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Fond memories of a soccer legend

Paddy Crerand with family members Ursula Curran-Coll, John Curran and Jade Curran.

Paddy Crerand with family members Ursula Curran-Coll, John Curran and Jade Curran.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY

SOCCER legend Pat (Paddy) Crerand had a civic reception held in his honour on Friday by members of Donegal County Council in Lifford.

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Born and reared in the Gorbals in Glasgow, Crerand considers Donegal his home. His father, Michael, hailed from Kilmacrennan and his mother was Sarah ‘Tim’ Boyle from Gweedore.

“It always felt like home and I would cry my eyes out when it was time to leave,” Crerand wrote in his autobiography, ‘Never Turn The Other Cheek’.

Crerand had a distinguished career with Celtic and Manchester United. He won the European Cup with Matt Busby’s United in 1968, as well as winning the League twice and the FA Cup once, while he has won 16 caps for Scotland.

Crerand has never lost touch with his roots and there remain strong family ties, particularly in the west of the county.
He said in his book: “I’d spend all my free time in Donegal. I always consider Donegal home.”

Time was when players of Crerand’s ilk graced the summer cup pitches of Donegal. Absurd as it may seem, but think of Shay Given in his pomp returning to keep goals at the Convoy Cup, or perhaps James McCarthy shunning next week’s trip to America with Ireland to try his hand at a summer cup somewhere.

A ferocious competitor, Crerand took things seriously in those famed summer cups.

Bobby Toland remembers time ticking ever closer to kick off at a Kennedy Cup game in Moville one evening and Crerand had yet to appear, as scheduled, for Kildrum Tigers.

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“We used to change in the egg store in Moville and Maurice O’Donnell had stayed overnight to bring a few boys from Scotland who came to play, but there was no sign of Crerand this particular day,” he says.

“We got him in because this cup was massive. There was a thousand pound for the winners.

“We were due to play a team from Belfast in the second round, so we brought Crerand in. We never played in the first round because our team was always a big attraction.”

Toland puts it down to Paddy having ‘fallen out with the woman’, but the Scot was keen to play. Such was his respect for Toland, he took a measure to get from west Donegal to Moville that would put most modern players to shame.

“What did Crerand do? He brought a taxi, Huidi Dora McGinley, the whole way from Annagry to Moville,” Toland remembers.

“What’s more, he paid for it himself. That was just Paddy – he’d never let you down.”

Bobby Toland.

Bobby Toland.

Toland sits back at his kitchen table now and explains that we sit on the very ground he, Crerand and several other big names of the time would have passed their evenings.

“He played football out there in his fine shoes,” Toland says, pointing out to his back garden in the townland of Kildrum.

“He was an international player when he was playing out here. We played here every night. Those boys spent their whole summers here.

“All they wanted for playing was their cup of tea and maybe entry into the dance hall.”

Toland assembled a star-studded team for Kildrum at the time.

“I was on the bread run at that time and I saw all those boys coming and going, so I got to know them all,” he says. “I still be in contact sometimes with Crerand. He’s a great man and what a player he was.

“That was some team we had.”

Toland is 83 now, but the mind remains as sharp as ever. The football talk is still spoken of like an excited youth. The Kildrum team he talks of from a Buncrana Cup match is recited almost poetically.

Consider that Toland was in goals and his team included such stellar names like Jody McIntyre (Ayr United), Ian Hunter (Falkirk), Hughie Higgins (Hibs), Paddy Crerand (Celtic), Tom Wilson (Sunderland), Charlie Tully (Celtic) and John McCole (Leeds United).

“The boys came from Rathmullan but they missed the ferry and they had to wait for a man to come to get them lifted quick,” Toland says.

“The match was delayed, but we won 6-2 after being two down.

“Wee ‘Nadger’ McDaid came outside me and he said running past: ‘Who do you play in the European Cup?’”
Toland remembers coming up against a team that included Crerand in another summer cup, on this occasion in Raphoe.

“One of the Holmes brothers had sold a bullock and didn’t he go and get a stacked side.

“He had Frank Haffey in goals and Crerand in midfield. Jimbo Crossan was centre-half for us and marking a man Conway who had been with Celtic.

“We were getting beat three-nil and playing against the hill.

“We decided that Jimbo couldn’t look after Conway. We switched him with Daniel Lynch from St Johnston and Daniel never gave him a kick: He outran him, he outjumped him, everything. Daniel Lynch was a great player.”

Toland’s memories of the summer cups remain as vivid as those magical trips and games.

“There were some great craic in the summer cups,” he says.

“We were going over the bridge in Derry to a summer cup game in Castledawson. It was twenty past seven and we were to play in a semi-final at half seven. Someone says in the car: ‘Jesus, we’re wild late’. We had three quarters of an hour driving flat our before we’d make it. Maurice O’Donnell had a great wit about him. ‘God boys, settle down, sure we’re not late for another ten minutes. Things like that stick out.

“There were nights when we came in and lifted the gear not really knowing where we were going. You had to stop to think. We were out seven nights a week and sometimes twice on a Sunday. I remember playing a semi-final in Buncrana one Sunday and then heading straight to Strabane and they were waiting on me for the final.”

See this week’s edition of the Donegal News for full interview with Bobby Toland

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