Footballing Memories

Dermot Creagh
How I got started with Lourdes Celtic and memories of Eddie Roche and 'Sunboy'.

Publshed: October 2022

I started playing football with Lourdes Celtic from 1969 for the U12 team, through to 1975 with the U17 team. Eddie Roche was the first manager I played under, and the last was Mr. Walton, who lived in the Mt Argus area.

Sunboy was the man who scouted me. He was a regular sight passing through Seagull House flats on his way up to Rutland Avenue where he lived. He had seen me playing a game of football in the open area between the blocks of flats, came over, asked if I was playing for any team, then said that he would like to take me up to Sundrive Park to join a training session with Mr. Roche. He must have had a couple of pints in the pub across the road that evening because I distinctly remember him having a smell of drink on his breath, and I thought that perhaps he was only kidding me, or that he'd forget. But he was true to his word and came down to the flats the next evening to get me. Mr. Roche immediately noticed that I had some talent and that, although I was short and skinny for an 11-year old, I was strong in the tackle, fast on my feet and could slip, turn and dance around heavy tackles. From that day onwards, I always wore the number 7 shirt and played on the right wing before finishing with Lourdes Celtic at the age of seventeen and moving on to play with Dolphin's Barn, and later with St. Teresa's of Donore Avenue.

Eddie was born to be a football coach. Indeed, I can still hear the cadence of his 'encouraging voice' in my head as I recall this brief memory at the age of 64, thousands of miles away in Hong Kong.

I spent many happy evenings and weekends training with and playing for Lourdes Celtic. Indeed, I often think about Eddie and Sunboy. Both were wonderful men, selfless human beings who knew how to take care of youngsters, many of whom were a handful for their own parents. Eddie had the kind of natural coaching talent back then that even professionally-trained coaches nowadays might struggle to grasp. He would push us through a great variety of exercises and drills which he developed to keep us all strong, fit and interested. Whenever Eddie shouted words of praise and encouragement during a match, I would feel a surge of pride and determination to play better, to run faster and tackle harder - that's the kind of impact he had on a young boy and teenager. Eddie was born to be a football coach. Indeed, I can still hear the cadence of his 'encouraging voice' in my head as I recall this brief memory at the age of 64, thousands of miles away in Hong Kong.

As for 'Sunboy'? Well, he was a real character, very well known and liked in the area. He was short and pudgy, very much a roly-poly like figure, about 5' 4' or so, with a red, moon-shaped face and almost always seen in a dark overcoat, with a cap over his tightly cut hair. You could say that he was the 'original skinhead', and whenever he smiled, his whole face lit up like a red bulb. He had a great sense of humour, too.

Both Eddie and Sunboy (or 'Sunny', as Eddie called him) are inseparable in my mind - for me, they are Lourdes Celtic. Sunboy was Eddie's 'right-hand man'. When Eddie was explaining a drill or exercise, he would ask Sunboy to demonstrate it first. I recall Sunboy running backwards up the hill in Sundrive and doing jumping jacks at the top, then jogging back down, saying, "Look, if I can do it, you can!". Of course, being rather fat and unfit, poor Sunboy would come back down the hill sweating buckets and gasping for breath. But he got the message across to our young minds, and we took off full speed up that hill! Sunboy carried all the gear for the team on match day in a large sack over his shoulder, and when the manager named the team, he would toss the appropriate numbered jersey at you. Or when we were training in the park, he'd carry a bag of balls, cones and flags for our drill practice. He was always there for the team - hail, rain or snow.

I recall Sunboy running backwards up the hill in Sundrive and doing jumping jacks at the top, then jogging back down, saying, "Look, if I can do it, you can!". Of course, being rather fat and unfit, poor Sunboy would come back down the hill sweating buckets...

He was a great fan of Man. Utd and I can still recall the opening verses of a poem he liked to recite to us in the van or on a bus on our way to matches. He claimed authorship, so Sunboy was also a bit of a poet!

Man United is the team for me,
And this I say with pride.
Where else in all Great Britain,
Could you find a better side?

I go to see them often,
I cheer for them with all my might.
With my rattle and my banner,
And my scarf of red and white.

You can keep your Leeds United,
Your Man City and Chelsea.
For Man United will always remain,
The greatest team for me.

I would like to express my deepest appreciation to everyone involved in the running of this great club, past and present, and most of all to the legend - Eddie Roche, a big "Thank you" for the precious time and kindness you offered me as a young boy/early teenager because you did make a big difference.