Bright future ahead for St. Malachy’s Football Club.

Football on the north-side of Dublin city has regularly produced big clubs from schoolboy level right the way through to senior level, with the likes of St. Kevin’s and Home Farm usually being at the top of this list. Unfortunately for St. Malachy’s of Edenmore, they never quite reached that level and normally see their top players move to the more established teams. However, with the direction in which the club is moving recently, this may very well be a thing of the past.

Having been founded in 1968, St. Malachy’s have certainly gone through their ups and downs, and a man who has witnessed quite a lot in his various roles at the club is current secretary Johnny Hobbs. Having grown up in Edenmore, Hobbs has been a part of this club since 1992 as a coach and became the club secretary in 1998. So there is no doubt that this club is very important to him.

Speaking after a nervy 2 – 1 win against Carndonagh, in reminiscent fashion, Hobbs talks about his time at the club and the situation they were in when he took over as the club secretary. “When I became secretary of this club back in 1998, I was also coaching the academy teams and at the time St. Malachy’s only had four teams competing and eventually I got a few more managers involved and in time we got it up to 12 strong teams,” he revealed.

All was going well at the club but like every other team at junior level challenging for success, it is not always plain-sailing and Hobbs’ St. Malachy’s team were no different. He went on to describe one of his lowest points in his career when he had to make the tough decision of pulling his team from the league by admitting: “I will always remember a match out in Clonskeagh, I had to make the phone-call to the league and tell them we did not have enough players and we couldn’t fulfil that fixture, and eventually I had to pull the team from the league altogether, that was one of my lowest points.”

To make matters worse, at the time his team were going through one of their best periods of football beating some of the better known teams in cup and league games. This may be the reason as to why it was so difficult for Hobbs to understand what was happening. “Up until that point we were doing pretty well, we were getting to the quarter final of All Irelands and beating teams like St. Kevin’s who were a top team back then, it was great. Then four years later it all falls apart, that was very difficult for me,” he confessed.

With such heartbreak, Hobbs evidently left that coaching role and concentrated on different aspects of the club, yet he could not stay away for too long. One year later he was back managing the schoolboy teams, which is something he seems to love. “Then a year later I came back to manage the schoolboy teams and being involved with the young kids gave you a lift. Anyone that’s involved in nursery level will tell you that. It’s like watering a plant and seeing it grow,” he admitted.

Now fortunate for some, the timing of his return could not come at a better stage for certain individuals, one being Manchester City goalkeeper Ian Lawlor, who played under Hobbs during his early years at the club. Hobbs commented on his potential from an early age and immediately recognized one of the few qualities needed to go further in football by affirming: “Ian Lawlor was always going to make it, everyone kind of knew that from the age of about eleven. Attitude is almost everything in football and he had the right attitude from an early age.” He then went on to point out the issue of modern day distractions and the affect these have on a players potential when they reach a certain maturity by adding: “As they get older, some players start hitting the beer. Unfortunately it happens quite a bit now and that will continue, but it’s the players that work hard week in week out are the ones that want to play.” Thankfully this problem did not affect Lawlor’s career.

Over the years, another issue close to Hobbs’ heart is the on-going process of developing the facilities to bring this club up to the level of what the league requires. Without having a proper clubhouse, training facilities and properly maintained football pitches, this club always struggled to be taken seriously when the bigger teams came to visit. Hobbs talked about the facilities and the whole progression by saying: “The building of the clubhouse will begin in the middle of May which we all worked very hard for. Also, we are getting a new pitch after agreeing with the local GAA club, as well as a brand new astro turf which will be great to train on.”

With the new facilities on their way, each St. Malachy’s team will have to take themselves a bit more serious than before and truly believe they can succeed, unlike many of the other teams they have come up against, since they will now possess the facilities that are a requirement at this level. Hobbs understands the responsibility he and the club now face when he goes on to say: “The facilities are a big thing for any club if they want to get bigger and compete with the elites. But once it is all built, we really are going to have to up our game to challenge and I will be doing everything I can.”

The future of this small club finally looks bright and Hobbs mentions one attribute which he places above all others, loyalty. “I’m a great man for loyalty and you must be loyal to the fellas that are loyal to you,” he said, adding that: “showing loyalty to the crest is a big thing for me and with that everything will soon fall into place,” he explained.

This club has become more like a family now, and it is coming to everyone’s realization that Hobbs will be stepping down from this role soon, and whoever should take the reins will have to live up to his high expectations and unswerving allegiance. However Hobbs does not seem too concerned about this situation, as we leave the final words to the man himself, “When the time comes for me to hang up my boots, I’ll hang up everything. I can see present players taking up my role, I mean they are such a big part of this club,” he concluded.