Villa Celtic looking to go out with a bang for club hero Byrne

by Dave Donnelly

Coolock club Villa Celtic will close their doors for the final time next week, bringing to an end a 68-year history of amateur football in the area.

Villa will host a dinner at Parnell’s GAA club – where they’ve played their home games in recent years – to honour the work of a man who has come to embody the club.

The amateur game has seen countless clubs go to the wall in recent times but where Villa differ is they are determined to go out with a bang rather than a whimper.

The club has, since the 50s, been sustained by the work of club secretary Dermot Byrne and his wife Marie.

Byrne turned 80 earlier this month and, rather than step back and see the club gradually fall into disrepair, the club have decided it’s the ideal time to bow out gracefully.

“Like any club nowadays, money is tight,” said Colm Kavanagh, who is organising the event.

“We’re going for 68 years and we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve seen a lot of clubs go by the wayside in the last few years.

“We’re one of the clubs that’s been with the AUL since the first day and we wanted to go out with a bang rather than just fizzling away.

“The man himself has been with the club since day one, so it’s as much to recognise himself and the service he’s provided to the club as well as everything else.

“I was down with them a couple of weeks ago and they still have books of records of the incomings and outgoings from the 50s and 60s.

“The behind the scenes work they put in that nobody realises is unreal considering they haven’t got a penny out of it.”

Villa, who finished fifth in the AUL’s third tier last season, have had some notable names pass through the club in recent years.

Fair City actor David O’Sullivan, who plays Deco Bishop, is a former player, as is Romanian futsal international Emanuel Moldoveanu who had two stints with the club.

And given their location in the heart of Dublin’s GAA hinterland, it’s no surprise that a few intercounty players covertly lined out when the ban on ‘foreign sports’ was bitterly enforced.

Byrne himself will be honoured by the FAI at their Festival of Football next year in recognition of his outstanding work over more than half a century.

“I was in touch with John Delaney and explained what the club was all about and Dermot himself, how long he’s been with the club and what he’s done.

“It came as a surprise – it was a shot in the dark more than anything else, but it’s good to see they recognise people like that even if they’re not from the biggest of clubs.”

The farewell dinner takes place on Sunday, September 30 at Parnell’s GAA Club. Tickets cost €10 and are available on the door from 7pm.

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