Ratoaths first game of competitive soccer was played against Cliftons (now Jamestown Estate) farm hands in 1962, when a few lads from Brownstown took on Cliftons workmen in a game. The football players did not have any gear whatsoever to tog out in, but both teams enjoyed the kick about. Two weeks later a game was arranged between the boys from Brownstown and the farm hands from Whites in Kilrue. The build up to the game drew a lot of interest from people not directly involved in the game itself, and as the time of the game drew near, allegations about the ability of some of the players from Brownstown to play the game were made by players from another sporting code.
The game was arranged to be played in the G.A.A. field known as the hurley field on the road to Curragha, and when the two teams assembled in the field for the game, the Brownstown lads noticed that the team from Whites farm had not only additional players, not associated with the farm, but players from outside the parish. The lads from Brownstown questioned the inclusion of the additional players and the answer they got did not please them so they decided to withdraw from the game. After some heated argument, it was decided that the game should go ahead. The pitch was in good shape, but a little long for a game of soccer, so it had to be shortened, and this was achieved by placing two piles of coats to represent the goal posts. We also had a problem of a large concentration of cow pads adjacent to the road end goal. The Brownstown team had no official football kit and had to do with an all white gear that included some with white t-shirts, low neck see through string vests, white shirts and one player with no shirt. As the summer sunshine had not yet arrived, his white skin blended nicely with the team colours.
As for their opponents, they had multiple colours in their kit and were better togged out. The boys from Brownstown were a little on the tired side having had a hard night at the carnival in Dunshaughlin on the previous night, so the game plan was a blanket defence and try and get the ball to their teenagers, Tony Darby and Mellor Flood, who formed a two man attack, and try and hit the Whites eleven on the break.
The game had just started when a bout of fist-de- cuffs (a local name for a row) started near the touchline at the road end of the pitch and it soon spread throughout the playing field with scuffles on and off the pitch, and so when tempers finally cooled down, the game got under way. Midway through the first half a tackle on a Brownstown player, Mellor Flood, resulted in the player being unable to continue and a sub was brought on as a replacement. Scoring chances were few and far between and the exchanges between the players continued to be over robust with some very dangerous tackles going in. With only minutes remaining in the first half the deadlock was finally broken when Nicky Sherry found his nephew Tony Darby with a fine through ball, but the striker still had a lot of work to do. With Joe Everard and Sean Plunkett from the Whites eleven bearing down on him, with a change of speed and a little sidestep, plus a little help from the afore mentioned cow pads he was through and fired a low hard shot to the right of goalkeeper Willie Reilly from the Moulden Bridge, to put the boys from Brownstown one up going into the break.
In the second half the Whites eleven stepped up their game to try to get back in to the contest, but try as they might the Brownstown defence stood solid with six foot one inch Tony Morgan in outstanding form, and at the back Brendan Lynch, brothers Ciaran, Kevin and Pat Brady, with great support from Chris and Jimmy Maher formed a solid defence. In midfield John Clince and Nicky Sherry were having the game of their lives with a continuous supply of good quality ball to the front men Joe Mannering and Tony Darby.
As the game reached its conclusion, a fine ball from John Clince found Joe Mannering on the right wing and Joe sent a measured pass to the inrushing striker Tony Darby, who hit the ball with such force from two yards out that it would have surely burst the net, that is of course if the goal had a net.
The game finished Brownstown 2, Whites Eleven 0
The referee on the day was Mun Fortune from Pullwee Street.
The Brownstown Panel: Tony Morgan, Brendan Lynch, Jimmy Maher, Michael Maher, Chris Maher, Kevin Brady, Ciaran Brady, Pat Brady, Nicky Sherry, John Clince, Gerry Keague, Nicholas Kavanagh, Nicholas Keogh, Tommy Mooney, Joe Mannering, Pat Darby, Tony Darby, Mellor Flood, Leonard Brennan, Leo Corrigan, Ken Brennan.
Brownstown Boys 1962
Back L to R: Kevin Brady, Gerry Keague, Brendan Lynch, Ciaran Brady, Leonard Brennan
Front: Joe Mannering, Nicholas Keogh, Chris Maher, Leo Corrigan, Ken Brennan.
Back L to R: Nicholas Keogh, Frank Brady (with Hat), John Clince, Tony Morgan, Michael Maher and Ciaran Brady.
Middle: Kevin Brady, Anthony Corrigan and Jack Gaffney.
Front: Joe Mannering, Pat Darby, Gerry Keague, Ken Brennan, Dan Corrigan.
Local challenge games were organised on a sporadic basis. The ban was in force, it was to remain for almost another decade, and knowledge of the game of soccer was fairly limited.
The onset of television and Match of the Day coupled with the tremendous exposure arising from Englands staging, and ultimate victory in the 1966 World Cup, created a new and previously unprecedented interest in the game. Following a meeting in Johnny Gogan Bar (now Ratoath Inn) which was attended by Mellor Floor, Benny Browne (former Referee of the Year in the Meath & District League), Tony Morgan, Roddy O Neill and Sonny Martin, it was decided to enter a five-a-side indoor tournament in Navan. Beechmount Ballroom was the entertainment Mecca of the county and hosted the tournament, which catered for both men and women. The top prizes were transistor radios, which were all the rage at the time.
BENNY BROWNE (ABOVE LEFT) A FOUNDER MEMBER OF RATOATH HARPS DISCUSSES
OLD TIMES WITH ANOTHER LONG TIME MEMBER DARAGH O NEILL
Ratoath made the final under the name of Chelsea Greyhounds. However, they were out of luck in the decider and did not manage to get tuned in and had to settle for second place. The Chelsea Greyhounds Team included Fiacre O Neill (RIP), Paddy O Neill (RIP), Ollie Reilly (RIP), Mellor Floor, Joey Walls, P.J. (Paddy) Reilly, who won a minor All-Ireland (GAA) title with Meath in 1957, and Mickey (Spider) Eiffe.
Ratoath F.C. was formed and the following committee were charged with the task of nurturing the club, Christy (Sonny) Martin, Patrick (Pakin) Brady, Anthony Morgan (RIP) Benny Browne Mellor Flood and Roddy O Neill. Honorary members were John Bruen (RIP), Johnny Gogan (RIP) and Eamonn White (RIP), three men who supplied pitches, to whom Ratoath Harps will be forever indebted.
Ratoath Harps Managers from the early years L-R Sonny Martin, Patrick (Packen) Brady, Kevin Brady, Roddy O Neill
Sonny Martin remembers; We formed a soccer team to cater for the lads who were not good enough to get a game of gaelic football. We had a huge amount of players who were not going to make top class GAA players and they wanted to play some sort of game. Sonny continued;our original idea was to give the lads a game of soccer and perhaps some of them would graduate onto the football (GAA) team. However, the continuity of games, weekly, fanned the spark that the five-a-side tournament ignited and the first string in the harp was firmly in place.