Soccer unites in Limerick Town as historic rivals join forces

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville


Soccer unites in Newcastle West Town as historic rivals join forces

Members of the newly formed Newcastle West Town FC

THEY have a century of playing history between them but now, Newcastle West’s two soccer clubs, are amalgamating and embarking on an united journey as Newcastle West Town FC.

It is a bold move that has involved about 100 adult players and 600 under-age players, as well as two sets of pitches and clubhouses.

But according to the joint chairmen of the new club, Martin Smallwood and Tom Ruddle, everything is moving ahead smoothly in time for the new soccer season starting shortly.

Even the weekly lotto has benefited, Tom Ruddle laughs, and the joint jackpot stands at €30,000.

The unification moves, which began informally with chats on sidelines, were driven in part by a joint shortage of volunteers and the fact that, at times, both clubs struggled to fill  teams. Competition between the two clubs also led to certain difficulties.

“We were spending more time looking over our shoulder at one another, ” Martin says. “It was hard to discipline kids. And if you did, they would say I am off to Rovers or the other way round.”

Rivalry sometimes also led to scuffles in the school yard or worse to a kind of bullying. “We weren’t able to run the type of clubs we wanted,” says Tom.

Over the past season, as part of the one-club  process, all the under-age teams, the youth teams and the ladies’ teams have amalgamated. “It is going like a dream,” beams Tom while Martin explains that their approach has been to start afresh and begin again like any new club.

“We want to do everything right,” he explains. “We are following the guidelines and rules in accordance with the FAI.”

Training and the  code of conduct are a major aspect of this new approach and a Silent Sideline policy has been introduced.  “We now have 54 under-age coaches, and over 60 in total, and we are starting with a new foundation, getting them all to do the training, the garda vetting,” explains Tom.

Players (and parents)  all like the discipline it lets the coaches get on with things, he adds.

Schoolyard friction has also become a thing of the past.

The new black, yellow and white strip, a happy combination of the colours of both clubs, has played a positive role in the amalgamation, both chairmen agree, helping to define a new identity and loyalty.  

There have, of course, been some detractors. But the benefits have been very positive. Now people are coming forward, volunteering to become involved, Martin explains. “It is a big change-around. It is a healthier environment.”

“We want our club to be an open club,” Tom adds, stressing that new people will be more than welcome to get stuck into the work of the amalgamated club. “Egos are all left at the door,” he declares. The well-being of the club is all.

Another  crucial element in the success of the amalgamation, Martin adds, has been the appointment of a new management team, Peter Clark as manager and Evan Byrne as assistant manager.

The new club will now also be able to offer a significant range of facilities to its members.  In the Demesne, former base of Newcastle West AFC, there is an astro-turf surface, ideal for winter conditions. At Woodfield, former base of Newcastle West Rovers, where €500,000 worth of new facilities were completed last year, the  sand-based pitches will suit wet weather playing. The new club will also embrace Football for All.

It is all a far cry from the conditions encountered by Anthony Riedy, AFC stalwart in the 1950s and a long way from the “kicking around” in the Demesne which Tom Baker says was the beginning of Rovers.

A new era has begun. Just one last step remains to be taken with the adult male teams. And as Martin Smallwood predicts: “As soon as they have a few games under their belt, they will have forgotten any difference.”