Galway Bohemians earn FAI Club Mark
The club was founded in 1932 by Mr. John O’Dowd (RIP). Although born in Galway, John worked for some years in the printing trade in Kilkenny City, where he helped greatly in the formation of juvenile soccer in the area. He might well have remained on in the ‘Marble City’ for keeps was it not for a quirk of fate which forced him to return to his native Galway City in 1930. John’s widowed sister Mrs. Brigid Mulryan, who lived in Woodquay, died in that year- leaving a young family of three girls and a boy to be cared for.
It was typical of the heart of the man that he immediately shook off his Kilkenny roots and went to Galway to ‘look after’ his nephew and three nieces. The boy went ‘down the country’ to be cared for by a relative and John, who remained bachelor all of his life, took on the onerous task of being both father and mother to the three orphaned girls, Anna, Vera and Maisie.
In 1931, John had things going smoothly again in the family circle and had time to study how things were going in his native city in other spheres. He was amazed to discover that there was no organised juvenile soccer being played in the Galway area. He was really annoyed to discover that the playing of soccer in the city was frowned upon by a certain section of influential citizens – notably by the schools’ authorities and the pseudo-nationalists who claimed that soccer was a ‘foreign game’ and was to be tabooed! There was also hostility from some of the established junior soccer clubs in Galway regarding underage football, but this was for selfish reasons.
The adult footballers deemed that the ‘young fellas’ would only prove to be a nuisance, taking up space on the pitches, using footballs and other gear, etc. and young players did not receive any encouragement. That is until John O’Dowd put a stop to all that nonsense!
John took all this ‘bull’ about soccer being a ‘foreign game’ by the horns. Approaching the Galway Football Committee, the body in charge of soccer in the City at the time, with an ‘are ye men or are ye mice’ attitude, Mr. O’Dowd literally ‘demanded’ that a juvenile league be inaugurated under the mantle of the then parent body, now the Football Association of Ireland.
John O’Dowd got the nod of approval from the Galway Committee which he had so bravely sought and thus dawned a new era for soccer in the Connacht Capital. It must go on record that the pioneers of juvenile soccer in the West got the full support of Jimmy Cahill, who was secretary of the Galway Committee at the time, in getting the Juvenile League under way.
Galway Bohemians was originally a Galway Representative club consisting of the best minor players which mostly played locally for Crusaders and Hotspurs. The Bohemians played a number of challenge matches and made their debut in the Irish Free State Minor Cup in 1934 –‘35. It was a winning debut too, for it was on a wet and windy day at South Park, Claddagh, that Bohs beat Westport Town (3-0) in the first round of the cup. Bohemians travelled to Sligo to play in the Connacht area final of the Minor Cup and put up a very brave performance before going under to a very experienced Sligo United 3-1.
The good showing by Bohs in the National competition prompted John O’Dowd to suggest the players stick together as a fully-fledged Bohemians Club and enter in the Junior competitions in Galway, Connacht, and National level. This had to be ironed out with the Crusaders and Hotspurs as the original idea was that the players would return to their respective clubs after Bohemians had played their last match in the Free State Minor Cup. There were a few objectors in the two clubs at the time to the formation of a third club, but, thankfully, agreement was eventually reached, and the formation of Bohemians was done with the “Blessing” of both Crusaders and Hotspurs.
The Club went on to have many decades of success and are still joint holders of the record for most Connacht Junior Cup titles, a record they share with Castlebar Celtic. Indeed, the Club were expected to enter the League of Ireland to represent Galway when the League was created but they opted not to go for it and Galway Rovers, who later became Galway United, took up the mantle.
The Club continued their success through the 70’s and 80’s but the early 90’s started an instable period for the Club. Although they maintained their status as one of the best teams locally and provincially, the loss of their Clubhouse and pitch to separate developments started a chain of events that impacted the underage structures and led to lack of development of young players. The Club was on the brink of cessation in 2013 when the current committee took up the challenge to try creating this juvenile structure. Establishing the pitch we lease in Millars Lane, Rahoon, from the City Council has helped them to form a community connection. It was a slow process but the Club maintained focus on their plan to develop structures that encourage participation and a learning environment for youngsters and they now have a Mens team and juvenile teams from U15 all the way down to their Bohmites Academy which caters for players from 4 -7. The Club have a membership of just over 180. The installation of additional amenities at the pitch over the coming months will help to further sustain the Club.
Education has been a key pillar in the Clubs success. Utilising the Galway City Council Sports Club funding available through the Galway Sports Partnership has been a vital resource in part funding this educational strategy. To that end, Jason Craughwell of the GSP and indeed Nigel Keady and Johnny Morris-Burke from the FAI have been invaluable in their advice, guidance and training delivery.
The Club now have a valuable group of Officers and Coaches that were recruited from an excellent pool of parents that have been highly engaged and proactive couple with a blend of long-term Club members that understand and relay the ethos and DNA of the Club.
The achievement of the FAI Club Mark Entry Level Award is a great reflection on the work put in and targeting the FAI One Star Award will be the next driver for further improvements.
The FAI Club Mark is free and optional for clubs and aims to:
• Improve the management of clubs ‘off the field’
• Establish and promote best practice
• Empower and support clubs
• Recognise and reward clubs for achieving high standards
• Increase a club’s capacity to operate effectively and grow football in communities throughout Ireland.
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