Paddy CarrollNetminder General
By Colm Keane
The rough-and-tumble of the goalkeeping profession was never more in evidence than back in the late 1940s and 50s in a time when Paddy Carroll of Transport battled flying bodies and boots, not to mention sharp elbows, at the Carlisle Grounds in Bray.
For three years, the legendary Paddy Carroll, who won an FAI Cup-winners' medal with Transport in 1950, played in the toughest position in football - keeping goal at a time when football legislators and referees showed little sympathy or protection for the nation's beleagured net-minders.
"I often got the head kicked off myself," Paddy, who is now aged 70, told me this week. "At that time, on a through ball you had to come out to take on the forwards. There was no drawing back. When you got the ball, you were tackled in every part of the eighteen-yard box.
"If you went up for a ball, you could be knocked over the line and it would still be a goal. Now, you can't touch a goalkeeper. But goalkeepers were in no way protected in those days.
"I was concussed twice. Once, when I was playing with Glenmore, I had to go to hospital after a match with Portrane Athletic. While playing for Transport I dislocated my shoulder against Shelbourne in Milltown. Shelbourne shared Milltown in those days.
"Playing against Dundalk the year before I left Transport, I pulled on a ball with Donal Flanagan of Dundalk and I got torn ligaments. I couldn't kick a ball. I was off Transport's team for nine months. At that time, there was no special treatment for those things and I couldn't touch a ball with my right foot. I got some very bad knocks in my time."
Born in Dundrum in 1930, Paddy Carroll progressed through Shamrock Rovers Schoolboys to Home Farm, where he shared in the club's FAI Minor Cup and Minor League double in 1947/48.
A hard and agile net-minder, he had by now caught the attention of Transport - the CIE-sponsored team, managed by Matt Giles, uncle of Johnny Giles - and he joined the Bray-based club on the back of his success with Home Farm.
Playing out of Bray's Carlisle Grounds, Transport soon rose to national prominence - culminating in a marathon three-match FAI Cup Final victory in 1948/49 over favourites Cork Athletic.
"I think about twenty-one thousand people turned up for the first match at Dalymount, which we drew. The replay had about twenty-eight thousand at it, which we again drew on the following Wednesday. We equalised in the last minute with an overhead kick by Jim Loughran.
"The last match we won three-one. We had stayed at the International Hotel, opposite the ground, for a week. And we returned to the International after the final for a big celebration. It was the first time that the cup came across the Dargle River. And they were saying it was one of the best cup finals ever, for excitement and football."
Following their 1950 FAI Cup success, Transport continued for a time to play out of Bray's Carlislle Grounds. Sole occupants of the ground at the time, their triumph at Dalymount Park brought the town a new pride at the extraordinary success of a team drawn largely from nearby Dublin - including 'keeper Paddy Carroll.
"I was a plumber at the time" Paddy recalled. "I wasn't involved with CIE. 'Pip' Meighan, Paffy Gibney and, I think, John Kennedy were involved with the company. Jim Duggan might have been, as well. 'Pip' Meighan, the right-full, was a bus conductor, as was Paddy Gibney, the right-half. Larry Kearns was a hairdresser and had a shop in Booterstown Avenue.
"For a time, after our success, things took off. The year we won the cup, I remember we played Doncaster Rovers, who had won the Third Division (North) in England. We beat them in Bray. We also played in the Festival of Britain in 1951. We stayed in England for a fortnight and we travelled around.
"We played York City, Scunthorpe United and Lincoln City. But very few of the players went because they couldn't get time off. And we were beaten in all the matches.
"I was also picked in a League of Ireland 'selection' that played up in Celtic Park in Belfast. We played Belfast Celtic's old team. That was a big highlight for us, as well.
"Later on in around the time Bray Wanderers won the cup in 1990 - Bray Council recognised our achievement and presented us with a medal. That was nice, too."
Having spent three years with Transport, Paddy Carroll joined Shamrock Rovers for a year, where he played against future Fianna Fail Minister and Tanaiste, Brian Lenihan, who lined out at the time for UCD.
Later, Paddy joined Glenmore Celtic and was, as he puts it, "in and out of the team" until the legacy of old injuries called a halt to his football career, at the tragically young age of "around twenty-three or twenty-four."
"Previously, when I was playing with Shamrock Rovers Schoolboys, I went to retrieve a ball one day that had gone over the wall and I damaged my knee.
"The knee affected me for the rest of my football career. I could never get down properly on my left-hand side. No one was ever told about that, but I have it to this day. I have a bruised bone in my knee, which is protruding. So, altogether, I had a bad right foot and a gammy knee. That is why I just gave it up and retired early."
"The knee problem is still with me today, and I suffer very badly with arthritis. Last winter, I went through hell with it. It affects my right knee and my hip as well. It's travelled right around. But I still have the match programme of the final, which cost sixpence. And, of course, I still have the medal and I'm proud of it. Winning it was beyond my wildest dreams."
Award-winning broadcaster and writer, author of A Cut Above The Rest (Townhouse, 1999), as well as Tales of the Wanderers (Colado, 1998) and More Tales of the Wanderers (Colado, 2000), together with other volumes based on his work for RTÉ Radio.
First published in Seagull Scene, the Bray Wanderers match programme, 18th August 2000
Copyright © Colm Keane 2000; all rights reserved, no re-publication without the author's permission