Perhaps it’s only fitting that in their 40th year in existence one of Donegal’s most celebrated clubs will play a central role in the FAI’s festival of football in the county.
Current Ulster Senior League champions Fanad United have won many a trophy locally, as well as making their name synonymous on the national stage since their formation on the peninsula in the 1971/72 season by Fr Mick Sweeney.
FAI CEO John Delaney will be at Triaghalough on Monday evening, where the Mulroy Academy Summer School will be officially launched. The academy trains and encourages young boys and girls from the age of six to 16 years.
“After 40 years in existence it’s nice to get recognised by the FAI,” Fr Sweeney said from Traighlough yesterday where the club was completing some maintenance.
“I originally came up with the idea to form the football club. At the time there were two sides called ‘between the waters’ and ‘Fanad Head’ and both did reasonably well in the summer cups.
“It was my idea to merge them and in fairness both were open and accepted to formation of Fanad United Football Club.
“Down the years we have had a good record but in may ways I always thought we were lucky to have a good catchment area. I also worked as the chaplain for 12 years in PCC Falcarragh and there were some good players there.
“So when I managed Fanad some of those lads came over with me and everyone enjoyed their football - maybe that’s cause there wasn’t much more to do but it was good to have them on board.”
Fanad’s people have been brought up on the delicacy of football since the formation of their local club.
They were First Division champions in the Donegal League for three successive seasons between 1972/73 and 1974/75 before opting to join the newly-formed Premier Division in 1979, which they won at their first attempt in 1979/80, before reclaiming the crown in 1983/84.
The Ulster Senior League was formed in 1986 and in the 25 years of its existence Fanad have won the league 14 times, the most recent being last season when they defeated Cockhill Celtic by a goal to nil in a play-off.
Nationally, Fanad’s reputation is assured. Having won the FAI Youth Cup in 1979 after a 3-1 win over Shelbourne at Ramelton’s Swilly Park, they became the first and only Donegal club to date, to date to win the FAI Intermediate Cup.
Fanad defeated Tramore Athletic from Cork 1-0 in the 1988 final at Dalymount Park.
A second win in the competition followed in 1995 with a 1-0 win over College Corinthians, also from Cork, in the decider at Terryland Park in Galway.
Over the last 40 years, Fanad have shaved plenty of feathers off senior clubs. In 1987, the team reached the semi-final of the League Cup. Having beaten Sligo Rovers, Derry City and Galway United, Fanad eventually lost out to Shamrock Rovers.
Other notable games were 3-0 victory over Home Farm and a three-game saga against St James’ Gate, who won the second replay in Triaghalough in 1992.
A 4-0 victory over Bray Wanderers at the Carlisle Grounds made national headlines in 1996.
Fanad currently has teams in the Ulster Senior League, Donegal Youth League, U-19 Dr Tony O’Neil League and the Donegal Women’s League.
Among the events planned are 32 club visits by FAI development officers, coaching staff, officials and well known football personalities, four football fun days in Buncrana, Dungloe, Letterkenny and Donegal Town, as well as a four-week long FAI/eFlow Summer Soccer Schools throughout the county.
The Football Association of Ireland will make equipment and funds worth up to E100,000 available to clubs in Donegal to mark the county’s hosting of the FAI AGM, which will take place in Donegal for the first time when it is held in the Mount Errigal Hotel, Letterkenny, on Saturday, July 21.
Around 250 delegates representing every league and divisional association in Ireland are expected to attend the AGM and will arrive in Letterkenny on Friday week ahead of the Delegates Dinner at which the FAI will announce its Club of the Year and present the Service to Football Awards.
Fanad United’s part in the FAI’s festival of football will see the gates of Triaghalough open for all on Monday at 7.15pm.
There will be competitions between our under-age boys and girls will take place followed by a barbecue. All are welcome.
“It would be great to see some of the players who have played here in under 40 years and they’re more than welcome to pop in if they are in the area,” Fr Sweeney continued. “I’m still in touch with most of them. We always enjoyed our football together so it would be nice to catch up together.”