Westport Utd F.C., History 1980 - 2001 in Co. Mayo
On July 23rd, 1983,the Sports Park was re-opened once more. The new-look ground incorporated a running track, and a concrete spectator terrace. The match that evening was between a Connacht Selection and a Manchester Utd selection. Irish international, Kevin Moran, announced his engagement to local girl, Eleanor Hughes that night. However, the curtain-raiser that evening was a Community Games match between Westport and Ballina. The home side won 4-1 to qualify for the U.12 Connacht semi-final. The underage began to consolidate on the scene, and the following year, the U.15 girls won the national Community Games title in Mosney. In 1985, Joe Mulroy ended a 29 year famine when he won an Irish Youth cap against Northern Ireland. The Republic won the game 6-3.
Preparations for the 75th anniversary began with a shutdown of the Sports Park, to improve the pitch. The Committee, under the chairmanship of Noel Duffy, began to commission a book for the occasion. The Club made an ambitious move by appointing former Cork Celtic and Republic of Ireland player, John Herrick. Utd had a good season, with their main performances in the cups. Westport won their 6th Connacht Cup on May 24th 1987 with a 2-1 win over West Utd of Galway. Three weeks later, Utd won the Michael O'Byrne Cup against the same opposition. The club, proud of their achievements, hosted their 75th anniversary game on the 26th July 1987. They played host to Derry City in the Sports Park. The 1988-89 season saw Westport Utd join the Connacht Senior League, the U.15 and U.18 teams win Connacht Cup titles, and the tragic death of Pat Halpin, one of the best up and coming players at the time.
The 1990s began with the U.18s dominant, with great cup runs, and some smashing U.12 teams. The 1992 U.12 Community Games Soccer team won bronze in Mosney, and got to the last 16 in the S.F.A.I. Norton Cup the following February. On the senior side, the reserve team was scrapped; Paul Large took over the senior team, and got them to the Connacht Senior Cup Final on May 26th 1991. Westport were beaten 1-0 by Salthill Devon. Large left that September, and the form from the senior became very erratic. 1992 saw a prestigious friendly arranged against Preston North End. The game was played on August 6th, with the visitors winning 2-0. Ronnie Ring had a goal disallowed for offside. On December 3rd 1992, an E.G.M. was called for the amalgamation of Westport Utd and Westport Utd Youths in the Castlecourt House. The vote for amalgamation was passed, with Michael Rabbett elected Chairman. Success for the club was confined to the underage.
The lack of success from the senior team came to a head at the A.G.M. of the club on 26th May 1994, when the incoming chairman, Noel Duffy, announced that Michael McDonagh would take charge of the senior team for the 1994-95 season. The seniors got off to a very good start, and in the F.A.I. Intermediate Cup, they were handed a home tie against Whitehall Rangers. On the morning of the 13th November 1994, club officials were seen clearing water off the pitch as they tried to render it playable in the torrential rain. The game was played and Westport won 2-0. Within days, Rangers lodged an objection, which was upheld. The objection was against the Derry based players on the team. The squad went into disarray, and the club lost a lot of respect. It would take a long time for the club to recover from these events. Westport withdrew from the Connacht Senior League in July 1995, and got promoted to the Mayo League Premier Division on 17th September 1995, as champions.
While the club was recovering from one blow, it was dealt with a severe one in 1997, when it got fined £1,400 and deducted 13 points for breaches in registration rules. The situation deteriorated when the standoff resulted in the fine being doubled, and the club suspended. Deputy Michael Ring intervened in the crisis, which resulted in the fine being deducted to £1,000. The points deduction stood, thus Westport Utd were relegated. The U.14s that season did the Mayo double, and got to the quarter final of the S.F.A.I U.14 Goodson Cup. They were beaten 2-0 after extra time by Monaghan Utd on the 29th March 1998. The juniors bounced back by winning the Gill Cup on July 19th and the Division 1 title on October 4th 1998. Underage trophies kept flowing in at U.16 level with back-to-back league titles. The juniors were now competing in the T.S.B. Super League for the first time, after passing important criteria.
The millennium arrived with the Quigley Cup going back to Westport for the first time since 1976, plus the U.18 side having their best season since 1991. The U.18s recently lost the Quigley Cup final to Castlebar Celtic. The U.17s and U.18s had great F.A.I. Cup runs before losing to Home Farm and St. Joseph's Boys. However, the club had a scare earlier this year, as lack of interest very nearly left the club to fold. For a pictorial history, why not call into Blowsers on James Street, Westport, and relax with a good drink.
Visit the Westport United FC website for more information.