The day Celtic superstars in disguise thrilled big crowds in summer cup tournament in Moville
The Kennedy Cup, one of the north west’s plethora of summer football competitions, was hosted annually in Moville and, with a prize of £2,000, was a big draw for teams from far and wide.
One such team was the mysterious Carfin Emeralds who hailed from Scotland, then leading the way in European football.
Glasgow Celtic would, of course, be crowned European Champions three years later and it is said that up to as many as nine Celtic first teamers turned out for the Emeralds.
The brains behind the Emeralds was Moville native, Monsignor Jack Gillen, who, by the early 1960s, was ministering in Scotland.
Monsignor Gillen had the brainwave of sending over a team of professionals who would sweep all before them and, undoubtedly, swell numbers flocking through the gates at the Bay Field.
But how could these footballers get around the fact that, contractually, they were prohibited from playing in junior competitions where any injuries sustained could damage their future careers and certainly jeopardise their relationships with the clubs who had them under contract and paid their wages?
The only solution? To come to play in the Bay Field in Moville in disguise! What kind of disguise? Masks, false beards and make up, of course.
The Carfin Emeralds made their Kennedy Cup bow in 1963, but it was the following year that they really captured the imagination.
In the first round, they faced Derry’s own Tonnage Dockers, the men from ‘Down the Quay’, managed by Sammy Wilson and Jack (Jeek) Doherty.
The result was 1-1 and local football aficianados were of the opinion that the mystery team were “no great shakes”. Rumours flew fast and furious all over town: “Who are these guys?”
“Whoever they are, they’re not as hot as they were cracked up to be!’
“Was that really the young Jimmy Johnstone on the wing?”
“Was that Pat Crerand in the middle?”
“No way, not with passing like that.”
The replay, however, told a different story. Twenty minutes into the game, Carfin were three up. Dockers now needed a miracle.
“McClean tried desperately to get the Dockers attack moving but it was Emeralds who scored again,” records the ‘Derry Journal’ report of the game. And so it was.
“Emeralds sparkled at Moville”, the ‘Journal’ headline said of the Scots’ eventual 7-3 demolition of the Dockers.
No names to identify the Emeralds were printed in the local reports. Their anonymity only fed speculation wherever football fans gathered.
The quarter final draw to be played in early September pitched Carfin Emeralds against Rosemount.
The ‘Journal’ reporter described that quarter final as one of the best games seen at the Bay Field since the inception of the Kennedy Cup’s big money prize.
Emeralds held on for a 3-2 victory but Rosemount could have dented the Scots’ reputation with a storming second half comeback after being three down at the interval.
Emeralds faced the mighty Foyle Rovers in the second semi-final. Again, it was a close affair decided by a solitary second half goal scored brilliantly by Carfin’s ‘Mochan’.
Intriguingly, while the Rosemount line-out is reported, man after man, there is no team sheet for Carfin.
The Emeralds’ semi-final victory meant they would now be playing Manchester Athletic in the final scheduled for October 11.
Once again, there was no team sheet for Carfin whose mystery men recorded a convincing seven goals to three victory over their opponents.
And, so, the 1964 Kennedy Cup left for Scotland, and the north west footballing fraternity were left wondering: just who were those mystery men in disguise?