One past players memories of good times, good friends, good football and Fortress Faireview
NO MATTER what level players reach after schoolboys football – from Premier League to Leinster Senior League to pub football, wondering what might have been – two words are guaranteed to send a shiver through them: Fairview Park. Mention the Stadio delle Fairview to anybody who didn’t play in Belvo blue and the response is usually some sort of complaint about the wind, the dressing rooms, the showers, the wind, the hill, the pitches, the trains, the diggers for the Port Tunnel and, probably, the wind. Then, just to sum up, there’s the word they all put to it – a kip. Maybe, but it was our kip and to some of them Fairview should have seemed like the Nou Camp..
Few places encouraged accurate shooting as much as Fairview simply because in training, if you missed the target on one of the higher pitches, you could spend the rest of the afternoon trying to get your ball back. With any shot that was off-target, the hope was that it might rebound off one of the small trees behind the goal on the main pitch because, if it didn’t, what was meant to be a shooting drill could turn into a pre-season running session as
the ball skipped down the hill and far away or, worse, was picked up by a little crew of local young lads who were then chased until it was retrieved. Fifteen minutes after your last shot, you might finally make it back to the end of the line for the next one. Because I’d played in the Brenfer League until u-15 followed by one season in the DDSL
Major, I had no experience of Fairview or of the Belvo until I arrived there for my first training session in 1998. The first instruction I got was to walk with my shoulders back – you had to at least look like a footballer; the next was to tell us about a couple of friendlies that were arranged against, I think, Peterborough and the Ireland u-16s and then there was talk of a training camp that was coming a few weeks later. Coming from a set-up where many training sessions involved headsand-volleys or a game of World Cup, this was a bit of an eye-opener. That training camp, of course, was Mosney – a name which, before that summer, meant a holiday camp somewhere in Meath where the Community Games were held. After four days in August, it would conjure up a whole list of different images.
As well as a few memories seared into the brain that should only ever be repeated in the presence of a counsellor, it was a perfect way to integrate naïve newbies with Mosney veterans who knew their way around ‘Shakers’ and, with the number of training sessions, set the tone for a return to Fortress Fairview.
From there, a season was launched which ended with us needing to beat the red and black shower (whose name shouldn’t be mentioned in this magazine) to force a league play-off with the slight complication that the game came right in the middle of the Leaving Cert. I don’t remember much about the two exams on the day or the one which was on the next day, but the vision of Andy Brady’s volley in a 4-2 victory can be recalled in a moment.
Unfortunately, like that year’s All-Ireland final, the subsequent play-off still requires the presence of the aforementioned counsellor. The fact that our runners-up medals are strongly rumoured to be at the bottom of the Tolka River tells its own story. The following season was slightly more successful with a league medal, although never has a final whistle of a game that you’ve won been greeted with such silence as the final one in Fairview.
Given the lack of light, there was always trepidation using the dressing rooms and showers in an evening kick-off but, this time, because it was the final match taking the strip off for the final time seemed to take that little bit
longer. Those who’d been there longer than just two years and, in one of their words, “bled blue blood” felt like forming a new u-19s league just to get another year but, even a decade later, there’s still a friendship that endures with its foundation in Fairview.
There are times when meeting people that you knew in school is a chore but there’s rarely that feeling with former Belvo team-mates or coaches with whom it’s possible not to see for years and strike up a conversation as though you met last week. It’s that sort of camaraderie that’s the bedrock behind a 40th anniversary and will continue to
be for the 45th, 50th and beyond. You don’t get that with every club.