Organised soccer in Salthill really began with Christy Gilbert. He formed a club in the 1940’s called Salthill Crusaders and they played for several years with mixed success. They eventually disbanded but some years later another club was formed called Salthill Athletic, and they met with a lot of success. In particular they had a terrific under 17 squad in 1956/57 who won all the local competitions. They repeated that feat the following year at minor grade and also had a great run in the FAI under 18 cup. On this team were Donal Morris, Christy O’Connor, Johnny Lillis, Chuck O’Donnell, Doug Molloy, Paud Mannion, Gay Copperwhite, Danno Heaslip, Pete Faherty, Billy McCarthy and Tony Barrett.
Salthill was growing and the population increasing and a number of juvenile soccer clubs were formed. Devon Celtic was the most successful of these, and eventually, in the mid seventies, they amalgamated with the others and Salthill Athletic and formed the club known as Salthill Devon. Sheer enthusiasm and a lot of hard work has gone into developing this club into a very successful unit with one of the largest under age structures in the country.
One of the earliest things they organised was The Salthill Fives, a five-a-side competition that has been played in Salthill Park for the last 33 years. It has become something of an institution in Galway over the Whit weekend. Its knockout format has remained virtually the same since day one and is a major factor in the popularity of the tournament. Some years back when the League of Ireland was played through the winter, teams like Shelbourne, Shamrock Rovers and Derry City regularly played in Salthill. One of the great attractions for other teams was the possibility of playing against the professionals.
A regular feature of the Fives was the ‘cross pollination’ of players from various local clubs. Lads played as a group of friends but they might have come from two or three different clubs. They would play under their own name, and of course this could be a tricky thing at the Fives. A battle of wits has gone on since the beginning with lads trying to enter a team with an inappropriate name in the hope that it would be called out over the tannoy by Brendan Shaughnessy “The Voice of the Fives”. Most were caught at entry and teams asked to nominate another name. One classic name that slipped through the net was a team called “Norfolk & Goode”, which looks innocent enough, but say it out loud quickly and you get a different picture.
The Carlsberg Fives are a great event, a real celebration, a mixture of good football, awful football, a lot of laughs and a genuine feel good factor. So why not pay a visit to Salthill Park this weekend for the 34th annual competition and join in the sport and the entertainment.
Our photograph today is of the “Shuttlemen”, a team from the Claddagh, all of whom were accomplished players. They are, back row, left to right, Mike Gannon, Tom Cox, Ricky Flaherty, Ger Flaherty and Tommy Conneely. In front are Padraic Doherty and Brian Long. Ricky Flaherty and Brian Long were both capped for Ireland at youth level; Tommy Conneely played schools rugby for Ireland; Ricky, Brian and ger all played for Galway United, and ‘Doc’ kept goal for the District League on many occasions.
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