Hard working Knocknacarra secure silverware

Gary Silke's team won the U15 premier division title on Saturday

On Saturday afternoon at Crescent United’s old pitch in Mervue, Knocknacarra FC’s emergence as a respected force in Galway underage football was confirmed.

Gary Silke and Derek Rogers’ Knocknacarra side claimed the Galway FA U15 premier division title following a hard earned draw against Mervue United.

Having claimed U16 glory recently, Knocknacarra FC’s development is now being reflected in the local game.

The juvenile section of the club, launched at McGrath’s Field two and a half decades ago, is now thriving in the local community.

“I talked to a couple of lads that founded the club and played with Knocknacarra, there is a couple of lads that play over 35s football,” Silke says. “Knocknacarra goes from plus three to the over 35s, that is a massive range of boys and girls.

“There is 1200 children - that is a lot. I’m blown away by what we have achieved and by the way we have achieved it.

“We have an excellent chairman in John Reilly, he has a really good committee under him. You have people who pushed and worked so hard for the club.”

Having been involved for a number of years the importance of facilities is critical according to Silke. “We were at, possibly, loggerheads with the Galway City Council over the Astro with the lights, but in the end fair play to the Galway City Council, fair play to the Knocknacarra committee, the chairman John Reilly – we got these facilities in place," he says.

“It is no co-incidence that since we got that – we never had a premier title before that – now we have four. We have U16 and U15 boys and U13 and U12 girls. It is an amazing achievement in a couple of years.”

Silke highlights Derek Rogers’ sterling coaching contribution with Knocknacarra as a hugely significant factor in developing players. “He is a lovely man, but he fights for everything, he fights for every point on that board,” Silke replies.

“He is a great man to be standing beside. We were not going out for a draw, we were going out for a win. That was our attitude. It was a really tight game. The wind was fierce.

“He has been massive since he came to the club. Derek was never shy about bringing in a guest coach, someone that might stand on the sideline and actually be critical of him, he was willing to take on anything. It really has stood to us, to get constructive criticism, to take it on board. We are not European champions, it is children’s football at the end of the day, but if you can tweak it a bit in your favour, to me that is the secret.”

Earning the result that was needed in Mervue demonstrated Knocknacarra’s resilience. “There was a small bit of pressure on us on Saturday, the U16s had done it up in Mervue the previous Saturday,” Silke says.

“We were three points up going into this game, but with a Mervue win it would have gone to a play-off. We were delighted to get a point out of it and delighted to win the title by three points which is great.”

Silke has watched how players from clubs throughout the county have flourished on the national stage with Galway United and the Republic of Ireland international outfits. Keeping Knocknacarra relevant, though, was Silke’s objective.

“It will be said that Mervue had a lot of players that went to Galway United and Salthill had players going to Galway United, but that is football,” he says. “That is progression, that is what we are all about. It is about bringing them on to the next level.

“You see people like Tommy Lillis and Kyle Fitzgerald getting on the Irish squad – this is what it is all about. As well as inclusion, seeing children living their dream is fantastic.”

Setbacks have occurred, defeats suffered, but at the weekend Knocknacarra had cause to celebrate by raising silverware.

“This group of lads I have been with them since they were probably U9,” Silke reflects on the journey. “It is more or less the same bunch of lads. You have lads that couldn’t kick a ball six or seven years ago and they have turned out to be absolute stars of the show in last Saturday’s game.”

There is a sporting lesson in that.

**Listen to the full interview with Knocknacarra FC U15 manager Gary Silke on this week’s ‘Cian on Sport’ podcast available on Soundcloud, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.


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