Legends of Limerick: Joe O’Mahony

Treaty United club historian Gary Spain presents a series recalling some of the best players to grace the senior soccer scene in Limerick. In the first of his series, Gary talks about one of the greatest leaders to have worn the captain’s armband for Limerick senior teams: the great Joe O’Mahony. Joe sadly passed away in January 2014 and in recognition of Joe’s legendary status, Treaty United decided to retire permanently the No. 4 jersey worn so proudly by Joe.

Treaty United followed Limerick FC and retired the number 4 jersey out of respect for the late Joe O’Mahony. Joe passed away in January 2014. He is one of the names always mentioned when the greats of Limerick football are discussed.

Joe began at Reds United under the tutelage of famed schoolboy football coach Jack Tuohy. He then joined Prospect and was capped at youth level on March 18th 1966 in a 4-2 defeat by Northern Ireland.

He then joined Limerick and made his league debut v Sligo Rovers in a 4-1 defeat at the Showgrounds on November 6th 1966.

He made 418 league appearances for Limerick, second only to Johnny Walsh in league appearances for the club. He scored 30 league goals and played for twenty years. Limerick were his only senior club.

He played at Inter League level v the Scottish league in a 1-0 defeat at Celtic Park in September 1970. He also played v Australia when they were defeated 1-0 by the League of Ireland later that year.

Limerick FC circa 1966 BR L to R Johnny Ryan, Al Finucane, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Ewan Fenton, Joe O’Mahony, Vinny Quin FR L to R Dick O’Connor, Tommy Hamilton, Tommy Murphy, Sean Byrnes, Joe McGrath

He was on the bench in Prague in 1969 for a World Cup qualifier v Czechoslovakia but didn’t play. His club colleagues Kevin Fitzpatrick and Al Finucane both started in a 3-0 defeat by a classy Czech side.

He captained Limerick to league success in 1980, and the FAI Cup win in 1982. He also played on the 71 FAI Cup winning team and 77 losing FAI Cup final team. He won the League Cup in 1975 and the Dublin City Cup in 1970. He thus won every domestic honour available. He also captained Limerick home and away v Real Madrid.

He was an elegant defender with a powerful shot. “Have a go Joe” was the popular shout when Limerick won a freekick. He scored Limerick’s only goal v Manchester United in 1982 in Pat Nolan’s testimonial. He will mainly be remembered though as a commanding presence at the back. When Joe was in the team you felt a lot better about your chances of a cleansheet.

When Eoin Hand arrived as player-manager in 1979 he had planned to play at the back. However when he saw the quality of the centre-back pairing of Joe and Brendan Storan he played himself in midfield.

Joe also managed Limerick from 1984 to 1986. This included a memorable 3-1 opening day win v champions Shamrock Rovers in October 1985. The 2nd was a spectacular goal from Tommy Lynch after a 70-yard run. The clincher from Tommy Gaynor was possibly even better. His management career will probably be remembered though as what might have been. A heart-breaking FAI Cup semi-final defeat in extra time v Galway in a replay remains one that got away. This was particularly galling as Limerick led 2-0 in the second half in the first match at Tolka Park. The winner was assured of European football as well. A year later Cork City side shocked Limerick in the cup despite being hammered in the league.

Limerick team prior to 1982 FAI Cup Final BR L to R Pat Nolan, Al Finucane, Des Kennedy, Ger Duggan, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Brendan Storan, Eoin Hand, Willie Flaherty. FR L to R Dave Mahedy, Tommy Gaynor, Jimmy Nodwell, Joe O’Mahony, Tony Ward, Gary Hulmes, Johnny Walsh