Ian McGarvey to be inducted into DSS Hall of Fame

Ian McGarvey will be the 47th inductee into the Donegal Sports Star Awards Hall of Fame at the gala awards ceremony in the Mount Errigal Hotel on Friday 27th of January. The 92-year-old has made a massive contribution to soccer since the late 1940s with the highlight of his playing career coming on the 13th of May 1962 when he captained Swilly Rovers to the FAI Junior Cup title at Dalymount Park. It was a moment in history as the Ramelton side became the first team in any sport from Donegal to win a national final.

McGarvey had been a member of the Swilly side who lost the 1953 FAI Junior Cup Final and missed the 1958 national decider due to an eye injury. A highly regarded central defender, his talent was tracked by senior clubs here and in Scotland. The Glenleary native had a short spell with Sligo Rovers but declined to sign a long term contract because the money was not good and he was earning more with the Swilly Railway Company at the time. McGarvey will receive the Hall of Fame Award from Sports Star Special Guest Shay Given just three days before he retires as an Independent Cllr for the Milford Electoral Area.

Ian McGarvey is genuinely taken aback that he is to be honoured with the prestigious Donegal Sports Star Award. “Look I didn’t expect this but it’s nice to get and I am looking forward to getting the award from Shay Given. I know his father Seamus very well from our own footballing days. He was a goalkeeper too. The highlight for me was undoubtedly winning the FAI Junior Cup and being captain of the Swilly Rovers team that day. Sadly Liam Blake and Fr. Dan O’Doherty have passed away in the last while and it’s hard to believe Brendan Duffy is gone over 20 years but this award is for them and the rest of the team including Fr. Willie McMenamin and ‘Wee Joe’ {Duffy}. It was a great year with big crowds in Ramelton for a couple of the earlier rounds. I played in all the big cups here like Buncrana and the McAlinden Cup in Derry as well as the D&D League there.”

McGarvey had cross-channel offers but declined them all. “When I was at Sligo Rovers, Sean Fallon, who had big family ties there, asked me about going to Celtic at the end of that season. He was a player-coach at Parkhead. I just said no for the simple facts firstly that I had too often seen players go over and not make it to the first team and the money wasn’t good either. Another time Queens Park was inquiring but it was the same answer. I was getting decent money with the Swilly Railway at the time and the money wasn’t much better with those senior clubs. After I stopped playing I got great satisfaction from getting youngsters involved in football to keep them away from trouble. This Hall of Fame is also for the men that kept football going in Ramelton like Eamonn McDaid, Paddy Sweeney, John McCarron and many others.”

Donegal Sports Star Awards Chairperson Grace Boyle has congratulated McGarvey and is looking forward now to honouring a man who put a lot back into sport after he retired promoting youth football. He was involved in managing the Rathmullan/Whitestrand Youth team with the late Eddie McCollum. Ian also served as Chairperson of the Donegal Youth League for a period and is still a member of the Swilly Rovers F.C. Committee. “We are delighted to be announcing Ian McGarvey as the next inductee into our Hall of Fame. Ian was a kingpin of soccer in Donegal in the Summer Cups and with Swilly Rovers in the FAI Junior Cup. This recognition is overdue for he did put Ramelton on the map nationally in 1962 with the FAI Junior Cup title. But still it is timely now to recognise Ian as he closes another chapter in a remarkable life when he steps down as a Cllr at the end of the month. At 92 years of age Ian McGarvey is still as active as ever and I am looking forward to him stepping up on to the stage to receive the Hall of Fame from Shay Given” Ms Boyle said.

Cllr Liam Blaney Cathaoirleach of the Council and Chief Executive of the Local Authority John McLaughlin have also extended their congratulations to the Ramelton man on the Hall of Fame news. McGarvey is the 13th soccer player to take the Hall of Fame accolade and the third man from Ramelton after Eamonn McDaid (1979) and Paddy Sweeney (2002) both of whom had also a long association with Swilly Rovers. He is the second member of the historic Swilly Rovers FAI Junior Cup winning side of 1962 to get the honour following in the footsteps of Fr. Willie McMenamin in 1996.

He is the fifth soccer winner in the last decade. McGarvey will be the 47th recipient of the Hall of Fame. The other soccer winners were Hugo Doherty, Buncrana (1988), Phil McLaughlin, Newtowncunningham (1992), Charlie ‘Bovril’ Collins (1994), Paddy Byrne Carndonagh and Kilcar (1999), Harry Blaney, Fanad (2003), John Sheridan, Rathmullan (2008), Eunan ‘Busty’ Blake, Letterkenny (2010), Hugh ‘Dick’ Doherty, Buncrana (2013), Jim Sheridan, Rathmullan (2016), Fr. Michael Sweeney, Fanad (2018) and Patsy McGowan, Ballybofey (2020). When he was Mayor of Donegal County Council in 2013, Ian McGarvey represented the Local Authority as one of the Special Guests making the presentations to the winners of that year.

Sunday the 13th of May 1962 is the date when Swilly Rovers made history by becoming the first club from Donegal to win a national team title in any sport. Captain Ian McGarvey climbed the steps in the Dalymount Park Stand to receive the FAI Junior Cup after the Ramelton outfit had come from behind to defeat Cork side Castleview 3-1. The success was all the sweeter as Swilly had previously lost Junior Finals in 1953 and 1958.

McGarvey was just 13-years-old when he played his first match in Castleshanaghan. “Billy Bradley was managing the Roughan side. He called one day to our house and asked my father if I could play for them in that game. When we got there Jim Cowan was on a donkey and cart lining the pitch, using peat mold. I was just 13 and some of the men I was playing with and against were three times my age.”

The drive to develop soccer took a momentous step forward when the first ground was bought some 73 years ago for 300 pounds from Sarah O’Brien on Aughnish Road and has remained the home of Swilly Rovers Football Club ever since. Still McGarvey says that the Swilly Rovers success story was certainly not an overnight phenomenon. “A lot of people put a lot of time into Swilly and that began to reap dividends in the 1950s. We were the first team from Donegal to get to the FAI Junior Cup Final” McGarvey said. The Ramelton outfit lost that final 3-1 to Evergreen from Waterford at Dalymount Park with Brendan McDaid getting the Swilly goal.

“I was the centre back and Dalymount was a huge pitch and we weren’t used to wide open spaces. Our two full-backs and the wing-backs were very wide and at times there were five of them coming through the middle so we were caught out and paid the price. I couldn’t play in the 58’ final because of the eye injury that was caused by a hawthorn bush when I was working with the Swilly Railway. It left that eye permanently damaged. But I was in Dalymount that day. I could see early on that we were making the same mistakes that we made in the final five years previous. I went down from the Stand to suggest that our centre-half needed more protection through the middle otherwise we were going to concede goals and that’s what happened” McGarvey said.

“One thing I remember in the lead-up to that final was Brendan Duffy complaining of a sore leg on the Saturday night and telling us to get plenty of rest because he wasn’t going to be fit to play. I just said to him ‘Duffy you will be playing’. So we went out to the Phoenix Park on the Sunday morning. Brendan did a few runs and felt ok. He played and got his FAI Cup medal.”

As well as the big games at Swilly Park, McGarvey also recalls major cup matches being played across the bridge at the Ballyboe on the Bank Terrace pitch. “I had the pleasure of playing against some of the top junior sides that came out of Dublin. Those teams were loaded with players who had Junior International caps for Ireland. There were huge crowds in Ramelton for some of those games. The Summer Cups were great. Swilly won the cup here in Ramelton three times in a row in the late 1950s. We defeated Letterkenny Rovers and two Derry teams in those finals.” McGarvey said.

The historic national breakthrough came in 1962 at Dalymount Park when Swilly defeated Cork side Castleview 3-1 courtesy of goals from Gerry Bradley, Mickey Doherty and Liam Blake. Fittingly it was one of the town’s very own Joe Duffy who supplied the assists for all three goals. It was a proud day for Ramelton and Donegal. For many deeply involved with the club like brothers Eamon and Brendan McDaid, Paddy Sweeney, Sam McCloy and Ivan Grier it was a dream come through to see the national trophy coming down the Tank and onto the Mall in Ramelton.

Friday, May 13th was the 60th anniversary of the date when Ian McGarvey captained Swilly Rovers to became the first football team from any code in the county to bring a national trophy back to Donegal. No GAA team had ever done it and in fact it was to be 30 years before Brian McEniff guided the Donegal side to bring the Sam Maguire ‘Back to the Hills’ in 1992. In between Finn Harps won the FAI Senior Cup in 1974.

Ian McGarvey remembers the Swilly Rovers side arriving at Lifford Bridge on the Monday evening when there was a big crowd there to welcome them back into Donegal. And the cavalcade then set off for Ramelton. The celebrations were rounded off with a victory function in the Town Hall.