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BELVEDERE FC CELEBRATE 50 YEARS

MIGHTY BELVO A GREAT SERVANT AND AMBASSADOR FOR THE BEAUTIFUL GAME – 50 YEARS YOUNG!

UNDER 17 FAI CUP WINNERS, 2011 PHOTO: Eamon Scott

 BELVO are 50 years young! 

Hard to credit that, where the years gone?. It would be very inappropriate to suggest that they are 50 years ‘old’ given that  Belvedere’s DNA is very much a celebration of youth and the shaping and making of young boys into men both on and off the field of play. 

At the fountain of youth, you never grow old and Belvedere’s long-standing commitment to youth ensures the club will always have a spring it its’ step. 

In that respect Belvedere FC have been singularly successful in their endeavors and the record books and fabled cups of the Dublin District Schoolboys and Girls League are etched with the name Belvedere FC. 

Among the champion of champions, Belvedere FC are fully entitled to their seat at the top table of Irish schoolboy football and like so many other schoolboy clubs, their nurturing and development of their players have provided a production line of players for higher calling.

So many Belvedere players have gone on to stellar heights who cut their footballing teeth in Fairview Park wearing the colours of this famous club whose reputation has spread far and wide. So firstly, a massive congratulations on reaching this landmark.

They say ‘birthdays’ are only a number but it’s also cause for celebration, to gather as a club, to backslap with old comrades and to recall those sepia tinted days of yesteryear when a fixture in the evening newspaper on Monday for the coming weekend’s against Belvo invariably put the fear of God in the opposition.

 And rightly so, because when Belvedere were the opposition there were a few ‘givens’ that you knew were incontrovertible.

One was you were in for a severe test of your own team abilities and any weaknesses would be ruthlessly  exposed. You also knew that Belvedere teams were always well coached, disciplined and drilled and that just turning up was never enough – you have to perform to your best ability to give yourself a smidgen of hope of getting something from the game.

 Away to Belvedere in Fairview Park is akin to away to Liverpool or City in Premier League-speak.

That’s the measure of those challenges and going down there on a Saturday morning or Sunday morning was part of so many players’ DDSL education.

 And the lesson was how to escape the Lions Den! Man-up or get off the stage!

From small acorns great oak trees grow and that has certainly been the case with Belvedere FC. Originally a branch of Belvedere YC back in 1971 the club started with just four teams operating in two under 12, an under 13 and under 15 – the highest ranking the oldest group in the ‘D’ league. 

But those young pioneers of the club instantly blazed a trail and the hard-wiring of success had remained a constant element as the club rose through the ranks winning all before them. Few clubs can look back at an inventory of trophies won such as Belvedere.

  Close to 200 domestic DDSL titles have been won on the field of battle, but add in the provincial and national titles and you understand why Belvedere’s reputation is of such absolutely stellar proportions. 

And while many have worn the sky blue and black, many have worked their way into the gratitude and appreciation of the Irish sporting consciousness on the highest of stages.

The great entertainer Wes Hoolahan springs instantly to mind – a person who epitomises all that is good about Belvedere – talented, committed and a match winner if ever there was one. Like a good wine, Wes simply got better as he got older but the young Wes was also a brilliant player with pace, vision and a skill factor that made him stand out as a talent of the highest calibre and with Belvo right on his doorstep there was always only going to be one club that was certain of his services, despite many other suitors. 

He’s joined by such luminaries of the game like Stephen Kelly and Matt Doherty, Mark Kennedy, Killian Sheridan, Keith Treacy and Curtis Fleming  and in more recent times Darragh Lenihan and Troy Parrott among others who have worn the green of Ireland at the highest level.

At Under age right up to Under 23 level, Belvedere have been a ‘go-to’ provider for the Football Association of Ireland for the past five decades. Likewise the ranks of the League of Ireland is populated by legions of ex-Belvedere players who have moved to a higher calling  spread across the pro-ranks – but so well coached and versed in their formative years that they all make seamless step-ups. 

Then there are the players who went on scholarship and gained an education all on the back of their schooling and instilling of the right ethos as individuals and as team players by their Belvo mentors. Add in representative inclusion at DDSL SFAI Kennedy Cup or LFA Youths – so often backboned by Belvo players – and it simply enhances the standing and reputation as a club with highest of standards and ambitions. 

That’s no easy achievement, rather based on years of coaching and development in making and honing better players of the raw recruits who first enter the portals of the club. Truth is that there is a Belvo Way and those who have worn the colours will appreciate just what it is to be part of.

You never really end up as ‘ex-Belvo’ because really Belvo is for life and that is a warm feeling that those on the ‘outside’ can only stand back and admire.

 What Brian Kerr said at the club’s 30th anniversary remains true today: “Thirty years ago Belvedere was nothing more than another new club. What was achieved since should be an inspiration for every ambitious club – big or small – in the country.

You don’t need great facilities, although they are certainly a help; what you need is a vision, people prepared to work hard and improve their own knowledge in order to help the young players in their charge fulfil their potential.”

Brian’s comrade in arms was of course the much loved and fondly remembered Noel O’Reilly, a guy who personified all that is good about Belvedere. A great coach, a great individual and someone who had no airs or graces, what you saw is what you got. And that old guitar was so often a 12th man for club and country too!

And when you mention the likes of Noel who have gone to the great Stadium in the Sky you have to add in the likes of Fergus McCabe who was Mr Belvedere himself and was so proud of the humble origins and progress the club made in his lifetime.

Fergus was an intelligent and wise individual who achieved so much for the north inner city and the club has been blessed with senior figures cut from similar cloth such as Philip Manley, Vinny Butler, Martin Cooke, Eddie Foy and Peadar Behan who have all made monumental contributions to the growth of Belvo as a footballing institution. Membership of Belvedere admits you for life into a club that does things the right way. 

The input of former Academy Director Jimmy Jackson should also be noted. An excellent role model and a great mentor for Belvo players trying to forge a career in the game.

Another name that must ride high in Belvo’s stellar contributors goes right back to the genesis of the club. Marty Farrell brought three underage teams into the club in 1973. He was a widower with six young kids who ran a DDSL club, Blackburn Rovers in the area. Rovers amalgamated with Belvedere and as you have often head, “the rest is history.”

Marty who lived in Liberty House and worked on the Docks became the Belvedere’s first President. He died in 1997 RIP, but his input to the club during those early years cannot be forgotten and while he, like so many others have gone to a greater reward, Marty Farrell’s contribution should never be forgotten, although such was the man that he would be embarrassed by any adulation pointed in his direction.

The FAI could take a leaf out of Belvo’s book as to how to go about running a successful football operation.

While many mourn the passing of the grassroots schoolboy model now that the FAI has introduced their underage set-up, many yearn for the great days of bumper crowds ringing the pitches of Dublin as the DDSL Premier big-guns went head to head and produced more action and thrills than the edited highlights of that weekends’ Match of the Day.. Fairview Park, the Lawns, Mobhi Road, Sallynoggin or Shanowen Road were just a few of the ports of call for every scout worth his salt  and there were rich pickings which served the game so well. 

Belvedere were right at the heart of all that was good about schoolboy football – operating at the highest level across all the age groups and delivering trophies based on an attacking, passing game that was easy on the eye that invariably delivered the right results

I’ve left it until the end of this article to declare that I come from a Blue and White persuasion not too far from your own home base in the north inner city. While Home Farm and Belvedere have been the best of rivals on the field of play, I can safely say on behalf of everyone in Whitehall, off the pitch it is nothing but respect. 

On a night when the 2022 Champions League final is beamed around Europe and the rest of the World, the Crown Plaza in Santry is also a theatre of dreams for winners, all, who fondly recall the Mighty Belvedere – for what it stands for and what it has achieved

And what it has achieved in the preceding five decades, is nothing short of remarkable!

WELL DONE BELVO!

I’ve long been of the opinion that it’s your opponents who bring out the best in you. It’s up to you to be better than what is put in front of you and to meet the challenge – be it home or away – league or cup, provincial or national. History will tell you, Belvedere has passed this test so many times they are  fully entitled to say on a night of entitled celebration: “Belvo, simply the Best!”

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