The Highs and Lows of the Fifties

The fifties started in a blaze of glory for the RGU, for in that year in St Patrick’s Park, Newcastle before a large crowd, Downpatrick defeated Newry to win the 1950 All County League for the club, and Brendan Blarney was accorded the honour of captaining the side on this, his last game, prior to emigrating to the USA.

The RGU had dominated football on East Down for the previous four years, and were virtually unbeatable in the Divisional League. Their participation in the re-established All County Senior league in 1950 was the ideal outlet for this very talented side to show to their supporters how good they really were and they did not disappoint. They added the Feis Sevens to the trophy collections in 1951.

But regrettably the life span of this great team was short lived and in 1952 they were relegated. The reasons put forward for the rapid demise of the 1950 team included the emigration of Brian Leathem and Brendan Blaney to America, the retirement of players of the calibre of B. Venny and J.J. Cassidy, and the return to Belfast of the talented full-forward Alf McCool.

Rejuvenated by the pressure of Jim McKeever (of Derry fame) who came to teach in St. Patrick’s Secondary school, and the emergence of Ronnie Moore, a talented and versatile player, the senior team strung together a series of successes in local competitions. They won the 1954 East Down League and the 1959 Summer League. They gained promotion to the All-County League in 1955 and gave a good account of themselves but by 1957 they were back in the East Down League again. Jim McKeever had returned to Derry, and Kieran Taggart, Paddy Fitzsimons and Vianey Blaney were phasing themselves out of action.

This period also marked the beginning of organised league football for under 16s. This idea was the brainchild of another De la Salle Brother Anthony Furness. While senior football was in a partial state of decline during the mid fifties, schoolboy football was in the ascendancy with Brother Anthony’s team stringing together seven consecutive league victories and in 1959 his prodigies won the double of league and championship.

But all was not rosy on the RGU in the late fifties and the clubs misery was confounded by the loss of the Irish St. clubrooms and the lack of general support from the community at that time. The apathy which existed however appeared to have an invigorating effect on the clubs administration with the result that the 60s began with a great optimism.

Back Row: A. Mullan, N. Moore, Rev. Bro. Anthony, S. McComisky, R. Jamieson.
Middle Row: D. Killen, E. Cunningham, O. Morgan, R. Moore (captain), M. Smyth, James Hampton, D. Breen.
Front Row: John Hampton, B. Curran, J. Mahon, C. Oakes, E. Blaney, A. Carson.

Back Row: D. McGrady, W. King, B. Venny, D. King, B. Leatham, P. Fitzsimmons, J. McCarthy, W. Kelly, J. Cassidy, C. Taggart, B. J. Deeny (manager).
Front Row: A. McCool, J. Fisher, B. Blaney, T. Rea, J. Kinsella, B. Kelly, V. Blaney.