Out of great tragedy came a south inner-city success story as Oliver Bond Celtic fly the flag for one of Dublin’s most neglected communities.
Oliver Bond may have tasted bitter defeat, courtesy of a late Paul ‘Spot’ Murphy goal in Whitehall, but the fact they were even competing in a Leinster Junior Cup final is a story in itself.
The club was founded just four years ago but a narrow defeat in the FAI Junior Cup semi-final to local rivals Usher Celtic symbolised just how far they’d come in such a short time.
It’s just two years since Wexford’s biggest club had won the FAI Junior Cup at the Aviva Stadium – to be not only rubbing shoulders, but competing to the last, is compliment enough for Oliver Bond.
Dig a little deeper and the tale of an inner-city club growing from nothing and competing in spite of setback after setback is inspiring and enraging in equal measure.
Eddie Keogh had just completed his first season in charge of an Oliver Bond Celtic senior side he’d set up when the news came.
His best friend, and Oliver Bond’s star striker, Martin Luby died by suicide. At his funeral, the brains trust that would drive the club forward came together.
Two trebles in the AUL and a Major Sunday 1 title in their first year in the Leinster Senior League have followed since and next year they will compete for a place in intermediate football.
The challenges in the interim have been numerous, and the human toll immense: Keogh was homeless for two years as he built the club, living with his partner and four children in a hotel.
His family is now happily housed on nearby Whitefriar Street but the fight to keep the club as a positive force in an area abandoned by the authorities goes on.
“There’s a tragic story behind it, but through tragedy it’s become one of the most successful stories around,” Keogh tells the Dublin Gazette.
“At Martin’s funeral, all the lads that played together as kids and went on to play for the likes of Crumlin, Cherry Orchard, Tolka, the League of Ireland and a few [who] went to England [spoke].
“They said, listen boys, Eddie is after getting this team up and running, and I think we should go back and play with each other. Many other teams would have folded.
“We were only a year together and we had no backing, but through the funeral we got all the players back. They all came back from other clubs but they’re all from the area.
“There’s two or three from the northside of the city, but they’re actually friends with the lads that are in the club. There’s nobody in the club that isn’t a friend.”
Amid the personal upheaval, the Liberties native battled with Dublin City Council for access to the local pitches and the rundown clubhouse, which was demolished over the summer.
With generous, but minimal sponsors, Keogh has had to foot many of the club’s bills himself – and their bill for training and playing in Grangegorman alone amounts to €20,000 a year.
Keogh had taken proposals to the Council for the club to take over management of the pitch and to rebuild the clubhouse with labour from the various tradesmen involved in Oliver Bond.
The rundown clubhouse was quietly demolished during the summer and no announcement has been made about what will come of the site in the future.
“They knocked down the clubhouse in the flats during the summer. It’s disgraceful. It’s been derelict going back a while.
“What we done was we came up with a proposal where we were getting grants from the FAI, 30 lads out of the club were going to do the on-site work.
“They’re all tradesman, and we had an insurance company that were going to insure it. Just to do it back up, because it was right beside the pitch in the flats, and the pitch itself is rundown to bits.
“It’s like as if Dublin Corporation want the flats to be rundown. They see us coming up now with two senior men’s teams, an academy team with 50 kids, a girls’ team, an over-35s team being set up.
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“It’s like they’re looking at us as a threat. The one thing we went for, we sent a proposal in and we just got told to leave it on a desk. It wasn’t even looked in.
“That was a kick in the teeth because I was telling the Corporation, look at what we’re after doing in three-and-a-half years.
“I got brought over to the Lord Mayor’s office and got a scroll for my services in the area. That’s in four years – give us ten years and give us a bit of backing. Think of what we can do.
“They’re worried about youngfellas on corners – we’re trying to get them off corners. We’re trying to give them a choice.”
Proposal after proposal has been made to the power that be but Oliver Bond have found few friends in high places in their quest to offer an alternative path to kids in the area.
“One of the things on the table, and this was laughable, was they were talking about building a two-storey clubhouse with a football pitch on the roof. I just laughed at it, I said ‘what?’
”I was only off the phone yesterday to a fella off the Corporation. He sent an email to my secretary to say he wanted a meeting to discuss the way the pitch was left on Sunday.
“We played in a final on Sunday, got beaten, and a few lads went back and had a couple of drinks. But all my boys were gone home – just people out of the flats chose to stay there and have drinks.
“I can’t tell people where to drink or what to do. He rang me and said ‘we need to sit down and have a meeting.’
“And I just stopped him with a full stop and said, hold on a minute, meet now when you want to meet, when it’s negative about the pitch.
“But I look to meet you the last two or three years and put proposals in place and you don’t want to meet me.
“And now, all of a sudden, because a few cans or a few bottles were left on the pitch, you want to meet up with me?
“They actually said they were going to weld the gate shut – that’s what he said to me. I fought for six months to get a lock on the gate because there was people letting their dogs in to shite on the pitch.
“I fought and yous wouldn’t let me lock that gate. I fought for six months on the phone, put Facebook posts up one after another, and eventually you let me put a lock on the gate.”