One history, many stories.

Thousands of people have passed through Lourdes Celtic Football Club as players, managers, and officials down through the years. This is a brief history of some of those people and the events that have made Lourdes Celtic the club it is today. Sadly, there's undoubtedly characters missed and stories forgotten in the passage of time. But their contribution, and the contribution of each new generation, is recognised in the continued success of Lourdes Celtic Football Club – and the fulfilment of our founders' ambition to serve all the children and young people of our community.

Football from the streets

Lourdes Celtic Football Club was established in 1957 by John 'Bower' Bradley, Liam 'Sunboy' O'Connor, Jimmy Nolan, Jimmy Addie, and later aided in their efforts by Eddie Roche. The name originates from the Lourdes Road – a local focal point in the Maryland area of Dubin 8, and a time when most football was played and organised on the streets. 

The five founders, who were only just out of school themselves, recognised that football offered children in the area a sense of freedom and maybe for some an opportunity for a better life. But with only 8-9 schoolboy clubs in Dublin at the time, those opportunities were limited and particularly in the 1950s inner city. And so, out of passion for game and belief in community – Lourdes Celtic Football Club was born. Little did these men know, from humble beginings, how famous they would make Lourdes Road in Irish football circles. 

Lourdes Celtic Football Club's inaugral game was played against Annamo Rangers in the Phoenix Park – the club's first home ground. And no sign of the green and yellow just yet – instead kicking off in black and white stripes. The captain of this first Lourdes Celtic team was a boy called Tommy Doolin, who many years later became a coach at the club himself – as did two other players, Sean Gilligan and George Larkin (an occurance that is repeated to this day). Tommy also later managed the club's first girls team. 

It has to be said that Lourdes Celtic did not arrive in the park too well equipped that day, in fact they had not even got a ball. But a man that was to become a longtime member of the club came to the rescue – Sean Murphy, who again, went on later in life to manage teams at the club.

Community Spirit

From this very small beginning the club began to grow (in no small part to the diligent scouting efforts of Sunboy) and now with two teams moved to nearby Dublin 12 and Éamonn Ceannt Park, known locally as Sundrive Park. This was to become their permanent home to this day. In the 60s, the club grew to 4 teams and the founders now had support in running the club from people like Joe Smith, Sean Freeman, Harry Rogers, Johnny Garnett, Blondie O'Connor, Sean Courtney, Brian Birmingham, Joe Conroy, Jackie Jameson, and the Timmins family – who among other things carried many a football team on the back of their coal trucks. 

The spirit of volunteerism was a solid foundation for the club and help was always welcome. On occasion, Manchester United player Billy Behan would lend a hand with pre-game pep talks. Lourdes Celtic was growing into a force to be reckoned with, and began to move up the Dublin & District Schoolboy League (DDSL) – a fact recognised by the great Don Revie of Leeds United who sent over some kit for the boys in return for a bit of scouting.

1960s: Lourdes Celtic team captain Paul Redmond (right) shaking hands with the opposition captain prior to a kickoff.
Lourdes Celtic F.C. ahead of kick-off versus Blackpool Youths – who had a young Alan Ball among their ranks that day. For the record, Lourdes Celtic won 2-1.
Sunboy (far left, back row) with a Lourdes Celtic team in 1969.

Planning for the future

In the 1970's a man called Fr. Dave 'Rocker' Roughneen came to the Crumlin area. A determined community activist, he became involved in Lourdes Celtic and through his efforts plans began for a clubhouse on Old County Road. He was not alone in his vision for the club – he had a lot of help from people like Brian Farrell, Tommy Ronan, Tony Sheridan, and Maurice Price (who would later go on to be part of Jack Charlton's and Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland coaching set-up).

It was in this decade that Lourdes Celtic joined forces with Cashelvilla and this union brought John Dwyer and Pat Connelly came to the club. Both were to make a very important contributions over the next two decades.

As the club grew, so did the people needed to run it – and Lourdes Celtic required a place to hold meetings. Jimmy Graham was to come to the rescue, turning a shed in his back garden into a meeting place for Lourdes Celtic committees. Another popular place was Eddie and Pauline Roche's kitchen – one of the many contributions that Pauline and Eddie made over the years.

Others worked tirelessly on the periphery – people like Maureen Farrell, Irene Price, Marie Courtney, Billy Walton, Ciaran and Doreen Collins, John Breen, and all the partners who had to take second place every weekend while their husbands and wives were out with Lourdes Celtic. 

The five founders of Lourdes Celtic Football Club left to right: Eddie Roche, Jimmy Addie, Jimmy Nolan and inset top, John 'Bower' Bradley and bettom right, Liam 'Sunboy' O'Connor.

Success on and off the pitch

Meanwhile the football end of things was prospering. Now with about 14 teams, Lourdes Celtic was definitely getting things right on and off the pitch. One of the best teams that ever graced the Hill (Sundrive Park) was to come along, managed by John Bradley and Maurice Price. In 1978 they won the Triple – League, DDSL Cup, and All Ireland Cup. They also won Team of the Year as nominated by the Evening Press. Most of this team was to eventually play football professionally in either England or Ireland. 

The U15s team behind a remarkable treble of League, DDSL Cup, and All-Ireland Cup in the late 1970s.
The Barry Cup winning Lourdes Celtic team of the 1970s donning a purple and green kit.

The 80s saw Lourdes Celtic open their newly built club house on Old County Road, in Crumlin. Years of hard work had finally paid off and the facility was the envy of every sports club in Dublin.

Lourdes Celtic players were also getting the recognition they deserved with Niall Quinn and Pat Scully on trial with Arsenal and Aarron Callaghan with Stoke City. It was also around this time that Dave Roughneen was to move from the area, but as in all clubs, as people move on, new people come in like Jim Waldron, Bill Darby, Ray Jones and Tony McNally. With these new committee members, came new players too. Among them was Tony Sheridan, son of Lourdes Celtic coach Tony Sheridan Senior. 'Shero' would go on to be voted Under 18 Player of the Year and League of Ireland player of the year by the FAI. He later played top-flight football for Coventry in the UK and won League of Ireland titles for Shelbourne.

Bower Bradley and Maurice Price's Lourdes Celtic U17s at the 1983 Pepsi Cola Cup Final versus Home Farm. A great team that included Niall Quinn (back row, second from right).
Pat Scully and Bower around 1982 just before Pat signed for Arsenal.

The Nineties: An exciting decade for football and Lourdes Celtic

The 1990s brought Lourdes Celtic into a new era, and a very professional attitude towards football. Committee men like Paul Duffy, Bernard Keegan, Tony Merriman, Jim Waldron, Eddie Roche, and Shay L'Estrange saw the club go from strength to strength with 22 teams and a staff of full-time and part-time employees under the stewardship of another longtime member, Stephen Condron (whose father played in the very first Lourdes Celtic team). The partnership of two men in particular, Merriman and L'Estrange, would go on to see the club through the next 20 years.

The success of the Irish International team during World Cup Italia '90 and USA '94 brought a new energy to soccer in the country and Lourdes Celtic were well placed to capitalise on it. On the pitch, the 90s saw Lourdes Celtic help produce outstanding talents such as Damien Duff, Andy Reid, Niall Byrne, John Paul Kelly, and Joey O'Brien – all going on to represent their country at international level.

In the second half of the decade, the club established their academy to help develop the next generation of footballers and introduce children to the game from an early age. This investment was to pay dividends in the decades to come.

The girls get in on the action

Unlike many other clubs at the time, girls' football was now being given serious attention at Lourdes Celtic. Tony Sheridan (Senior) along with Tommy Doolin and Brian Jones established a new girls' team in the 1990s, recruiting some of the best female players from around the country – including those already playing in boys' leagues. 

The team went on to win every domestic trophy available at the time and even travelled to the US to compete in tournaments. Unsurprisingly, several of the girls went on to further success including Irish Internationals Elaine O'Connor and Susan Byrne.

Not only did Sheridan establish girls' football in Lourdes Celtic, but he also brought a new level of professionalism to the fledgling women's game in Ireland.

Club members pose for a photo in Old County Glen to commerate the 40th anniversary in 1997.
Club founders Jimmy Addie (far left) , Eddie Roche (centre left), Bower (centre right), and Jimmy Nolan (far right) seen here with former Lourdes Celtic player Niall Quinn (centre), at Lourdes Celtic's 40th anniversary celebrations held at the Mansion House in 1997.
Tony Merriman, former Lourdes Celtic Chairperson and long time servant of the club. 
Tom Doolin, left, captain of the first Lourdes Celtic team, and later a coach of the first girls team. Seen here with Bower Bradley, and Elaine O'Connor, captain of that first Lourdes Celtic girls team. 

Good things come in threes

The 2000s saw a major focus on the redevelopment of the facilities spearheaded by the continued leadership of Merriman, Roche, and L'Estrange. Phase 1 saw the redevelopment of Old County with a new outdoor astro and upgraded clubhouse facilities including offices and a boardroom.

Phase 2 was considerably more painful as it involved a two year closure of 'The Hill', the club's grass pitches within Éamonn Ceannt Park, for leveling and re-laying. But the result was a new playing surface that was the envy of clubs across the country.

Phase 3 was the biggest undertaking of all – a new all-weather astro playing surface at Sundrive. Its development took 8 years in total and was officially opened in May 2006. Lourdes Celtic now had facilities on par with the best, due in no small part to the persistence of Merriman.

The success of the redevelopment plans were matched by progress on the pitch, with the naughties seeing Lourdes Celtic win a raft of silverwear including a series of SFAI All-Ireland National trophies as well as various DDSL league titles and cups. In addition, a record number of Lourdes Celtic players went on to domestic and cross-channel careers in football.

2007 saw the beginings of what would become the club's 'Football for All' section. A one-off game of football for children with dyspraxia quickly grew into a hugely important part of the fabric of Lourdes Celtic thanks to the dedication of Martin Mates and the support of Dyspraxia Ireland and the FAI. A striking example of the club's belief in serving all the young people of the local community.

Shay L'Estrange, Catherine Byrne (Lord Mayor), and Steve Staunton (Ireland Manager) at the official opening of a new all-weather pitch in Éamonn Ceannt Park (Sundrive Park) 2006.

Even with the growth and success, the family feel of the club remained just as strong to draw people back. John Courtney, former Lourdes Celtic player, Managing Director of Umbro Ireland and sponsor of football at all levels in Ireland, returned to the club to become its honorary president.

The end of the decade also saw the end of Phase 3 of the redevelopment of the club's facilities with the opening of a modern clubhouse called Sundrive Pavilion. A fantastic addition to the club and the local community of kids who it benefited.

A period of renewal

The 2010s saw much change for Lourdes Celtic Football Club. With a new committee came fresh ideas and perspectives. Dave Murtagh, who had served with Merriman and L'Estrange on the outgoing committee now took up the mantel as Chairperson – backed by some club veterans Carol Lacey, Alan Byrne, Paul Mulraney, and Phil Cascara.

2016 was a year to remember with the unusual occurrance of three U13 Lourdes Celtic teams competing for DDSL cup honours in the same age group. In addition the club had both U15s and U16s competing in DDSL finals with the U16s winning the Liam Brady Cup.

2019 also saw the re-establishment of a girls' football section. A welcome return given Lourdes Celtic's proud history of girls' football.

Further investment in the academy, and in the profile of the club itself, saw record numbers of young people joining – part of an extraordinary period of growth towards the end of the decade.

Two lifelong stalwarts of the club. Far left, the late John 'Bower' Bradley and far right, Eddie Roche.

The history still being written...

The 2020s have brought a renewed sense of optimism to Lourdes Celtic Football Club as its committee and coaches continue the mission set by the five founders well over half a century ago – to serve the young people of the local community. 

The new decade saw a new sponsorship deal – struck with a former player, Conor McGregor and his company McGregor Sports & Entertainment. With this investment, facilities at Old County received a significant upgrade with the re-laying of the outdoor astro and the conversion of the hall into an indoor astro.

With a strong growth in membership, new ideas and a vision are more important than ever. With those in place, the club has never been fitter and more ready for the future...

Edited by Rodí O'Leary in November 2021. Last updated August 2023. Sourced with thanks from an original account by Shay L'Estrange in 1997; John Fallon in 2007; and Shay L'Estrange, Dave Murtagh, and Des O'Connor in 2017. 

Celebrating 65 years of Lourdes Celtic Football Club

Download your own copy of our 65th Anniversary Booklet celebrating the club and its members past and present.

Further reading: Past players, coaches, and club members recall their own time at the club.

Pat Egan, former player and Club man of the Year 1977. Read More

Eddie Roche, lifelong servant of the club and President. Read More

Jimmy Nolan recalls the birth of Lourdes Celtic Football Club. Read More

Dermot Creagh on how he got started with Lourdes Celtic. Read More

Have memories you'd like to share? We'd love to hear them.