Welcome to a continuation on the regular series on The 94th Minute, called “Starting XI”. This is where I ask various people, who are fans of football, a number of questions to get to know them better! The first few questions will differ for each person, but the final question will always be:
“Who would be in your all-time, favourite starting XI?”
This is a question where anyone can be put into their starting eleven, whether they are famous footballers, football legends, past or unknown players who had an impact on their childhood, or even players they have played with or coached. Anyone is acceptable in their XI providing they give a reason for their inclusion!
The sixteenth instalment of the series is with the excellent blogsite ‘Forgotten Clubs‘. It is a website which details the history of clubs, who once had an illustrious history but have since folded and are no longer in existence (or are now in a new guise). Originally focusing on defunct clubs who once competed within the League of Ireland, the blog is now expanding to focus on clubs outside of the Emerald Isle, with Clydebank and Chester City being recent examples of their focus.
I wanted to know more about how the site was founded, and the inspiration behind its creation. In addition, the current state of the League of Ireland, the Irish football team’s chances of qualifying for Euro 2020, and of course, whom would be chosen in the all-time, favourite eleven players.
Q. Could you give the readers some information on your excellent website, ‘Forgotten Clubs’, and why you initially started it?
Forgotten Clubs was started by accident really. I was writing for a website called theleagueofireland.com, just giving opinion pieces. I was researching for a piece I was doing about a club I used to follow called Sporting Fingal FC, who are no longer with us, when I stumbled upon the fact there had been 38 other clubs who had bowed out of the League of Ireland since 1922. It got me thinking about the memories I had made while following Sporting Fingal around the country, and how fun it was, that I thought others who followed these other clubs would have the same.
So I did a bit of research and asked a few questions to fans of League of Ireland and started with a club called Cork Hibernian, which was quickly followed with a piece done on their big rivals Cork Celtic and from there it took off. People loved the idea and I loved hearing the stories from the fans. So, we kind of started calling it ‘Forgotten Clubs’ and turned it into a series on the site. Then a few weeks ago, I decided to cover clubs abroad, so set up my own site. You can still find the former League of Ireland clubs on the original site, as Gerard gave me the platform and the chance to do all of this. His site is great for any League of Ireland stories.
The whole point of ‘Forgotten Clubs’ is quite simple. It’s for the fans and to bring back the memories those clubs who have been ‘forgotten’ about. Of course some of them still exist today but just in lower leagues or with a different name.
Q. On average, how long does it take to research each club, and how do you decide upon which club to write about?
On average, it would take a couple of weeks. I have another lad helping me out now, Colmán Stanley, a talented writer who has a passion for sports history. I’m currently looking for another person to help me, and have a few people in mind.
Choosing the Irish clubs is just a random pick really, although I try do a Cork club, then Dublin, then somewhere else in the country, spread it out a bit. The foreign edition ones are usually suggested by the readers. I ask them on Twitter or Instagram what clubs they would like to be covered and go from there. I currently have three or four in the queue.
Q. Through your research or opinions, are there any defunct clubs that you would love to resurrect, and why?
A few stories have really stuck in my mind. The emotion behind some of the fans stories is like hearing a person talking about a loved one who has passed away. Some people have gone as far as to say, “It was like a bad break-up!” But the story that really stuck in my mind was that of Kilkenny City. Those lads reminded me of my Sporting Fingal days. The story of how they followed their club around, despite Kilkenny not winning a single game one season, or just one, was funny. And their best mate Jimmy, who had Down syndrome, but loved the club and attended every home game, just showed what these clubs meant to people. The lads told me that the Kilkenny players gave him a signed shirt at the end of one season, which was a lovely gesture. So probably Kilkenny City, just for the fact I would like to imagine Jimmy banging that drum in the stands again. It’s what football is all about!
Q. Why do you think so many Irish clubs have disappeared over the past few years e.g. Monaghan United, Home Farm, Dublin City, etc? Could the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) do more to help clubs at the top end of the pyramid?
There is a pattern in why these clubs go defunct and it’s because they all try to ‘run before they can jump’. It is easy to blame the FAI, but the clubs themselves must have a good financial plan behind them. A lot of them enter the league on ‘a wing and a prayer’, hoping that they will be successful, and that people will follow and support them. It doesn’t work out like that, as the 39 clubs will tell you. A short-term plan is all well and good, but you need to plan for ‘a rainy day’, because even the biggest clubs can have those.
Q. Switching to the League of Ireland, how do you think the season has gone so far this year? Has any teams or players surprised you?
I’ve been to see most clubs this season as I was involved in a project of getting all 20 [League of Ireland] clubs to sign Pieta House shirts. I managed to get 16 out of 20 so far, so it will be completed next season. But I think the standard of football has been quite good. The advertisement of the league has not and that’s why you still have this stigma of the league being poor. People have a perception of the league because there are a few part time clubs in it that the quality isn’t there. That’s not true though. The league has had its problems of course but the standard has been good.
I’m a St Patrick’s Athletic fan and they have had a poor season. Bohemians FC would be the surprise package. They have a young squad but have managed to qualify for the Europa League. The work they are doing off the field has been impressive as well.
[NOTE: Pieta House is an excellent charity that tackles the issues of suicide and self-harm in Ireland. If you would like to donate to their cause, their donation page can be found HERE]
Q. If people wanted to travel to Ireland to watch some League of Ireland action, where would you suggest are the best places or grounds to watch football?
Tallaght Stadium is the league’s best and most modern stadium. Easy to get to as it is in Dublin. [Shamrock] Rovers are a top side too. Dundalk are the best team by a mile, but their stadium is not in great shape. Oriel Park needs a lot of work. Bohemians’ ground, Dalymount Park, known as “the home of Irish football” as it used to hold our international matches years ago. It only has two stands available now and its falling apart, but the atmosphere is great.
Other grounds like Eamonn Deacy Park (Galway), The Showgrounds (Sligo Rovers) and The Brandywell (Derry City) are all great stadia as well. Turners Cross (Cork City), Tolka Park (Shelbourne) and the Carlisle Grounds (Bray Wanderers) are all decent stadia as well. Richmond Park (St Patricks Athletic) is unusual in that it is paced behind houses and in a bit of a dip.
I would recommend all of the above. A lot of the stadia in the league though need a bit of work, as in to make them more modern.
Q. Are there any players within the League of Ireland who you think people should keep an eye on for the future?
There are a few and I hope they stay there, but most likely, if they are good enough, they will be cherry-picked by English clubs. Danny Mandroiu at Bohemians FC is a quality young player. Others at Bohs such as like Andy Lyons, Danny Grant are ones to look out for. Dundalk have a few players as well. Patrick Hoban, although just signed a new contract, Sean Gannon, Andy Boyle is only back from Preston. Graham Burke, Jack Byrne and Roberto Lopes at Shamrock Rovers. Dante Leverock at Sligo. Then there are a few up at Derry and in the lower leagues. Rob Manley at Cabinteely, the first division’s top goalscorer and Jaze Kabia of Shelbourne are also players I have mentioned on forums and podcasts I’ve been on.
Q. Also how do you think Ireland is getting on in their Euro 2020 qualifying group? Do you think they can qualify for the finals next year under the re-management of Mick McCarthy?
Well it’s a shoot out between us and Denmark in November. The winner takes all! In my opinion, we have not been good enough or creative enough. Six goals in six games, with three of those goals coming against Gibraltar, isn’t good enough. We are decent at the back, but going forward, we have never replaced Robbie Keane’s goals.
I would be more excited about our under 21’s who are under the guidance of Dundalk’s former manager Stephen Kenny, who will be taking the reigns after Mick and the Euro 2020 campaign is over. They play good football and are exciting to watch. If we qualify it will be great as there are three games being played at Landsdown Road, but I don’t have high expectations.
Q. What are the future plans or wishes for ‘Forgotten Clubs’?
Well as I said, I am trying to build a team of passionate writers who love football as much as I do. I have a set plan, where we will keep building our site, keep covering clubs from all over the world. We are looking into cover American clubs, European clubs and even former international teams. Also, not forgetting about women’s football, that’s something that we are looking into as well.
I have also recently been asked to do a weekly show on community radio over in County Roscommon, RosFM, so that will be fun and we are looking into starting a podcast of our own, probably in the new year. There is also the dream of having ‘Forgotten Clubs’ produced in a print version. Maybe a book or a programme-esque style, with us selling them at grounds around the country. Some of the stories were already covered in some League of Ireland match day programmes with Limerick FC and Wexford FC.
Q. Finally, who is in your all-time, favourite starting eleven, and the reasons for your choices?
I would be ‘old school’ and go with a 4-4-2 formation. A bit of a mix with the usual suspects in there, and obviously had to represent the League of Ireland, and one of my mates.
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel
I grew up in the 90’s and played in goal. Even though I am a big Liverpool fan, I used to model my game on him, shouting at my defenders and making myself look big in one on one situations.
Right back: Cafu
World Cup ’98 was the first one I remember, and I just remember thinking he was class. Also, it was the first PlayStation game I owned and he was class in that too. Nobody could catch him. I recently saw him play a testimonial match for someone and he was still class.
Centre back: Paolo Maldini
Loyal, old school, no nonsense. He is what every centre back should be.
Centre back: Gareth Dunne
One of my oldest mates. Played with him since I was 9 years old, when we won the league. Played with him at various other clubs from the age of 9 until we were 17. Only one season in between those seasons we didn’t play with each other. A good mate off the field as well. I always used to tell him not to give free kicks away outside the box, but he never listened. Crunching tackler, no nonsense. Loves Shelbourne FC. Still plays with the local side Rivervalley Rangers.
Left back: Roberto Carlos
Again, World Cup ’98 and then that free-kick was one of my first memories of football. I spent hours out in my back garden recreating it as a kid. Wasn’t a bad defender either.
Right midfield: Vladimir Smicer
You may laugh at this one, and its quite random but there is a story to it. Me and an old mate used to write our favourite 11’s all the time and I put Smicer down one time. I got stick for it off all my mates. When he scored in the Champions League final I had the last laugh!
Central midfield: Xabi Alonso
Unreal passer of the ball. I remember Johnny Giles breaking down his play in a 2-2 draw with Spurs and thinking, ‘Wow! He is class!’ I was devastated when Liverpool sold him and always wished he would come back.
Central midfield: Keith Ward
Played with him at Rivervalley Rangers under 8’s. He stayed in the first team, I got dropped, by my Dad of all people, to the second team. He went on to have a good career though in the League of Ireland, and is a big part of the Bohemians side that just qualified for Europe. Unreal skills and a low centre of gravity. I played with him with a group of mates about 7 years ago and I was tired just looking at him.
Left midfield: Cristiano Ronaldo
Every team must have him in it right? He could play in any position. Unbelievable scoring record. Not much to say that hasn’t already been said.
Left forward: Thierry Henry
Unreal. My Dad is a big Arsenal fan so I watched Arsenal a lot growing up but some of the goals he scored were quality. He won everything as well. His goal celebrations were class as well. I used to love when he would score, and he would just run and nod his head while pointing to himself. I did it a few times in my local park. Maybe it’s just me that noticed those celebrations?
Right forward: Luis Garcia
I’d say Lionel Messi, but Garcia gave me the best memories. He always popped up with a quality goal, especially in that Champions League run when they eventually won it in Istanbul. Those goals against Bayer Leverkusen and Juventus. And then in the FA Cup against Chelsea and also the ghost goal against Chelsea. Just so many memories. He wasn’t always great but did it in big games.
- Jerzy Dudek – Istanbul, how could I not add him?
- Sami Hyppia – Solid if anything.
- Roy Keane – A born winner, and ‘old school’.
- Denis Bergkamp – Not a bad player to come off the bench.
- Lionel Messi – For obvious reasons.
A massive thank you to Philip at Forgotten Clubs for answering my questions and being an excellent guest on the Starting XI series! I have enjoyed learning about the blogsite, and Irish football in general, especially the best places to visit, as well as players who we should keep a focus on for the future. Also loved the blend between world-class veterans and exceptional local talent in the team – always enjoy those kind of teams!
To find out more about Forgotten Clubs, the links to the website, and social media accounts can be found below:
To read or catch up on the previous Starting XI episodes, they can all be found at the following link HERE.
If there you have any feedback, comments or suggestions who I should interview next in the series, let me know either below in the comments box, tweet me @The94thMin or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! It would be good to hear what you think about the series, and what have been your favourite episodes so far!