Ahead of the Bank Holiday Monday FAI Ford Cup, Second Round clash at Turner’s Cross, CorkCityFC.ie takes a look at the visiting team.
Name: Kilbarrack United
League: Athletic Union League (AUL), Premier A
Ground: Greendale Open Space
Chairman: Willie Dunne
Manager: Paul Breen
Captain: Jonathan Meleady
Kilbarrack United Football Club was founded in 1970 and is based in North Dublin. The club colours are sky blue and white. KUFC has grown to become an integral part of the community in Kilbarrack since its inception forty-three years ago and this is reflected in the remarkable following it has garnered as a junior football club.
The Northside club now provides fourteen schoolboy teams and three senior teams, including the new over 35s team which is being set up for the coming season.
In the first decade of its existence, Kilbarrack United established itself as a force in the league yet silverware initially proved elusive.
The mid-seventies saw them beaten in a play-off for the league title by St. Francis, while the same opposition would defeat them in the Bradmola Cup final in the same season. Decline soon followed as other local clubs – such as Raheny United, Kilmore Boys and Grove Celtic – formed and became prominent members of the footballing landscape in North Dublin.
After twenty years of trying, the 90s finally saw success and silverware come to the Greendale Open Space.
Firstly, the club earned promotion from Division 2B to Division 1 of the AUL. Then, in 1993-94 the club completed a double by achieving promotion to the AUL Premier C as Division 1 champions and winning the Mullion League Cup, defeating River Valley Rangers in the final.
1999 brought with it glory in the Italian Embassy Cup thanks to a victory over Premier A side Killester United, but it would be in the noughties that the big one was achieved – promotion to the Premier A at the end of the 2002-03 season.
In the last half decade, Kilbarrack United have entered a sort of golden period, arguably the most successful of their history. However, it began in inauspicious circumstances as the club suffered a steep learning curve during its first stint in the AUL top flight.
Ultimately, it ended with relegation back to the Premier B in 2008-09 under Tony O’Connor. This would prove to be the catalyst for the club’s recent rise to prominence.
Following relegation, O’Connor was replaced by Paul Breen and his assistant Denis Hyland who together would oversee a season of consolidation in the Premier B before steering the club back to the Premier A in 2010-11.
That season also saw the club claim the first of back-to-back Liddy Cups with a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Sheriff YC. Little did the Northsiders know that this would be the beginning of a fierce rivalry with their inner city counter-parts.
The second Liddy Cup final win – courtesy of a convincing 4-1 victory over Ayrfield United – capped off a successful return to the Premier A in 2011-12 as Kilbarrack United finished 3rd. However, there would be disappointment too as Breen’s charges were beaten 3-1 by Sheriff at Tolka Park in the club’s first ever FAI Junior Cup final.
The following season, 2012-13, would prove to be the club’s greatest to date, if not in terms of silverware then in terms of competiveness – and while Sheriff YC may have taken all the plaudits for an unprecedented haul of five trophies in one season at junior level, those in the inner city will acknowledge that it took another very good team chasing behind to push them all the way.
Kilbarrack’s biggest near-miss of 2012-13 took place in the Aviva Stadium as they suffered a 5-4 defeat on penalties to Sheriff in their second successive FAI Junior Cup final. Despite Sheriff having full-back David Browne sent off just before the hour mark, Kilbarrack couldn’t break down their resilient opponents – with skipper Johnathan Meleady seeing a 70th minute penalty go wide of the post – and the game was still scoreless after extra-time.
That cup final heartbreak was not the first bittersweet moment of the Northsider’s season as the club would miss out on the Premier A title by one point, Sheriff pipping them, while they also suffered another cup final defeat to the same opposition one week before their battle in the Aviva – the “warm up final” took place in Dalymount Park and the result was 2-1 in favour of Sheriff, which gave them the Leinster Junior Cup.
Add in another shootout defeat to Sheriff in the semi-final of the Nivea for Men Cup and a third cup final defeat to the same opposition – this time a 4-3 epic as Kilbarrack finally relinquished their hold on the Liddy Cup – and it would be understandable if the North Dublin club felt happy to see the back of the 2012-13 season.
However, such experiences will stand to Paul Breen’s charges in the long run and they will enter the 2013-14 season with a determination to go that one step further across the board and make some history of their own.
Their competitive season begins with the FAI Ford Cup Second Round clash with Cork City at Turner’s Cross, which is their first ever competitive match against a League of Ireland club and only their second ever match in the competition – their first was last year, a 1-0 defeat to Leinster Senior League side Crumlin United in the First Round.
FAI Cup record:
Team news: Highly-regarded defender Daniel Byrne joined Bohemians in midweek, while Sean Beresford (leg) is the only confirmed injury absentee for a Kilbarrack squad that will be just two weeks into its pre-season preparations by kick-off on Monday. Defenders Mark Dunne and Gavin Gaughran are rated as doubtful ahead of the game, as is striker Mark Townley. Kilbarrack played their first pre-season friendly on Thursday night away to Wayside Celtic and were beaten 2-1, with captain Jonathan Meleady scoring Kilbarrack’s goal.
Mark Townley (forward)
What diminutive striker Townley lacks in physicality he makes up for in skill, speed and an eye for goal, all of which served to notch him twenty-one goals last season, not to mention the brace he scored for the Dublin AUL side in their 3-1 defeat of the Inishowen League in the Oscar Traynor Trophy – he was one of eight Kilbarrack players in the AUL squad that day.
The former Sporting Fingal striker recently appeared for Bohemians in their 6-1 friendly defeat to Derby County at Dalymount Park, and if this cup tie goes well for him, the recently capped Republic of Ireland junior international may well attract the interest of other League of Ireland clubs.
Jonathan Meleady (midfielder/captain)
Skipper Meleady was a huge driving force behind his side’s pursuit of silverware on all fronts last season. The Republic of Ireland junior international made a number of crucial contributions to Kilbarrack’s season, not least his brace of headers in the FAI Junior Cup semi-final which gave his side a 2-1 victory over Pike Rovers.
Sadly for Meleady, though, he missed two crucial spot-kicks in the final of that competition – one in normal time and the first of the shootout – which allowed Sheriff to lift the trophy with a 5-4 win on penalties. However, his ability is unquestioned and the Northsider’s chances in Cork will rest heavily on how the skipper performs in the engine room.
KUFC thoughts on tie with CCFC:
Paul Breen, manager:
“It’s a massive game for us to be playing a side of Cork’s stature and it’ll be a big ask for us to come away with anything. With us only just back [in pre-season] it’s not ideal and for us to get any kind of a result would be a massive shock.”
“That said, it’s a great experience for our players and a great occasion for the club to be in this competition and playing teams like Cork. For a lot of players it’ll be a milestone in their careers and they’re looking forward to pitting their wits against one of the top teams in the League of Ireland.”
“We’re expecting nearly a couple of hundred to make it down. We generally have a good support base in the local community and we’d be one of the better supported teams in the league. We’re looking forward to it up and down the club, and we’ll just try to enjoy the game and the day out.”
Willie Dunne, chairman:
“This is our first ever game against League of Ireland opposition, so in that aspect it’s amazing. It’s creating a bit of a buzz around the place and it’s great for the club.”
“We’ll be hoping to take them back to Dublin, but they’re in mid-season and we’re only back, so we’ll just have to see how it goes. You have to be hopeful going into these games and they are a League of Ireland outfit at the end of the day, so we know we’re in for a tough game.”
Jonathan Meleady, captain:
“Obviously it’s a big occasion for our club to be going to Turner’s Cross in the FAI Cup, so we’re all looking forward to it. As soon we seen the draw there was a bit of banter about it in training and the lads are really up for it.”
“We’re at a stage now where we’re well organised and we’ve played a lot of big games together, so we feel if we can keep it tight and grow in confidence as the game goes on, maybe we can nick a goal. The important thing is that when we get a chance we take it as we know Cork will have a lot of possession.”
“Their fitness is a level above ours anyway as they are in mid-season, but it’s a big thing for our club to be here as a junior club, and with Sheriff also getting a good draw with [Shamrock] Rovers, I think that both clubs got the draws they deserved for the amount of effort they put in over the season.”
John Meleady (capt)