Frank Stapleton, who scored 20 goals for the Republic of Ireland, is among the Manchester United legends listed to take on the Shamrocks Legends on Saturday at Gaelic Park. INPHO/ALLSPORT
By Joe Behan
The third annual Robbie Walsh Memorial Exhibition Game takes place at Gaelic Park on this Saturday, June 22. A selection of Shamrocks Legends will take on the Manchester United Legends XI in what will be one of the biggest events of the club's almost 60-year history. Kick-off is 2 p.m. and it will be preceded by a noon exhibition game between a selection of former League of Ireland/Irish League professionals who will take on the Shamrocks Over 30s.
This unique fundraiser will help launch a Shamrocks Community Youth Soccer program in 2020, the NY Shamrock SC Juniors.
“We are delighted to welcome Manchester United Legends to New York,” said Shamrocks treasurer Paddy Geraghty.
“It’s a great opportunity to bring back some of our former Shamrocks to take the field against those who played at the highest level. We can’t wait for the big day,” he said.
The Man. United line up is full of players who have won honors from World Cup to Champions League, from FA Cups to League Titles. Men like Frank Stapleton (pictured on the back page), Kleberson, Lee Sharpe and Keith Gillespie among others will grace Gaelic Park.
For many fans and Shamrocks alike, United’s panel will bring back memories of the golden days under Alex Ferguson, for some the Ron Atkinson period, for others the Tommy Docherty days, when left full Arthur Albiston flew down the wing.
The memories are even more poignant for Shamrocks Manager Kevin Grogan, himself a former Manchester United Academy player.
His memories include a United’s Academy to play in the West of Ireland for the first time. Arthur Albiston was the manager at the time of the trip to Galway.
“Everybody knew that Albiston was a very good player who made a ridiculous amount of appearances for the first team. Over 450,” Grogan recalled.
“He was a very down-to-earth type of manager. He made us feel comfortable playing for United. He often talked about the Manchester United brand of football: the right and left midfielders staying high and having the courage to get at the defenders.”
The late Robbie Walsh.
Grogan had signed for Manchester United and at 15 was living full time in Manchester pursuing his dream. On the pitch he was in some serious company alongside Luke Chadwick and Wes Brown.
“Playing for the Under 16s and training with the youth squad felt great. Putting on the Manchester United jersey every week was very exciting. Wes Brown was doing great with the Youth Team. He was quality. Everybody and every team knew who he was,” said Grogan. “He stood out. He went on to play in over 200 games at Old Trafford.”
Grogan looked up to the Class of ‘92, Beckham, Scholes and Co, but it was players like Brian McClair who have that special place. A special place where we never forget when someone takes up for the young players.
“McClair was a senior pro when I was there. I remember well his column in the Manchester United magazine,” Grogan said.
“At times the First Team players used to get youth players to stand outside the First Team changing room to get jerseys and balls signed by other First Teamers. McClair would always give out and speak his mind to those players for making us do that. He told them to get the jerseys and balls signed themselves. He always tried to look after the young guys,” Grogan recalled.
From left, Kevin Grogan, Joe Behan and Anto May at the annual all-day 6-a-side tournament hosted by Shamrocks in Sunnyside, Queens, last August. PHOTO BY PETER MCDERMOTT
McClair played in over 350 games for United and scored 88 goals. Albiston, Brown and McClair take Grogan back to his academy days at Old Trafford while Liam O’Brien coached Grogan who was now near the end of his playing career.
“I remember well at St. Pat’s going down to the first training session with Liam O’Brien. An excellent coach and what a player he was. Liam used to knock the ball around in training and he was still quality,” said Grogan.
O’Brien was at United for a couple of seasons. He was also part of Jack Charlton’s squad.
Alex Ferguson, who was manager of Manchester United between 1986 and 2013, in a photograph from 2008. INPHO/GETTY IMAGES
United Legends Clayton Blackmore and Lee Martin, combined, made over 250 appearances for Man. United, and there is no shortage of Red Blood in their veins.
“It’s some line up. Shamrocks committee have put in an enormous amount of work to make it all happen,” Grogan said. “It’s a very special day for the club.”
The game is almost sold out but you can buy match tickets at the Courtyard Ale House or online here: https://robbiewalsh.eventbrite.comThere will also be a meet & greet with the United players at the Kent Ale House in Williamsburg on Friday, June 21 at 8pm - https://legendsmeetgreet.eventbrite.com
The United players will be guests of honor at the End-of-Season Awards Banquet in Astoria Manor on the evening of Saturday June 22 and this will be followed by a Post-Game Brunch on Sunday June 23 at Smithfield NYC in Manhattan - https://legendsbrunch.eventbrite.com