By Dave Donnelly
The story of St Patrick’s Athletic and the club’s unique roots in the fabric of Inchicore will be discussed in a free online talk hosted by Richmond Barracks next week.
Primary school teacher and St Pat’s historian Dermot Looney will present the 45-minute lecture, the latest in a series of club histories he aims to funnel into a book in the near future.
St Patrick’s Athletic are the only one of Dublin’s big four football clubs that has yet to have a definitive history produce and it’s a gap Looney has sought to fill over the past three years.
Monday’s meeting, entitled ‘St Patrick’s Athletic – The Pride of Inchicore,’ will focus not only on the club’s history but also how, unlike any other club in Dublin, it is centred on the village of Inchicore.
The club grew from the CIE Works, then called the GSR Works, in Inchicore in 1929 and was passed down through generations of railway workers in the local area.
Saints have had somewhat of a nomadic existence over those 92 years, including spells in the Phoenix Park, Chapelizod and Milltown before settling at Richmond Park.
The fans, too, have moved all over Dublin, with particularly strong roots in Ballyfermot, Drimnagh and Clondalkin, but all roads lead back to Inchicore and, Looney says, for very good reason.
“It goes back to a quote I got from an old man who sadly passed away. He said to me: ‘Inchicore is St Pat’s and St Pat’s is Inchicore’,” Looney told the Dublin Gazette.
“I think there’s a lot in that. I will be telling the story of the football club but through the lens of its connection to that Inchicore community, and its own community as a football club.
“Gerry McCord was his name. He was a very interesting man and he passed away last year. Gerry actually played for Pat’s in the 1950s, but he had supported them since the 40s.
“He wrote a lovely little piece as a reflection on St Pat’s and that’s what he said in that piece.
“That gave me the idea that I wanted to talk about Pats not only as a football club that we all go and watch in the League of Ireland, but as an institution in the history of Inchicore.
“Inchicore has had the GSR Works, the church and GAA clubs, Richmond Park, and other historical places and institutions of their own, but Pats is very important in the story of Inchicore.
“It’s a story that hasn’t really been told an awful lot, certainly in an academic way, so I want to get the conversation going about the important of Pat’s in the community and the importance of the community in St Pat’s.”
Lockdown has coincided with an upsurge in interest in the historical roots of all clubs in the League of Ireland, as people search for meaning at a time when its in short supply.
Looney’s effort to document the Athletic’s storied history – they won the League of Ireland in their first-ever season in 1952 and have never been relegated – predates all that upheaval.
His work has seen him delve through decades of newspaper reports, personal histories and interviews with people from the club’s early days, and a clear pattern has persevered.
“Even when they weren’t playing in Richmond Park, Pat’s were an Inchicore club, founded by apprentices and young lads worked in the GSR Works.
“They were upported by fundraising in the local bars and the institute in the Works estate. It was supported by people going on trains.
“Even in the non-league days, [you had] people going down to Cobh for Pat’s first-ever FAI Cup game in 1948. Pat’s were a railway club, founded by railway works, and supported by the time and the wider community in Inchicore right from its earliest days.
“It’s the type of story that needs to be told and it’s great we’re seeing the likes of Richmond Barracks beginning to celebrate that, the story of sport and the social history of Inchicore.
“It’s a great story in a place that sometimes isn’t covered very positively.”
Caption: The great St Pat’s side of the mid-1950s, wearing an early club crest on their away jerseys (above); Jim Hartnett, one of three players from St Pat’s non-league era to later play senior football for Ireland, while playing in the First Division in England with Middlesbrough (left)