By Joe Behan
The Shamrock Soccer Club defended the Cosmopolitan League Cup and proved they are worthy Division 1 material in the club’s amazing 40th year.
After a rocky start, the Irish found themselves mainly concerned with avoiding relegation. During the break, 16-year veteran Paul Wilson took over the reins from Dermot Clarke.
"In the forty years of our club, I don’t think that there has been a better Shamrock," Clarke said. "Remember, throughout the game that you are flying the flag for everyone that has ever played for this great old club," was Clarke’s signing off statement.
Wilson wasted no time to instill his philosophy. "We are doing fine up to the 70th-minute mark, then we fall apart. We are not fit, we have to work hard," said Wilson.
The Shamrocks returned to the second half of the season more determined than ever in the club’s 40 years. Many times opponents complained that they had more chances than the Shamrocks. Wilson himself sat back composed in the heart of the Irish defense. Controlling it with his abundance of experience, smart instructions and excellent reading of the game. The Rocks were on a rollercoaster going from D1 to D2 in the league for the past few years. The entire club knew this was a big year for pride by staying up. John Guildea who had led the team to the cup and top flight in 99 committed himself to playing first, then assisting Wilson.
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"It will be devastating if we go down," said a worried Guildea during midseason. "Paul is taking over and endurance is what he wants."
Wilson was the right man in charge for the club’s most needed moment. His NCAA and ECAC playoff with Mercy College would stand to him as far as the team was concerned. But it was his unbelievable experience in giving immigrant footballers a chance in America using the New York Shamrock’s as a go between that took the club to the next level in the 1980s. Names like Paul Woodley, Christy Bell, Roberto Capri, Robbie Kilbaine, Denis Frawley, Kenny Keegan and Dave Fitzgerald were the new wave of college players in the club.
The list is endless and they were not just from Dublin or Ireland. As John Kenny, the founder of Shamrock Soccer Club, wrote in 1965: "The social structure here could easily be changed by a simple application of the Shamrock creed — Good Sportsmanship and good fun. Seeing Scots, Irish, English and Americans playing side by side convinces me that it can be done."
The ’80s, ’90s
Great personalities that won the Knickerbocker Cup in 1965 set up the Shamrocks and Victor Bennett, Eamon Newman and Pete McLean welcomed the massive influx of players during the mid 1980s.
Paul Wilson could not get into Bennett’s side initially and for nearly two seasons he waited on the sidelines. Finally, an opportunity arose and Wilson has never looked back. He graduated from Mercy College then began his soccer journey as a player for Shamrock, Mercy head coach, and a top recruiter.
The club found solidity in Donovans during the 1980s after moving from the once Horse and Jockey in Woodside. Those of you who were there will never forget the boots that hung from the ceiling. The psychological torment that Robbie Kilbaine and Co. dished out to regulars. A big and new influence in the club was Paddy Archbold, who claims his 19 goals in one season for the club is a record.
While the craic was always unstoppable, so too was the Shamrock game. What seems to have been forgotten is that the Shamrocks were indeed relegated during this spell. It was around a time of uncertainty that the Rocks were talking of moving on to a new base. Now in Division 2, the politics did not matter anymore, the job at hand was promotion. Like the current team, they were able to do it in one year and win a cup. The most outstanding player that year was Richie Doran, whose midfield competitiveness and simplicity guided the Rocks back to D 1.
When the club moved to Stephen’s Green in Sunnyside in the late ’80s, the Shamrocks of yore — Frankie Campbell, the Gaynors, the Freemans and many others — moved on in career and changed local. Few remained with the club, but the ones who did — Eltin Coleman, Mick Haley, Paul Woodley and Andy Powell, among others — were to guide the ’90s into the new millennium.
John Guildea turned the football around again and again as the club moved from the Green to Cheers and back to the now Gilligans. None other than David Scotty Shelvin, who brought law and order to meetings, spearheaded the strength of the committee.
"It was unbelievable here when I came to my first meeting, everybody was talking at the same time, it was chaos. Who was running the meetings?" he said.
Going into his 12th year now, yet again his last one, Shelvin claims that "coming back from two down to make it 4-all with the Albanians, we knew we had escaped relegation."
The committee consisting of John Guildea, Sean Conlon, Dermot Clarke, Robbie Walsh, Paul Wilson, Eugene Smyth, Bart O’Rourke, P.J. Doherty and Terry Horan have brought the Shamrocks into a new era. Having Niall Quinn as guest of honor in 1996 indicated the club was on its way to bigger and better things.
Who would have thought in 1960 that the club, an offshoot of the Manhattan Rugby Club, would play in Giant Stadium? Who would have thought that the current team — Dave Kennedy, Mick McCarthy, Robbie Walsh, Darren Thunder, Kevin McPartland, Mike Bishop, John Guildea, Paddy Geraghty, Terry Lawless, Ray Elsesser, Billy Henderson, Paul Wilson, Johann Lannon, Tim Cummins and Leo O’Connor — would become the only team to defend the cup and thus be compared to the great Shamrock team of 1963, who went unbeaten in league play for 18 months.
Honorary member Eltin Coleman, 16 years in the club, summed it up when asked what was the best year so far in the club’s history, he said, "Every year." When asked about the future of the Shamrocks as a supporter, he carefully claimed, "It would be great to get Paul Wilson back as head coach; we want to win the league and I think he wants to do it as a player coach."
Competing in the Copa Latina 2000 and an expected return game with NYAC at Giant Stadium is just the start of the millennium. On behalf of the USSF, Hughie O’Malley, manager of the Sports Medicine Program, proclaimed he is proud to be associated with, "An incredible achievement, a great milestone in soccer, 40 years in existence."