THE FOOTBALL MEMORIES
[for a brief version – click here]
The V.E.C. football club was founded in April 1974 by members of the administrative staff working in the City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee. In May 1974, following five friendly matches, the club purchased its first set of jerseys for £25 and in June applied to the United Churches Football League of Ireland and was immediately accepted for the top division. In those days the League was quite small and confined with only two divisions. When it was decided to open up the League to any suitable club, the first two to enter were V.E.C. and D.S.B.
Then on the 7th September 1974, the club played its first official game (Team line-up). It was a Barton Shield match played in the VEC Sportsgrounds in Terenure against St. Maelruan’s from Tallaght, and unfortunately the game was lost 1-3. The first league match was played on the 5th October 1974 in Terenure against St. Canice’s United and that game was lost 2-5 with Canice’s going on to win the league. The following week, we had our first win. It was a Leinster Junior Cup match in the Phoenix Park against Cashel Rangers. We won 3-1 and John Loughman scored a hat-trick. A week later we secured our first league point against Harding in a 2-2 draw and then on the 26th October we achieved our first league win. It was in the VEC Sportsgrounds in Terenure: it was 4-1: and it was against St. Mary’s. Our final game of our first season was also against St. Mary’s, played in Terenure; the goal-keeper was unable to travel because of the petrol situation, but we drew 3-3 and Dave Spring managed a hat-trick with three headed goals! [Here is a team photo from 1975 showing Back (left to right): Brendan Keegan, Les Young, Jim Boland, David Spring (capt.), Cormac MacCrainn, Pat Gleeson (RIP) and Front (l to r): Brendan Spring, Ken Ryan, Joe Keogh, Gerry Hatch, Gerry Betts].
In our second season, we surpassed all expectations in reaching the final of the League’s major challenge cup – the Elvery Cup ( Team line-up ). Having beaten the eventual league champions, St.Canice’s United in the quarter final with goals from Dave Spring and Ken Ryan (2); and St. Mary’s with the same score of 3-2 (after extra time) in the semi-final with goals from Dave Hughes and Pat Gleeson (2) (now sadly deceased), we played Dublin University (later to become Trinity Corinthians) in their own back yard in Santry on the 22nd May 1976 and despite leading by a Ken Ryan goal at half-time, Dublin University’s tactical changes brought them two goals late in the game to win a very memorable match.
It was three years later when we reached our next final: this time in the Barton Shield when we beat Dublin Savings Bank on penalties.
In the 1980’s, the club reached seven finals, winning the Elvery Cup in 1980, 1981, 1984 and 1988 and losing in 1987. In addition, we won the Barton Shield again in 1988 having lost the 1982 final. In the same period, we were runners-up in the Premier Division of the League on four occasions – 1981, 1987, 1988 and 1989. Unfortunately we never got our hands on the title.
V.E.C. has always had a team in the U.C.L.’s top flight, except in the 1982/83 season, when the club entered its first team in the Major section of the Leinster Senior League. The club’s second team with Dave Spring as player/manager – although wanting to stay in the U.C.L.’s top flight – were assigned by the League to the old second division, and won the league title after a play-off game against Harcourt Rovers. Remarkably, this was the only team over the first 34 years to have won a league and it was this same (second) team which went on to beat St. Mary’s in the Elvery Cup Final at Tolka Park in 1984 with goals from Joe O’Hanlon (later to become a top class referee in the UCFL and the AUL) and Noel Ryan.
For four seasons, the first team had played in the Leinster Senior League, achieving promotion in 1983/84. Returning to U.C.F.L. in 1986, V.E.C. had one of its most successful seasons, and while only finishing runners-up in both the premier division and the Elvery Cup, a wonderful run in the F.A.I. Junior Cup saw the club reach the 6th round, only to be knocked out by top A.U.L. side Glenmore Celtic. Two seasons later, another great season and a brilliant run in the same competition, saw the club win its 5th round game against Beggsboro (who were runners-up in the previous year’s final), before losing out 3-0 in the 6th round to the top junior side in the country at the time, Tolka Rovers, who went on to win the trophy.
Our cup final defeat in 1987 was against Strand Utd. where we lost 2-1 after extra time at Tolka Park. Although player/manager Dave Spring opened the scoring with a free kick after 15 minutes, Strand equalised with ten minutes to go, bringing the game to extra time when they secured the winner. However, in 1988, the team got its revenge against Strand Utd. with a comprehensive 4-0 win in the final – again in Tolka Park. Tommy Coyle was the manager on this occasion.
1987 Cup Final Team Pic. Back l to r: Tom Brennan, Jerome Murphy, Mike Heavey, Tommy Coyle, Andy Callanan, Mick Finnerty, Eugene Duffy.
Front: Dave Fox (RIP), Denis Molony, Noel Ryan, Dave Spring (C), Dixie Byrne, Tommy Doherty.
It was 1993 before the club reached its next final. Having being consigned to the history books as the last winners of the Elvery Cup in 1988, we became the fifth winners of the new challenge cup, the Prudential Life Cup on the 22nd April 1993 when we beat Dublin University (later to become Trinity Corinthians) on penalties in Tolka Park. [Team that season]. That same season, VEC 2nds – operating in division 2 – lost the Byrne Shield Final to Stedfast who (strangely) had two current league players in their team!
The following season, we entered our third team in division 3 of the Leinster Senior League. This was the first and only time that we played in a Sunday league and while it proved to be very enjoyable, there were some logistical problems, like getting players up early on a Sunday morning!
It was quite extraordinary when the second team and the third team were drawn to play each other in the quarter final of the Leslie Reynolds Cup in 1995. On an eventful Saturday – ironically on the 1st April – in Whitehall with more than fifty interested spectators, in what was a very exciting game, it took just one sweet strike from player/manager Dermot Sharkey mid way through the second half to secure the win for the seconds over Robbie Ebbs’s very valiant third-team squad.
In the 1996/97 season, the three V.E.C. teams were top of their respective divisions – Premier, Division 2A and Division 3A – in March. Unfortunately, the first and the third teams faltered somewhat, but the seconds had an epic battle for the league title with the result only being decided in the last game of the season at home to Clontarf Athletic. In a truly marvellous game that could have gone either way, Clontarf came from behind to win the game and the league in the final moments after an epic 4-3 encounter. A notable achievement was John Griffith scoring in 7 consecutive games between January and March 1997.
In June 1998, the second team met Balally Celtic in the Shield Final in the A.U.L. Complex. Despite a brave showing in the torrential rain, unfortunately we lost 2-0 to a stronger team who had just secured promotion to the top division. A remarkable achievement that season was Dave Spring playing 28 games (both for the 1sts and 2nds) and scoring 5 goals – at the age of 46!
Then it happened again! This time in the challenge cup ( Progressive Cup) – match on the 19th December 1998, the first team beat the second team by 3 goals to 2 after another memorable match played in a truly sporting spirit. With John Griffith on form scoring two goals for the seconds, the first team took some time to settle before Garrett Brennan responded with two goals and Noel Ryan with one. Unfortunately in April 1999 – in our Jubilee year – the team lost out at the semi-final stage on penalties to Strand United, when a win seemed to be on the cards right up to the 90th minute.
On the social side, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary in City West in April 1999, with a great turn-out, including over 30 former players from the 70’s and 80’s and a great night was had by all. [pic. of Committee]. Brian Ward was on the UCFL team that lost 0-2 to the Kildare League in the Oscar Traynor Trophy in November 1999.
In May 2002, nine years since our previous appearance in the U.C.L’s. ‘blue-ribboned’ final, we played Trinity Corinthians in the Irish Life Challenge Cup Final in Tolka Park on 11th May, hoping to win our sixth premier cup. [VEC team]. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Despite a brave performance, we lost 2-0 to an excellent Trinity team who had two Junior Internationals in their side: Aaron Shearer and David Battigan. Interestingly, along the way – in the second round – the first team had to dispose of the second team once again, winning comfortably 6-2 with goals from Peter Bull, Eamon Kirk, Paul Little, Brian Ward, Derek O’Neill and Captain Glenn Morrissey. Conor MacArtain and Paul Hutchinson responded for the 2nds. It was a honour for our Club that our Hon. Secretary Seamus Doherty joined the Executive Committee of the United Churches Football League.
2003-2004: Unusually, the leading goal-scorer played for the 3rd team – Brian Feehan – scoring 17 playing goals . Goalkeeper Marty Mannion, Andy Byrne and Simon Roche joined the first team, while Anto O’Callaghan left to concentrate on his studies, Andy Soye headed off to Oz, Dave Collins played his last game after a nasty knee injury, and John Duffy and Mark Noonan left. We lifted the Willie Kissane Memorial Boot for the first time since the competition was re-vamped into an 8-team tournament, beating Templeogue Utd. in the semi-final and Knocklyon Utd. 2-0 in the final.
2004-2005: Well what a season! Our first trophies in 12 years with each of our 3 teams taking silverware under the guidance of Dave Spring, Fergal Nolan and Karl McCafferty respectively. A club record broken for the most goals scored in a season with Joey Byrne, scoring 36 goals in 36 games. His co-striker Brian Ward’s 26 goals was also amazing. Reaching the 6th round of the FAI Junior Cup [beating Cork outfit Maymount Celtic before losing 0-1 to Peakevilla FC from Thurles], winning the Premier Shield, 2nd division shield and runners up in the Richard Knight final. Another 1st for the club was the UCFL’s Merit award received by the 3rd team, for their performance on and off the field, a very notable trophy for the club to be awarded. This award was run on a points system where the team that had a good disciplinary record (minimum yellow and red cards), pitches and kits in order, good referees reports etc. was awarded this trophy along with a football kit for the club. The firsts won the shield final 3-2 against Clontarf Athletic while the 2nd division shield was won by defeating runners up in the league Rail PSV 2-1 in the final. [A remarkable feat was Dave Spring starting a Premier Division match against Clontarf Ath. in April 2005 at the age of 53 – playing alongside his two sons Neil & Shane]. The VEC web site www.vecfc.ie developed by Neil Spring was launched.
2005-2006: The club record for scoring in consecutive games was broken by Joey Byrne during the season – he scored in 9 consecutive games. The previous best was scoring in 7 consecutive games by Ken Ryan in 1980/81 and John Griffith in 1996/97. We reached the 6th round of the FAI Junior Cup before losing only 1-0 on a Sunday to arguably the best Junior soccer club in the country at the time Killester Utd. who went on to win the Trophy. We also should and could have taken runners-up spot in the Premier Division, had we beaten Clontarf Ath. in the last game! Our league form was consistent and we ended up third, losing twice to Trinity and once to Clontarf Ath. and to Ailesbury FC. Stumpy’s second team finished third in Division 2 of the league. First team players Tom Kerwick and Derek Glennon retired. One new player to make the first team was Cormac ‘Rav’ Jennings, while others returned such as Simon Roche, Jonathan McClean, John Duffy, Cian Allen and Stephen Van Loon.
2006-2007: Three notable players from the previous season were not involved: Glenn Morrissey and Shane Spring through injury; and Simon Roche who moved on to play Intermediate football. The Club is very proud that Paul Hutchinson was selected as the UCFL Manager for the year and he asked Dave Spring – who was still VEC’s first team manager – to assist him. Considering that this was Hutch’s first year, it was very successful, as the league team qualified for the knock-out stages of the Oscar Traynor Trophy, before losing out to the eventual winners AFL in the quarter-final. It was an honour too for Paul O’Sullivan who played in all the competitive games for the league team, and to Joey Byrne, Anthony Dunne and Peter Morrissey who were also selected, as were the Doherty brothers Dara and Marc in the final game of the season for the league team, against the Northern Amateur League.
2007-2008: The first team played an amazing 13 cup games – actually losing only 1 of them – to Fairview CYM in the FAI Junior Cup, but being knocked out on penalties in the other 3 cup competitions – firstly to Forth Celtic in Wexford in the last 16 of the Leinster Junior Cup; then in the semi-final of the UCL Challenge Cup to Sportslink FC and finally to Brayzil FC in the Richard Knight Cup. The second team reaching the final of their Shield was notable – but unfortunately they lost on the day to Terenure FC. Darragh McGinley, Mick Keating, Marc Doherty, Nicky Perry, Rory O’Dwyer joined the Club and played for the first team, while the 1st team lost Andy Soye and goalkeeper Dave Carroll due to injury; Joe O’Connell returned to Mayo; and Paddy Flanagan returned to Eindhoven. Paul Hutchinson was re-selected as the UCFL Manager for a second year. Dave Spring assisted Hutch once again. It was an honour too for VEC club members Paul O’Sullivan, Joey Byrne, Darragh McGinley and Mark Doherty who were selected to represent the league team during the season.
2008-2009: At last! In our 35th season, with Dave Spring and Noel Ryan at the helm, we won the Premier Division title. Having beaten UCFL ‘kingpins’ Trinity Corinthians in the league for the first time in Santry early in the season, it came down to the final premier league game of the season, when VEC had to beat Trinity in Terenure to win the title. Brian Ward (x2) and Simon Roche got the important goals, ensuring that we pipped Trinity (who had won the title on 7 occasions in the previous 10 years) by 1 point to complete a remarkable season [Final League Table] [Team pic. April] Unfortunately, for the second year in succession, we exited the Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage, when we lost 0-3 to Terenure FC. Although Joey Byrne suffered a bad injury in September, keeping him out of action for 6 months, and Dara Doherty left in January to work in Norway, Simon Roche’s and Rav’s return from travels added greatly to the squad, as did appearances from Hygo Cesar (from Brazil) in the latter stages of the season. [Brief Report & squad photo] [Newspaper Report]
Our Chairman Dave Spring was invited by the F.A.I. to participate on the F.A.I. Appeals Panel and has been actively involved ever since.
2009-2010: Having won the Premier Division title last season, it was not going to be easy to retain it – and so it proved! Beating both Trinity Corinthians and the new champions Orchard Celtic 3-0 in Terenure, and Sportslink and Brayzil away certainly helped: however, dropping points to some of the lower teams diminished our chances of retaining the title, and Orchard pushed on losing only that league game, to top the Premier Division. We eventually finished a very credible third, just three points behind Sportslink FC. – but it could have been better! The second and third teams finished 4th and 3rd respectively in Division 2 and 3B, with Paul Hutchinson adding huge experience to the third team’s midfield at the grand old age of 50! Some of the new players signed: Robbie McGrane; Gerard Dunne; Stephen Kiely; Desar Hysa (Albania); Azat Nipsisian (Armenia); Jacek Iwanek (Poland); Joe Mrema (Nigeria); Stephen Quin (son of former VEC great, Pat Quin). Nicky Perry returned to his homeland in Scotland. Hygo Cesar (Brazil) did not re-sign, going on to play Futsal with Sporting Fingal who as Champions, went further in the UEFA Futsal Cup than any other Irish side before them.
Remarkably, no VEC players were selected by the new UCFL manager to represent the league team during the season, despite VEC winning the Premier Division in the previous season!
2010-2011: Having been knocked out of the Challenge Cup at the semi-final stage twice in the previous three seasons, we won the Cup (now sponsored by Nivea-for-Men) on a wet evening in Home Farm’s ground in Whitehall, beating our old rivals Stedfast Utd. 2-0 with goals from Joey Byrne and Brian Ward [Squad & Action]. This was Dave Spring’s 6th Challenge Cup medal, although this time only as manager! Goalkeeper Darragh McGinley deservedly won the Man-of-the-Match award and later Player-of-the-Year award. This followed our Shield Final win against Clontarf Athletic on the previous Monday, when we won 1-0 after extra time. We also won the Willie Kissane Trophy for the first time in five years, when we beat Leicester Celtic 7-6 on penalties in August 2010, after the final had finished at 1-1. The 2nd and 3rd teams – managed by Dave Carroll (Jayo) and Julien Dingle respectively – also had great seasons, both finishing runners-up in Divisions 2 and 3A. Anthony Dunne was selected and played for the UCFL league team which was well deserved and he did the Club proud. Darragh McGinley was also in the squad. Dave Fox (son of former VEC defender – also Dave who sadly passed away in 2019) was the second team’s Player-of-the-Year and scored 11 goals in this his first season with the Club, making him the 2nd team leading scorer.
The 3rds also had a great run in the Leinster Junior Shield, eventually missing out on a quarter-final spot (in a game they should have won) to Banagher Utd. from Offaly. Some of the new players signed: Tom Delaney (Wexford); Seán Kerr (Down); Patrick Meghan (Limerick); Ian O’Neill; Ron Doyle; Dave Fox; Simon Hughes; Darragh Murphy. Brian Quinn retired.
Summer 2011 and Urbana University in Ohio in the USA announced 4 international signings, focusing first on the keeper position. The Blue Knights’ 2010 starting goalkeepers are not returning in 2011, leaving an immediate need at the position. “This left us with a huge hole to fill in 2011,” explained coach Roberts. “The need to find two quality goalkeepers became our biggest priority. Thankfully, we have just completed signing a very talented goalkeeper from Dublin, Ireland. Darragh McGinley, a 6’1 goalkeeper, is a graduate student from the Institute of Art and Design in Dublin. McGinley provides another credible and talented player to the Blue Knights’ roster in 2011-12″.
“McGinley is an accomplished goalkeeper and a great addition to our University and team,” said Roberts. McGinley was signed from VEC FC in Dublin, Ireland.
In January 2012, Andy Myler came out of retirement and signed with VEC FC. He retired from Bray Wanderers at the end of the 2008 season having scored a total of 133 League of Ireland career goals. He began his professional career at UCD. He also played for Newry Town, Monaghan United, Athlone Town, Waterford United, Drogheda United and Longford Town, before he was signed by Shamrock Rovers in July 2006, where he scored 20 goals in his two seasons there. He made his debut on 14th January in the UCFL’s Premier Division game against Strand Utd. in VEC Terenure.
Then in 2012-2013, VEC 1sts received the very notable UCFL’s Merit award for their performance on and off the field. It was a nice surprise for another VEC team (VEC 2nds) to receive this award the following season (2013-2014) – completing the treble – as VEC 3rds had won it in 2005.
In May 2014, for the first time in our 23 years of trying, VEC 3rds won the Sidney Bedlow Cup on a memorable evening in our own grounds beating Riverside Utd. 8-7 on penalties after both sides had finished 2-2 after extra time. John Dingle was the manager. It was our 40th season. For the first team, it was 5 years after winning the Premier Division title and we nearly did it again. VEC 1sts achieved runners-up spot to old rivals Clontarf Athletic and obviously stayed in the premier/top UCFL Division for the 40th consecutive season – a remarkable feat in itself.
In May 2014, having reached the sem-final stage of both the UCFL Challenge Cup and the Richard Knight Cup, we lost out in both to the new Premier Division champions FC Sportslink Ailesbury – losing the first on penalties. To compound matters, we also lost out on penalties to San Marino FC at the quarter-final stage of the Premier Shield. So near and yet so far!
After 21 consecutive years, unfortunately the 3rd team disbanded before the start of the season, due to shortage of numbers. In effect, the 2nds and 3rds from the previous season amalgamated.
Having finished the previous season very strongly with 7 goals in the final 5 games, Aidan Hyland scored 12 goals in his first 7 games of this season (including a remarkable 5 goals* in August against Arthur Griffith Park FC), thus scoring in 12 consecutive games and smashing the previous record of scoring in 9 consecutive games set by Joey Byrne in 2005-2006. *John Gleeson scoring six goals in a cup game in the Phoenix Park in 1980 is still a Club record.
On the social side, there was a special function to celebrate our 40th season. Our very successful 40th Anniversary B-B-Q was held in the Morrison Hotel on Ormond Quay on 11th October 2014 and there were nearly 80 in attendance. Our guests included the current Chairman of the UCFL Barney Blood and Barney’s brother – a good friend to the Club over many years and a former President of the Football Association of Ireland – David Blood. Our Groundsman Nicky Fanning couldn’t make it but his assistant Ken Carpenter did. The Chief Executive of the Football Association of Ireland John Delaney graciously accepted our invitation and attended together with his partner and friends. [See Booklet produced on the night].
Quadruple Season: The 2015-2016 season surpassed everything VEC ever achieved in any one season! Reaching the 5th Round of the FAI Junior Cup where we met one of the favourites (and subsequently losing finalists) Pike Rovers in Limerick was an achievement, but although we gave a good account of ourselves, we eventually succumbed to a 2-0 loss. Having won the Premier Division (Barton) Shield on the May Bank-holiday Monday by beating AGP FC 4-3 on penalties, we then added the UCFL Challenge Cup by beating South William Street Celtic 4-1 on Saturday 21st May in Home Farm and then the Richard Knight Cup by beating FC Sportslink Ailesbury 5-1 0n 31st May. On top of all that, we clinched the Premier Division title for only the second time in our 42 years. Joint-managers Dave Spring and Kevin O’Hanlon were at the helm for this remarkable and historic season where VEC were quadruple winners! See synopsis here.
To emulate the previous season’s extraordinary achievement was always going to be practically impossible in 2016-2017, notwithstanding the exceptional effort put in once again by an incredible bunch of players … and so it proved! But for the third time in 7 years, we won the Premier Division title by retaining the Trophy which we won in 2016 and in 2009. Moreover, we were the only team throughout all the divisions to go undefeated for the season. Once again there were only eight teams in the Premier Division and we were scheduled to play each other three times – meaning 21 games. We scored 41 goals in the first 7 games … Aidan Hyland scoring 15 and Joey Byrne scoring 10 … Although the record will show that we won 17 and drew 4, we won all the games we played bar one, away to Glasnaion FC which we drew. The remaining 3 games were ‘dead rubbers’ and were not played and were deemed by the League to be draws.
As UCFL Premier Division Champions, VEC FC was entered in the Leinster SENIOR Cup. In Round 1 we met Kildare side Liffey Celtic whom we beat 8-4 at home. Next up was a trip to Kilkenny where we were unfortunate to lose 0-1 to Thomastown Utd. after extra time. Unfortunately we were knocked out of the Challenge Cup in the second round to AGP FC. However, having reached the 6th Round of the FAI Junior Cup on three previous occasions, we have this season, for the first time in the Club’s history, reached the last-16. [In 1987 we lost to top AUL outfit Glenmore Celtic; in 1989 having received a bye in the first round, we beat Greystones, Chapelizod, Ashbourne and the previous season’s runners-up Beggsboro, before losing to the holders and eventual winners Tolka Rovers. In 2005 having received a bye in the first round, we beat St. Mochtas, Whitehall Rangers, Workmans Dunlaoire and Maymount Celtic (from Cork) before losing 0-1 to top Tipperary outfit Peakevilla]. This season – again having received a bye in round 1 – we beat Inchicore Athletic 3-1, Sacred Heart 2-0, Columbas Rovers 3-1, Clara Town 4-0 and Buttevant AFC 2-0. Unfortunately we lost 2-0 to Boyle Celtic in Roscommon on 5th February 2017, to end a magnificent run in this prestigious cup. [VEC Squad v Boyle Celtic]
On 19th October 2016, the UCFL announced that “The management of VEC FC, led by David Spring, has accepted the UCFL’s request to manage the UCFL Team for this season’s Oscar Traynor games with assistance from referee Paul Hutchinson, who is himself a former UCFL League Team manager”. In those three games, it was an honour and an achievement for 11 VEC players who represented the League. While Anthony Dunne, Joey Byrne, Mick Kinsella and Aidan Hyland had previously represented the UCFL, it was a first for Neal Breslin, Gav Murphy, Ray Jaudzems, Séamus Staunton, Pat Meghen, Killian Finlay and Richie Hannify. [UCFL Squad v Defense Forces in November 2016].
In March, VEC Football Club accepted an invitation to represent the Leinster Football Association in an annual fixture for the John Bagster Cup against a Mid-Ulster team. What an honour! We played Hill Street FC. on 22nd April 2017 in Kilkeel, Co. Down and despite losing 3-0 at half time, we dominated the second half with a great display and pulled two goals back through Dani Gonzalez in the 65th minute and Seamus Staunton in the 85th minute, before running out of time when an equaliser seemed a real possibility after constant pressure. [Squad photo].
Knowing that the Willie Kissane Tournament was coming to an end after 20 years, Kev O’Hanlon initiated a new venture “Champions v Legends” . On 29th July 2017, our first “Champions v Legends” game took place in Terenure with many former players returning and mixing with the current UCFL Premier Division Champions VEC FC. This was followed by the Club’s presentation night in Brady’s Terenure.
Then on a slightly sentimental day in August 2017, the 20th and final Annual Willie Kissane Tournament took place after a 20-year success: unfortunately VEC lost out in the final to CYM Beechwood.
Aidan Hyland was again the Club’s top goal-scorer – with 37 goals, thus beating Joey Byrne’s 12-year old Club record of 36 goals in a season.
VEC 2nds, having been promoted to Division 2, only lost one of their 20 league games, finishing joint-second and gaining promotion again.
The 2017/2018 season reaped a silver medal in the Premier Division for the second time in recent years along with a Richard Knight Cup Final appearance in FAI HQ at Abbotstown, which we were unlucky to lose after extra time [Report]. Unfortunately, we could not complete the hat-trick of Premier Division Champions having topped the League in the previous two seasons, finishing runners-up to Harding IF FC.
After a gap of 4 years, we re-formed the 3rd team with Richie Donnelly taking up the reins as player-manager, while Fergal “Stumpy” Nolan remained at the helm for the Seconds and the O’Hanlon/Spring axis continued to drive the Firsts forward with enthusiasm.
On October 7th 2017, in Round 1 of the Challenge Cup, Joey Byrne bagged a brace and his 198th and 199th goals for the club. In so doing Joey surpassed Noel Ryan’s long standing club goal scoring record and now sits atop of the Club leader board.
The weather this season wreaked havoc with the fixture list and freak snowfall inhibited training and prevented matches for an extended 4 week period across February and March 2018.
Former VEC player and manager Paul Hutchinson accepted the position as the League team manager and asked Dave Spring to assist him (a reversal of the previous season’s arrangement). Neal Breslin was appointed UCFL captain. Other VEC players selected were Gavin Murphy, Aidan Hyland, Pat Meghen, and new signing Andrew Kilmartin. The reserve goalkeeper was Alan Keane. Congratulations to those 6 VEC players on this honour and achievement.
On 18th August 2018, our second “Legends” game took place in Terenure with many former players once again returning and mixing with the current VEC FC players. This was followed by the Club’s presentation night in Brady’s Terenure.
The 2018/2019 season: What an exceptional effort was put in once again by an incredible bunch of players in an effort to emulate the 2015-2016 season. We achieved our main start-of-season target by regaining the Premier Division title, pipping Coolock Village by 2 points. We also won our 8th Challenge Cup (out of 11) beating Drumcondra AFC 6-3 in the final with Aidan Hyland scoring the first 4 VEC goals. Despite the tremendous effort put in by all, we lost our Richard Knight semi-final to Coolock Village and the Shield final through a very late Harding IF goal.
Once again we reached the 7th round (last 16) of the FAI Junior Cup for the 2nd time in three years, unfortunately losing 1-3 to Kilkenny outfit Evergreen FC on 3rd February 2019 [pics. here] after beating Pegasus St. James 4-3, Balscadden FC (away) 3-1, Glebe North 2-0, Castleisland AFC (away) 3-0 (Local Report) and Glin Rovers from the Desmond League (Limerick) 4-0 at home in January 2019 in the 6th round.
This was another remarkable season for VEC FC with Manager Kevin O’Hanlon at the helm, ably assisted by Dave Spring and Simon Roche, resulting in VEC winning the Premier Division for the third time in four seasons, and also completing a fantastic double by regaining the (O’Neill’s.com) Challenge Cup!
And so as current UCFL Premier Division Champions once again, it was more than appropriate to hold our third “Champions v Legends” game on 10th August 2019, again followed by the Club’s presentation night in Brady’s Terenure.
Paul Hutchinson and Dave Spring remained at the helm of the UCFL Oscar Traynor Team and the VEC influence on the team remained potent with an astounding 11 VEC clubmen among its ranks in what was a disheartening campaign for the UCFL side: however it did serve to highlight the contribution that VEC FC have made to the League itself in recent years and the strength in character our playerbase continues to demonstrate year on year. The 10 were: Richie Hannify, Neal Breslin, Peter O’Brien, Gav Murphy, Ray Jaudzems, Mick Kinsella, Dani Gonzalez, Pat Meghen, Sam Jackson, Aidan Hyland and Davy Frewen (not in pic.).
The 2019-2020 Season: Lost on penalties to Rosemount Mulvey FC in the 4th Round of the FAI Junior Cup [An extraordinary fact is that 8 of the VEC players who played for the League team last season (see above) were missing for this game].
Lost on penalties to Clontarf FC in the Leinster Senior Cup.
Photos of winning squads from 2017 to 2020 here
COVID-19 outbreak: In light of the threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and in the best interests of players, coaches, volunteers, etc., the Football Association of Ireland announced on March 12th 2020, the cessation of all football under its jurisdiction with immediate effect, following directives from Government, the Department of Health and UEFA. The UCFL complied fully with this instruction, which meant that no fixtures were set until further notice. This was unfortunate as we were on schedule to complete another quadruple [see Quadruple Season 2015-2016 above], albeit with plenty of hard work and hopefully some good fortune awaiting us along the way: (1) reaching the quarter-final of the Challenge Cup where we were drawn against second division Dunshaughlin Youths; (2) due to play Beech Park at home in the Richard Knight Cup; (3) still in our own control to retain the Premier Division title, although a tough away game against a strong South William Street Celtic team would be a ‘must win’; and (4) the Shield which hadn’t even commenced.
When football resumed some 4 months later, unfortunately things did not go according to plan! While we duly won our next 5 premier division matches, we succumbed to South William Street Celtic on 15th August losing 2-0 in Ringsend and relinquishing our league title. To make matters worse, we exited both the Knight Cup and the Challenge Cup on penalties on both occasions. At least we atoned for this by winning the Premier Division Shield after a penalty shoot-out with Coolock Village in our final game of the season (on 29th August 2020). More here.
Upending all areas of life, the COVID-19 pandemic made no exception for sports, creating turmoil worldwide as well as in our league and our club of course. For months we had Level 5 Government restrictions which prevented us playing. As such, the 2020/2021 season was effectively a washout. Eventually we resumed training on 11th May 2021. Then the League’s admirable proposals for a ‘Return to Football’ resulted in a Pre-season Tournament which ran from 12th June 2021 to 7th August 2021 and both teams played in 8 matches.
Of extraordinary interest was VEC player Jack McKnight playing a full world cup qualifying match at left back for the Turks and Caicos Islands national football team against Nicaragua in March 2021. Unfortunately, the team lost 7-0 in this CONCACAF first round Group E qualifier match. Jack also played a full game in the next match on 30th March 2021 against Belize.
The 2021-2022 season got underway on 28th August 2021. Once again we reaped a silver medal in the Premier Division just as we did against SWSC in our last full season in 2020. This time, we were pipped by Tallaght Utd. But we atoned for that somewhat meeting them in the final of both the Challenge Cup and the Richard Knight Cup, deservedly winning both matches on 1-0 scorelines. Scoring in his third successive Challenge Cup Final, Séamus Staunton got the goal in Home Farm, while Tom Wrynne got the goal in Frank Cooke Park. We unluckily exited early from the FAI Junior Cup after a gripping 3-3 game played out against a very strong Booth Road Celtic on a Friday night in Ballyowen Astro, eventually losing on penalties. VEC 2nds had a great MMI Cup run resulting in the team reaching the Final of that cup. It was the first time that a VEC team had reached the MMI Cup Final and it was played in Home Farm against Division 2 runners-up Coolock Village – bizarrely on the same evening that the 1sts were playing in the Richard Knight Cup Final. Unfortunately, the team lost 2-0 after conceding two late goals to a strong Coolock Village side. See Squad pics.
By our own standards, the 2022-2023 season was a disappointing season overall, as we failed for the first time in 8 years to collect any trophies or medals. Considering our great runs in the external cups over the years, early exits in all three were hard to take. Then, losing out in Round 2 of the Challenge Cup (on penalties) to Division 2 side Fairview Celtic was even more disconcerting; as was the first-round exit to Malahide Utd. in the Richard Knight Cup! We had plenty of ups-and-downs in the Premier Division, finishing 5th but importantly retaining our place in the UCFL’s top division for the 49th year – a remarkable achievement in itself! Meanwhile the second team finished a very respectable 3rd in Division 2 behind the runaway aforementioned Fairview Celtic (who were far too strong for that division) and Beech Park FC, who we beat twice in the league!