TOBERMORE United may have a Championship 1 game against Dergview this Easter Monday but on the same day 35 years ago they had a much more important game, a cup final on “foreign” shores.
Tobermore United was one of the top junior sides in the country back then winning all before them in their league and cup competitions.
They were league champions, and had two cups in the bag already that season and were into the final of the Irish Junior Cup for the second successive year. As a result of their success their application to compete in the Isle of Man Easter Festival, one of the top football competitions in Europe at the time, was accepted.
From the moment they left from Newtownards airport in a number of chartered 4 seater planes on Good Friday morning, until they arrived back victorious on Easter Tuesday morning, it was one long party that was only occasionally interrupted by football matches.
The first game was played shortly after the team arrived on the Friday afternoon, giving them little time to prepare or even leave their bags at their B&B, against an Edinburgh team, “Herriot Watt”. United ran out easy winners of that first game by a score line of 12 - 0 with big centre half Raymond Beatty having the distinction of scoring Tobermore’s first ever goal in “Europe”.
After a quiet night in on Friday night, “not”, the next game was played on Saturday morning against a team of prison officers, or were they prisoners, from Liverpool with Tobermore winning narrowly in a good game by 2 goals to 1.
This set up a Saturday afternoon crunch match against one of the top teams and competition favourites, “Gibraltar” from Blackburn. The game was a real battle for Tobermore with defenders Moore, Lamont, McKee and Beatty all having to work overtime and more than grateful to their goalkeeper, Arrell, who performed heroics behind them. He was unbeatable that day, giving, what many believe to be, one of his best performances ever in a Tobermore shirt and in doing so breaking the hearts of the Gibraltar team.
With Arrell in top form and the effects of the night before beginning to wear off, Tobermore at last began to play. Midfielders Linton, Shiels and B. O’Conner began to run the show and started to find their forwards Devlin, Patterson and R. O’Conner with some excellent football. Eventually the goals came with one each from Shiels, R. O’Conner and McKee thus booking Tobermore a semi-final slot.
Sunday morning brought another early kick-off against “The George and Dragon”. After a good sporting game Tobermore ran out comfortable winners, and into the final, by 5 – 0 with two goals apiece from Shiels and Devlin and a real corker from Linton.
After yet another “early night”, Easter Monday morning dawned with Tobermore United ready to contest their first ever “European” cup final at The Bowl Stadium in Douglas.
Their opponents, “Fairfield,” were a big, strong and very much fancied side but after 90 minutes, a further 30 minutes of extra time, and some tremendous football from both teams, the game ended scoreless.
Then came the dreaded penalty shootout. To avoid being chosen Moore immediately removed his boots, and most of the rest of the team went looking for a drink (this time water).
Eventually the 5 penalty takers were volunteered with Patterson, the O’Conner brothers, Linton and Shiels all scoring from the spot thus ensuring that Tobermore United became the first ever football team from Ireland, North or South, to bring the coveted trophy to these shores.
There were obvious scenes of jubilation amongst the Tobermore team and by now hundreds of followers from all parts of the British Isles when United were presented with their cup and medals.
The celebrations continued long into the wee small hours and you can still hear some people speak of the great nights craic that was had by all, especially when Kenny Shiels took the stage in the Casino by storm when he performed his party piece, Leo Sayer’s famous hit record “You make me feel like dancing”
Thanks must be given to all of those who played, organised or helped in any way to make it a most memorable, enjoyable and successful weekend especially the family who owned the B&B.
A special thanks has got to go to Alvis Taylor who must surely hold a world record. Alvis was the teams 12th man/substitute. Not only did he not have to play in any of the games he didn’t even have a pair of football boots with him. (It was also strongly rumoured that a stranger, who wanted to do sub in the final, offered him a substantial sum of money, at approx. 4.30 am in the Casino on the night before the final. Alvis, being the true sportsman he was, of course refused the offer stating that his team needed him)