Mullingar Town captain, Frank Murray with the Glen Abbey Cup in 1973. The Glen Abbey Cup was an FAI tournament involving junior clubs from across Ireland.

Nostalgia galore afoot as Town recalls Glen Abbey golden boys

This Friday night, August 30 (tonight), the 40th anniversary of Mullingar Town FC’s extraordinary victory in the prestigious FAI Glen Abbey Cup soccer tournament will be marked by a special event.

All the players that featured in that remarkable team, as well as all ex-Town players, are being invited to Mullingar Arts Centre for an evening of “sing-song and craic,” as chairman Martin Moore put it.

June 1973 was a glorious month for Westmeath soccer. In St Mel’s Park, Athlone, Town defeated Dublin side St Francis 3-2, after extra time, to lift the Glen Abbey Cup.

The stadium was packed to capacity, with receipts amounting to £315. Town didn’t do it the easy way. The game, which was a replay (Town drew the original final 2-2 in Tolka Park), went to extra-time and despite having a man sent off, the Town prevailed after 120 minutes of intense football.

It was Town hotshot Donald Nea who was the hero in extra-time, slotting home the all important winning goal. According to the Examiner’s match report from 1973: “Before the ball had even come to rest in the back of the net, Donald was buried beneath a sea of Mullingar players, officials and supporters."

Town took the lead after only six minutes of play, and while the remainder of the half was evenly matched the Town found themselves entering the break a goal to the good.

It wasn’t until the 71st minute that a second goal was scored. It was the equaliser St Francis had been looking for all game, Pat Dempsey scoring with his head from a corner. Despite a late increase in urgency the game was all square at 90, and so the match went to extra-time.

Disaster struck for the Town three minutes in as Francis took the lead, through Pat Doyle. In the dying seconds of the first period of extra-time the Town’s hopes lay on the shoulders of Vinny Murray.

The Town had won a penalty after Donald Nea was obstructed in the box. Vinny was “undaunted” as he “strolled calmly up and sent Denis Hyland the wrong way with a terrific shot.”

The winning goal came from a free-kick resulting from Kevin Newman’s sending off for retaliation. “They were awarded a free on the right and this was headed on by Christy Sheridan to Donald Nea. The young winger took his chance and hit a half volley from 25 yards. The St Francis ’keeper got his hands to it but was unable to hold the ball.”

It was only the second time in its history that the Glen Abbey Cup was awarded to a team from outside the capital, proving the enormity of Mullingar Town’s achievement. Noel Slevin was highly praised for his performance in goal.

As the Examiner report said: “His timely interceptions helped in no small way to put Mullingar’s name on the base of the Glen Abbey Cup.”

Mullingar Town’s team from the game was: Noel Slevin, Liam Daly, Jimmy Lynch, Martin Ryan, John Daly, Christy Sheridan, Tony Keegan, Frank Murray (captain), Vinny Murray, Kevin Newman, Donald Nea and Seamus Mulhearn.

Each member of the ’73 winning side will be presented with a commemorative trophy and it is hoped that the Glen Abbey Cup itself will be making an appearance, with plans to bring the trophy down from Dublin.

The event kicks off at 9pm, so why not pop down to Mullingar Arts Centre tonight to relive that magnificent sporting success?