The Curious Case Of Brian Holland

As the 60th Anniversay celebrations draw close, Dave Hooper visits a spooky twisting club story.

The Brian Holland Memorial Cup, the first classic of the year and part of the road relay trials.

A race some 58-years-old, the oldest surviving road race organised by Raheny Shamrock Athletic Club with proud history and prestige.

I’m sure you’ve ran it at some stage over the years, as a sealed handicap race it gives every runner a chance of raising the 13-inch silver plate trophy.

Legend has it, this road race began after Brian Holland, a founder member, families moved away from Ireland in 1960, leaving the club a trophy as a departing gift.

Some-time soon after it was decided to use a route of, the Howth Road to Watermill road to the seafront back and up the Howth Road to home (just shy of three miles) as the course.

The trophy and the race became dyed in the wool, winning a classic (with the Joe Noonan cup), a top road race prize in the club.

So it came as a surprise, while living at home some 10 plus years ago, Jim Power one of the club’s top athletes from the 80’s calls into the jugger, I just hear him say, “I found a few things in the attic.”

A couple of minutes later, a call from the jugger erupts, “Hey David, who won the Brian Holland Cup?”

As I made my way into the living room, my mind finally recalling the answer of “Liam O’Halloran”, my eyes, I though deceived me, as the Brian Holland sat on the dining room table!

“We gave him the trophy didn’t we?”

“Yeah we did, that I’m sure of” but sitting in front of me is a near replica of Holland Cup, the only notable difference a dent in the middle of the cup.

“I found this in the attic” smiles Jim Power.

The following April, Liam O’Halloran arrives ready to run with the Brian Holland Cup, so somehow, unknown to us, there are two Brian Holland’s Cups.

Some surprises are nice to get, January 2017, as I’m heading out to a function celebrating the 2016 national cross country championship win, the club email account pings.

A sudden silence comes over me as the from line reads; Brian Holland.

My eyes fixing on a line in an opening paragraph reading “Do you know that people think you’re dead”

I honestly, without asking people, assumed the Brian Holland Memorial Cup was in memory of Brian Holland. I know, I am not the only one who thought this.

The email read (in part),

“My wife and I live in Koblenz, Germany, we visited my sister in Raheny in 2015. As my niece’s husband was driving us back to Dublin Airport he casually said “Do you know that people think you’re dead”.

The way I felt after celebrating so much on our last evening: I feared the rumour was probably true and looking out of the car’s window I thought that Hell is having the opposite of global warming.

“Raheny Shamrock have the “Brian Holland Memorial Cup”, and he added “I assured them that you were alive and well and living in Germany”.

I’ve just been on your excellent homepage and read the History of the club: a journey through nostalgia.

I’ve been trying to work out the chronology. Before that meeting in the village in September 1958 we used to train in that field near the Protestant Church.

It had a pig sty which we scrubbed clean and painted white; running water but cold: that didn’t bother us; we were enthusiastic and it was part of the fun.

Dermy Cullen was a moving force, he, Eugene – who had a three wheeled Henkel car – and Paddy Boland inspired us and I have wonderful memories of comradeship with my friends Pat Doherty Matt Gahan, Charley Fox and many more whose faces I remember but not names.

When I visit Raheny I find myself looking at old fogies: could that be Shane? he’s got balding red hair and I bumped into him in Lesotho in Africa in 1970.

Of course when one looks back with nostalgia everything is perfect: beautiful long summer evenings, (even in winter!) training and planning our next adventure, it never rained.

I remember once we went to Drogheda for a sports day. To us kids it was a tremendous journey: I think it was planned about two months ahead: on the day we all squeezed into a Volkswagen mini bus and travelled the thousand miles.

I don’t remember how we performed but we had a wonderful time.

I was of medium talent but it didn’t matter: I particularly liked distance running and most of all cross-country through the mud, and pools of water and climbing over fallen branches in the woods of St. Annes; Dermy slowing down to my pace and encouraging me not to give up and finally finished covered with mud and sweat, then the ice cold shower that stimulated the body to warm up and a glow of something – no matter how small – achieved with your colleagues.

The founding meeting in September 1958: I was almost 16. The senior people in the community played a major part: Today the police tend to travel in cars and not so close to the community, on that meeting was Garda John Conroy he, and many others did voluntary work in the service of the local people and was highly regarded and respected.

The choice of name: Dermy pushed for Raheny, that’s where we’re from and Shamrocks symbolised that we we’re from Ireland: it was almost an address.

Dermy was already planning that we would go to sports events in other countries: beyond Drogheda. That was a great dream for us in 50’s Ireland.

We had a lively debate on the question of affiliation: the younger ones favouring AAU and the adults preferring NACA.

I argued strongly for NACA. I think that the adults did not want to appear to be influencing us too much and were happy to allow me to do a lot of the talking: which I did do.

Looking back at it I believe that we took the right decision: things are different today and hopefully we’ve moved on; I’m pleased that we’ve had the French playing rugby in Croak Park and the old barriers are being lowered.

The sad part is that I do not know which comrades are alive: I’m at the age when one needs a black tie.

My wife and I send our love to all the members and supporters of Raheny Shamrock and wish them success.”

Needless to say it was nice to meet Brian Holland and his wife Elisa for a short period in September 2018.

All clubs have history, it’s important to bask in it.

 

Final Call: 60th Anniversary Dinner Dance November 9th details Here

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