By Philip O’Rourke (@effect_phil)
Monaghan United, known as ‘The magic Mon’s’, the feature club on the infamous ‘Rod Squad 2’ and the home of the famous Mon-Dog. That’s a lot to take in for relevantly small club. One that, like Kilkenny City AFC, didn’t enjoy much success on the pitch in it’s short time in the League of Ireland. But that didn’t stop it from making history in its own right, nor did it stop the club from creating fantastic memories for some of it’s fans. Here is the story of Monaghan United.
Monaghan United Football Club was founded in 1979 and became one of the founding member clubs of the League of Ireland First Division in the 1985-86 season. The club played its home games at Gortakeegan. It took the club eight seasons to earn promotion to the top-flight, creating history in the process. The club finished 3rd in the First Division and were the first club to ever be promoted through the relegation/promotion play-off route. They beat Waterford United 5-2 on aggregate to reach the League of Ireland Premier Division for the 1993-94 season (drawing 2-2 in Waterford and winning 3-0 at home). They finished 7th in their debut season in the top tier but after two seasons in the top-flight they found themselves back in the First Division again after being relegated in the 1994-95 season. They remained there until being promoted again in 2000 but they only lasted one season this time and were relegated again.
It wasn’t until 2010 when the ‘Magic Mon’s’ gave their fans something to cheer about, when they reached the League Cup final in what would prove to be the only major final that the club would reach in their short history. Unfortunately, they failed to add a trophy to their club’s history books, as they lost 1-0 to Sligo Rovers. 2010 proved to be one of the clubs most successful, but probably one of too many ‘nearly’ moments as they finished third in the First Division and reached the relegation/promotion play-offs. Once again, they beat Waterford United but lost to Bray Wanderers in a penalty shoot-out in the final. The game itself was televised on RTE and will be remember for when Monaghan’s fans celebrated a goal and ended up collapsing a wall at the Carlisle grounds.
2011 saw the arrival of the colourful character that is Roddy Collins and with it the TV cameras as he shot his TV documentary, ‘The Rod squad 2’ whilst managing the club. The spotlight seemed to work for the club as they once again got to the relegation/promotion play-offs and this time they were successful by beating Galway United 5-1 on aggregate to reach the Premier Division again. However, once again Monaghan struggled to adapt to the dizzy heights of the Premier Division, but this time it would prove to be the last time they would reach it. In fact they didn’t even finish the season, and mid-way through the club withdrew from the league citing the reasons to be ‘mainly financial but not the only reason’. And with that Monaghan United lost their League of Ireland status.
Here’s a YouTube promo clip for the return of The Rod Squad
The club may have lost its League of Ireland status but the memories it left its fans will never be taken away. Julie-Ann Sherlock, a former club volunteer, media officer and above all else a fan told me that despite the clubs demise she will always have the good memories of following her club around the country. ‘So many great times, but one that stands out was our first visit to the Brandywell when Derry were relegated last time. There was about 15 of us fans and we out-sang the Derry lot and won the game. We went back to the social bar and had the craic with the lads and I was made an honorary JSB’. (I quickly learned that JSB stood for The Jungle Side Boys. They were a gang of super supporters)
Julie-Ann also showed a lot of admiration for Roddy Collins, the man who got the club promoted to the Premier Division. She saw him as a great help for putting Monaghan United on the footballing map. ‘It was a dream come true for me. I spent so much time and effort trying to create a buzz about the club and get media attention. Then Roddy came along, and the media were obsessed. He was so good to our club and I know he gets a hard time from a lot of people, but he was amazing for us…’
The lack of success on the pitch didn’t dampen the spirits either and the fans wouldn’t let a little thing like not winning get them down. ‘Often there was disappointment on the pitch, but we would cheer each other up on the way home…Actually the best away game was when I drove myself and 3 others to Athlone for a game. There were about 15 of us altogether at the game. We were 2-0 down at half-time and we came back to draw 4-4. We had a funny trip back home, where every so often we would burst out laughing’. Like every fan Julie-Ann had her favourite, ‘My favourite player was Keith Foy, a real talent…He played for Nottingham Forest and was on the Republic of Ireland under 16’s with Damien Duff when they won the Euros’.
Julie-Ann now works in Malaysia so supporting a League of Ireland club would be a hard job to do, that and the pain of Monaghan United’s disappearance made it even harder to watch any football anymore. ‘I didn’t have the heart to follow much after we left the league. It was like a bad break-up, had to cut ties!’ She did however pay special mention to Jim McGlone, who was chairman of the club for many years and dedicated his life to the club, and in Julie-Ann’s words was ‘A club legend.’
After speaking to Julie-Ann it become apparent that the small club of Monaghan United was more than a football club. It was something for the people of Monaghan to be proud of, to show the rest of Ireland that they were there, for them to be noticed, and weather you hated him or not, Roddy got them that. But what Monaghan United represented was a club with a tight-knit fan base, one that, even though they never won a single trophy in their history, still had laughs and still made memories. So I leave you with Julie-Ann’s description of what the club really meant to her and the fans of Monaghan United. ‘The club was my family’.
Next up on Forgotten Clubs, we venture into Dublin for the first time and look at one of the oldest but more successful clubs of the League of Ireland’s history. Drumcondra FC let’s hear your story….