Today is a significant date in the history of Galway United for two reasons. On this date in 1958, the legend that is Eamonn Deacy was born. Twenty-eight years later, a United side – featuring Eamonn Deacy would host a UEFA Cup tie against Dutch side Groningen on a public pitch in An Cheathrú Rua (which was primarily used for GAA).
Focusing first on the man that was Eamonn Deacy (or as many fondly knew him- Chick); outside of just being an outstanding player for Galway United, Chick was a well-liked man in the town of Galway too. In fact, this reminds me of a story I was once told of him; back in Chick’s day United’s senior team would train on the old digital pitch in Ballybrit. Occasionally, the Connacht Senior League team would train there along with some up-and-coming youngsters from local junior clubs. On one particular day a group of lads – who would regularly walk out from Westside for training, were recognised by Chick who offered them a lift to training in his van. The front of the van was already filled up, but the lads hopped in the back, not wanting to miss out on a free lift. So they hopped in the back, then Chick shut the door and sped off to training. Now what they hadn’t known was that particular van was used by Deacy’s fish shop, and in his rush to training that evening he hadn’t had the opportunity to clean it out properly. Needless to say, when Chick opened the doors for them at the training ground they weren’t exactly feeling fit for training, they needed a new change of clothes, and they had some cleaning up to do in the back of Chick’s van. Chick had a good laugh about it and said it would make men out of them. Safe to say, it was the first and last time they got a lift off of Chick!
Chick also played a vital role in many of the club’s most historic moments (such as the cup wins of 1985 and 1991 to name just two); he also played part in a rather weird and wonderful moment in the club’s history on this date in 1986. When United drew Dutch side Groningen in the UEFA Cup they had a problem on their hands, there was nowhere for their home leg to be played. Terryland Park wasn’t deemed to be up to UEFA’s standards and the GAA refused to make Pearse Stadium available. An unlikely lifeline was found however, in the form Páirc an Chathánaigh in An Cheathrú Rua. Although the pitch was primarily used for Gaelic Games, the pitch was technically a public so there was nothing that the GAA could do to prevent the game from being played there. The stone walls and Connemara scenery would have been quite a culture shock for the Dutch side and naturally they were somewhat surprised by their surroundings. Groningen player Hank Hagenauw summed up the team’s reaction quite well.
“We…went to the pitch in Galway and what the hell! I think, ‘Where are we going to? Maybe we’re on the moon!”
He passed away sadly in 2012 at the age of 53 following a heart attack. Terryland Park has since been renamed Eamonn Deacy Park in a fitting tribute to a true Galway United legend.