On Saturday January 21, 2023, the Limerick Ladies soccer team as well as other soccer teams in Limerick came together to mark the 50th anniversary of Limerick Ladies winning the inaugural Ladies League of Ireland title in 1973. The event, held at the Absolute Hotel in Limerick city and was sponsored by the British Society of Sports History (BSSH).
Photo by Brendan Gleeson
Photo by Brendan Gleeson
One of the aims of the event is to collect the memories of the players who helped blaze a trail for the development of women’s soccer not only in Limerick but nationally. Limerick Ladies, managed by Frank 'Junior' Keane, were founding members of the first governing body for women’s soccer, the first national league and the first women’s national team. Limerick Ladies was one of the strongest in Ireland during the 1970s. They won the Ladies League of Ireland in 1973, 1974 and came second in 1975. They also had a good run in cup competitions as well. They won the inaugural Ladies FAI Cup in 1975, beating C.S.O from the Civil Service League. Individual players also had success in the Bracken Cup, an inter-league competition. The Ladies League of Ireland came second in its inaugural year in 1975 but won the Cup from 1976-1979. In 1977 the Limerick Ladies League finished second. Despite the strong talent of the players in the Limerick Ladies League, the Bracken Cup eluded them and has been described as a 'boogie' competition for them. They came close to getting to the finals on many occasions.
Many Limerick players have gone on to represent Ireland. Of the players on the 1973 Limerick Ladies team, three players were part of the first women’s national team that faced Wales away on May 17th. They were Geraldine Grace, Mary Gavin and Marion Slattery. While Ann Cross, Mary Joyce, Pauline Maher, Jackie McCarthy-O'Brien and Freda Noonan also went on to play for Ireland. By 1992, a total of 17 players based in Limerick had represented the Republic of Ireland at international level.
Photo from Limerick Leader June 6, 1973
Back row - Geraldine Grace, Freda Noonan, Catherine Brown, Marion Slattery, Catherine Cross, Mary Gavin
Front row - Mary Joyce, Geraldine ODonnell, Ann Cross, Jackie O Brian, Pauline Maher
On the night, 23 of Limerick women's soccer players from the 1970s came to share their stories, recall all their games and experiences. Members from Green Park, Limerick County Council, Mungret, Patrickswell and Limerick Ladies FC teams attended as well as 'Junior' Frank Keane. Six of the Limerick Ladies FC who won the inaugural League of Ireland trophy 50 years ago in May 1973, Catherine Brown, Ann Cross, Catherine Cross, Mary Joyce, Jackie McCarthy-O'Brien and Freda Noonan recalled their great success. Sadly Marion Slattery, the Limerick Ladies great centre back, was unable to participate in the celebrations due to unforeseen circumstances. Her daughter Tina kindly represented Marion and shared memories.
Since then the players have kept in touch, sharing copies of memorabilia through a group chat. This helps spark memories and consolidate dates for some of the big events in the history of Limerick Ladies as well as the wider history of women’s soccer in Limerick.