Image Courtesy of Kay Brennan nee Ramsbottom

In September 1972, the 'Irish Champions' Jeyes went on a four-match tour of France to play against Stade de Reims. This tour was a landmark moment for women’s football in Ireland. 1972, was just one year after UEFA had recognised women's football and ten years before they organised the first official competition for women. The BSSH funded a reunion for the team on 11 August 2022 so that they could share their memories of the tour and ensure that their story is documented. Their story gives us a better understanding of the wider development of women’s football during that period.

All but two of the players were able to attend the reunion. The manager Pat Noone has since passed away and was represented by his children. Gareth Maher from the FAI attended the event and invited the players to the crucial Women’s World Cup qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Finland on 1 September 2022.

Jeyes were a works team formed in Jeyes factory in Finglas and managed by Pat Noone. The team competed in the Dublin Ladies Football League, which was set up in 1971. The team kit was a green Jersey and shorts. There was a large crest on the left side with the letter J. The original jersey was made by the Irish sports brand O’Neills. When they heard of the reunion, they designed a special commemorative jersey to mark the occasion. One of these jerseys was kindly donated to the BSSH.

As with most teams that went on tour, they borrowed talented players from other teams in Dublin and Kilkenny.

The manager, Pat Noone was a leading figure in organising women’s soccer in Ireland. He was one of the main administrators in the Dublin Ladies Football League and went on to manage the first Republic of Ireland WNT. He made connections with the French Champions, Stade de Reims and organised the tour to France in 1972, the following year Stade de Reims did a tour of Ireland and later that year in October 1973, the Republic of Ireland visited Paris for a friendly match against France at Parc des Princes.

In 1972, the team travelled to France by ferry and train. Their base for the tour was a convent in Reims and they would travel to the match venues from there.

The first match they played was on Tuesday September 5, in Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims. They lost this match 5-0. The next match was one day later in Dormans they drew that match 1-1. The team had a two-day break before their next match on September 9 in Maubeuge, they also drew this match 1-1. The fourth and final match of the tour was played the next day in Pendé, but they lost that match 4-0.

They lost the first match 5-0 in front of a crowd of 1,500 Stade de Reims fans. Teresa Doyle remembers how intimidating the home fans were during the match. Whenever Jeyes had the ball there were strong boos from the crowd. One newspaper report before the match listed the line-up for both teams. However, there are a few issues with the accuracy of the report. It listed the number six player for Jeyes as Margaret O'Connor when it should have been O'Connell. The photo accompanying the article has the caption translates as

“Centre-forward striker, Teresa Doyle, on the Irish team will be enemy number one for the Reims players this evening at Delaune Stadium" but had a photo of Catherine Rafferty. It is only through the support from the BSSH that these issues with primary sources can be corrected.

Stade de Reims were a globe-trotting team. In July 1972, they had spent a month on tour in Indonesia and just before the Jeyes tour they had played in Spain. They also had a much bigger team than Jeyes and the second match line up was very different to the first.

In the second match in Dormans the match finished 1-1. It was reported, "the Irish Champions who, not only played better than the day before in Reims, but again displayed more determination and freshness than their rivals”. It was Centre-forward striker, Teresa Doyle that scored the goal for Jeyes in that match.

After a two-day break, Jeyes were able to hold Stade de Reims to a 1-1 draw in their match in Maubeuge, on the Belgium border. The final match was played on the 10th September 1972 in Pendé but Jeyes lost 4-0. “A trophy was presented to the champions and a consolation cup to the Irish, who proved worthy rivals. Their hard hits helped them prepare for next Sunday ….” when Stade de Reims were due to play the German Champions.

Towards the end of 1972, Jeyes changed their name to Avengers and were one of the founding members of the Ladies Football Association of Ireland (LFAI) the following year.

Images: Team Photo in 1972 and then in 2022.


Image Courtesy of Kay Brennan nee Ramsbottom

1972 Back L/R: Tommy Delaney, Kathleen Ramsbottom, Ann Delaney, Kathleen Caulfield, Clare Anderson, Margaret O'Connell, Ursula Grace, Connie Jordan, Teresa Walsh, Carol Neary, Linda Gorman, Catherine Rafferty, Teresa Doyle, Helen Burke.