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Royal Blue in The Emerald Isle - The Story of Club Everton Atha Cliath

By Rob Sawyer   ::  15/06/2013
Everton FC has sired namesakes in Chile and Argentina but closer to home a piece of Ireland is also forever Everton. A conversation with David Exall, Everton's erstwhile Promotions Manager, put me on the trail of Club Everton Atha Cliath ("Club Everton of Dublin") and Seamus Ua Trodd – its Founder, Secretary, Coach, PR Man and lifeblood.

David recalled how the alliance across the Irish Sea was forged:

"In 1971, Seamus asked for permission to use our name. Home Farm were down the road and were the Manchester United team, so we gave them official recognition. Seamus was a great Evertonian and used to come over a lot; he was very switched on and seemed very influential in Dublin. Although he didn't drink he could walk into any Dublin pub – even when they were closed in the afternoon. The Club was very much a one-man band from an administrative point of view.

"Peter Farrell was honorary president and was very much in evidence when I was there. I remember their AGM at the Gresham Hotel, all these little kids were due to come up to collect cups and medals. It was due to start at 8pm, which I thought was a bit late for the kids, but at 10pm we were still drinking Guinness and the kids were dashing around. Peter said ' I think I'll be asleep before this starts!'."

David still chuckles, 40 years on, at Seamus's almost Wildean riposte, when challenged at an AGM over his "dictatorial" style:

"You've got that wrong – it's not a dictatorship – it's a guided democracy".

So who is Seamus and how did he come to bring the Everton name to the banks of the Liffey?

My research revealed a renaissance man who worked at the Department of Defence but is also a poet, artist, visionary and – above all else – an Evertonian.

The story begins in the 1950s when a young Seamus arrived on Merseyside and discovered the celtic-centric Everton team under his countryman Johnny Carey. Seamus takes up the story:

"I was in Merseyside for a gap year in 1957-58. Until then, my connections with football had been minimal but I was faced with a confrontation – did I support Liverpool or the good team? So I became a true blue supporter and after that was back and forth on the ferry to matches.

"One stormy winter's night on the boat, a group of us discussed how every team had an Irish supporters club except Everton – there had been one in the 50s but it was defunct. So, at a meeting on 27 January 1971, we set the wheels in motion and I was appointed Secretary of a supporters club – this would eventually lead to the formation of Club Everton Atha Cliath.

"We sent a submission to the Everton Supporters Federation, as we needed permission from them, and I'm still awaiting a reply! So I contacted David Exall, the mercurial and frighteningly efficient Everton administrator, who was very helpful. He gave us the Brian Labone Trophy which is now a cherished heirloom. Each season the player of the year is presented with it, has his photo taken and then the Trophy is put away for safe-keeping.

"After the 1966 World Cup and the rise of TV in Ireland, we were inundated with black-&-white images of football. We started running 'kick-abouts' for kids at Fairview Park; it was almost impossible to get a pitch but we applied and duly got one. Once on a visit to Goodison we let a local kid sneak in with us with us and he asked us what our ground could hold – I said 120,000! What he didn't really realise was that Fairview Park is just a public park and you'd have had people hanging out of the trees!

"Over here, a kid at the age of reasoning follows the leading lights – the teams that are big – back then it was Leeds or Liverpool. Kids would claim they were true Evertonians until they came to leave the training sessions at which stage a kaleidoscope of shirt colours would appear!

"So I stated that the club was open to anyone to join but they had to be loyal to the traditions of Everton FC. We wear Everton colours and our motto is Ni Shasaionn Ach An Scoth which translates as Nil Satis Nisi Optimum (Scoth is a bit more pronounced than the English "best").

"Our logo is full of significance; it would take a page of A4 to describe in full. It consists of a circular band of Everton's Royal Blue edged with gold (blue and gold are also the Irish Heraldic colours and the European colours). Written on that is Club Everton Atha Cliath and underneath is a laurel branch in gold symbolising sporting achievement and the Olympic ideal with one leaf for each founding committee member. In the centre is another blue shield with Prince Rupert's Tower, Dublin Castle and a 1970s style football.

"We started as an under-16 team in the Dublin Schoolboys League, our first match was in June 1971, a 1-4 loss to WFTA. Our club got a fine reputation for schoolboy football (up to 18 years of age). We were so respected that we were often chosen to play against league representative teams in their warm-up games. As the boys got older they graduated to "Junior" football in the AFL where we stayed for 26 years.

"When we went to Merseyside, we'd play a match in the morning and then David Exall, and his super side-kick Bill Townsend, would arrange free tickets to Goodison Park. He'd make sure we got a "welcome" over the tannoy. Once we were there to watch the Goodison derby. Two of our players – Everton fans – got to be ball-boys at Goodison. We kept it quiet from them but arranged with their parents to have clean kit for them – then we gave them the news. They handed the balls to the captains and were surrounded by press.

"Home Farm Everton in the '90s were a bane as we had to scrap for money but when we mentioned our name was Everton people would go "Oh – Home Farm Everton" so we'd have to sell our club to them from scratch. I think Everton may have been "sold a pup" as there was no way Home Farm could be tied down to all their best kids graduating to Everton FC.


"Two years ago we joined the AUL so now we're a small fish in a big pond. We applied for the transfer too late so had to change our name. Despite me being the only Everton supporter it was insisted, at our AGM, that we keep our Everton name. So we registered as St Domingo for a season and are now back to being Club Everton. We have no terra firma to attach ourselves to and the number of clubs going to the wall is extraordinary. We had just 6 players at the beginning of this season but the league gave us 3 weeks grace. The average age of the team now is around 23 and we are just short of a proper keeper – but we made the quarter final of the cup. Our approach is that if someone's talents are being wasted with us we'll try and find him somewhere better rather than ruin his career.

"I'm long in the tooth now at 78, so I'm looking to the future of the club after I've "got off the bus" and got on "another one". So now the lads are running the club themselves in a very democratic way. It's all about the players and I'm looking forward to next season.

Jim Kearney trophy
"Jim Kearney was one of the six on that ferry back in 1971 and had a lot of involvement in the Club. He died 6 years ago so now we hold an annual Jim Kearney Memorial Trophy friendly match with the Irish Toffees to celebrate our birthday. We have a proper referee, linesmen and first-aiders; after the match we have a meal with a trophy presentation.

"I go to Goodison rarely now – my last game was the last game of the 2011-12 season against Newcastle. Trips to Merseyside are expensive and I feel a responsibility to be here for Club Everton – they play on Sundays and I want to be there to offer them moral support.

"My ambition was that Club Everton would be the principal work of my life; everybody passing through this world should do one good thing before they leave. I feel that I have been enriched by doing this and it gives me huge pleasure."



Authors note:

Club Everton Atha Cliath are on Facebook
The Irish Toffees supporters club can be visited at www.irish-toffees.com

Reader Comments

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Peter Mills
018 Posted 16/06/2013 at 09:49:15
Great post Rob.
Norman Merrill
028 Posted 16/06/2013 at 11:51:05
Well done, Rob. When I was a young lad, Everton had a great selection of Eire boys in their ranks. And a regular travelling support.

All the Best.

Brian Hennessy
048 Posted 16/06/2013 at 13:12:53
Excellent post Rob.

I think there is also a club in Cork called Everton as well.

A list of all time Irish Everton players would make for interesting reading too.

Dennis Stevens
055 Posted 16/06/2013 at 13:21:38
Marvellous piece, Rob. Seamus sounds like a fine Evertonian.
Gavin Cahill
073 Posted 16/06/2013 at 13:06:02
That's a fine report on an important strand of Everton's history in Ireland. I know Seamus and he's very diligent and dedicated to Club Everton.

Everton have a strong connection with Ireland. There are Everton fans in every city, town and village yet our presence is rarely seen or felt. The profile of the club has never really recovered to the zenith of the mid-80s. Kids are bombarded nowadays with merchandise and marketing from successful clubs all over Europe, not just England. We've had to compete with one of the most successful clubs in Europe on our door step and we've still held our own in the past. We need to be much more aggressive in our marketing. Success on the field would help and if you look at a club like Newcastle – who've never won much, one could argue that their merchandising profile is more pervasive than ours.

Evertonians past will tell you stories of packed ferries on a Friday night headed to Merseyside. I interviewed two ex-Everton and Irish internationals before they died a few years ago, Jimmy O'Neill and Tommy Clinton. Both of them loved the club. Jimmy was a quietly spoken, caring and obliging man. He played at a time when coal miners were paid more than he was so he appreciated every thing he got from the game. The club was a huge part of his life until the day he died although some of the performances in the late 90s and early 2000s must have broken his heart.

Tommy loved the club too and lived just a few streets away from Goodison Park. He was suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's when I began talking to him back in 2003 but he tried fighting it all the way. That was his nature on the pitch. He told me that his job with Everton was to kick the opposition and Jimmy backed that up by telling me that nothing got by Tommy on the pitch. Tommy was sold by Everton to Blackburn but he said he didn't like it there. I believe it involved a daily commute by train to get there and he was there for maybe a season before switching to Tranmere Rovers.

He always tried to stay as sharp as possible – he did crosswords every day which was remarkable considering his illness. I remember I first met him in a chance encounter at the Stuart hotel. We showed him the flag with the Everton Crest and the names of all the Irish players who had played for Everton. He was delighted to see his name and that somebody remembered him for something else other than that penalty miss against Bolton. I'll never forget the look on his face, he was chuffed.

Club Everton play the Irish Toffees every year in August for the Jim Kearney Memorial Trophy. I would dearly love to see ex-Everton players get involved. It is a family day out and players come from all over the country to play. It is opportunities like this that can improve the profile of the Club. If we were to believe Sky Sports, you would never have to leave the comfort of your own home to support your team. We all know it doesn't work like that for Everton. Football is nothing without it's fans and it's occasions like these that we have to make the most of.

Eugene Ruane
186 Posted 16/06/2013 at 18:14:28
A fantastic post. Great stuff.
Ged Alexander
225 Posted 16/06/2013 at 19:52:24
Not a dictatorship, a guided democracy...superb.

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