Three-year project. A key phrase in any football manager’s vocab these days. Any chance of a side order of romance with that? Cobh Wanderers gaffer Michael Deasy spins a mean love story.
“We didn’t have a senior team. The team had folded. The club could have folded.
“A bunch of lads from Cobh came together three years ago. A lot of them would have played underage in the town with Springfield Ramblers. And they decided to get back together as an adult team.
“They set up a project, got their friends together, decided ‘let’s do this’. Top players who were playing with Avondale or Midleton or in the League of Ireland with Ramblers. They decided to come back to Wanderers and do this project and try to be successful.
“I can’t emphasise how much the friends part of it is a big draw. We’ve 23 in the squad and 22 of them were born in Cobh. Brian Fitzgerald is from Tralee, but he’s living in Cobh and is friends with everyone.
“It’s a real community, town team that have grown up together.”
Hey, hey, the gang’s all here. Back in business, two promotions followed under Eric McCarthy.
Deasy took the baton last July. And seven weeks ago, after an FAI Intermediate Cup quarter-final in Dublin, a town realised just how special it was, this thing their prodigal sons had built together.
“When we beat the champions, in Crumlin, with nine men, that was really the springboard. We knew there was an unbelievable opportunity here. Then when we finally beat Greystones after a replay, at home, with an unbelievable crowd below, the whole imagination of the community of Cobh took off.
“Every day, the well-wishes are coming in from people in the town, and from everyone in Cork football. The Cobh people have dug into their pockets to help the club, they’ve sponsored players. We can’t be thankful enough.
“We’re living it in the moment. But when we look back at this in 10 or 15 years’ time, we’ll realise how big it was.”
Today, Michael Deasy and his players step out at the Aviva Stadium to face Liffey Wanderers in the FAI Intermediate Cup final. “The biggest day in the club’s history.”
Nominally the home side, they’ll tog in Ireland’s dressing room. They were due up yesterday afternoon. “To do the tour, to get that out of the way, the wow factor. So we don’t arrive on the morning and everyone is looking around going ‘jeez, this is a lovely place’.”
They’ve enough know-how to keep a lid on the sightseeing. A 44-year-old in nets who has seen it all.
“We’ve Michael Devine, who’s played in Europe for Cork City. The best keeper around Cork for the last 20/25 years. We’ve John Meade, who won a First Division with Cobh. Conor Meade, who played League of Ireland with Cobh and Waterford.”
Ian ‘Chubbs’ Stapleton won a couple of Intermediate Cups with Avondale. Deasy himself did the same with Rockmount.
“Around 95% of our dressing room has played with Ramblers. They’ve done the League of Ireland and they wanted to get back playing with their buddies.”
They’re making new friends every day. Ramblers switched this week’s game with Cabinteely to last night to help fill the convoy of buses that depart the island this morning.
Still in the hunt for five trophies, including a first ever Munster Senior League Premier Division title, crowds have swelled at Old Church Park.
“I think there was 1,000 people at the semi-final against Greystones. You see new faces every game. I’m easily looking at us to have 1,500 to 2,000 in Dublin. It’s great for the players and what they deserve.”
Others deserve it too. The drop from senior football hurt Wanderers people deeply. People like Joe Stack.
“Talk to Joe about what it means,” prompts Deasy. But every club, every love story, has romantics that hog the shadows. Joe preferred leave the talking to Michael.
“Only for Joe Stack and Sean Geasley, there wouldn’t be a club there. They’re the ones driving it forward for the last 25 years. When the senior team folded, they kept the junior team going and kept the club alive. It could easily have gone.
“There’s a lot of credit due to Joe and Sean, but they’re very reluctant to take the limelight. They just want to stay in the background and make sure that we are right on the day.
“Our chairman too, Frank McCaul, has done fierce work. Getting the money in to fund the team and the club.”
Theirs isn’t the only narrative awaiting a happy ending. The rise of Liffey Wanderers has taken in an FAI Junior Cup win in 2015 and a fourth promotion in a row this season.
“Liffey are similar to us. A team that has come right up together. They have three or four sets of brothers. Three Roches, four O’Connors, three Youngs.
“A real family dynamic. They’ve been there before two years ago. They know what the Aviva is all about.
“But they won’t have played a team like us this season.”
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