Ireland manager, Martin O’Neill recently launched Salthill Devon Supporters Club & Drom Rejuvenation project in front of a large gathering of the faithful in the Salthill Hotel.
He enthralled the crowd, connecting to every single person there and acknowledged the importance of clubs like Salthill Devon. Responding to Salthill’s Rob Meehan, he found it somewhat amusing that when he started out ‘the chairmen were old and the managers a lot younger’.
Salthill Devon, as a club, has never let the grass grow under their feet! And while for many years they had no home base, there was always a passion to establish something. This writer has been involved since the late sixties – so disclaimer here, if I sometimes get over enthusiastic!
Back in the day – the slogan was a pitch for Salthill Devon. One pitch would have done! But we had little or no success. Then Miller’s Lane materialised – two pitches, paradise! However as the club grew our ambitions grew and so on to Drom. Salthill Devon had set out to get a home and evolved from training and playing in Salthill Park, via Miller’s Lane to a state of the art facility in Drom, with four grass pitches, eight ‘astro cages’ and a mini all weather pitch.
Fifteen years + on and Drom, like any facility, needs to be upgraded. From a footballing perspective – and that is what has always driven Salthill Devon’s modus operandi – a full size latest generation all weather pitch is a requirement. Rory Ginty is the first Galway man to play in the Premiership – he explains below how his development as a player at Salthill Devon was so important.
On the night in the Salthill hotel, Robert Meehan reminded everybody that he started at seven years of age with the club:
We are here to launch the Drom Supporters Club and the Drom Rejuvenation Project. It’s all about replacing and re-configuring for future needs and creating a full size all weather pitch. It will be a costly exercise.
Rob Meehan and many others have been part and parcel of the whirlwind that has been Salthill Devon since its formation in 1977, when Salthill Athletic and Devon Celtic came together. The story of the ‘coming together’ is for another day.
The young guys form ’77 are now the old guys, but most are still involved and the ‘Nipper’s from the early days are carrying on the crusade to enable the young players to ‘be the best they can be’
However, organised soccer in Salthill has been in existence in some guise or other since the 1940’s and beyond. Most sports in those days were played on a sporadic basis rather than the regimented way it is played today. Populations were smaller, money was in very short supply, transport Spartan and playing fields few and far between.
It is worth reminding ourselves that what we have today in our sporting lives might have been regarded as a sort of sci-fi in post war Galway. ‘Stuff’ we take for granted like football boots, team kit and the like were at a premium in the 20 years following the second world war, when everything was in relative short supply – but we probably didn’t really know it.
It is important that we recognise those pioneers – most of whom are no longer with – it is their legacy that the present day Salthill Devon is carrying forward.
The mists of time often tend to erode our memories, but lest we forget, most sporting clubs, like Salthill Devon are building on the past and evolving with the times as they go. Little did those lads know when they kicked a ball around (probably in the Swamp) in the 1950’s that their grit and determination to put a team on the field lives on.
In the early 1970’s Finbar Lillis, literally from the boot of his car, kicked started Salthill Athletic once more – they had been in hibernation for a time! The rest is history!
Salthill Devon are a club that has delivered much over the years. They have competed at almost every level of football in Ireland. The club has produced over sixty internationals players at all levels from senior down to schools.
The facility at Drom is as good as any in the country and each August promotes the internationally acclaimed Galway Cup.
Now a local institution, the club with a wide and varied diaspora, are embarking on the latest phase of development and are looking to engage with their Alumni and the wider community for support.