Notes From A Small Island 2 (Isle of Man)

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to visit the Isle of Man (or Ellan Vannin in the historical Manx language). A crown dependency in the middle of the Irish Sea it’s easy enough to get to, ferry from Heysham or a short flight from Birmingham. The latter sets you down at the Ronaldsway airport in good time for a scoot around the island to check out some of the island’s football grounds with the plan being a 2pm kick off at Castletown Metropolitan followed by the under 18 representative match at The Bowl in Douglas.

With the weather less than obliging it was prudent to check out Castletown ahead of their top of the table clash with rivals Pulrose United. Chairman Patty Quinney was at the Malew Road ground and confirmed the pitch would be no problem despite the weather. A nice little ground, dating from the 1950’s, boasting a small stand and a bit of cover the encounter with Pulrose had a bit of needle as both clubs are striving for promotion. The Isle of Man has a First and Second Division and then two Combination Leagues for second teams.

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Castletown Metropolitan AFC – Malew Street

Our scoot around the island started at Peel’s superb Douglas Road ground which has recently benefited from a new pitch (after sand containing glass was accidentally spread on the pitch last season!) and a make over of the stand with new plastic seats and a liberal lick of red paint around the place. The ground also boasts an indoor 3G surface.

A very pleasant drive up the west coast road found us in Ramsey, their own game had been called off earlier in the week as several of their players were selected for the representative game against Norfolk. What a fantastic ground Ballacloan Stadium is, named after the large house behind the far goal this end of the ground has quite scarily vertiginous stone terracing which sadly has out of bounds signs on it these days. A great shame must have been incredible to stand on these steep but shallow steps. There is also a decent stand with substantial terracing either side. The stadium sits in between a boating lake on North Shore Road and Mooragh Park and is particularly scenic.

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Ramsey AFC – Ballacloan Stadium

Laxey AFC were formed in 1910 and play at the Henry Bloom Moore Recreation Ground on Glen Road near the picturesque harbour. A substantial stretch of terracing is set off by a footpath that disappears up the cliff to higher ground.

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Laxey AFC – Henry Bloom Moore Recreation Ground

Next was the Isle of Man’s equivalent to Cowdenbeath’s Central Park in as much that Onchan Raceway is primarily a motor sport venue with a football pitch in the middle. Home to Onchan AFC it was securely locked on this visit which was a shame as it looked to have a couple of stylish concrete stands.

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Onchan AFC – Onchan Raceway

By now Patty from Castletown had contacted us to say that their game had sadly bitten the dust, not due to a waterlogged pitch but for the fact that the pitch markings had completely washed away despite his best attempts to renew them! A quick decision was made to return to Peel and watch their Combination side take on their counterparts from Colby. A tight first half was succeeded by an avalanche of Peel goals in the second half. The game finished 8-1 with the impressive Shaun Kelly netting a double hat-trick. A very friendly club in a truly wonderful setting.

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Peel AFC – Douglas Road Ground

A quick dash to the island’s capital Douglas saw us in the Isle of Man FA Ground at The Bowl in good time for the 5pm kick off. This was a quarter-final in the FA County Youth Cup and a decent crowd of 279 turned out on a very soggy evening. The stadium was substantially renovated in 2011, and has an artificial surface. There is seating for 3,000 with one side covered with a tented style roof. A well contested game saw the visitors from Norfolk win 2-1 in extra time.

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The Bowl Stadium

Heading back to the airport on the Sunday morning afforded the opportunity to visit one final ground right on the southern tip of the island in Port Erin. Croit Lowey is the home of Rushen United and has a clubhouse on an elevated platform above the pitch and this has a substantial section of cover running the length of the building.

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Rushen United – Croit Lowey

Despite the poor weather it was a memorable trip to this scandalously overlooked island. One can’t help thinking how ideal Isle of Man football would be for an organised groundhop. Decent facilities, friendly folk and a real tradition in football and nowhere particularly far from anywhere else it is tailor made for a groundhopping extravaganza.

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Cabo Verde (Cabinteely FC)

The last thirty years of the League of Ireland have seen a myriad of clubs attempting to bridge the gap from county football to the national league. The likes of Kilkenny City (1985-2008), Monaghan United (1985-2012), St.Francis (1996-2001), Dublin City (1999-2006), Kildare County (2002-09), Sporting Fingal (2007-11), Mervue United (2008-13), Salthill Devon (2008-13) have all tried and largely failed to hold down a place in the competition for anything other than a limited period of time.

Cabinteely are the latest such aspirant joining the League of Ireland for the 2015/16 season. Cabinteely is a small town in the southern part of County Dublin and had a couple of clubs, Cabinteely Blues and Cabinteely Boys representing the town before the current club were formed in 1967 as Auburn FC. Five years later they changed their name to Cabinteely Boys, dropping the suffix in recent years following the assimilation of several female teams into their roster of 60 teams at all age levels. To date probably their most famous alumni is Andy Keogh who played for Scunthorpe and Wolves and is currently with Perth Glory in Australia.

In order to gain admittance to the League of Ireland Cabinteely had to relocate from their very basic Kilbogget Park to Stradbrook Road the home of Blackrock College rugby club. The ground has a licensed capacity of 1,300 and only has uncovered terracing down one side of the pitch. It also has floodlights and a TV gantry so even without a stand as such it is a big step up from their old home. Cabo’s first season in the national league saw them finish bottom of the table of eight clubs.

Kilbogget Park

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This season has not seen much progress with Cabo again propping up the table before today’s game with their visitors from Athlone just a point above them. The result of this game was beyond doubt when young centre forward Joe Doyle completed a hat-trick with 7 minutes and 20 seconds on the clock. Doyle added a fourth to send Cabinteely in at the break in total command of the match. Athlone pulled back a consolation goal midway through the second half before an Oscar Brennan volley sealed a truly impressive victory for the hosts. It was their biggest win since joining the League of Ireland.

Just how long Cabinteely can survive at this level will be interesting to observe given the chequered history of recent entrants to this division. Should the club find themselves in a promotion position there would be a fair amount of upgrading needed for Stradbrook Road. Support is modest but enthusiastic, “We are Cabo” scarves sell well, and who knows, this very result might just light a fire in an upwards trajectory for Cabo.

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League of Ireland Division 1 – (01/07/2016)

Cabinteely 5 (Doyle 2, 4, 8, 27, Brennan 87)
Athlone Town 1 (Monaghan 68)

Att: 146

Admission: €10 No Programme (internet version only)

Review

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Cabinteely ticket