they liked this new game, well there had been football of course but it was a newly organised …
CS: … around 1850 in Britain they had organised a setting down of the rules and so forth forming first of all what they called the English League, then the Scottish League, then the Welsh and then the Irish League and it went on from there but football in Ireland started in Belfast and these lads anyway seemingly were very interested and they would have played what were called challenge matches, even in my time in the ‘40s …
CS: … you’d go to a crowd and say we’ll play it tomorrow, such a place, that was it. It was just simply to have a game, you wanted a game and you didn’t want it just with your own pals you wanted someone else. In their case they were convenient to Beggar’s Bush Barracks.
CS: Beggar’s Bush Barracks was one of the major British instillations in Ireland and the story is they would have been playing games against the soldiers because of course soccer is often in Ireland referred to disparagingly as the ‘garrison game’ …
MR: Okay (laughs).
CS: … in fact I don’t accept that as disparaging I’m happy with that and if you look at the history of soccer around Ireland in many cases, its places, it had a barracks.
CS: Athlone is probably the best of all, Athlone was – they’re not quite as strong now but they were, but even Tipperary Town, they’re not strong in Senior but they are strong in Junior soccer.
CS: And so on. And in this case anyway they played, now the story is that … the story I heard, there are slight variations on it – there’s at least four variations on it – the story we heard as kids was arranging a particular game with some of the soldiers outside Beggar’s Bush Barracks and the soldiers said “Well what’s the name of your team, what do we call you?” and they had never arranged a name and they looked up and there was the road sign which said Shelbourne Road so they said “Shelbourne” as I say there are slight variations on that and that’s where it goes from there so they became Shelbourne and very soon after they got properly organised James Rowan, a resident of Bath Avenue and he worked with the Corporation – I’m not sure what position, he was the original Secretary and the story is that he walked from Bath Avenue which is near the top of Shelbourne Road to Finglas to the home of the Secretary of the Leinster Football Association so as to register that team formally so they’d be ready to play …
CS: … and he walked back and the records show that they spent something like a ha’penny each on refreshments in Lloyd’s pub in Earls Street (laughter). Now I remember Lloyd’s pub, it’s not there now, but I remember Lloyd’s pub in Earl Street in the ‘40s and maybe into the ‘50s. Anyway they were quite abstemious people, frugal even, however, that’s the way it went.
MR: You’d have been going to your earliest games kind of in the ‘40s would that have been with your brothers and school children or with your dad?
CS: I reckon that … there’s this thing like the ages of man, you know this sort of thing, there were these things that you qualified for. Now it seems to me that once you started school you qualified to be brought to matches …
CS: … presumably you were toilet trained although I wasn’t because I do remember piddling in my pants and my brother being allowed to leave school early to bring me home which he was delighted with because he didn’t like school (laughter). As it happened I did, he didn’t. Now I didn’t at that time but he did. But now he was the one, he was my minder and he or my father or my other brother John would have brought me to matches I reckon after my third birthday.
CS: So that would be ’40 so say January ’41 or thereabouts and that of course was Shelbourne Park.
MR: Yes, down on Shelbourne Road.
CS: Shelbourne Park which is now known as a greyhound stadium but in fact it’s the other way around it was a ground which was taken over by Shelbourne and was named after the team, not the other way around.
MR: That’s interesting.
CS: And it was at least three … the third ground, when they moved grounds as they had to they named the park Shelbourne Park.
CS: So they moved to what we now know as Shelbourne Park and then later the greyhounds came in, exactly when I don’t know, but it was that way around.
MR: Well it was ’49 I think they played their final game in Shelbourne Park is that right, yes?
CS: That’s right, that’s right.
CS: ’49 and then they moved. Well they moved around Tolka Park, it’s said even Milltown, home of the infamous Shamrock Rovers, the enemy if you like.
MR: Yes, yes.
CS: But they moved around and funny enough I don’t remember any huge problem at the time, we just went as young lads, we just went wherever there was a game. If Shelbourne were playing we went there, if Shelbourne weren’t playing we went somewhere … I actually have a picture, I’m not in it, but a friend of mine has it and it has him and three of his pals, three of them are Shelbourne supporters, one is a Shamrock Rover supporter and they’re going to a Shamrock Rovers match. Now people would say that doesn’t happen, that never happened, but it did happen, you just went to matches.
CS: You supported your own team but you didn’t shout down the others, you know.
CS: If they won, so, we got the satisfaction that with any luck at least once a year Shelbourne will beat Shamrock Rovers in Milltown, that was the height of the … it’s a little bit like the Celtic/Rangers thing, not vicious though, not vicious …
MR: Yes, yes.
CS: … because there were brothers and even sisters on opposite sides. We had a neighbour, the father was Shelbourne, the uncle who lived with him, his brother, was Rovers, the eldest son was Shelbourne, the younger son was Rovers and I can remember them going to matches together. The 1944 Cup Final is famous for that, 1944 Shelbourne had won the league, they were favourites in the Cup Final but they were playing Shamrock Rovers but the crowd traditionally they would march from … Shamrock Rovers would march from Ringsend, Shelbourne would march from Shelbourne Park but they marched together, they mingled together, and unfortunately for us Shamrock Rovers won. There was a lot of argument about the match, a lot of controversy but they won but Shels had already won the league so it wasn’t too bad.
MR: So for a young lad and certainly in the ‘40s and all it must have been a great day, a great occasion, to have early memories of that kind of thing, crowds at matches and stuff like that, was it?
CS: That was huge. Now I wasn’t at the match because I was deemed too young at the time, more than likely my mother had stepped in because I don’t think my father or my brothers would have bothered too much about that and in fact my second eldest brother, Mike, who had no interest in football (laughs), he was actually there one of the reasons being that he worked with one of the Rovers lads and he went so he could have an odd little slag with him and so on. But the other two played serious football. John who was approximately 19 years older than me and my brother, Bill, who was approximately 8, he actually signed semi-professional for Drumcondra and never really got into it because he didn’t want to, he wanted to play for Shelbourne.
MR: Right (laughs).
CS: Now at the time the other thing was in his job he was earning good money and he didn’t see it worthwhile, he had married, had a child and he didn’t see it worthwhile to drop the work prospects for football. Today some lads would nearly give their right arm for that opportunity …
CS: … but in his case it proved his merit as a footballer but he kind of dropped out of it after a while.
MR: Can you remember your earliest memory of going to away matches in Ireland or abroad?
CS: Well we never travelled much outside of the city, you know.
CS: First there wasn’t transport, you know, to have a … (laughs) well as it happened I had a brother in law who drove a work van …
CS: … and he was allowed to take it home at weekends now he would go on trips and he would bring us.
MR: You’d all pile into the back of the van.
CS: He wasn’t interested in football, he was an Irish boxing champion.
CS: He wasn’t interested but as it happened his best pal played for Shelbourne, Georgie Lynam, but even so he wouldn’t go to see him (laughs), they were great pals – one was a boxing champion, the other was a very senior footballer and that was it, they were friends and that was it. But anyway there wasn’t transport and a few people who had cars, very few. Now bikes you would have had loads of bikes.
MR: Hundreds and hundreds of bikes, yes.
CS: Ah, in our case because we lived near Holles Street Hospital the bikes used to be six deep outside for the father’s, the husband’s – the father. The wives – very often it was only men were allowed into that hospital, even the girl’s mother was not allowed in in most cases but the bike were all lined up there and you’d see that around football grounds and all that, five and six deep.
MR: That’s mad. Which grounds in Ireland do you think that you most liked or least liked going to, do you have any particular memories of that?
CS: I don’t think … like Dalymount was the international grounds so we were happy enough with that, that was … well at that time it was kept up reasonably well and so forth. Probably Tolka because we went there after Shelbourne Park, Shelbourne Park was like a little playground for us because the bookies were there on Friday nights and the bookies had like little boxes, stands …
CS: … and were able to put them even two or three high if we wanted to watch the match.
CS: And we could jump over them and all this sort of thing so … and another thing about Shelbourne, if my father or my brothers weren’t available we would go down anyway … sorry I was talking about the ages of man, if you like …
CS: … when you went to school you could be brought to … and as far as I could see when you made your First Holy Communion, which was usually about 7, you were now allowed to go with your friends, with an older lad kind of in charge, you know.
MR: Right, yes.
CS: And gradually (laughs) that’s the way it just kind of moves …
MR: It kind of evolves like.
CS: … yes it just went through like that sort of thing but even if a father or brother wasn’t there we’d go down and maybe a neighbour would bunt us over the stile, that was the usual thing at that …
CS: … and if that didn’t happen maybe it would be a bigger match, maybe a bigger crowd, Shelbourne had this thing where they always open the gates at half time so no matter what the result, what the score was or what match, you could go in at half time, you didn’t have to pay and therefore you’ll at least see the second half.
MR: That was certainly the opposite …
CS: I’m not sure now that other grounds did it but I know because like oh we’d have gone to at least twenty matches in Shelbourne Park compared to one in another ground because that was where it was.
MR: Right. And how did you … I mean you were saying earlier about the relationship between other supporters and stuff like that, that in the beginning you’d have family members supporting different clubs and that type of thing, what was your experience generally of that, were there fans from particular clubs that you got on better with than other fans or was there any particular club that there was always a bit of rivalry there or …?
CS: In our area, now off Pearse Street, take the library almost as a centre point, you know.
CS: Shelbourne were founded in Bath Avenue but they quickly became the Ringsend team and the major reason for that was the great footballer Val Harris who was considered to be a Ringsend man …
CS: … and so therefore the centre moved to Ringsend, if you like. Now after a while, 1922/23 Shamrock Rovers had been more or less reformed, it had been a junior team, it went on to be a senior team and they went on to a great deal of success and as a result most of Ringsend became Shamrock Rovers – not all of them, there’s still a lot of people there Shelbourne – but the centre of their support moved down to Pearse Street.
CS: It was always set on the city side of Ringsend Bridge, the city side …
CS: … and in fact one of our greatest former players, Arthur Fitzsimons, who was there at the presentation and all that, Arthur is now in his 80s, he actually came from just inside, just beside Shelbourne Park dog track so he’s in that side there …
MR: South Lotts Road in and around that direction.
CS: All that, yes, Dock Street and all that, that was the … well then it was Pearse Street was the real strength – the real strength. In my case our friends, we just kind of accepted that we were Shelbourne, you know, we just went off. Now there was one or two and it would seem to be (laughs) if one of the parents was from Ringsend the person might say that they were Shamrock Rovers. I don’t remember anybody that I would call a Bohemians fan …
CS: … and I remember two people who were Drumcondra fans and one of them even this day is often referred to as Drums because he was so unusual. But we were, as I say, deeply red in that sense and it was all around, if you like, you can almost take the Pearse Street library as the centre of the support, the place.
MR: Now as you got older as well and you were kind of going to matches on your own maybe in your teens or later teens did you have any unpleasant experiences with other supporters? Did you ever witness any violence between fans or when did that start to creep in?
CS: Let’s see, my daughter, let’s see, oh God, what is she, she might be 50 now so she was about 20, 30 years ago or so, she was at college and the people in the college were talking about matches and so on and so on and she came back and she said “Bring me over to this match”, it was actually … I think the first one was Milltown, Pat Byrne’s team was playing an Olympic qualifying game against I think it was Hungary and we went over and it was grand, it was a very good game. I think the Irish team might have won, certainly they would have been entitled to win, I forget the result, but that was Milltown. Now a while after the Cup Final came along and she said to me “How about going down to the Cup Final?” and that was in Dalymount and it was Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk and we stood on the terraces, that was the Connaught Street side where myself and my pals tended to go when we were much younger, and then people started throwing stones and all this and I just couldn’t believe … I’d never seen anything like that and then they went out and they threw stones up and down Phibsboro at each other.
MR: And this was in …
CS: Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk FAI Cup Final …
MR: … this would have been in the ‘70s?
CS: … I think Dundalk had won, I’m not absolutely sure.
MR: This would have been the ‘70s?
CS: It would have been, yes.
CS: I think Dundalk had won, I’m not absolutely sure, but I’d never seen anything like that, never seen it. Speaking of Dalymount, two famous matches that I would have attended with my friends, the ‘51 Cup Final. Shelbourne were good at getting into Cup Finals, they weren’t good at winning them (laughter). At this stage they’ve been in seventeen FAI Cup Finals and have only won seven and most of them were in recent years. But anyway the ’51 Cup Final, the parade was coming from Shelbourne Park, two of my friends and myself we stood on the porch of Pearse Street Library to meet the crowd as they came along and we were highly decorated because we had a red and white hat, that was about as far as you went (laughs) or some sort of a rosette but there was none of this, all this fancy stuff that you have today …
CS: … huge expense. One thing they had at that time and I remember they had it for the ’44 Final were rattles or corncrakes …
MR: Oh right yes, yes.
CS: … and I remember one of my brothers getting these from somebody and painting them red and white, that was for the ’44 Cup Final. Later, match was over, disappointing for us, a lot of controversy, but a month or so later that same brother was seen to be painting them green and white …
MR: Right yes.
CS: … consternation with my brother and myself. What? It turned out he was playing for a team that played in green and white, they got into some sort of a final so he was redoing them for (laughs) … and if you got stuck beside someone with one of those you were in trouble. But anyway there we were with our … and the worst that would happen to you is that it would rain and the red would come down your face.
CS: And you wouldn’t … but we stood there and we marched, the parade came from Ringsend Park, up into D’Olier Street, across the bridge, up to Dalymount Park and in we went and as far as I can remember it was the only time I was ever under the stand in Dalymount, I don’t know why, we must have been shepherded into a particular area. I was never in that before. I was up in the stand after, I was over the … I was never there, I don’t know why. We weren’t long in when Cork Athletic scored and it looked like we were gone because that was the history of Shelbourne in Cup Finals and anyway eventually Tommy Carberry scored to equalise to bring it to a replay. Tommy Carberry, that meant he had now scored in every round, unusual feat, Tommy died last year. He was a great personality with the club. But anyway they then went and did a replay and we lost 1-0, Shelbourne history repeated. Now another one then in Dalymount, I haven’t got the date – ‘60s – famous Yugoslav match. Ireland was playing Yugoslavia. The archbishop of Dublin said that we should not have anything to do with this godless country.
MR: Oh they were a communist country at the time weren’t there? Yes.
CS: Yes and said that people should not go. Now my friends, two friends and myself, they were both altar boys, I never was nor did I ever want to be but the three of us went. Now I think we lost 4-1 or something but we were there and (laughs) I don’t think we really thought much about it, we just thought there was a match on and that was it. But they were two of the famous ones in regard to Dalymount.
MR: And how did you typically celebrate a Shels victory, in somebody’s house or …?
CS: Well we weren’t drinkers, we weren’t drinkers, we used to go to … well into our teens, for instance, when we started going to dances we’d nearly have all the women to ourselves because the fellas were in the pubs …
MR: Right yes (laughs).
CS: … and the non-drinkers would be there and enjoying the early part then eventually the place might fill up but they were usually fellas from the pub and there were times in fact the girls would nearly come looking for you because they wanted to get away from the fellas that had a drink taken.
MR: That had a couple of jars on them.
CS: Now we weren’t saints, we weren’t heroes, we didn’t know anything about it that’s just the way it was, we just didn’t think that drink was important.
MR: So you would have ended up maybe going to a dance or something after a match in order to …?
CS: Oh yes, yes, yes.
MR: Well that’s …
CS: Even so and I played under 17 and under 18 football in the Schoolboys League for instance, the Olympic was the big dance hall at that time.
MR: That was up in Pleasant Street, yes.
CS: Yes it was the biggest hall in Dublin and we would go there and we would see the fellas we played with, maybe even a fella we’d had a nark with that afternoon and we’d have a chat with them and so on and that was a big, big place, that was very popular. But it was famous for Lugs Brannigan as well …
MR: Oh Lugs yes.
CS: … and you’d have … someone would say then “Oh here’s Lugs” and you’d see two or three fellas running because they knew Lugs would pick on them.
MR: Yes (laughs).
CS: But one of the huge advantages for us for the Olympic Ballroom was because we lived in the Pearse Street area the late buses from Crumlin/Drimnagh and all that were coming back, at that time almost every bus left the city area at 11.30. In O’Connell Street there used to be a line of buses, an inspector would stand and he would blow the whistle at 11.30 and the buses would all take off. Now then they would have been coming back so 12.00/12.15, well the last dance was 12 or the dance finished, and then we would get the bus. Not alone would we get a bus that was leaving us home when we got a bus they didn’t collect fares …
MR: Ah yes.
CS: … once they weren’t on the run they didn’t collect fares and now that’s completely out now so we were home and so on, that was a great advantage. But the main thing I suppose is we would start playing football and we would just become the heroes, you know. I know Shay Nolan was one of the fellas that I … well in fact the one I aspired to most of all was actually Sean Haughey who was our club captain and it was the older brother of the politician of a similar name …
CS: … but Sean was … Sean went on to be Assistant City Manager in the Corporation and he was a fine … now he had been a prominent Gaelic footballer, he had won a Dublin County medal with Parnells and then played, whatever, 5 or 6 years, a big strong player, a big solid player at the time, a full back. And at the time I thought I was a full back, I wasn’t much of a footballer anyway but we modelled ourselves on these people and so on. Like we didn’t … like drink certainly never came into it in our case now I know there were others, there were even people who we had gone to school with who would prefer to go to the pub and we just left them to do it and that was it.
MR: And just the way soccer kind of evolved over the years if you’d be out in the school yard it would be kind of in the ‘40s, that type of thing as well, and a Christian Brothers school would be a very GAA kind of influence and if they saw you kicking a ball like a soccer ball they’d be … or did you notice any kind of conflicts like that between GAA and even the rugby?
CS: To a large extent in our world of Dublin, if you like, the GAA hardly existed but after a while a new teacher came to our school, Seosamh Ó Drisceoil, from Cork. He went on to be a Senior Inspector in the Department, he hated soccer and we actually had Billy Young who went on to be Captain and Manager of Bohemians, he was a year or two ahead of me. Mick Byrne who was known as the white haired physio with Jack Charlton he was two or three years behind me in the same school, his aunt Mary was the school caretaker. Seosamh Ó Drisceoil anyway tried to get … I don’t think there had been a GAA team in the school. Our teacher, the teacher I was with most of the time, Jack Duff, he was a rugby man and he used to say he’d start rugby and we were saying we’ll never have a rugby team, rugby are all doctors and solicitors and all and they wouldn’t be interested in us, you know. But anyway the same Seosamh Ó Drisceoil we were supposed to pretend we didn’t know that Jackie O’Driscoll, Irish soccer international, played for Cork, Cork Athletic, Waterford, Shelbourne and Swansea Town and got probably at least twenty international caps including some North and some South was his brother. And later a nephew went on to be even more popular as a rugby … or sorry, a hockey international which was another banned sport. Sorry, the same Seosamh Ó Drisceoil brought the teams down to Ringsend Park to play in a trial match and as the game went on one of my school friends – I wasn’t involved, I wasn’t interested in that at the time, I don’t know, I certainly wasn’t asked to go, I just didn’t have any interest in it – but one of my friends, I’m still in correspondence with him – he’s over in Luton in London, Billy McNevin – the ball came over and he couldn’t resist the temptation and he headed a goal so what did Mr. Ó Drisceoil … he called off the whole thing.
MR: You’re joking? Yes.
CS: Just couldn’t accept, you know, you were soccer and his own brother a professional, an international but there you be. Now we did go to Croke Park and all that like I did see Kevin Heffernan playing …
MR: Right yes.
CS: … Sifty Ferguson and all those and of course Jock Haughey played, that was Charlie’s younger brother, and the story was at the time he was also playing for Home Farm but nobody seemed to say much. Now I do remember being there and that sort of team, I think it was O’Leary was – he was an army man, he was with An Chéad Chath the Irish speaking battalion or whatever it was.
MR: Oh right, yes.
CS: But I do remember some country people, I don’t know who they were playing – whoever it was – but they were kind of sneering at us about the Dublin team that plays soccer, they considered that the type of football a Dublin GAA team played was soccer rather than Gaelic, I don’t know.
MR: And who would you say over the years, it might be difficult to choose one particular player, but is there any one particular player that you would say stands out there, you know, in your own memory or in your own opinion that you’d admire above others?
CS: Well the story that I’d have to say Val Harris is a contender for the greatest Irish footballer ever, he is a clear contender for that, but of the players that I have seen Gerry Doyle who played for … or sorry, Gerry Malone who played inside fourth for Shelbourne for over 10 years and gained at least one maybe two international caps, a lot of inter league caps and all that, he would have been the outstanding because he was stylish.
MR: What kind of period of time would that have been?
CS: That was in the ‘40s, that was in the ‘40s.
MR: In the ‘40s was it, yes.
CS: Now coincidentally Gerry Malone’s aunt Mary was my mother’s next door neighbour, that was just … and when we’d be playing football “There’s Gerry Malone” now that was big I mean we knew about English football, we’d no problem with that …
CS: … but we didn’t idolise it we went to our own games …
CS: … and we liked, you know, but there’s Gerry Malone, my god, you know. Now there were a few others like that, Georgie Lynam lived near us as well and he was a fitter in the Gas Company. Later on we used to see him going around town on his orange bike, the Gas Company stuff was all orange.
MR: Ah that’s the orange bikes, yes.
CS: Orange, going in to different places to check the gas cookers and so forth.
CS: You know, that sort of thing. Another one that I liked Noel Snell was another full back with Shelbourne and Captain for a while and when I started working in the bottom of Grafton Street around the corner in Wicklow Street there was one of the famous Findlater shops, there was eight or ten Findlaters, they were one of these very high quality grocers and when you went in you got the lovely smell of spices and all this sort of thing and Noel worked there, I don’t know exactly what job he did, but as a result if I came out of work for a walk or something like that I could meet Noel Snell. And again they were big, you know. And another thing at that time by the way well later on into the ‘50s now maybe the semi-professional set up with soccer I think a lot of the players what they did was the money they got was the money to buy a house, you know, because certainly in the ‘40s very few people had a house or even thought of having a house, you know.
CS: Even things like the growth of weddings, they were in the home, you know.
CS: My own wedding although it was in a hotel we only had about 30 people, that was 1960, you know, and then it finished at 3 o’clock.
CS: It finished at 3 o’clock in the day (laughs) but a lot of them then went on, as I say, that was what the money did, the sacrifice of playing on Sundays or having to travel to Sligo or so on, you know, and the girlfriend or the wife having to put up with this sort of thing …
CS: … the pay-off for that was they were buying a house whereas more than likely his brothers etc. couldn’t, you know.
MR: Exactly yes.
CS: Now in my case we moved into a house in Santry in 1960 bought with the STA loan – Dublin Corporation loan – and one of my neighbours was Ollie Conroy who then went on to be one of the Shelbourne heroes throughout the ‘60s. His brother in fact was just taken into hospital yesterday, Terry, he was another international. But they were … Mousey Monroe played for Shamrock Rovers, he was another neighbour and the usual thing, as I say, was that the mortgage … now in our case the mortgage was 8.50 a month …
MR: (Laughs) 8.50 a month.
CS: … it was a fair amount but it wasn’t … but that’s where that went, that was the pay-off and that’s why at the time some of the good GAA player’s etcetera wanted to play soccer, now they couldn’t make that known if it didn’t work but that was the pay off for some of them.
MR: And you would have had reasonable access to players like that in the sense that they were fairly approachable kind of people that you kind of knew from the locality or you knew somebody that knew them and stuff like that, did that change over the years at any stage or would you say?
CS: Well I suppose you got this thing that people, you had this thing if they are not for you, you are against them this idea like I mean I just say to people go and cheer your own team but leave the others alone you know. If they, there they are but cheer your own team, support your own, you don’t have to slag the other people. Unfortunately now something I’ve heard a few bad cases, unfortunately there’s even people who are supposedly supporters of their own team who are slagging their own players.
MR: I know what you mean yes.
CS: And this type of Facebook thing seemingly, now I’m not familiar with Facebook, I don’t want to get involved but I’m told it’s so easy to put up things and seemingly to remain anonymous.
MR: Yes, yes.
CS: And only last night someone was telling me about things that were being written about individuals and in the case of one individual I would put him as one of the finest players I’ve seen in recent years and yet someone is being ultra critical of him, but that’s oh I don’t know I suppose commercialisation and all that but you know by all means go and support your own team but there’s no reason to slag and abuse other people.
MR: Absolutely and did you find you know you would have periods with all subs they would have good times and the bad times, how did you deal with losses and other disappointments in games that you might have been looking forward to?
CS: There wasn’t the build up you see, there’s so much hype now but there wasn’t, matches were just matches. You wanted to win, you wanted to win but if they didn’t win they didn’t win so what, it’s not the end of the world you know but then they went on to get them so hyped up and.
MR: It’s a huge disappointment then when it doesn’t yes.
CS: Yes I think myself and of course I accept the possibility that I’m extremely biased, the successful Shamrock Rover teams bred that sort of thing that for instance my recollection is that when Shamrock Rovers are playing in Milltown, Glenmalure Park if they didn’t win the referee and the line would be attacked, they would be attacked and even there were times when they did win someone still had to go and have a go at somebody. Now in fact a modern version of that we saw recently Neil Lennon the Manager of Celtic and Ally McCoist is the Assistant Manager of Rangers charged but if you look at the innocent it would seem that Lennon started the argument, it would seem, now Lennon’s team had won what was he on about he won you know. Like maybe someone would overdo it when they had lost and they thought they had been done badly but you’ve won, like that’s I suppose all this kind of commercial hype and all this and.
MR: Was there ever a time yourself where you felt frustrated with the club maybe when things weren’t going maybe too well or, how did fans kind of cope with disappointments like that, was it just a case of get on with it?
CS: To a large extent, now probably the biggest disappointment with Shelbourne was the time when they moved out of Shelbourne Park and the story is for some reason the Park was, they didn’t own it you see. Now when I started working in Nassau Street there was a pub in Suffolk Street just around the Molly Malone statue, I think they call it the Suffolk Lounge now but that was O’Donoghue’s at that time and Paddy O’Donoghue I believe was his name, Cavan man as a lot of the publicans were, Cavan or Tipperary but the story was that he owned Shelbourne Park, now he probably had bought it because of the greyhound racing but it seemed then that he offered the park and the story is it was 500 pound note, 500 pound I don’t know how that relates to then, but anyway the story is that the committee discussed almost all night, they moved into the upstairs room of one of the pubs in Ringsend and they pushed it to and fro, anyway they came to the decision that they would not buy, that they would get a site and they would build their own, now it would seem that that was probably pushed most of all by Andy Byrne who was he may have been chairman but he was chairman later and that would have been the father of Ollie and he was, at least for a time, a counsellor, he was the Fianna Fail counsellor in Ringsend and therefore he may have felt he had, I know Ollie at times always gave this impression that he knew everyone inside and he could deal with, it didn’t happen but anyway they got the site on what we knew was the dump in Ringsend. When we were kids our Riviera was the Tower in Sandymount.
CS: The number three bus, the Tower in Sandymount and we had glorious and it looked like the sun was always shining, that’s the way it seemed like but at the Ringsend end they had cut off a piece and they began to bring the stuff off, all the rubbish out there they filled, all the infill down there and that’s all out now as far as.
MR: Poolbeg would it be out around that?
CS: It would be well out, well out now but anyway part of the site was taken over was bought or whatever by Shelbourne and they began to they put in a pitch at all that. Now 51 or thereabouts I forget now exactly but we would have attended most of those matches, now as it happened Eddie Gannon was our real local hero in the forties. In the forties Shelbourne won the league and he was their hero so much so that Nott’s County bought him from Shelbourne, he went over there, he wasn’t long with them when Sheffield Wednesday had noticed him, they were a first division team, signed him and he went on to a lot of success and international caps and so on but he was a pal of my brother and he would come home in the summer we would see him walk from his mothers around Pearse Street to his mother in law in Ringsend and his wife and himself would just walk that was his summer break.
CS: You know and here was a first division player, an Irish international player you know. Now he had come back and he was player manager with Shelbourne and low and behold I don’t know whether it was his first year or second but the most he would have had was two matches were played in the new … in Shelbourne Stadium as distinct from Shelbourne Park, Shelbourne Stadium Irishtown, now known as Irishtown Stadium part of what remains. The problem there was it was open to all the elements, there was another reason, when they were building, when they laid out the plans I actually have a picture of them with the plans and I don’t know whether he was brought into it or he introduced himself into it, Billy Morton was the great athletics promoter, now he went on to huge success there’s no doubt. He brought over Herb Elliott and Ronnie Delaney all these in Santry later excuse me but he had some in College Park but he persuaded Shelbourne to put a running track and he ran Clonliffe Harriers and then he was moved there and they would have an international ground if you like, so as a result there was a big, you know you see some of the European games and you see a running track and the places which were open, the crowd was much further away from but the pitches in this case was windy it was out on the bay and as a result we got terrible results but terrible reports as well and I think it was only the one year they played and then they moved in to Tolka Park but not alone that but they decided that it was partly Eddie Gannon’s fault so they let him go, now as it happened it was Gerry Doyle who had been a player himself, had been very successful with junior and schoolboy teams and he took charge and he then brought us on to one of the really successful periods in the sixties when we played in Europe and so forth and that was really historic, but Eddie to a large extent Eddie Gannon was almost sacrificed, now the same fellow unfortunately he bought a small business with the money he had. Footballers at that time were almost uneducated.
CS: It happens now as well but probably the best example for lads here is Ronnie Whelan who played for Liverpool, see his father had been senior player, he probably had opportunities to go away but he didn’t, he certainly played at least two internationals for Ireland but as Ronnie was showing promise he decided he should stay and do his Leaving Cert at least and he stayed with Home Farm and Home Farm had gone into the League of Ireland so he got League of Ireland experience but he didn’t go away as a child and he had purchasing power and all that sort of thing but also he had, he was comparatively educated you know that didn’t happen but Eddie bought a small business as it happens it was right beside Shelbourne Park and sure it did nothing, it just more than likely the business was in decline anyway and like someone just wanted to offload it but it didn’t work and any money he had saved or whatever seemed to have gone. As it happened my brother worked up in the ESB in Poolbeg and there was a job going, I don’t know what it was whether it was security man or a watchman or a porter or something and he contacted Eddie, Eddie went in and applied and got it and he spent his last working years with the ESB which was good for most people anyway but unfortunately for him it was sad, it was sad you know, but he had been our great local hero.
MR: And would you have followed any other clubs in Ireland or elsewhere or would you have been a devoted Shelbourne fan all your life?
CS: No I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t, I just liked going, we went to matches and certainly when I started working I can remember talking with some of the lads in work coming back from games particularly the Waterford United, I don’t think they were United, Waterford FC with the Fitzgerald’s and all that sort and the Hale’s. I mean they were wonderful players, wonderful and very successful but we were still with Shelbourne and if they were playing Shelbourne we had to expect Shelbourne to win and hope for Shelbourne that’s the way it was. Now we knew about English football, no problem for a time I had a short newspaper round. I wasn’t asked to do it, my brothers would send me down to what we called the corner, if you look out at the library, you see Moroney’s, that was called the corner, everyone called that the corner and there was a man who sold papers and I was sent down for the Herald and then some of the neighbours say will you bring one for me and I ended up with 12, 15 but one in particular our next door neighbour Mister Doyle he was a farrier in Boland’s they always took The Mail as well on Saturday.
MR: Oh yes.
CS: Now The Mail was a protestant paper.
CS: And some people did follow that as well, they may not even have been religious but the reason for The Mail on Saturday was the football results. The Mail was the best.
CS: And Mr. Doyle well there were two they never seemed to play football but they obviously had some sort of an interest in it. Now as it happened the two of them were actually took part in the Liffey swim so they were good swimmers but I don’t remember them ever being involved with football but we followed all those results you know and we knew all these players. We went to see, Stanley Matthews and all these they played what they used to call exhibition matches in the summer.
CS: Most of the clubs and one of the reasons was in England you had the maximum wage, it was something like a tradesman’s wage plus 25 per cent or something like that, therefore it wasn’t great you know and people like Stanley Matthews would come over because they get something like 20 pound appearance money or whatever it was you know or they would even if they could they would play in Dublin, Cork, Waterford etcetera.
CS: That sort of thing you know, so we saw all those great players come over here, we were fully aware of them but we didn’t idolise them.
CS: We admired them, we liked them and we hoped they might even play for our team sometime and they did, a lot of the teams brought over players not quite Stanley Matthews but they did bring over top English and Scottish players. The great Jimmy Johnson actually played for Shelbourne in a few matches, the great Jimmy Johnson of Celtic the first British team to win the European Cup and of course George Best played for was it Cork Celtic, the famous game against Shelbourne. Now the Cork people had a bid for him to do it and the bidding went too high for them. The story is that Ollie Byrne got on to them because it was a Shelbourne home match and he said he would add on another hundred or two because he knew the crowd would come which they did and as it happened I think Shelbourne won two, one so we weren’t humiliated, that was in Harold’s Cross that was one of our, most people didn’t like that ground, as it happens.
MR: That’s where the dog track is now is it?
CS: Yes well it was always there but as it happened I played under 17, under 18 schoolboy football and then I had been working and then I moved over to the Gresham. In hotels and restaurants soccer was always big, always and in fact some people got jobs, my own brother might have that’s the reason I followed him in might have got it because he was known to be a good player and when I went to the Gresham then our outstanding player was Paddy Roberts who was playing with Shelbourne but when we got into cup finals I can’t remember how it happened but I remember it must have been Paddy said it to me ring what was his name Traynor’s, the Traynor’s that were in, there were two Traynor’s who directed Shelbourne Danny was one, I’m not sure of the other, Danny and whoever, it might have been Danny but he was secretary of the Capital Cinema Group who also owned the Ambassador and he had his offices in the Capital and when we got into a final I used to ring him, mostly Paddy Roberts would say it to me just ring and we would get the use of Harold’s Cross which was leased to Shelbourne somehow.
CS: And it was only a matter of contacting the grounds man to say, no insurance nothing like that we just went up and then we would have, in the Gresham now the Gresham was big into, we had all the personalities staying there.
CS: And we had money to buy gear and all that which a lot of other teams didn’t have and we would then play in Harold’s Cross and I played, I think I played about six cup finals. I don’t remember losing any of them or one of them was in Whitehall in Home Farm but the others and I loved that ground because it was a big open ground but most Shelbourne supporters just had no time for it.
MR: Didn’t like it.
CS: And no regard for it but they had to play there. Later they loaned it to St. Patrick’s Athletic when Brian Kerr was the manager and Brian won the league championship with it so it’s hard to blame the ground you know.
CS: But that was the least favourite of all grounds if you like.
MR: And besides going to actually going to matches what other ways were you involved in the club or how would you say what being a supporter of Shels means to you?
CS: It wasn’t you see we weren’t involved in club, the club was there, there was no connection now one of the reasons of the connection at the moment is the club is in dire straits.
CS: As most of them are, most of them are. I mean I’m on a committee there the SSDG[Shelbourne Supporters Development Group], we organised that exhibition [115 Years of Shelbourne, November 2010][etcetera to be on that committee, to being a member of the SSDG you have to pay so much money. Now some people say to me if something came up like oh you would be alright you get tickets, I won’t get anything for nothing, I have to pay money but that’s what it means to the group of us. Now you met Joe O’Dwyer, Joe O’Dwyer he’s one as well and you are going to meet other people I know Bernard Connaughton and so forth and we are there because we are paying money and we are paying money because we don’t want to see the club go under.
CS: We may never achieve real success you know but if it happens it happens but we don’t want the club to go under and if we can, if by paying and sacrificing whatever amount we will keep it going as much as we can.
MR: And what type of relationship do you think exists or do you think should exist between Shels or any of the clubs like Shels and the wider community. I mean do you think that as important?
CS: Yes see Shelbourne were involved, when Ollie Byrne was there they were involved in running a scheme in the Larkin College, do you know where the Larkin College is? It’s at the back of the Gresham.
MR: Yes, yes I think I do yes.
CS: That’s Champion’s Avenue in fact. In the 1930’s there were eight boxing weights in amateur boxing, eight they extended that later on and of the eight, seven were from the Garden Street area, seven and of course it was a notorious fighting area etcetera and it’s also from social studies point of view its significant what weight the eighth was, the eighth was a heavy weight, you didn’t get heavy weights in built up areas, you didn’t have sunlight you know people were small you know. You might have lived in cramp there, maybe not so much food so all the other weights were from Gardiner Street the famous Spike McCormack, Darkie Leonard and all these they were all and they actually went over to things like Soldier’s Field in Chicago where they would beat the Golden Gloves, the Golden Gloves were the American champions and they beat them, I mean that was amazing. They were champions, now but that college there, which also has a boxing club I know, Ollie set up this scheme where lads would be, I don’t know how it’s sponsored now. Martin Fitzpatrick who is on the Board of Management for Shelbourne he was also business editor of the Irish Independent, he was on that Committee I haven’t spoken to him about it recently, I don’t know maybe we, there’s no money to start with, I don’t know how they do it but I know it was successful and it got lads who showed a bit of promise that whatever expenses were paid I don’t know if they got pocket money, I don’t know anything like that but they were paid to stay at school while they learned about football etcetera. Now that would lead on to something like what happened with Roy Keane.
CS: See Roy Keane the team he played with almost everyone on the team got Irish International caps and he didn’t, he was even selected in groups and they never played him, they always said he was too small and kind of got fed up with that but he joined a FAS scheme in fact to run, to train as a coach and he was still playing then, he had signed with Cobh Ramblers and anyway eventually he went over to Notts Forest and Brian Clough saw him playing one half a match and said to him come off, reserve team game half a match he said come off, you are coming with us to Liverpool on Friday, didn’t tell him you are starting on Friday, I mean that was utterly but the debt he owes to Brian Clough for that because we’ve all seen very good players and you often wonder what happened and it sometimes you are only to look at Alex Stephenson or Alex Ferguson and Japp Stam for instance who was a brilliant centre half for Manchester United had some sort of dispute with him, got rid of him he almost disappeared after that.
CS: If he had stayed with Manchester United he would have had maybe at least five more years, it’s amazing talent is great but the luck goes with it as well you know.
CS: And who knows but anyway they were involved in that I know, to what extent they are still I don’t know but that’s the sort of thing certainly we would all like to see.
MR: Absolutely yes.
CS: You know.
MR: Yes before we finish is there anything that you would like to add, anything I might have forgotten to ask or any other particular memories?
CS: No I think we’ve covered most items there. It just you know I think soccer is and a lot of people don’t agree with using the word soccer, I know Mary Muldowney when she did the thing in Trinity the fellows were talking about football and that and she put it in as soccer and oh she said I was devoured because they don’t like to give away but it does distinguish you from Gaelic football, we used to call it Gaelic, even actually Johnny Giles I just finished reading his book, a lovely read, a lovely read and he would talk about it as Gaelic, not football just Gaelic, football was soccer you know but association football as it officially would be it’s a simple game you know. Like two coats and a ball and even the ball, Bill Cullen in Penny Apples describes his father makes a ball from paper and cord and twine and people did that you know and my early recollection was we played with what the older fellows called a shammy which was a worn tennis ball.
CS: Sometimes it was down to the rubber, there was no coating on it and eventually it moved on to what new things came on the market, we called a bouncer that was a ball, it wouldn’t be the size of a football and there was a company down in Mayo I know Mayco and they did all these plastic products and then we began to get a plastic ball of the same size as and so on but you didn’t get, like this idea of having a foot, even looking at some of the young fellows like some of them can hardly kick a ball and they have a full Manchester United outfit, boots the lot everything and my god the amount of money and there’s times I’d look at some of the fellows going, people going around with baby’s even. Yesterday I saw a baby with a soother with the Liverpool insignia on it do you know but the money they spend, if they will only spend, if they will only divert about 10 per cent, go down to see your own the lads playing there might be your next door neighbour.
CS: Go down to see him you know, it’s good value we had a great game there the other night, Shels three nil in 15 minutes and then a fourth one, then we gave away a penalty just before the break four, one, then we let in a soft goal in the second half four, two and then it was a bit of a tussle to keep it going grand and first game I’ve seen this year and we certainly have a number of players who look extremely, well they are very good I know because they’ve established records but we have them now only because the money is bad all around and some of them have been full time footballers but they are only part time, I’ve no idea what they are actually being paid, we don’t interfere with that. We provide them with money if we can, where we can to keep. Above all we have plugged the gaps in like leaking roofs and all that sort of thing you know, you may know that the leaks they have licences now and they come and inspect and if you don’t do this and you don’t do that, if your electricity is not done in a certain way etcetera, etcetera you know and unfortunately parts of Tolka Park is a little bit derelict because there was no upkeep but when it opened first especially the new stand in Drumcondra it was terrific, although let me finish with a little incident that happened there. One of the official linesmen or referees inspectors were a colleague of mine and they always had a little running battle with Ollie, Ollie Byrne was well he was a monster or an ogre to a lot of people but he was a law onto himself, now in fairness you may have heard when things went bad with Shelbourne that was 2006 we actually managed to clench the league but once we got the league we fell apart but as well as that we were punished. Now if you look at what was done with Shelbourne and look at the other teams after that we were very badly treated, you know we were, part of it was people getting back at Ollie Byrne, part of it and part of it was that they had to ease up the punishment later because they had no teams.
CS: If they applied the same rules, for instance in Drogheda or even Bohemians as they did to Shelbourne they were gone you know but you don’t want dead bodies all over, it doesn’t do anyone any good but however, but when the new stand opened terrific changing rooms for the lads all that lovely stuff and so on and lovely rooms for the officials and nice fridge and bottled water and milk and a kettle to make a cup of tea and all that sort of thing and so on and after a while, oh let me go back to the Ollie thing, what they did, Liveline, they did an assassination job on Ollie and in particular I remember one or two very prominent Bohemians supporters really getting the knife in. Now they rang me to know would I go on and I said I would and they came back to me and said what are we going to say? Well I said I’m not going to criticise Ollie, Ollie has his faults, the club wouldn’t exist only for Ollie and he has his faults I mean Ollie had a criminal record he had done you know but the club itself just wouldn’t exist it was gone, but anyway this time he was having a little tussle with the officials, things weren’t going as well as he would have liked which meant we should have won every match but he took out the fridge, he had the fridge and the kettle he took out the facilities from the officials because things weren’t going his own way and there was nothing they could do because it wasn’t a requirement you know.
CS: That was part of Ollie but as I say Ollie was at least a colourful character and some of the colours were very dark, some of them but that’s, football is great like that, that you can have all these personalities you have, you mentioned yourself even Joe O’Dwyer, Joe is a great man every now and then and so on and Oliver our friend Oliver is a soccer man from Sligo as he said himself for various reasons Sligo is much more a soccer town than anything else you know but you get these so many characters. Talking about the ups and downs of things and all that, some years ago there was a famous character died in Ringsend, he was a Shelbourne supporter, most of Ringsend would be Shamrock Rovers but he was a Shelbourne supporter and a friend of his did an obituary for him and this friend was a Shamrock Rovers supporter but he described him as a staunch Shelbourne supporter, now I know the man who wrote the obituary and I said to him Jesus Tony I said could you be anything else, you have to be staunch because we were always getting stuffed and worst of all by Rovers, you know like you could put up with so many others but all you did was you put your tail between your legs and you slunk off home and this thing of violence after it and we hear now especially the Glasgow derbies that there’s wife beating and all that after the match, holy Moses now you know, now we’ve had that down there, not quite but we had young lads go down and they attach themselves to club, in fairness to Joe Casey and the committee I know they came into the stand one time, two lads were shouting abuse at the referee and they went up to them and said now lads keep quiet or get out and they kept quiet, I never saw or heard of them but they were deplorable you know.
CS: And sure that’s not what life’s about, life should be there to be enjoyed.
MR: Absolutely Chris thanks very much for your time, thanks for coming in today. Interview terminated at 1:15. (recording ends here).