Former FAI president who will always be associated with Shamrock Rovers

 

Louis Kilcoyne:LOUIS KILCOYNE, who has died aged 69, was a former president of the Football Association of Ireland and vice-president of the Olympic Council of Ireland. Inevitably, however, he will always be associated, along with his brothers Barton and Paddy, with the hugely controversial sale of Shamrock Rovers’ Milltown home, Glenmalure Park, for housing in 1987.

The sale led to a long dispiriting era for the club before its revival in Tallaght.

Kilcoyne always insisted that the sale was forced upon the brothers by their inability over 15 years to generate bigger crowds and commercial revenues, even during what were successful times for the club. But supporters saw the deal and subsequent move to Tolka Park as a betrayal.

Born in Dublin in 1942, he was the son of Thomas Kilcoyne, a civil servant, and his wife Margaret. He grew up off the Navan Road and was educated at Blackrock College. He worked in the hospitality and construction industries before being appointed managing director of Shamrock Rovers in 1972 after he and his brothers Barton and Paddy acquired the club.

“We took over the club thinking we could awaken a sleeping giant,” Kilcoyne said, referring to the decline in Rovers’s fortunes since the days when crowds of 20,000 flocked to Milltown.

The Kilcoynes were applauded for digging deep into their pockets and laying a superb pitch before embarking on the experiment of full-time professionalism under their brother-in-law John Giles in 1977. Giles arrived at Rovers from West Bromwich Albion, where he had been player-manager and led the club to promotion to the Football League’s first division (then the top tier of English football) in the 1975-76 season. He signed Eamon Dunphy, Paddy Mulligan, Ray Treacy and former Chelsea captain Bobby Tambling; his aim was to be a force in European football. Reflecting this ambition, Kilcoyne had plans to redevelop Glenmalure Park into a 50,000-seater stadium.

Rovers won the FAI Cup in Giles’s first season but failed to match this with league success, and hence missed out on competition at the top tier of European football. Giles left in 1983.

In the face of declining League of Ireland attendances, the Kilcoynes sold Glenmalure Park in Milltown for housing and the club moved across Dublin to play in Tolka Park in Drumcondra in 1987. In 1988 the club was sold to new owners, and Louis Kilcoyne said he was “pleased that the future of Shamrock Rovers has now been secured”.

Earlier, in 1973, Kilcoyne, together with Giles and Northern Ireland footballer Derek Dougan, organised a match between the first all-Ireland soccer team since 1921 and Brazil at Dalymount Park. The Irish side, playing as a Shamrock Rovers selection, lost 4-3 to the world champions. Thereafter Kilcoyne advocated an allIreland team.

In 1988, he linked up with Cork City and became the club’s league representative. In 1989 he was elected to the OCI, and in 1990 was appointed to FIFA’s disciplinary committee.

He was elected FAI president in 1993. In 1996 there was a call for his resignation when, after Mick McCarthy’s appointment as Ireland team manager, he said publicly that he was disappointed his first preference (believed to be Kevin Moran) did not get the job. It was a time of crisis for the FAI. The chief executive and four senior officials resigned, there was a row over the dismissal of 140 referees and questions about stray World Cup tickets hung in the air. Kilcoyne withstood pressure to resign, only to lose a vote of confidence in March 1996.

Later that year he told this newspaper: “I still consider myself to be enjoying football and in a positive way. I’m still a member of the FAI by way of my membership of Cork City. I see at least one match every week which brings me among people I enjoy. Life goes on, life in the sense of what I’ve been doing all those years.”

He was vice-president of the OCI from 1996 to 2005. As OCI international liaison director he was part of the management of several Irish summer Olympic teams, from Barcelona in 1992 to Beijing four years ago.

His wife Terese, son Giles and daughter Jane survive him.


Louis Desmond Kilcoyne: born July 1st, 1942; died April 1st, 2012.