By Jimmy Rhatigan
IT WAS a far cry from the first season of 1968 when a Thomastown team played in competitive soccer for the first time.
Fifty years later, on Friday, at Mount Juliet, over 100 members on Thomastown United FC, now one of the finest junior clubs in the country, sat down to dinner to mark a glorious half century.
There was so much to be proud of, a super facility in Thomastown for all ages of soccer enthusiasts, from young boys and girls right up to male and female teams, a collection of 30 teams, backed up by a membership of over 800 and superb club structure.
Memory lane chat recalled McCalmont Cup vicories, Premier League successes, various stages of developments and talk of great characters who were part of the journey over the years.
Yet, it was the opening season that proved to be the highlight as underage secretary, Joe Wemyss, colloquially Jagger, never short of words and wisps of wit, regaled a delighted attendance.
Local enthusiasts, aided and abetted by aficionados from Stoneyford, moved from kicking a ball on a local pitch that had jumpers for goalposts.
Carlow was the destination as Kilkenny soccer was dormant at the time.
Thomastown took Carlow by storm as they reached the cup final against the highly fancied Greenburrin, a fine club.
As was to be shown in later years, Thomastown didn’t lack grit and determination and with minutes only remaining in the cup final the visitors were 1-0 up and set for instant glory.
Then the manure hit the fan.
Greenburrin were awarded what was described as a controversial penalty and there was to be another first, two other firsts in fact.
A Thomastown defender sat on the football and refused to move so taking any penalty became impossible.
The troops, aka Thomastown supporters, also played a role as they lined the goalmouth.
The game was abandoned.
Thomastown launched an appeal and hoped for a replay but instead they were denied any second game and were turfed out of the Carlow League.
In hindsight, the incident which Joe Wemyss recalled so eloquently, was perhaps a blessing in disguise as Thomastown, now Thomastown United FC Limited, joined the then South East League that quickly became the Kilkenny & District League and the rest, as a good storyteller would say, is history.
Founder members of the club included Johnny Dalton, Christy Doyle, Peter Lannon, Paschal Long, Peter Brennan, Tom Weadick, Johnny Grady, Pat Byrne.
There was positive mention of so many who ensured that a soccer journey into the unknown would be a positive experience.
Pride was expressed in the structures of today when devoted enthsusiasts from the local community work so hard for a club which enjoys so much respect.
The get-together was an occasion for reminiscing.
But while the club treasures the past and acknowledges the sacrifices and hard work of God only knows how many, the focus is on the future.
So it is certainly apt to remind that the club has applied for grant aid and planning permission for a fully lit all weather facility.
The club thrives on progress.
The way forward is to provide for future generations.
Any other direction is not an option.