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Collinstown spurred on to reach FAI Junior Cup final by tragic loss of club president

The competition’s semi-finals are being played this weekend.

Ray Houghton with the captains of the quarter-finalists including Collinstown's Dean Carpenter (third from left).
Ray Houghton with the captains of the quarter-finalists including Collinstown's Dean Carpenter (third from left).
Image: Inpho/Cathal Noonan

THIS WEEKEND SEES four clubs face off for a place in next month’s FAI Junior Cup final at the Aviva Stadium.

Holders Sheriff YC travel to Clonmel on Sunday to take on former winners St Michael’s while Jackman Park in Limerick plays host to local side Ballynanty Rovers and Collinstown this evening.

From Neilstown in South West Dublin, Collinstown are making their first appearance at this stage of the competition having only been formed by a group of friends as recently as 2007.

They originally started out in Division 3 of the AUL but have incredibly won consecutive league titles every year to earn promotion to the top tier — Premier A.

A club which puts an emphasis on being community-based, their influence is evident in fact that over 300 supporters will make the trip to Limerick this morning.

It has been an unforgettable past few months both on and off the pitch as Collinstown were struct by the tragic loss of honorary president Mattie Carpenter Senior, who passed away after a two-year battle with cancer in December.

Mattie, whose sons Mattie and Dean both play for the side, was a larger than life character who gave everything for the club — whether it was marking pitches or offering players lifts — right up to his untimely death.

The day after he was buried, an FAI Junior Cup fixture with last year’s semi-finalists Pike Rovers had been scheduled. Rather than cancel it, the team agreed to play in his honour and eventually claimed a 5-4 victory in an enthralling battle after extra-time.

“It’s a performance that, as long as I’m alive, I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it,” explains Collinstown chairman Stuart Goodall.

“We were behind with a minute to go on the clock and we got an equaliser to make it 4-4 and put it into extra-time.

“Then Dean Carpenter took a shot from 30 yards that caught a gust of wind from heaven to put the ball straight into the top corner. It wouldn’t have given ten keepers a chance.

“To say the void that Mattie left will never be filled doesn’t even come close to doing justice to what the man did for the club,” he added.

In senior clubs it is the players that are the superstars but Mattie was our superstar. I can’t find a word suitable for him other than ‘legend’. I know it’s bandied about easily in football but that’s what he was.”

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With the memory of Carpenter living on through their football, Kevin Carroll’s side are now fully focused on making the final at the Aviva Stadium on 25 May.

“It’s more than an incentive, we feel that it’s only right that we do it for him and also Kevin’s brother Jay, who died at the start of the season. He was a great friend to the club.

“The two deaths this year were hammer blows beyond belief. Nothing prepares you for them. But we find a little bit of solace when we take to the pitch together and we do our best to put smiles on people’s faces.

“The FAI Cup run has softened the blow a little bit for the families involved. It’s Roy of the Rovers stuff and hopefully we can go a step further on Saturday.”

Collinstown Whelan Glenn Whelan supporting Collinstown this week.

Standing in their way are Ballynanty Rovers, who knocked out Liffey Wanderers, Carrick United and Maynooth en route to the last four.

Goodall has warned that it will no doubt be a battle but, backed by a large travelling support, believes Collinstown can come away with a win if they play to their full potential.

“We’re travelling down to Limerick in the morning with 300 supporters, which is brilliant when you consider how far they have to travel and the time of the evening.

“We’re blessed with the community we live with in Neilstown. It isn’t always portrayed in a great light but we’re all proud Neilstown people.

“We’ve watched Ballynanty a couple of times and without going into specifics they are not to be underestimated. You don’t get to semi-final of the FAI Junior Cup without being a good side.

It’s going to be a mammoth tie on the day. It’s about who can get an early goal and settle the nerves from there.

“We’re not too worried about the opposition because if the Collinstown team that I know turns up we fear nobody. We’ve got to do our job first and foremost.”

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